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Friday, March 20, 2015

The Narrow Gate

Well, come on all of you, big strong men,
Uncle Sam needs your help again.
He's got himself in a terrible jam
Way down yonder in Vietnam
So put down your books and pick up a gun,
We're gonna have a whole lotta fun.
- The Vietnam Song, Country Joe and the Fish

And it all seems so terribly familiar, doesn’t it?

We’ve been here before and made the easy decision.

We paid the price for that too, and we’re still paying.

And yet we apparently learned nothing from our mistakes.

This week, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu won himself reelection.

Polls say that Israelis chose security as the defining issue of the election.

Israel’s idea of democracy isn’t like the American version. In the country’s history, no single party has ever won a decisive majority of the parliament’s 120 seats. Which means that after each election, the resulting government is formed from a coalition of parties and complex alliances. 

Exactly what Israel’s government will look like this time around is anybody’s guess.

But one thing is likely, given Netanyahu’s win, sooner or later there will probably be war.

Netanyahu is determined to see Iran reduced to rubble and he will settle for nothing less.

And the obvious implication of his reelection is that a majority of Israelis feel the same way. They see Iran as a direct threat to Israel’s continued existence, certainly with good reason, and they are convinced that war is the only way of resolving the situation.

But they don’t want to fight that war themselves.

They’d prefer the United States do it for them.

And in this, Israel is not alone. There are plenty of Americans who are perfectly willing to declare war on Israel’s behalf – including a significant number of US Senators, Congressmen, and presidential candidates.

Whether they want war because they’re convinced Iran is somehow an actual threat to the rest of the world, or because they’re attempting to bring about the apocalyptic prophecy of their religion, or because they think it’ll help them get elected, or because they just want to stick it to Barack Obama, they want war and they are determined to get it.

Earlier this week in the Washington Post, neoconservative Joshua Muravchik, a fellow at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics, wrote an article titled “War with Iran is probably our best option.”  The article is a couple thousand words, but you don’t need to read it. The title sums it up nicely.

Muravchik calls for the preemptive destruction of Iran.

He says it’s our best option. Kill them, before they kill us. Simple as that.

This is nothing new for Murachik. He was an early supporter of The Bush Doctrine and advocated for preemptive invasion of Iraq based on the idea of WMDs and a supposed imminent threat to the rest of the world. In December of 2002, while US forces such as yours truly waited in the Northern Arabian Gulf for the Commander In Chief’s order to begin the invasion, “experts” like Murachik staunchly defended the right and duty of America to wage preemptive war. To get them before they got us. In the December 2002 edition of Commentary magazine, Murachik wrote:

"The complaint that Bush's doctrine of preemption traduces international law is the most serious charge laid against it. But is it well founded?

Bush's statement does not strike a posture that places America above the law, as some critics have suggested. To the contrary, it seeks to embed the new doctrine in established legal traditions. 'For centuries,' it asserts, 'international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves.' And it continues: 'We must adapt [this] concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries.'

Those capabilities include weapons of mass destruction that can be 'easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.' In this, Bush is on strong legal ground."

He was joined by dozens of other policy wonks, all nodding their heads in unison over the idea of preemptive war and urging President Bush on. We have to do it, they said, Iraq poses an imminent threat to the rest of the world.

You all remember how that worked out, right?

Turns out, Iraq wasn’t much of threat to anybody – and don’t try to tell me otherwise, because I was there.

The UN sanctions were working.

Iraq had no real weapons programs and no usable stocks of WMDs.

Oh certainly, our troops and the inspectors who followed found bits and pieces, a few old chemical rounds, rusting, unusable, leaking, more a danger to Iraqis than anybody else. There was no nuclear program and no biological one either.

A decade plus later and people like Muravchik dance around the morality of that preemptive war, and whether it was a violation of our own and international law.  Experts and politicians and jingoistic partisans still argue both sides of the issue and history has yet to provide a definitive verdict and likely never will – not because there is any real question but more because history is written by the winners and there’s nobody left in the ruins of Iraq to protest.

A decade of preemptive war, we got rid of Saddam Hussein and got something worse in his place and the consequences of that are all around us for even the most dimwitted to see, and Muravchilk is still rattling the saber and urging us into yet another war.

His reasoning remains the same – even though this time he knows that the target does not in point of fact currently possess nuclear weapons.

But Iran might, someday, gain a nuke and that’s enough to declare war.

Muravchik, like Netanyahu, posits that there is simply no point in diplomacy. 

Sanctions, he declares, won’t work – even the tougher ones demanded by Netanyahu before the US Congress last month. 

The logic goes we can’t get a “good” deal, and even if we did we can’t trust the shifty Muslims to uphold their end of the bargain and besides Obama is too wimpy to impose tough sanctions anyway or hold Iran to them.  

Predictably, just like in Iraq, Muravchik then compares the Iranian regime to the Nazis and the Communists of the old long defunct Soviet Union and warns that they aim “to carry [their] Islamic revolution across the Middle East and beyond.” As if all Middle Eastern Muslims were the same, as if the same tribalism and sectarian divisions and nationalism that defeated pan-Arabism in the 60’s and Saddam Hussein’s ambitions in the 70’s and 80’s and that tore Iraq apart post-Saddam would offer no resistance to Iranian Imperialism.

Muravchik says that revolutions in Ukraine and Kazakhstan and South Africa led to the abandonment of nuclear weapons in those countries, but Iranians themselves are too passive and cowardly to bring down the regime in their country – so we need to do it for them. Yes, ultimately, we must destroy Iran for the Iranians, just like we destroyed Iraq to bring freedom and democracy to the Iraqis.

As an aside: you might not want to ask Ukrainians how they feel nowadays about giving up their nuclear capability.

And where does that leave us according to Muravchik?

“Does this mean that our only option is war? Yes…”

Our only option is war, says Muravchik.

That’s the only option.

Because of course it is.

Because with Neocons it’s always war. That’s their solution to everything foreign and domestic. Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Muravchik goes on to qualify his call for war by saying we could wage it as “an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure” which would entail “less need for boots on the ground” unlike “the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State.”

An air campaign.

Oh, well, an air campaign then.

That’s different. An air campaign.

Sure. We’ll drop some freedom on Iran and be home in time for corn flakes.

That doesn’t sound so bad. An air campaign.

That’s not like real war. Let’s see we’ll just need, hmmm, some drones … no, wait, drones can’t carry large enough weapons to penetrate hardened nuclear facilities, so, we’ll need manned aircraft, and we’re gonna need a lot of them because before we can reach those nuclear facilities that are the real targets we’re gonna have to smash one of the largest air defense systems in the world, so yeah, a lot of planes and we can probably launch them from Navy carriers except of course we’ll need the Navy planes to maintain air superiority over the Arabian Gulf while the fleet tries to fight its way through the Strait of Hormuz, plus we’re gonna be there for a long time so we’d better maybe use Air Force planes so we’re gonna need a base or two, but Israel will provide that, right? They don’t mind American bases on their soil waging war on their neighbors and making them yet a bigger target, no? Not even if we’re fighting a war for them, huh? Well, okay, we understand, so then we’ll launch from a Muslim nation – you know, one that doesn’t mind us attacking a fellow Muslim nation and building bases on their soil … and it can’t be a Gulf nation because, well, there’s that whole problem of the Strait of Hormuz again, so, hmmm, okay, well, we’ll think of something, maybe the Brits will let us use Diego Garcia, and let’s see we’ll need some Tomahawk launch platforms sitting in the northern Indian Ocean and rescue teams forward deployed to Pakistan and of course some contractor support and R&R facilities and repair and resupply and communications and logistics and we’ll sort of half-ass, half-commit to it because it’s not a real war, just an air campaign, but that won’t be a problem, probably, again, just like every goddamned time we’re stuck out on the far end of the shitty stick. Besides, Congress will fund that, right? They’ll keep approving emergency funding bills for the air campaign. Plenty of money, plenty of money, in the Social Security fund. Good idea. No, that’ll probably work. This time. Sure. I mean, ten years of waging an Air campaign against Iraq and, well, okay, we invaded anyway and now we’ve got an even bigger more deadly mess to deal with, nothing to see here, move along, move along.

Muravchik obviously has a pocket full of the same fairy dust which led us into Iraq – i.e. we’ll get rid of the current government which we don’t like and then an America-loving democracy will magically spring up in its place and they’ll be cheering us in the streets of Tehran.

Muravchik asks “Wouldn’t an attack cause ordinary Iranians to rally behind the regime?”

“Perhaps,” he answers his own question, “but …”

They’ve always got a “but…” these Neocons. Sure, sure, an unprovoked attack on Iran would validate what the Ayatollahs have been telling Iranians for years, that we hate them and that we want to destroy them and that we’re nothing but Israel’s dimwitted enforcer. Sure. But the good news is if we kill enough of them, the rest will rise up and tear down the regime.

Just like in Iraq, I guess.

Or Afghanistan.

Or Cuba.

Or Somalia.

Or Vietnam.

Or… well, I digress.

Same old Neocon strategy, bomb our way to freedom.  No freedom yet? Keep bombing.

It might take a year, or five, or twenty, or fifty, but sooner or later we’ll kill enough of them and the few who are left will love us among the ashes.  Just like in Iraq.  Or Afghanistan. Or… well, it’s like that great tale of conservative ideals, John Wayne’s McClintock! a love story that demonstrates how if you just beat a woman enough, she’ll give up her headstrong ways and love you forever. Like that, we’ll bomb ‘em from the skies, see, and Iranians will see what jerks they’ve been and they’ll riot in the streets and tear down the government and sing praises to America for setting them free!

Just like Iraq.

Because that’s how it works, right?

When Muslim extremists preemptively attacked us, when they killed 3000 Americans to make a political point, why we tore down our government and gave up our warring ways. Sure we did. Because that’s what people do. Just like in Iraq. And Afghanistan. And Somalia. And Cuba. And Vietnam…

No? Well, this time I’m sure it’ll be different, you betcha. Plus we can wage it as an air campaign!

Muravchik goes on, “Wouldn’t destroying much of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure merely delay its progress?”

And again answers his own question with, “Perhaps, but we can strike as often as necessary.”

We can strike as often as necessary.

We can strike. And we can do it as often as necessary.

A year, or five, or twenty, or fifty, and they’ll come around. A couple million dollars, a billion or two, a trillion. A few hundred lives, a thousand, five thousand, a hundred thousand. You’ll see. We’ll call it the John Wayne Doctrine, beat ‘em until they love us. Sure. And it’s not like our open-ended bombing of Iran will fan the flames of Islamic resentment around the globe and help to unite the fractious Muslim world – including those who live within our own borders. No, no, of course Muslim Mujahedeen won’t come from across the planet to rally under the banner of their shared religion. No, no, of course not, that’ll never happen.

Again.

Probably.

And if it does, hey, we can bomb them too!

Don’t forget to tell them it’s not really a war on Islam. Sure, they’re just goat herders, they’ll believe that shit. Besides, it’s worked so far, right?

Of course, Muravchik explains, Iran would certainly try to conceal and defend the elements of its nuclear program. Which, of course they would.

But, Muravchik says, we could find new ways to discover and attack them. Easy peasy.

“Surely,” Muravchik brags in fond patriotic pride, “the United States could best Iran in such a technological race.”

Oh surely we could.

Why you can hear the defense contractors clinking their money bags together right now, can’t you?

What’s that you say? We’ll be bombing Iran every couple of months? Hey, no problem. We can help you out. Let’s see what we got here, oh the F-35 Lightning, a billion dollar plane that’s now a trillion dollar plane that’s almost, but not quite, ready for this exact mission. Couple more billion, maybe a trillion, and she’ll be fully operational. Guaranteed! Smart missiles? We got ‘em in ten different flavors! And you’re gonna need some special satellites and this awesome new SEAL delivery vehicle and some of these new invisible surveillance drones and some IED Proof advanced capability MRAPs. Oh, yes, and you’ll need tech support and some consultants and civilian specialists and, oh, hey, how about you send some officers to the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies for their Masters Degrees? Sure, we got just the professor, he’s an expert. What? No, noooooo, no conflict of interest, he’ll tell you whatever you want to hear if the price is right!

Meanwhile Russia and China are lined up to sell Iran the latest in counter technology and weapons systems.

And it all sounds just so terribly familiar, doesn’t it?

Come on Wall Street, don't be slow,
Why man, this is war au-go-go
There's plenty good money to be made
By supplying the Army with the tools of its trade,
But just hope and pray that if they drop the bomb,
They drop it on the Viet Cong.

And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Then Muravchik gets down to brass tacks, “wouldn’t Iran retaliate by using its own forces or proxies to attack Americans — as it has done in Lebanon, Iraq and Saudi Arabia — with new ferocity?”

Well? Won’t they?

“Probably,” Muravchik admits, again answering his own question. Probably they would attack us by whatever means, including terrorism he acknowledges. Sure. But, and there’s that but again, “We could attempt to deter this by warning that we would respond by targeting other military and infrastructure facilities.”

Oh, well, we could attempt to deter the resulting terrorism by warning them that we might bomb them again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Because that worked so well in Iraq.

And Afghanistan.

And Somalia.

And Vietnam.

And how is that different from the gunboat diplomacy we’re currently engaged in you ask?

Well, it’s about about how the threat is delivered. It’s about the law we all agreed to live by. It’s “Hey, build a nuke and we’ll attack you with the rule of law behind us” versus “We’ll burn youse guys’ house down first so’s youse knows we mean bizness, then if youse builda nuke we’ll break youse guys kneecaps, see?”

The difference is one is puts us firmly on the right side of history with the world behind us and one doesn’t.

And even Muravchik acknowledges that his preemptive war doesn’t really make us any safer, “We might absorb some strikes […] Yes, there are risks to military action. But Iran’s nuclear program and vaunting ambitions have made the world a more dangerous place. Its achievement of a bomb would magnify that danger manyfold. Alas, sanctions and deals will not prevent this.”

Apparently war won’t prevent it either. Q.E.D.

But better we get the first blow in anyway according to mafia logic.

Let’s review, Muravchik calls for war, nonchalantly says we can wage it as an air campaign, but admits that probably won’t be enough implying an eventual need for ground forces, he admits this action is unlikely to achieve his stated objective of deterring Iran from its nuclear ambitions and will probably require an open-ended commitment of America military strength and money, and ultimately will result in a drastic uptick in terrorism targeting Americans abroad and at home.

Still our “best” option though, right?

And you know it would be one thing if it was just some random pundit calling for preemptive war, but this guy is responsible for educating future military officers and politicians and advising the US government.

Louie Gohmert (Republican, of course-TX) said Tuesday on Washington Watch, “We need to make clear to Iran: You can play these silly games with our president that buys into them and our secretary of state, but the American people aren’t buying it and you’re going to pay a price […] I’m hoping and praying the president will realize, despite the agenda he has that has put Christians in jeopardy around the world, that he will not want to leave the Democratic Party so devastated that they won’t recover for many decades.”

Ah. Nice of Louie to worry about Democrats and non-Christians and the rest of world too, isn’t it?

You know, it’s pretty hard to believe that this isn’t a religious war, a preemptive war aimed straight at Islam when members of the United States government publicly announce “…Christians in jeopardy around the world.”

You have to wonder how many ISIS/ISIL recruiters are quoting Gohmert right now.

Gohmert enjoined President Obama to comply with Netanyahu’s demands, “Maybe once he starts doing that he’ll realize we do need to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities that we know of and anything that they move to fix, we bomb that as well.” Then Gohmert justified preemptive war by repeating soundly debunked conspiracy theories, as is his tendency, and ended with a call to arms, “I think it’s time to bomb Iran. Anything that resembles a nuclear facility with centrifuges. It’s time to bomb.”

It’s time to bomb.

It’s time to bomb because Iran endangers the world.

Boy, does this sound familiar or what? Swap out “Iran” for “Saddam” and we won’t even have to print new posters.

Well, come on generals, let's move fast;
Your big chance has come at last.
Now you can go out and get those reds
'Cause the only good commie is the one that's dead
And you know that peace can only be won
When we've blown 'em all to kingdom come.


And it's one, two, three,
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam;
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Over on World Net Daily, the Mecca of conservative war mongering, it’s time to declare another Crusade.

WND warns, “A solar eclipse coming on March 20 won’t just be an astronomical wonder – it will be an event that may be unprecedented in human history, according to biblical experts who say it is an unmistakable sign of judgment.”

According to “biblical experts.”

A solar eclipse.

It’s unprecedented in human history.

Never had one of these before. Oh No! Maybe there’ll be a comet too! Signs and Portents in the sky!

According to actual scientists, without whom you wouldn’t even know there was going to be an eclipse or how extensive it would be or where the moon’s shadow would fall on the earth, it’s just a manifestation of orbital elements.  Predictable as clockwork and nothing mysterious or prophetic about it.

But holy man Mark Biltz, author of Blood Moons: Decoding the Imminent Heavenly Signs, explains how Friday’s eclipse was a sign we should attack Iran.

Yes, that’s right, an eclipse is God’s way of saying listen to Netanyahu!

“In Jewish tradition, a total solar eclipse is a warning to the Gentiles and a sign of judgment on the nations. When we look at where the darkness will be, it will be in northern European countries like England and Sweden where we see the rise of Islam and anti-Israel sentiment. Europeans especially should take heed.”

Take heed, Gentiles! Or Big Sky Man make angry boom boom!

Now far be it from me to question a genuine “biblical expert” and all, but if this eclipse is a warning to Sweden, why didn’t Netanyahu visit Stockholm instead of Washington?

But, sure, why not? I mean if we’re going to start yet another preemptive war, kill a couple hundred thousand more people, drive our country a couple trillion further into debt, why not mix in some mystical mumbo-jumbo Jewish blood moon astrology too?

I mean it can hardly be any less accurate than the assumptions which led us into Iraq, could it?

Come on mothers throughout the land,
Pack your boys off to Vietnam.
Come on fathers, and don't hesitate
To send your sons off before it's too late.
And you can be the first ones in your block
To have your boy come home in a box.


And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Vietnam.
And it's five, six, seven,
Open up the pearly gates,
Well there ain't no time to wonder why,
Whoopee! we're all gonna die.

Where does this end?

This idea of preemptive war?

This idea that we have a right to destroy a country, to kill a people, to topple governments, based on what they might do in the future? Based on hysteria and conspiracy and rumor and astrology?

Certainly it’s an interesting exercise to wonder what the world would be like today if Adolf Hitler had been shot dead as a soldier in World War I, or if he’d died in prison after the Beer Hall Putsch, or if the Allies had come together 1938 and stopped the Nazis before the occupation of the Sudetenland.

And if we could predict the future with any degree of accuracy then perhaps preemptive war could be justified.

But as Iraq shows, we can’t predict the future. Hell, we barely grasp the present.

And so where does this end? This idea of preemptive war?

Iran doesn’t have a nuclear weapon.

Iran might get one in the future.

War might stop the threat, certainly, depending on how far we’re willing to go and how long we’re willing to stay and whether or not we’re willing to bankrupt ourselves doing it.

War can certainly topple regimes, just as it toppled the Soviet Union when they stayed so long in Afghanistan they bankrupted themselves out of existence.

And war might make the world a far more dangerous place, as it did in Iraq.

We can’t predict the future with any degree of accuracy.

There’s no way to predict with any certainty whatsoever what Iran would do with a nuclear weapon should they obtain one.  Certainly they may threaten Israel. Certainly they may threaten the United States. Or they may not. Iran is in the hands of fanatics, but those fanatics are neither insane nor suicidal.  Having a nuke and using a nuke are two entirely different things. 

Iran could not use a nuclear weapon without committing suicide. Would they? I don’t know. Would North Korea? Would Pakistan? Would Israel? 

And so by the logic outlined above, shouldn’t we declare preemptive war on those countries too? 

Shouldn’t we?

Shouldn’t we take out North Korea? Should we take out Pakistan? Shouldn’t we take out Israel’s nuclear capability? Shouldn’t we topple their governments?

No? If not why not?

And don’t say it’s because Iran threatened other countries, because right now? Right now, we’re the nuclear power threatening war on other nations.

So be specific, why destroy Iran and not Israel?

No, think about it. If you really want peace in the Middle East, wouldn’t getting rid of Israel preemptively go one hell of a lot further towards stabilizing the region and making Iran our friend?

Well?

I mean we’re willing to tell Israel, hey, don’t worry, we’ll blow up Iran for you.

But wouldn’t the quickest way to get Iran to give up nuclear weapons is if we returned the favor for them? Hey, you don’t need nukes, we’ll destroy your enemy for you. And you keep the Strait of Hormuz open and the oil flowing. Deal?

Well?

If not, why not?

Careful, it’s a trick question and you don’t want to end up admitting that bit about how it’s really a war on a certain religion.

Now look, I’m NOT advocating for the destruction of Israel, by us or by anybody else.

I firmly believe in Israel’s right to exist.

But I also believe in Iran’s right to exist.

I think Iran is dangerous. I think they are nobody’s friend and certainly not ours. I don’t trust them. I think there is a legitimate reason to fear Iran’s nuclear ambitions. But I also think they have a right to exist. Same as Israel.

 

When you say that we should engage in preemptive war, you’re saying very clearly that Iran as it exists now does not have a right to exist.

 

And what I’m saying here is the doctrine of preemptive war is a goddamned slippery slope.

When our educators and leaders and holy men tell us that one nation has a right to exist but another does not – and that is exactly what they are saying here – then I think we as citizens have not only a right but a duty to know where the lines are drawn and what the criteria is.

Why does Israel have the right to exist, the right to self determination, but Iran doesn’t?

We don’t like Iran. Israel doesn’t like Iran. Europe, Russian, and China don’t much care for Iran. Iran’s Muslim neighbors don’t have much use for Iran. But does that mean Iran doesn’t have a right to exist? To chose its own government, no matter how oppressive or fanatical?

If not, why not?

Be specific. Don’t move the goalposts. Answer the question.

If Iran in its present form does not have the right to exist, why doesn’t it? Lay it out on the table and explain it in small words. Show your work.

Once you buy into the idea of preemptive war, you can use it to justify all kinds of things. Japan justified its attack on Pearl Harbor, because it saw the United States as a threat to its ambitions. Hitler saw a preemptive invasion of his neighbors as justified by their economic sanction of Germany and the limitations placed on its military capability after WWI.

Vladimir Putin sees preemptive invasion of his neighbor as justified because Ukraine stands between Russia and the Russian Black Sea Fleet – and therefore Russia’s security.

We saw the invasion of Iraq as justified by 911 and some of us, such as Joshua Muravchik, still see it that way even though the reasons we used turned out to be magic fairy dust. But we won so we get to write history and so we say that Iraq was a threat to world peace and to America and enough people believe that bullshit so as to keep those who gave the orders out of jail.

Where does this end?

As populations increase and resources become more scarce, at the climate changes, as new disease emerge, as new and dangerous technologies evolve, where does this end?

We want to destroy Iran for what they might do, for the threat they might pose in the future.

How big of leap is it from “Iran might get a nuclear weapon” to “Liberia might infect us with Ebola?”

Where does this end?

Slippery Slope Fallacy? Perhaps. But perhaps not.

Show me the controls.

Show me the limits.

Show me where the boundaries are.

Show me why one nation has a right to exist and another doesn’t and show me where we get to decide.

Show me where we use war and where we don’t.

And this time, take responsibility for it. Show me where we use war and where we don’t. Define the criteria. Put it in writing.

Show me how war with Iran makes the world less dangerous. Put it in writing and sign your name to the bottom of it.

Show me how we avoid the mistakes of Iraq, put it in writing, sign your name to the bottom of it, and be willing to go to prison as a war criminal if you’re wrong.  No, really, if you’re not willing to risk prison, when the lives of millions are on the line, when the world economy is at risk, then why should I listen to you when you call for war? Why should everybody else put their ass on the line and not you? I’m just asking you to risk prison, you’re demanding everybody else risk their lives. So pony up. Do you really believe the shit you’re shoveling or don’t you?

Show me the budget, not the one for war – we’ve always got money for killing people, for dropping bombs, for destruction. No, show me how you’ll pay for what comes after. Show me how you’ll take care of veterans like me for the rest of our lives. Show me how you’ll pay to rebuild Iran into a model of Western style democracy. Show me where you’re willing to tax the rich and Wall Street to pay for it all – after all they’re the ones who profit hugely from war, from the world being a “safer” place, they should be willing to pay for the privilege. Go on, show me the goddamned money.

Show me the plan for Iran. Not the war plan, I don’t need to see that, hell I helped write part of it. The war plan is the easy part.

No, I’m talking about afterward. Show me that part.

Show me peaceful democratic united post-war Iran.

Show me. Show me the Iran that makes the world a safer place. Show me that Iran. Show me piece by piece, step by step, line by line, how we ensure that the government which replaces the one we blast out of existence, the one that doesn’t have a right to exist, will be an Iran that never, ever, seeks a bomb. Go on, show me. Show me how you plan to retool Islamic religious fanaticism into the benign, loving, non-aggressive Christian model – you know, the one that wouldn’t start a war in order to get its way.

Show me this: Show me an Iran with a nuclear bomb aimed at Israel … and the collocated Independent State of Palestine, so that Iran, or any other Muslim nation, couldn’t nuke one without killing the other. 

But I digress.

Show me all of these things. Show me why preemptive war is better than diplomacy.

Go on.

Well?

You can’t, can you?

You can’t show it to me. You can’t prove why this time preemptive war will be different. You can’t predict the future, not with any certainty, not even if you are a fellow of the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and adjunct professor at the Institute of World Politics Joshua Muravchik, PhD. You can’t show it to me even if you’re a United States Representative. You can’t show it to me even if you’re a holy man who deals in signs and portents. 

But we can make educated guesses based on past history and none of that history, none of it, supports the notion that preemptive war will somehow make the world a safer place. In fact, if we’ve learned anything from Iraq, it’s exactly the opposite.

Preemptive war will not make the world a safer place.

Not unless we are willing to occupy post-war Iran forever with enough troops to impose our will by lethal force. Not unless we are willing to bankrupt ourselves and to send our children one after the other into the meat-grinder forever. And if we are not willing to do that, if the world is not willing to do that, then the only way – the only way – you can make absolutely certain Iran won’t threaten the world ever again is to blow them all to hell. Genocide. Nuke ‘em. Kill them all. Every last mother lovin’ one of them.

Burn the whole country to the ground and salt the earth.

Kill ‘em all and let God sort it out…

And it's one, two, three
What are we fighting for ?
Don't ask me, I don't give a damn,
Next stop is Iran!

… and become the very people we despise.

We can not predict the future. War may indeed be necessary one day and diplomacy may certainly fail. That is always a possibility and if we have to fight we will.

But it is also possible that the current diplomatic efforts will succeed, and if not these talks then the next ones or the ones after that.

If Israel is able to negotiate a working government from a collection of mutually hostile political and religious entities, they, and we, should be able to do so on a larger scale.

So long as Iran is willing to talk we should be as well. 

So long as Iran is willing to talk, then war is not the only option.

It is certainly not the best one.

War is simply the easiest.

Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.
- Christian Bible, Matthew 7:13

Friday, March 13, 2015

The Second Coming Of Richard Milhous Nixon

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists
-
US President George W. Bush, to Congress,  20 Sept 2001


It became necessary to destroy the town to save it

We had to destroy the town.

So we could save it.

That statement, often paraphrased as “we had to destroy the village in order to save it,” was attributed to an unnamed US major by AP war correspondent Peter Arnett following the US strategic bombing of Ben Tre, Vietnam, in 1968.

In the years since, the veracity of that unattributed quote has been frequently questioned, but what is not in dispute is that on February 7th, 1968 at the height of the war, the south Vietnamese town of Ben Tre was destroyed by heavy bombardment. 

The logic behind the assault was that the village had been infiltrated by communist forces and the only way to root them out was to level the place.

Much of the village (a small city in actuality) was obliterated by bombs and napalm.

Hundreds of civilians were killed, thousands were wounded and maimed. Some of the destruction was inflicted by the occupying communist forces, but the vast majority was from American airstrikes and artillery.

In the grim aftermath, Arnett interviewed US military officers and questioned the necessity of the carnage:

“It became necessary to destroy the town to save it,” a U.S. major said Wednesday.

 
He was talking about the grim decision that allied commanders made when Viet Cong attackers overran most of this Mekong Delta city 45 miles southwest of Saigon. They decided that regardless of civilian casualties they must bomb and shell the once placid river city of 35,000 to rout the Viet Cong forces.

A day later, Arnett’s story appeared in newspapers around the world and that statement, verbatim or otherwise, became one of the most infamous military quotes in modern history and an enduring testament to the brutal absurdity that was the United States’ military and political strategy in Vietnam.

U.S. advisers said the heavy allied firepower hurled on the city to drive out the Viet Cong probably contributed largely to the deaths of at least 500 civilians and possibly 1,000. South Vietnamese officials say the enemy dead totaled 451. About 50 Vietnamese soldiers died, along with more than 20 Americans...Lt. Col James Dare of Chicago, commander of U.S. Advisory Team 93, said “we will never know for sure” the number of civilians who died…Maj. Chester L. Brown of Erie, Pa., spent hours over the city as an Air Force forward air controller directing helicopter and fighter-bomber attacks. “It is always a pity about the civilians,” he said.

That ridiculous moment, the obliteration of Ben Tre and the horror of what we had wrought, for the first time brought the absolute insanity of the Vietnam War into focus for many Americans – even those who had previously supported it out of ignorance, apathy, or kneejerk patriotism.

It was at that moment, February 8th, 1968, when for the first time many Americans began to question the absurd idea that we were somehow saving people by killing them.

The bombing of Ben Tre, what was supposed to be a decisive victory, became instead the foundation for defeat and a moment in history that many Americans would like to pretend never happened. Of course Ben Tre wasn’t the only reason Americans became disillusioned with Vietnam, but the battle was a significant turning point and public support for America’s military involvement in Southeast Asia, never high to begin with, rapidly declined from that point forward. 

When the bombs fell on Ben Tre the United States had been engaged in active combat in Southeast Asia for better than six years and more than 30,000 Americans had died in the jungles and rice paddies – and uncounted hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese. The conflict had slopped over into the surrounding nations and it was tearing America itself apart at the seams. Faced with an unwinnable war abroad, widespread unrest at home, and a surprisingly strong anti-war challenge from within his own party, Lyndon Johnson declined to run for reelection and was stumping instead for his Vice President, Hubert Humphrey. 

As President, Johnson decided that it was in the best interest of America to get the hell out of Vietnam.

And so, by presidential order, a month later, in March, 1968, the US ceased active bombing over parts of northern Vietnam and attempted to engage Hanoi in negotiation towards ending the conflict. 

Both sides met on May 10th in Paris.

It took five months of intense wrangling to reach a point where both sides could even talk to each other.  Jingoistic chest beating and bombast, accusations and outrages ruled the day. Both sides refused to recognize the legitimacy of the other. They argued bitterly over every aspect, no matter how minute or ridiculous up to and including the shape of the table where the negotiations were to be held. 

But eventually the framework for a ceasefire was hammered out and by the end of 1968 with US Presidential elections looming, it looked like President Johnson had brokered an end to the conflict – one that would allow both North and South Vietnam to continue on as separate and distinct nations, much like North and South Korea.

Sadly however the tide of history often turns on the actions of a ruthless and selfish few.

A peaceful end to the war and a triumphant return of American troops would hand Johnson, and by extension Hubert Humphrey and the Democrats, an enormous political victory and most likely the election.

And how different would our world be today if that had been the case?

Instead, Republican presidential candidate and senator from California, Richard Nixon, faced with likely defeat in the coming election, ordered his liaison to the South Vietnam government, Anna Chennault, to sabotage the pending deal.

Johnson’s and Nixon’s records, made public 40 years after the events of 1968, show irrefutably that as a presidential candidate Nixon attempted to directly influence the outcome of the peace process. Additionally, Nixon’s interference was confirmed by FBI wiretaps which recorded, among other conversations, a call from Chennault to Nixon describing how she had informed the South Vietnamese ambassador, “Hold on. We’re gonna win.”  Moreover, those same records reveal that Nixon had an ace in the hole, Johnson’s advisor to the peace talks, Henry Kissinger.  Kissinger was feeding Nixon information on the talks and on the Johnson administration – though the exact degree of his duplicity is yet to be fully determined.

Kissinger, for obvious reasons, isn’t exactly forthcoming.  

Nixon attempted to sabotage the peace process solely in order to further his own political ambitions.

He didn’t do it because he believed it was bad for America, or bad for the world, or even bad for Vietnam.

He did it because he was a selfish, criminal, partisan son of a bitch. 

And even George Will, the famously conservative columnist and pundit, agrees that Nixon’s actions clearly violate the 1797 Logan Act and are tantamount to outright treason – as did members of Nixon’s own party at the time, such as Republican Senate Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen (off the record of course, in a phone call to Lyndon Johnson, as revealed by the opening of presidential and senate records 40 years later).  

It is impossible to say if Nixon’s attempted sabotage was the ultimate reason South Vietnam pulled out of the peace agreement at the last second, but pull out they did.

Faced with the embarrassing failure of the peace talks, the democrats lost their lead in the polls and Richard Milhous Nixon narrowly won the White House in November of 1968.

And the war continued on for another seven terrible years.

In that seven years another 20,000 US troops died – bringing the total US dead to 58,220. No one knows how many Vietnamese died.

In that seven years more than 100,000 US troops were wounded. No one knows how many Vietnamese were wounded  – and continued to be killed, maimed, and terribly injured for decades afterward by the unexploded ordnance and toxins left buried beneath the former battlefields.  

In 1968 the Vietnam war cost the United States 2.3% of the GDP.  The war cost Americans more than $686 billion (adjusted to FY2008 dollars, the most recent year of accounting available from the GAO per the annual CRS report to Congress, 2008. Back of the napkin figures indicate the cost at well over a trillion dollars when adjusted to 2015 rates, which would put it on an even footing with current conflicts), with the lion’s share of that total coming between 1968 (the height of the war) and 1975 (the official end of US involvement). As of 2013, the U.S. government pays more than $22 billion to Vietnam veterans and their families or their survivors in war related claims. That’s twenty-two billion dollars per year that American taxpayers are still forking over forty years later.

There is no way to even begin to measure the toll on Vietnam veterans, in mental illness, in lingering and persistent injury, in homelessness, in alcoholism, in drug use, in domestic violence, in suicide, in the lost potential and lost opportunity of an entire generation.

War, my shiny electronic friends, is goddamned costly – for a very, very long time – and in many, many ways beyond mere money.

America’s part in the war officially ended in 1972 and Nixon won himself a second term, due in large measure for bringing about the end of the conflict – which undercut a critical plank in his opponent George McGovern’s campaign.  And now you know why Nixon was so concerned about what his opposition knew and why he was willing to do damned near anything to keep his actions a secret – up to and including resigning the White House to avoid the scrutiny and disclosure of impeachment proceedings.

In an example of simply staggering irony, in 1973 Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords – the very same process he directly helped sabotage four years before.

Over the next two years the United States pulled out of Southeast Asia and left our erstwhile allies to their own devices, a process Nixon called “Vietnamization.”

In April of 1975 North Vietnamese forces and Vietcong entered Saigon and the war was finally over.

North and South Vietnam became the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

In the end, destroying the village accomplished nothing.

 

Forty relentless years of endless war since, four decades of increasingly partisan insanity, and it’s the second coming of the same old cavalry.

 

We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

Forty years on and today’s fanatically partisan sons of bitches are still willing to sabotage peace talks solely in order to further their own selfish political agendas. 

Four decades of continuous war later, of the same failed strategy, and they still think freedom and liberty can be delivered in the belly of a B-52. This despite the blunt and abject lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, not to mention the terrible lesson of Vietnam itself.

Four decades later and these same people still prefer war to peace, violence to talk, ideology to pragmatism, insanity to reason. 

We had to destroy the village in order to save it.

Only this time, the country they intend to destroy is the United States of America.

And they don’t care how many innocents are killed and maimed in the process, just so long as they get what they want, just so long as they win the White House and the country. They sincerely believe that they are the masters of the universe and the only true Americans. And because they have come to sincerely believe that the rest of us are either enemies or cannon fodder and therefore beneath consideration.

They’re not willing to share the world with anybody else or to compromise even if it means the total destruction of the very nation they claim to love.

Forty years ago, on May 15, 1969, Bloody Thursday, these same sons of bitches under the command of none other than Ronald Reagan were perfectly willing to turn shotguns on Americans they saw as not American enough and they’re perfectly willing to do the same today – as evidenced by their fanatical love of their personal arsenals which are amassed solely for use against their fellow Americans.

Four decades later and it’s still the same diseased strategy and the same cast of characters – and when you see Henry Kissinger and John McCain sitting heads together in the same room, you can goddamned well believe it.

I am, of course, ultimately talking about forty-seven US Senators, backed by their conservative masters, who attempted to sabotage the P5+1 talks with Iran and that country’s nuclear program solely, solely, in order to embarrass and insult Barack Obama.

These people are so blinded with partisan fanaticism that they actually believe Iran is a greater threat to Western civilization than a bitterly divided United States. 

These fanatics are so utterly consumed by their madness, that they actually believe a preemptive war with Iran is not only a solution, but the only solution.

And they are determined to have that war come hell or high water.

Even if they have to tear America apart to get it.

“We cannot allow them to have a nuclear weapon, if that means military action, that’s what we’ll end up taking,”

That was Wisconsin Republican Senator Ron Johnson, a signatory to the now infamous letter, last Sunday on Fox News.

If that means military action, that’s what we’ll end up taking.

We haven’t lost enough of America’s future in the Middle East.

We haven’t bled enough.

It’s never enough for these sons of bitches.

People like Senator Johnson, they walk past those 58,220 names inscribed on the cold black granite of the Vietnam Memorial, they can see it, they can touch it, they argue over the endless appropriations for war and its terrible aftermath, trillions in blood and treasure, bills they can not afford to pay and that they have mortgaged our children’s future for, they have their noses rubbed in the futility and the utter criminal waste of it all every single goddamned day and it’s still not enough for these insane fuckers.  

It will never be enough. Never.

Johnson bases his position not on the actual deal (which is still incomplete, by definition) but on various leaks and rumors – which, for modern Republicans is more than enough reason to declare war, Quod Erat Demonstrandum.

Johnson argued that the Administration should give up negotiations and instead impose “some severe sanctions” on Iran, specifically a policy similar to the one instituted by George W. Bush.

Johnson for some odd reason failed to mention that Iran has complied with the interim agreement which paved the way for the current round of talks – as verified by the US, among other reliable international sources – and its capability has remained static during the Obama Administration. 

And even more disingenuously, Johnson failed to mention that despite the Bush Administration’s “severe sanctions,” Iran’s enrichment capability, specially its uranium enrichment centrifuges grew from 164 in 2003 to more than 19,000 during that same exact period.

Those sanctions did no more to stop Iran than they did Fidel Castro.

What Senator Johnson demands is nothing less than abandonment of a working diplomatic solution and a return to the very situation which allowed Iran to increase its nuclear capability by more than 11,500%.

Which will lead, inevitably to war.

Which is exactly what these Netanyahu puppets want.

When asked, twice, what he would recommend in place of the rumored P5+1 deal, Johnson could provide nothing. Instead he declared,

“If Israel believes it’s threatened and it takes military action, the United States has got to back our strong ally.”

Actually, Senator, no we don’t have to back Israel, should they decide to go to war.

But then again, I realize I’m pissing into the wind here since a significant fraction of American conservatives seem to believe that their loyalty is to Israel and not to their own goddamned (literally, I guess) country. 

Ironically, these are the very same people who think the Pledge of Allegiance should be mandatory. 

But then again, these are the same people who got themselves publicly schooled on the Constitution and the roles of the various branches of the US government by Iranians, so make of it what you will.

For Johnson, it’s war or nothing.

And Johnson isn’t the only Republican who can’t offer any alternative.

Matt Lauer asked Rand Paul how, as president, he would respond if a group of Senators undermined his hypothetical administration.

"I'm kinda one of the Senators who's in favor of negotiations with Iran, I want there to be a peaceful outcome. But I want to strengthen the president's hand. I want to strengthen his hand by saying, you know what, we've got a lot of hardliners, and we're going to have to get this agreement by Congress and by doing so maybe the president will negotiate a more appropriate deal..."

Incredibly, presidential hopeful Paul thinks that the letter to Iran’s leaders undercutting President Obama actually made the president look better. To Iranians (Which to be fair, it probably did. In comparison, I mean). And apparently, as president, Paul would be okay with democrats pulling a similar stunt.

In a city of goddamned things, Rand Paul is about the goddamnest thing I’ve seen yet.

Lauer, obviously boggled, asked incredulously,

"You really think by signing that letter you strengthen the president's hand?"

Paul replied,

“Well I have also reiterated what the Constitution says, that the powers are separated, and when legislation is passed by Congress. Congress passed most of the sanctions, they can't be taken back without Congress passing new legislation. So I think this is a law no matter whether there is a letter, no matter whether the Corker Bill passes or not, I think the law is that the sanctions can only be removed by Congress and by reiterating that, we send a message that this has got to be a good deal.

Except, of course, the letter Paul signed says no such thing.

And again, you’ll note Paul offers no alternative to the current negotiations – he just wants a “better” deal, but he can’t define what that is.

In fact, none of the 47 Senators who signed Tom Cotton’s letter can produce a coherent counter to the current deal. Well, other than “bomb ‘em!” I mean. 

Meanwhile, another shining example of the Republican Party, Arizona Republican Senator John McCain – a guy who considers himself an expert on foreign affairs and national security – admitted that he was in a hurry to get out of Washington ahead of an impending snowstorm and that he didn’t really read the letter before adding his John Hancock.  What? Screw Obama? Sure, where do I sign?

“It was kind of a very rapid process. Everybody was looking forward to getting out of town because of the snowstorm. I think we probably should have had more discussion about it, given the blowback that there is.”

That’s right, they were sending a letter to Iran’s Government, maybe even in violation of US law and certainly in violation of long established diplomatic protocol, an action that might derail more than a decade of negotiations and could lead directly to war in the most unstable and strategic region of the world, a war that might be nuclear(!) and would no matter what have dire and immediate economic consequences worldwide, and “it was kind of a very rapid process” and maybe, you know, um, “we could probably should have had more discussion about it.”

Should have thought about it some more? Geez, I dunno, Senator, ya fucking think?

Just like Richard Nixon, these people are perfectly willing to risk the lives of millions in mindless pursuit of their own selfish goals.  They are perfectly willing to destroy the village – and if they forget how, Henry Kissinger and John McCain can draw them a map. Unless it’s snowing, I guess.

And despite the feeble protests of the rest of the Republican Party, you’ll note not one of these partisan hacks has been censured by their fellows. 

If there is anything that more abjectly demonstrates the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the modern GOP than this idiotic stunt, I don’t know what it is – unless they actually do manage to start a nuclear war.  

And just like Nixon, they’re either oblivious to or simply don’t care about the long term consequences of their actions.

And just like Vietnam what’s very likely to happen should they sabotage the P5+1 talks is that the United States’ role in the final deal, whatever it may be, will then become moot.  Iran will go on to make a deal with China, Russia, and the European powers and we will have no say in the outcome.

What it boils down to is that Republicans want to dictate surrender terms to Iran, with or without an actual war, and nothing less.

Which isn’t surprising given that’s been their exact same approach to Obama for the last five years.

Cotton, Johnson, and their allies, these people are fanatics in the most extreme sense. They are more fanatical in point of fact than Iran’s Ayatollahs given that those hardline Islamists are at least willing to meet the Obama administration halfway.

This agreement, the one being negotiated by the P5+1 isn’t a deal between the United States and Iran.

It is vastly, vastly, more complicated than that.

If, if, a deal is struck, it will be the culmination of more than a decade of diplomacy and will be an agreement between China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, and Iran.

Now, take a minute, think – really think – about that. Think about what it took to hammer out a working agreement between communist China, Putin’s Russia, the US, the UK, France, Germany, and Iran.

The fact that there’s even the possibility of a workable deal of any kind is mind boggling.

And not only did republicans attempt nothing less than a Nixonesque sabotage of the deal to further their presidential ambitions, no, what these forty-seven short-sighted selfish sons of bitches have done is even worse. These fanatics have sent a message to not only our enemies, but our strongest allies and largest economic trading partners (and rivals) that any agreement with the US is not to be taken seriously and could, in fact, dissolve at any moment based on the unpredictable whims of American partisan politics – not to mention America’s increasing religious fanaticism and stated willingness to sacrifice our own children for Israel’s political goals.

At this point, there is absolutely no reason whatsoever for any nation, friend or foe, to trust the United States of America. Republicans have made it clear that when you deal with America, you’re not dealing with a country or a government but with whoever happens to answer the goddamned phone. You’d have to be crazy to enter into any agreement with us.  

In point of fact, if you’re really worried about a nuclear armed rogue state, you don’t really have to go looking very far from home.

Iran’s best option at the moment is to strike a deal with China and Russia and go full on Castro.

Republicans have made it very clear that there’s no reason to strike a deal with us.

Ever.

Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists
-
US President George W. Bush, to Congress,  20 Sept 2001

Only a Sith deals in absolutes
- Obi Wan Kenobi to Anakin Skywalker,  Star Wars Ep. III

 

I’ll end this with an open letter of my own:

To the United States Senate, Attention: Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Joni Ernst, James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven, Richard Shelby, Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Jeff Sessions, John Boozman, Cory Gardner, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, James Lankford, Chuck Grassley, Roy Blunt, John Thune, Mike Enzi, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, John Barrasso, Ted Cruz, Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, Deb Fischer, Ben Sasse, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Pat Roberts, John McCain, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Lindsey Graham, Mike Lee, Mike Rounds, and Dan Sullivan

Senators,

Now might be a good time to rethink the road you’re on.

Your partisan fanaticism  and your self-admitted ill-considered actions make the Iranian government seem sane, sympathetic, reasoned and moderate in comparison. 

You have measurably damaged the reputation of the United States and risked open war, the lives of millions, and the world economy, solely to further your own selfish goals. You have placed partisanship and loyalty to party above your own country and the lives of your fellows.

At this point, whatever the final outcome of your actions, history will very likely remember you in the same light as your fellow Republican, Richard Nixon – and potentially far worse.

Were I you, I’d give that some very, very serious thought.

Your oath, the oath you swore with your right hand upraised before your God, was to the United States of America.

The Pledge of Allegiance you swear is to the American flag, not the Israeli one.

Your legal, moral, and sacred obligation is to the citizens of the United States of America first, ALL OF THEM NOT JUST THE ONES WHO VOTED FOR YOU, and second to all of our allies and partners –  not just Israel.  Your duty extends far, far beyond the small and selfish interests of your religion and/or your political party and it is long past time for you to remember that.

I won’t presume to say you should be ashamed of your recent actions, since many of you obviously lack the capacity, but I will say it is NOT necessary to destroy the village in order to save it – and your fellow Senator John McCain should know the moral bankruptcy of that particular strategy better than anyone.  What will save our nation and our world, the only thing that will ultimately save civilization itself, is that we work together, all of us  - and that’s something else Captain John McCain USN(ret) and the veterans among your number should know as well. Perhaps they could explain it to the rest of you.

Respect is earned, Senators.

For people and likewise for nations, respect is earned – or lost – by every action, by every word.

Now might be a good time to consider yours.

 

Signed,

James Wright
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (ret)
Citizen of the United States of America

 


Editorial Note:

I initially misspelled Nixon’s middle name as “Millhouse.”

It wasn’t a typo or an autocorrect, it was entirely my fault.  I’ve fixed the mistake in the title and in the text, however, because of the way my blogging software works the original title was converted into the underlying link code complete with the misspelling.  The only way to fix that would be to delete the post and republish it as a new article – and lose all the comments and associated social media links, comments, and forwards in the process. 

As such, it stays as it lays and I’ll just live with the shame. At this point, however, I figure there's not much I could do to embarrass myself more than Congress, so, you know, at least I have that going for me.

I’ll be sure to double check my work more carefully in the future. Thanks to all of you who pointed it out, I do appreciate it // Jim

Friday, February 27, 2015

And So It Goes

“I strongly suspect the ongoing GOP victory dance will be short lived.”

That’s what I said the day after the most recent US elections.

It’s been, what? Four months?

Told you.

Today, unless reason prevails among House Republicans, at midnight tonight the Department of Homeland Security will be forced to shut down, at least partially.

After months of chest beating, dick waggling, Bibi leg humping, and bellicose statements of liquid courage, the Senate predictably caved in this morning and passed a "clean" DHS funding bill when it became obvious the president was not going to back down. 

Obama already vetoed Republicans once this week, sure as hell he’ll do it again.

And Republicans know it.

So the Senate bowed to the inevitable and passed a clean bill.

The legislation was sent to the House where it will likely die, strangled by capering madmen so out of touch with reality that they make The Joker from Batman seem sane and rational in comparison.

And then the agency charged with protecting the United States from terrorism, among many other essential things, will go into partial shutdown.

All "non-essential" employees will be sent home without pay, "furloughed" in government parlance - which is a fancy word for "how the fuck am I supposed to pay my rent this month?" because "non-essential" typically means you're not real high on the totem-pole and you don't make a lot of money. By definition, those people who make major bank and can afford a couple weeks off without pay, are "essential" and generally never have to worry about it.

That is to say, congressional Republicans are determined to make their political point by sticking it to secretaries, janitors, and the people who can least afford it.

And really, you can’t fault their logic.

If you’re going to screw people over, better the peons than the Koch Brothers, right?

Also, many contractors will be sent home because if the government offices they work in are shut and locked, there's no place for them to go. However, that's not always the case. Speaking as a former contractor, I was once required to sit in the empty parking lot of my government building during a shutdown - because my contract specified that I show up, no matter what, even if I couldn't get into the building. So, the US taxpayer paid for me to sit in my truck in the parking lot, listening to the radio, and dicking around on Facebook via my phone and thank you for that. Whether or not a contractor gets paid during a shutdown depends on the contract, their employer, and a magical matrix of arbitrary bullshit dreamed up by people who never have to wonder how they're going to pay the rent.  And why do you care about greedy government contractors? Well, because they're your fellow citizens and you're not a complete self-involved jackass for one thing, but more importantly because government contractors do a very large share of the work.  Congress sets limits on the number of government employees, and then leverages a workload which requires three times as many people - not to mention skillsets the General Services schedule doesn't include. So, the only way that works is if you hire contractors, because nobody else, by law, can do the work.

And finally, those folks deemed "essential" like the folks checking to make sure the bags going on the airplanes aren't full of thermite and blasting caps and that the nice gentleman seated next to you, the one quoting Ted Nugent and who smells like suicidal fanaticism and cat piss, isn't planning on taking you to meet his God at 35,000 feet, yeah, those people? They get to work without pay. The people guarding the borders? No pay. The ones guarding the president (and Congress, just saying)? No pay.  The big shots in the front office? They don't have to sweat it, but the people on the front lines, the ones who already get paid shit? They're screwed. They either show up and work without pay, or they get canned - and they can actually be prosecuted for not showing up if the government wants to be an even bigger dick about it than they already are.  After the shutdown is over, maybe those folks get back pay and maybe they don't. That requires yet another vote in congress. Now, you may hate the folks at TSA, but if you think that's fair or moral or anything other than complete bullshit, you should have to spend the next week standing 8 hour security shifts at the airport, or inspecting cargo at the Port of Los Angeles, or patrolling the Arizona desert while wondering how you're going to feed your fucking kids next week. 

You should get three things from this:

 

1) Republicans have made a hell of a lot of political hay by calling the president weak.

But they can't stand up to him.

They have caved every time, sooner or later.

 

2) Republicans have made a hell of a lot of political hay about national security. About terrorism. About the border.

But they are perfectly willing to risk national security, terrorism, and the borders in a quixotic attempt to score political points.

Hell, a significant fraction of the most outspoken Republicans when it comes to these very subjects are at CPAC today instead on the House floor - with less than 8 hours to go before the pending shutdown. Obviously they don’t think it’s all that important, outside of using it to beat Obama about the head and shoulders and to keep their base quaking in fear.

 

3) Republicans took the Senate and increased their majority in the House. They got rid of the reviled Harry Reid and handed Mitch McConnell the gavel. They told us the gridlock was over, now they'd get things done. You remember this, right?

But, as always, conservatives can't even agree on the things they agree on.

They can’t even achieve compromise within their own caucus when the security of the nation, supposedly their top priority, is on the the line. 

Now, ask yourself something, if Republicans can’t even agree among themselves on something they already agree on, how then is their inability to compromise with the executive Obama’s fault?

 

The simple truth of the matter is that these intractable sons of bitches can’t govern themselves, let alone the rest of the country. It’s no wonder whatsoever why they can’t sway Democrats to their side in enough numbers to override a veto or to unite the nation, they can’t even convince themselves.

You heard me say this before, political office is an amplifier and when you elect extremists, no matter how small or how slight, you get extremism.

Every. Single. Time.

It’s only a matter of time before they self-destruct and they are perfectly willing to take the rest of us with them when they go. These people are not the loyal opposition, they are unhinged fanatics and the only thing that matters to them is “beating” Barack Obama. They are obsessed with it and they are perfectly willing to risk the security of the nation and the livelihoods of American citizens to achieve a pyrrhic victory at any cost.

When the extremists win, America loses.

Every time.

Monday, February 23, 2015

An Open Letter to Senators Lieberman and McCain

 

Editorial Note: In reference to Lieberman, I use the title "Senator" the same way people address Sarah Palin as "Governor" or Harland Sanders as “Colonel.”    // Jim



image

 

I don't mind public displays of affection.

I don’t, really.

But, seriously, Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, you two should just get a room.

Frankly the ongoing sloppy public display of tonsil hockey between you two is starting to verge on the pornographic. Haven’t you conservatives got a law about this sort of thing?  I mean, seriously, there are children present. Sheesh.

A little decorum, please.

Is that too much to ask?

Lieberman penned an OpEd which appeared today in papers across the country, publicly chastising democrats and enjoining them to hear out Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of the United States Congress.

Lieberman couldn’t do it via email or memo or an address on the floor, no he just had to make a public spectacle.

So naturally McCain slobbered all over his Twitter feed pimping his pal.

And I can see why Johnny Walnuts so loves Joe Lieberman and why he spends so much time and effort on his little crush. McCain makes a big thing of being the grumpy curmudgeon, but for sheer haughty condescension, nobody can sneer like Joe Lieberman.  No wonder McCain is in love.

It seems that a group of twenty-three House Democrats asked Speaker John Boehner to delay Netanyahu's address, scheduled for next month. The request, coordinated by Keith Ellison (D-MN), Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Maxine Waters (D-CA) suggested the United States would be better served to wait until after Netanyahu’s reelection – if indeed he is reelected.

"As members of Congress who support Israel, we share concern that it appears that you are using a foreign leader as a political tool against the president.”

Note that democrats wrote a personal letter to the Speaker, instead of attempting to reprimand Republicans in the popular press. They asked Boehner to move the speech from March 3rd to some time after the Israeli elections.

"We strongly urge you to postpone this invitation until Israelis have cast their ballots and the deadline for diplomatic negotiations with Iran has passed. When the Israeli Prime Minister visits us outside the specter of partisan politics, we will be delighted and honored to greet him or her on the floor of the House.”

The letter warns that Netanyahu’s pending address violates US diplomatic protocol since it was scheduled without input from the Obama administration or congressional Democrats.

"We very much appreciate that Prime Minister Netanyahu has twice had the honor of speaking before a joint session. However, at this time your invitation is contrary to the standards by which our Congress operates and has the potential to harm U.S. foreign policy.”

Democrats pointed out that Netanyahu's speech could very well damage international negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers currently attempting to establish an accord on Iran's nuclear program.

But this really isn’t about Iran, is it, Senators?

Lieberman says it's important to listen to Netanyahu (despite the fact that Netanyahu may not even be Israeli’s prime minister much longer).

● “because this is about determining how best to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons”

Lieberman swears it’s not just more partisanship or a test of “political loyalty.”

Right. It’s not about partisanship.

It’s not a test of political loyalty.

It’s not about republicans sending a big “fuck you” to Barack Obama.

Sure it’s not. Tell me another one, Joe.

This is nothing if not a test of loyalty, of patriotism, of partisanship, and if it wasn’t then it wouldn’t even be an issue, would it? If this wasn’t about partisanship, Senator Lieberman would have written an email instead of publishing an OpEd in every major paper in the country. And you don’t have to look any further than the proliferation of Israeli flag pins on the lapels of Born Again Zionists such as Sarah Palin.

Republicans, Lieberman and McCain in particular, have made it very clear:  to love Israel unquestioningly is to love America.

Anyone, and especially Barack Obama, who doesn’t show up for Netanyahu’s address will be called a traitor, anti-Semitic, a Muslim sympathizer, weak on terrorism, and unAmerican. And don’t you think they won’t, because it’s happening already.

Apparently conservatives like McCain and Lieberman think the best way for America to restrain Iran is to collude with the leader of a foreign nation while obstructing our own democratically elected president. Most of the time I can’t tell who republicans hate more, Iran or Obama and frankly, when it comes to Obama, it’s getting damned hard to tell Republican hate from the Iranian.

● “because you are a strong supporter of America’s alliance with Israel and you don’t want it to become a partisan matter.”

See? What did I tell you? Support of Israel is American. It’s patriotic.

And not just support, it must be strong support. Uncritical support. Unquestioning support.

And it has nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that Joe Lieberman is far more loyal to the Jewish State than he is to his own country. No conflict of interest there, eh Senator? But Obama? McCain and Lieberman can question Obama’s love of country and loyalties because that’s totally different – why, just ask Rudy Giuliani.

And, of course, it has nothing whatsoever to do with that bit where the fanatical evangelical dogmatists of the Republican party are expecting their cherished End Times to begin with a war in the holy land and, man, you don’t want to be on the wrong side when Fifty Foot Tall Robot Laser Jesus returns to murder all the liberals – starting with those who didn’t show up to hear Netanyahu speak, I guess. God will be sure to kill them first.

● “because the Constitution gives you the power to ‘regulate commerce with foreign nations,’ ‘define and punish . . . offenses against the law of nations,’ ‘declare war,’ ‘raise and support armies,’ and ‘provide and maintain a Navy,’ and “Netanyahu might say some things that will inform your exercise of those great powers.”

Netanyahu might say some things that will inform congress how to exercise those great powers.

Netanyahu, see, he’s going to tell the United States congress how to do its job, how to run America. Because the guy from some dinky middle eastern country that can’t defend itself without the military and industrial might of the United States and all of Western Europe is coming to goad us into yet another goddamned war against a country that likely wouldn’t even be our enemy in the first place if it wasn’t for Israel. 

Can you imagine? Can you really imagine the unhinged outrage, the conspiracy theories, and the offended screeching hoots of conservative congressmen if someone were to tell them that they should listen to Fran├žois Hollande on how to manage American Foreign policy?

Or how about Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud? Why don’t we let him tell us where we should go to war? Well?

And boy, that’s quite an impressive list of responsibilities there, isn’t it?

Regulate commerce. Punish others for offenses against nations, wow. Declare war. Raise Armies. And Benjamin Netanyahu is going to give us some advice on that. Little Israel is going to tell a global power like America how to regulate commerce, raise an army, declare war. Awesome. Can’t wait.

Funny thing though, Senators, looking through the Constitution, I don’t see where your responsibilities include taking advice from some foreign leader over that of our own elected President.  Perhaps you’d be so kind as to point me to the relevant article?

● “because you know that Israel is one of our closest and most steadfast allies and you feel a responsibility to listen to its leader speak about developments that he believes could threaten the safety, independence and even existence of his country.”

Protocol question, Senators: in the course of listening to Netanyahu, at what point will it be okay to shout “You lie!” and then boo? Can we throw shoes?

Also, while he’s speaking, will John Boehner sit behind Netanyahu and make faces and roll his bloodshot eyes?

When, Senators, will you Republicans invite the President of the United States to address congress so you can listen respectfully to him describe developments he believes could threaten the safety, independence, and even existence of his country?

Lieberman concludes with “At this very unstable moment in history, we cannot and must not avert our attention from what remains the greatest threat to the security of America and the world.”

The greatest threat to the security of America and the world.

The greatest threat.  The greatest threat. Greatest.

To the whole world. Wow, that’s a big damned threat indeed. The whole world.

I’m unclear, Senators. From your rhetoric, are you talking about Iran?

Or Netanyahu?

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Telltale Heart Of History Beats For YOU

“History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it.”
Winston Churchill

 

Obama doesn’t love America.

Not like you and me.

"I do not believe, and I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe that the president loves America. He doesn't love you. And he doesn't love me. He wasn't brought up the way you were brought up and I was brought up through love of this country."

I know this is a horrible thing to say, but I do not believe President Obama loves America. So says Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York, failed presidential hopeful, and lover of America.

Rudy says that Barack Obama doesn’t love America. Obama doesn’t love you and he doesn’t love me. Obama, see, he’s not like us, not like real Americans. Obama wasn’t brought up the way we were brought up, imbued with mad love for our country.

Giuliani made those remarks at a conservative New York fund raising event for presidential hopeful Scott Walker.

And nobody, not one person in the audience, challenged that assertion.

Obama doesn’t love America the way we do.

When asked by the press to clarify his comments, Giuliani explained,

"He's a patriot, I'm sure. What I'm saying is that, in his rhetoric, I very rarely hear him say the things that I used to hear Ronald Reagan say, the things I used to hear Bill Clinton say, about how much he loves America. I do hear him criticize America much more often than other American presidents."

Obama is a patriot, Giuliani admits, sure. But different. Not like Reagan. Not like Clinton. Not like us.

That’s what plantation owners used to say when they sold black children away from their parents, when they broke up families: they’re not like us, they don’t love their kids like we do.

That’s what we used to say when we sought our Manifest Destiny across the Great Plains. We’re special. Indians? They don’t love America like we do. They can’t love their kids or their wives or their god like we love ours. They can’t, they’re savages.

That’s what we used to say when we burned down villages in Korea and Vietnam, hey don’t feel sorry for them, they don’t feel emotions the way we do. That’s what we say about Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan. They don’t feel pain or loss, they’re not the same as us, they can’t love their kids or their spouses or their country like we do.

That’s what we used to say when women wanted to vote. Hey, god love ‘em but they just don’t think like we do. They’re not like us, like real Americans. 

That’s what we say now about gay people. Why do they want to get married? They can’t love each other like we do, not really.

And Obama? Well, he can’t love America the way Rudy Giuliani and his wealthy white Wall Street friends do.

And this idea, that “they” can’t love the way we do, is such an accepted idea Rudy Giuliani is comfortable saying so, out loud, in public, on the record.

They don’t love America. Not like us.

Giuliani was quick to point out that when he says Obama isn’t like, you know, us, he’s not being racist,

“Some people thought it was racist. I thought that was a joke, since he was brought up by a white mother, a white grandfather, went to white schools, and most of this he learned from white people. This isn’t racism. This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.

Ah. 

So, just to be clear, when Rudy says Obama isn’t like you and me, he’s talking about Obama’s white genes, not the other ones. That’s not racism, it’s socialism, or maybe anti-colonialism.

Fair enough.

But since Rudy brought it up, what exactly is anti-colonialism anyway?

C’mon, in one hundred words or less, quick, what’s anti-colonialism?

 

Hello?

 

I mean, you hear that a lot in the last five years, right?

Anti-colonialism.

Obama, his views were shaped by anti-colonialism. He’s an anti-colonialist.  I’ve heard that statement or variations of it hundreds of times in discussions on Fox New and on blogs and from people I know.  And they all say it with ponderous gravity and raised knowing eyebrows. Anti-colonialism. But when you ask, what is that, exactly, and what does it mean to you in particular? Well, what you get is vague hand-waving and the Giuliani answer: he’s not like us.

So, what is it?

Colonialism isn’t a common topic of conversation in America.

So where did this label come from?

In his book The Roots of Obama’s Rage and in the pseudo-documentary 2016: Obama’s America which was based on it and in endless articles here and there, conservative pundit and convicted felon Dinesh D’Souza boldly states that Barack Obama isn’t like “us.” Which is interesting, given that D’Souza was born and raised in Mumbai, India and came to the US as an exchange student before eventually becoming a naturalized citizen – which somehow makes D’Souza more like “us” than Obama. Be that as it may, D’Souza’s entire position is based on the idea that Obama’s worldview doesn’t depend from the so-called American dream. Obama, says D’Souza, doesn’t see the world from the perspective of the founding fathers. Nor does Obama’s outlook come from Black America’s struggle for civil rights and equality. Rather, D’Souza asserts Obama was shaped by his own father, Barack Obama Sr. a staunch African anti-colonialist.  Now, Obama Jr. only met Obama Sr. once but that was enough according to D’Souza to change how he viewed the world forever.

And D’Souza’s hypothesis resonates with a lot of people.

2016: Obama’s America is the largest grossing conservative documentary to date and was widely acclaimed in conservative media and its message is repeated over and over by prominent conservatives – mostly recently, by Rudy Giuliani. “This is socialism or possibly anti-colonialism.

So, Obama isn’t like us.

Obama isn’t like you and me.

Obama isn’t even as American as an Indian immigrant – and Indian immigrant, I’ll remind you, who comes from India, which is a country still throwing off the remnants of the British Raj and is about as anti-colonialist as it gets. I mean, if anybody ought to sympathize with Obama’s supposed anti-colonialist views, it’s a guy from India

Anti-colonialism.  Again, what is that? What is it specifically? Obama’s father is from Africa (Kenya in case I actually have to spell it out after six years of birtherism).  Kenya today is the Republic of Kenya, but from 1888 to 1962 it was a colony of the British Empire. President Obama was born in Hawaii and never lived in Kenya – or anywhere else in Africa.  Now, how would that have shaped the President’s viewpoint and actions? Is anti-colonialism so powerful that it could reach across time and oceans to influence Barack Obama though a single meeting with his father when Obama was ten?

And perhaps it did.

Obama talked about how his father’s life shaped his worldview in the Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance.  His father had been more myth to him than man, Obama only met him once, and he was an adult before he learned much about the man’s life – and that’s how Obama learned about colonialism.

But, you, how do you know?

Really, what do you, you Americans, what do you know of colonialism?

Is it the same, this concept, everywhere? Is the African version the same as the American and Asian and Indian versions? Hell, is it the same across Africa? How many places are still colonies of other nations today?

You know, the United States of America began as British, Spanish, French, Dutch, and Russian colonies.

So how come we, the “we” that makes up real Americans, how come we’re not all vehement anti-colonialists?

Or are we?

Our revered Founding Fathers sure as hell were “anti-colonialists.” Wouldn’t that mean all true Americans are anti-colonialists as well? Are we not anti-colonialist brothers in spirit to the Indians and the Kenyans?

If not, why not?

Be specific. If not, why not? Spell it out, line by line. Why was it patriotic for America to seek independence but not Kenya? I’ll wait while you think about it. Take your time.

Do you even know enough about this subject to have an intelligent opinion? Or do you just take a convicted felon like D’Souza at his word because he’s saying something you want to hear? The same goes for Obama, if you support him and believe that he loves America like you do, why?

On the face of things, it would appear to be a complicated issue, convoluted and intertwined in myriad ways, vast in scope, subject to interpretation.  I mean, we’re talking about the complex evolution of civilization, shaped by wars and conflicts, by environmental pressures, by millennia of  time, across the breadth of the world, restricted or advanced by the availability or scarcity of resources, by famine and plague, by religion, by economies many and varied, by love and hate and apathy, by adventure and discovery, by greed and fear and altruism and fad.  We’re talking about the emergence of nations here, about the rise and fall of empires, about the migration of entire populations, voluntary and forced. We’re talking about the freedom and enslavement of endless billions over centuries, across oceans and continents, and the interaction of civilizations over time and how they shape the present.

When you say, “Obama’s views are shaped by anti-colonialism” that’s what you’re talking about.  All of that. All of it and far, far more. Vastly more.

There’s a name for that.

There’s a name for how the past shapes our present.

It’s called history.

There’s an old saying, it comes in many variations and it goes like this: Those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it.

There’s another saying: the past repeats, always.

Both are true, so far as they go. The past does tend to repeat itself over and over in endless variation, which is hardly surprising given that no matter how far we rise or how deep we fall the one thing that remains constant throughout the ages is human nature.

Those who forget the past, who never learn it, who ignore and whitewash it, for them the future is always a surprise and they go ass-backward into the unknown repeating the same mistakes over and over. Those who forget history are not only doomed to repeat it along with the rest of us, they will always be victims of their own fate.

But those who remember history, who delve into its secrets, who learn from its endless examples, those people shape the future. 

Those people are not victims of fate, but its master.

Those who understand history are the men and women who shape the fate of nations, of the world, of history itself.

They are the ones who become exceptional.

They are the ones history remembers.

 

And that, that right there, is why what happened in Oklahoma this week should disgust and horrify all free people.

 

This week, a Oklahoma legislative committee  overwhelmingly approved a measure that would cut all funding for Advanced Placement (AP) History courses for high school students.  It’s not a law yet, but odds are good it will be – either in Oklahoma or elsewhere.

State Representative Dan Fisher (Republican, of course), who introduced the bill,  denounced the new AP U.S. History framework because in the opinion of many conservatives it “emphasizes what is bad about America” and doesn’t teach “American exceptionalism."

This same complaint extends far beyond the dusty backwater of America’s Great Plains and has become a common item of debate in legislatures across the country where conservatives are even now considering bills that would ban all AP courses and not just history.

And the truly, truly disturbing part is that conservatives’ biggest complaint regarding the AP History curriculum isn’t that it’s wrong, instead they’re afraid it’s far too accurate.

Think about that for a minute.

Conservatives like Fisher believe public school should be less about learning and more about indoctrination.

They wish to hide the ugly and divisive parts of our past and remove from history those they deem “not like us.” And instead instill a sense of “exceptionalism” in the next generation by teaching only those things that make America look good.

"As I read through the document, I saw a consistently negative view of American history that highlights oppressors and exploiters"
Larry S. Krieger, retired school teacher, conservative activist, exceptional American

Krieger told Newsweek that the AP History framework portrays the Founding Fathers as "bigots" and he complained that American exceptionalism embodied in the idea of Manifest Destiny was described in the curriculum as "built on a belief in white racial superiority and a sense of American cultural superiority," rather than "the belief that America had a mission to spread democracy and new technology across the continent."

Uh huh.

Krieger leaves out that if you weren’t white maybe Manifest Destiny might have looked like, well, a lot like colonialism.  Mostly because it was.

Manifest Destiny is a great idea … so long as it’s your destiny being imposed at the point of a sword and the muzzle of a gun.

Others, however, might take a different view.

Fortunately for people like Larry Krieger and Dan Fisher, those people aren’t real Americans, they don’t love their country like we do, so they get written out of our history because there’s no lesson to be learned there

These conservatives completely miss the point of education.

Let me give you an example: you’ve got this kid, see? He’s your boy and you love him. He’s handsome and he’s clever, sure, and he’s the apple of your eye. So far as you’re concerned he can do no wrong. But the thing is most everybody else thinks he’s a spoiled little shit. He’s selfish and self-centered, he’s greedy and obnoxious and arrogant, and he doesn’t give a damn about anybody but himself. He goes around making a mess and beating up the other kids.  He takes what he wants and you never know when he’s going to throw a violent tantrum.  Now, there’s nothing wrong with him, it’s not genetic, it’s you. You’re a lousy parent. Whenever he does something wrong, you tell him it’s okay. He’s special, see, exceptional, blessed by God. He doesn’t make mistakes. He doesn’t have to apologize.  You love him, you love him better than any parent has ever loved a child, better than other parents love their children, and if you force him to face his mistakes, to think of others, to learn, well then that makes him feel bad about himself and that makes you a bad parent. Right?

You know people like this, don’t you? You know kids, sure you do, just like this. Spoiled rotten little brats.

Now, what kind of adult do you think that kid will grow up to be?

And why would you think a country who behaves in the same manner would be any different?

When you go around telling kids, and nations, that they are exceptional and that others don’t matter, well, then you get a nation of spoiled rotten little brats.

It’s taken me a week to write this essay, because unlike many of those opining on the subject, I actually read the AP History Guideline from cover to cover. Twice. While taking notes.

 

image

 

I saw nothing that gave a negative view of the United States. I saw nothing that made a judgment one way or the other.

In point of fact, the framework gives no answers whatsoever, it only asks questions.

Throughout the entire document, all 142 pages of it, the authors repeatedly stress that it is not a curriculum but rather a framework for further development and is to be tailored by each teacher to meet the needs of the students. The framework provides for broad flexibility, it outlines “key concepts” and does not, repeat does not, specify groups, individuals, dates, details, political opinions, right or wrong, moral or immoral, or any particular interpretation of history and you can verify that for your self directly from the source.

If conservatives see America in a negative light, perhaps it’s their own guilty conscience speaking.

This isn’t the simplified elementary version of American history made up of construction paper turkeys, smiling Indians, and cherry trees chopped down by future presidents. This isn’t the Mel Gibson version of America where white people and black people fought as equals to be free of the King of England and then when it was all over black people cheerfully decided to be slaves because hey, Captain Braveheart thought it seemed more exceptional on the big screen like that.  That’s how conservatives want to teach history, the same way Gibson directs movies.

Advanced placement courses aren’t about indoctrination, they have one function: to teach future citizens how to think.

Advanced Placement courses are college level classes designed for top performing high school students who are preparing for a university level environment. By definition these kids are going to end up running the country one day and either they can base their worldview on made up magic fairy dust or they can face the challenges of our future armed with a thorough understanding of how we got here.  Warts and all.

You don’t teach future business people how to run a company by only showing them pictures of John D. Rockefeller and Bill Gates. You don’t teach future doctors by only showing them happy cheerful healthy people. You don’t teach military officers how to fight by only showing them past victories. 

If you want your kids to love this country, if you want them to successfully shape its future, then you have to show them everything.  The good and the bad. The beautiful and the ugly.

You hear people say “kids nowadays don’t know how good they have it!”

Well, why would they? Why would any American appreciate how far we’ve come, how good we have it, if they don’t know how we got here? Why would girls appreciate the right to vote if they don’t know their grandmothers couldn’t? Why would black youth appreciate the opportunities they have now if they don’t know the history of the civil rights movement? How do you prevent another World War II or another 911 or another Holocaust if you don’t care and refuse to understand what caused the last one? How do you expect the next generation to shape the future when they are told they’re special and exceptional and they can do no wrong?

Courage is about facing the world, not hiding from it.

Wisdom comes not from denying your mistakes, but from not repeating them. And you can’t do that if you refuse to acknowledge that you ever made any in the first place.

History is how we understand the present. 

History is how we shape the future and forge our own destiny instead of allowing it to be thrust upon us.

If you don’t know history, the good and the bad, you will always be its slave and never its master.

If you want your children to shape their own future and the future of this nation, indeed the world, instead of being simply dragged along with the sweep of time, then they must know how we got here to this present.

If you want your children to be exceptional, then they have to understand history in full detail, all of it and not simply parrot mindless patriotism.

If you don’t know bad, you cannot know good.

If you don’t know ugly, you can never understand beauty.

If you’ve never seen true oppression, you can never appreciate true liberty.

If you don’t know tyranny, you can never understand freedom.

If you truly believe the United States to be exceptional, then you show it all and let the chips fall where they may. If you love your child then you teach them everything and trust in them to become exceptional adults.

The past, the present, the future are all connected. History, my friend, is a circuit and without a negative, there can be no positive.

If you don’t learn from history, you will never be its exception.

“It's been my experience, Langford, that the past always has a way of returning. Those who don't learn, or can't remember it, are doomed to repeat it.”
Steve Berry, The Charlemagne Pursuit

“We're doomed to repeat the past no matter what. That's what it is to be alive. It's pretty dense kids who haven't figured that out by the time they're ten. Most kids can't afford to go to Harvard and be misinformed.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Bluebeard