November 02, 2004
If you would like to see what Bush and Kerry were both doing throughout their lives and compare them side by side, visit this site. They've done a pretty good job, and it is not hard to see where Kerry is the far more competent, honorable, and accomplished man.
I have my own Bush Record page, visited 559 times in October despite the fact that I don't advertise it--at least, not until now. People just found it. It takes you through a lot of Bush's history up to his being elected president.
While Kerry, in the Naval Reserves, is regarded a "top-notch officer in every measurable trait," Bush gets a 25% on his pilot aptitude test and yet is accepted into a champaign unit of the National Guard; while Kerry earns his rank of Lieutenant and goes off to the Mekong Delta where he earns a Silver Star, Bush is promoted without merit and stays at home. While Bush goes AWOL and then is given an easy early out from the guard, Kerry, back at home, is district attorney putting organized crime figures behind bars. Meanwhile, Bush gets arrested for drunk driving. As Bush drives his first family-money-backed business into the ground and begins his second failed business with Saudis funding him, Kerry gets elected to the Senate without even using PAC money.
While Kerry gets appointed to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, supports deficit reduction and stops a Dick-Cheney sponsored oil tax, Bush gets involved in a variety of insider trading and other questionable activities; this is also about when he drunkenly explodes in a hail of obscenities and threats against newspaper editor Al Hunt, his wife and their four-year-old child. Kerry, meanwhile, is on the job rooting out corruption as he chairs the Senate subcommittee on the Iran-Contra hearings. The same year Kerry saved the life of Republican Senator Jacob "Chic" Hecht by using the Heimlich maneuver, Bush buys the Texas Rangers in a sweetheart deal and trades away Sammy Sosa. Bush violates the law at least three times in insider trading, tax law violations, and other financial scandals, but as the son of the President is not investigated by the SEC. Soon afterward, Kerry works closely with John McCain to investigate US soldiers still missing in Vietnam, eventually working to normalize relations with Vietnam.
Bush gets elected Governor of Texas and immediately gets a new driver license number to wipe the public records of his criminal past. He accepts a call to jury duty and leaves the legal forms referring to his criminal record blank; he soon has his staff finagle him out of jury duty when he gets assigned to a drunk driving case and will be asked under oath if he was ever arrested on that charge. Kerry, meanwhile, co-sponsors the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Bill, and fights for better pay and benefits for soldiers, veterans, police, and teachers. Bush, on the other hand, gets involved in a corporate scandal and lies under oath to get out of having to testify.
This is just a partial list. Read the two pages and get a better idea of how the two men spent their lives. An alcoholic, draft-dodging three-time-loser in business with an abusive character and a criminal record, versus a decorated Vietnam War vet with a conscience, spending his life putting bad guys behind bars and rooting out corruption.
Not really much of a challenge to pick the better man.
November 01, 2004
Because Bush Wants to Say It But Is Too Chicken
From the AP, in the SC State:
A new videotape of Osama bin Laden was meant to help elect Sen. John Kerry president, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says.The rest of the article shows the depth in which Thompson discusses his belief. The inappropriateness of such a bald declaration by an administration official is staggering; if, say, John Edwards or any Kerry campaign official had said that bin Laden wants Bush elected, we'd be hearing Bush decry the act as "shameful" all the way to election day.
"There's no question in my mind, and I think to anybody who knows how close this election is," Thompson later told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel in an interview. "Osama bin Laden would not give out a video report 72 hours before the election unless he wanted to influence it."
The fact is, Bush has played into bin Laden's plans--and vice versa--almost so seamlessly that one can hardly fault the conspiracy theorists that believe they are in cahoots. Bin Laden gave a failing Bush presidency a gigantic boost, allowing Bush to get almost every political agenda point he could wish for rammed through Congress, and to this day provides Bush with his strongest rallying point; if Bush wins the election, it will be because of bin Laden. Conversely, Bush has provided bin Laden with exactly what he wanted: an administration with its eye off the ball so that the 9/11 attacks could be carried out (unlike Clinton, who foiled the Millennium attacks), propelling bin Laden and al Qaeda to stratospheric fame; Bush then alienated the U.S. from a sympathetic world, deprived his own people of their freedoms, and let bin Laden escape while they invaded Iraq, an action which drove tens of thousands of new recruits into the waiting arms of al Qaeda, whilst the Bush administration only succeeded in capturing a few dozen noted members of the terrorist organization. In short, both Bush and bin Laden have gotten exactly what they wanted through each others' actions.
Bin Laden does not want Bush re-elected because he quakes in his boots at the idea of a Kerry presidency; rather, he wants Bush re-elected because Bush's policies are what bin Laden wants: an isolated America, focused on a fracturing Middle East war that fuels terrorism while it does little to attack al Qaeda directly. Kerry, on the other hand, would bring America back into the world fold, strengthening its ability to fight terror, and would be more sympathetic in the eyes of the people of the Middle East--forming alliances and winning hearts and minds instead of invading nations and turning millions against him. The only way Kerry stands more of a chance to get bin Laden than Bush is in that Kerry will not put all his energy into Iraq or whatever next Big War Bush will get us into. But the whole point is not really to catch bin Laden, but rather to fight al Qaeda. And that's what Kerry will do better, and that's what bin Laden would prefer not happen. See this post for a longer explanation of why bin Laden prefers Bush stay in office.
There. I can say that, because I'm not an senior official in either campaign. Thompson is, which is what makes his statement reprehensible and worthy of note and attack by the Democratic side.
October 27, 2004
The Political Art of Shifting Blame
I have written before about the political art of shifting blame to others: when you've made a colossal blunder and it threatens your political career or agenda, if reporters ask you if you made an error, then twist the question to make it appear like they are blaming an honorable group of people. Reagan did this when the Marine barracks were blown up in Lebanon, making it appear that any accusation of wrongdoing was equal to dishonoring the soldiers who died, saying their deaths were in vain. In my prior article on the subject, I noted that a FOX reporter tried the same thing on Wesley Clark, implying that if Clark said that Iraq was a sideshow and Bush was missing the real target in Afghanistan, that was equal to belittling the troops in Iraq.
The Bush campaign is in full-gear blame-shifting mode this week. First was the criticism that Bush outsourced the hunt for bin Laden to the local warlords, who let bin Laden escape. Searching for a way to dismiss this cogent and damaging criticism, Bush said:
Now my opponent is throwing out the wild claim that he knows where bin Laden was in the fall of 2001, and that our military passed up the chance to get him in Tora Bora. This is an unjustified criticism of our military commanders in the field. This is the worst kind of Monday-morning quarterbacking.In other words, if there was a blunder made, it wasn't me, it was the generals. And how dare he criticize the generals!
But they didn't stop there. Ed Gillespie, the chairman of the RNC, sent out a mass email to millions of people, claiming that the ultra-super-liberal media was at it yet again, daring to report that the explosives in Iraq were looted after the invasion, when in fact American troops found the cache had been looted already, on Saddam Hussein's watch, and that an NBC News crew had confirmed it, therefore making Kerry's criticism and the press coverage of it a howling outrage.
Of course, he was wrong: the troops only stayed at al Qaqaa for the night, they did not look for the weapons (and would not have been qualified to make that determination anyway), and the NBC crew in fact contradicted the claim that the explosives had been found already missing. CNN's report of the NBC team and the soldiers finding the weapons gone was not even based on an NBC report, it was in fact based on a Matt Drudge story, and we all know how reliable he can be. Josh Marshall is all over the story.
But the point in this entry is that Gillespie used this blame-shifting technique; note carefully the words in bold, as well as Gillespie's careful use of quotation marks:
John Kerry seized on the New York Times headline to launch a political attack on President Bush, saying U.S. troops "failed to guard those stockpiles" and that is "one of the great blunders" of the war.Not only does this shift the blame to the troops instead of the president, but it also carefully misquotes Kerry, whose original quote was:
Senator Kerry and the New York Times leave the impression that these weapons went missing recently and U.S. troops were derilict in their duty to guard the stockpile — neither of which is true.
After being warned about the danger of major stockpiles of explosives in Iraq, this president failed to guard those stockpiles. ... Now we know our country and our troops are less safe because this president failed to do the basics, this is one of the great blunders of Iraq, one of the great blunders of this administration. The incredible incompetence of this president and this administration has put our troops at risk and put this country at greater risk than we ought to be.Notice Gillespie's careful and intentional editing of Kerry's quote, cutting it off just so he can take the blame Kerry puts squarely on Bush, and make it appear like Kerry is criticizing the troops. When in fact, Kerry not once said it was the fault of the troops, and quite clearly blamed the Bush administration, not once but repeatedly--kind of hard for Gillespie to miss.
We know these people are lying bastards, folks... but it's hard not to use even stronger language when you see such blatant lies such as these--not to mention cowardly attempts to hide behind honorable people in order to save your own sorry political ass.
October 25, 2004
Newspaper Endorsements Surging to Kerry
From Editor and Publisher:
Sen. John Kerry continued his raid on newspapers that backed President Bush in 2000, grabbing 22 new "flip-flops," plus The Washington Post, which was a major supporter of the war in Iraq. The Democrat has now won endorsements from at least 33 papers that went for Bush in 2000, while Bush has earned only two Gore papers.These endorsements have been breaking Kerry's way since the beginning, although admittedly many of them are as anti-Bush as they are pro-Kerry. Still, it's rather surprising how many that went for Bush have now switched and are going for Kerry. Despite the E&P emphasis on the Ohio paper going for Bush, included among those endorsing Kerry are several in battleground states, including the Orlando Sentinel in Florida, which wrote: "This president has utterly failed to fulfill our expectations. We turn now to his Democratic challenger, Sen. John Kerry, with the belief that he is more likely to meet the hopes we once held for Mr. Bush."
However, Bush got a prize in the key state of Ohio, The Columbus Dispatch.
Kerry now leads Bush 122-69 in endorsements in E&P's exclusive tally, and he leads by about 14.9 million to 8.9 million in the circulation of backing papers.
Other key papers switching from Bush to Kerry include Allentown Morning Call in Pennsylvania, the Quad City Times in Davenport, Iowa, the Iowa City Press-Citizen, The Sun and the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin in Washington, the Wausau Daily Herald in Wisconsin, the Billings Gazette in Montana, and the Bangor Daily News in Maine.
October 08, 2004
Michael J. Fox has made a new ad supporting John Kerry, citing his support for stem-cell research. In the video, available on Kerry's site, Fox states, "I say lives are at stake and it’s time for leadership. That’s why I support John Kerry for president." Right to the point--though those saved by stem cell research will only be a few whose lives would be saved by a Kerry presidency.
The economic figures are coming out very soon, and it's anybody's guess as to what they'll say. But there's little chance that they'll be anywhere near good enough to wipe out the past four years of mismanagement by Bush and the GOP, whose massive overspending has disgusted many even in the Republican party. In case you're not aware of it--and you should be before the next debate--you can find Kerry's plan for the economy here. The bullet points:
- Strengthen the Middle Class
- Stand Up for Workers Rights
- Create Good-Paying Jobs
- Restoring Fiscal Responsibility
- Opportunity for Small Business
- Free & Fair Trade
- Balance Work & Family
And going in to the debate, Kerry has scored a 4-point lead in an AP/Ipsos poll, leading Bush 50-46.
Meanwhile, Bush is beginning to sound desperate--and that's not my headline, it's Howard FIneman's, not exactly a flaming liberal. FIneman describes how Iraq could be Bush's undoing. Some have opined, however, that Fineman is just trying to lower expectations for Bush for the debate Friday night.
He's certainly looking desperate to many: he suddenly announced a "significant speech" that he planned to make, stirring up all kinds of expectations, and it turns out that he had nothing new, he just wanted to trick the networks into carrying his stump speech live on TV. That is desperate, when you risk pissing off the networks so close to an election.
Other things not going well for Bush: oil prices hit $53 a barrel, an unprecedented high. Watch the gas prices continue to soar, while the man who said he'd be able to control those prices sits by and does nothing.
And to top it off, a new report came out from Charles Duelfer. Duelfer was hired by Bush when David Kay came out with a report that said Saddam had no WMD and was not a threat to us. This is rather typical Bush fashion: you don't like the facts, try to find someone who will give you different ones. Well, now Duelfer's report is due out, and the results are: Saddam had no WMD and was not a threat to us. In fact, Duelfer's report said that Hussein was a diminishing threat, not a "grave and gathering" one.
Cheney's reaction: the report justifies the administration's case to go to war. I kid you not. He's in full reality-denial mode now, folks. He's now resorted to using Iraqi abuses of the fuel-for-food program as justification for going to war.
That doesn't sound desperate, does it?
October 03, 2004
New Kerry Speech
No time to comment on it or summarize, maybe later. Give it a read though, on the Kerry web site.
September 25, 2004
Another Bullet List: What We Must Do
In his most recent speech at Temple University in Philadelphia, Kerry outlined specifics in how Bush badly mismanaged the fight against al Qaeda:
- Instead of using U.S. forces to capture Osama bin Laden, Bush outsourced the job to Afghan warlords, who let bin Laden slip away.
- Instead of finishing the job in Afghanistan, Bush rushed to a new war in Iraq.
- Instead of listening to the military, State Department, leaders in Congress, and outside experts about how to win the peace in Iraq,Bush listened only to nearsighted ideologues who pitched a pipe dream about being welcomed.
- Instead of responding to the greatest intelligence failure in our history, Bush dragged his feet and actually resisted reform. After opposing the 9/11 Commission, after trying to block its extension, and after finally agreeing to testify, Bush still refuses to fully implement the Commission’s recommendations.
- Instead of proposing a Department of Homeland Security, Bush actually opposed it – and then exploited it for political purposes.
- Instead of expanding programs to keep weapons of mass destruction in Russia out of terrorist hands, Bush first tried to cut the programs.
- Instead of facing the urgent nuclear dangers in North Korea and Iran, Bush allowed these dangers to mount.
- Instead of speaking forcefully to the Saudis and others about terrorist financing, Bush has said little and done less.
- Instead of providing our police and firefighters with vital equipment, instead of protecting ports, trains, subway lines and highways, instead of defending nuclear plants and chemical factories, Bush has under-funded homeland security.
- Instead of bringing the world together against the terrorists, Bush alienated the countries whose help we need to defeat them.
Kerry will build military and intelligence capability:
- implement the 9/11 Commission recommendations
- increase the number of troops by 40,000
- increase special forces
- develop new technologies for collecting intelligence on terrorists
- strengthen the intel community
- make Afghanistan a priority again
- get NATO to provide more troops to Afghanistan
Kerry will move to deny the terrorists weapons:
- secure all nuclear weapons and materials in the former Soviet Union within four years (as opposed to Bush’s 13 years)
- seek a verifiable global ban on the production of materials for nuclear weapons (Bush abrogated nuclear treaties)
- lead an international effort to impose tough sanctions on North Korea if they do not stop developing nuclear weapons (Bush has virtually ignored Korea, which has shared weapons with terrorists where Hussein did not)
- work with U.S. allies to get the six party talks with North Korea back on track
Kerry will wage a war on terrorist finances:
- trace terrorist funds to their sources and freeze the assets of anyone financing terrorism
- hold the Saudis accountable
- shut down the financial pipeline that keeps terrorism alive
- make the U.S. energy-independent of Mid East oil
Kerry will make homeland security a true priority, backing it with actual resources:
- prevent terrorists from entering our country (Bush has underfunded border patrol and cargo inspections)
- give border inspectors access to the terrorist watch lists
- seaports must be protected (Bush spends more in Iraq in 4 days than in the U.S. in 3 years)
- improve the way the terror aviation list is structured to keep terrorists from entering the country
- screen air cargo just like baggage is screened
- make sure our police, firefighters, and ambulance drivers have the latest equipment and emergency operation centers they need to respond effectively in a crisis
- cancel the $100 billion missile defense system which won't work anyway, technically or strategically
- protect chemical plants and other high-priority terrorist targets (which Bush has neglected)
- reinstate the program to put 100,000 new police officers on the street (which Bush has scrapped)
- invest more than $2 billion to safeguard railroads and subways
Kerry will focus on the long-term anti-terror goals, denying them recruits and safe havens:
- show that America uses its economic power for the common good
- assist the world’s poorest countries
- lead the international community to cancel the debt of the most vulnerable nations
- enable children in poor countries to get a quality basic education
- work to pre-empt the radical schools teaching hatred of America throughout the Middle East
Kerry says that he will promote the development of free and democratic societies throughout the Arab and Muslim world:
- make clear to repressive governments in the region that we expect to see them change
- improve our outreach to the Muslim world
- train a new generation of American scholars, diplomats, and military officers who understand the region
- convene a summit with our European partners and leaders from the Muslim world
And finally, Kerry made absolutely clear that we will be stronger if we work with our allies.
That is a very strong case, and would be difficult to argue against--I invite conservative guests here to try, so long as you provide evidence to back it up and show how, in equal detail to the above, how Bush has done better than this. I don't think there will be any takers, though, and certainly none who can prove such a point. In all areas Bush has been lacking. He has sapped the strength of the military to the point where we can no longer fight a new war without dropping all other balls, and he has had more than enough time with full control of Congress to get exactly that done--no more excuses about how it was the last guy's fault.
Bush has done nothing to deny terrorists weapons: Iraq had none, and countries where such weapons are coming from are untouched and even more out of control than before. On finances, I would like to hear exactly what Bush has done--I certainly know of no achievements in that area. As for homeland security, it is a joke--used more often to infringe on non-terrorist Americans' rights, and sometimes even as a political weapon (both in terms of publicity and as a physical resource). But the borders are porous, law enforcement underfunded and under-equipped, and our infrastructure, power plants, factories and transportation open to attack. But at least we've got John Ashcroft telling us what color we should be afraid of, right?
And if one thing is certain, it is that Bush has done an abysmal job of winning the hearts and minds of the people of the Arab world.
There are no easy answers, no snap solutions. After four years of Bush, Kerry will have his hands full just with damage control over the havoc Bush has wrought. But Kerry has better ideas and better plans, and we simply cannot afford four more years of Bush. This is not just mere partisanship; the way so many people who see what Bush is doing, and I myself, genuinely fear what might happen under Bush. It's not just distaste for the man, it is a palpable fear and trepidation of what he will do over that much time.
We do not just need a change. Change is overwhelmingly essential to the well-being of our country and to the world, and to lose that opportunity to a well-oiled PR and dirty-trick campaign would be a disaster. And yes, I know how over-the-top that sounds. But I would be less than honest if I said that it was anything less than what I firmly believe.
September 24, 2004
An Important Message to Hear (Kerry's NYU Speech, Part II)
To continue on John Kerry's speech at NYU earlier this week:
The centerpiece of the speech was Iraq, with Kerry pointing out, in detail, exactly how Bush had gone wrong before and after the invasion. One aspect of that is the fact the Bush diverted resources away from Afghanistan--where the real fight against al Qaeda was centered--and instead focused them on Iraq, where there was no terrorist threat. As a result, Bush alienated our allies and sowed discord in the Middle East, while sabotaging the real war against terrorists. As Kerry himself summarized:
The President’s policy in Iraq has not strengthened our national security. It has weakened it.And it is here where Kerry further clarifies his stand on the vote to authorize the president with war powers: that it was to give Bush the ability to play a strong hand so he could accomplish the desired goal of getting arms inspectors in. Instead, Bush abused the authority and rushed to war, flushing out the inspectors who Bush later outrageously claimed were thrown out by Hussein. Kerry pointed out how Bush violated his promises:
Bush promised to let inspectors do their work--instead, he drove them out of Iraq even though progress was being made;
Bush promised he would take "every precaution" and would "plan carefully"--he did neither;
And Bush promised he would only go to war with an international coalition, "allies at our side"--when in fact he went in with Great Britain only, all other members of the "coalition" playing only token roles.
Many people criticize Kerry for not providing a "magic bullet" for solving the Iraq problem, that his proposals are only marginally better than Bush's--but the criticism is weak. There is no magic solution to the Iraq problem, and that's the point: Bush got us into a mess that is now impossible to get out of cleanly, and as more time passes, the prognosis becomes worse and worse, so that even Republicans in an election year are criticizing Bush. It is less about the inevitable painful endgame in Iraq, and more about judgment: do we want to give Bush another four years so he can make many more fatal errors? Kerry has it right when he says what he would have done:
I would have concentrated our power and resources on defeating global terrorism and capturing or killing Osama bin Laden. I would have tightened the noose and continued to pressure and isolate Saddam Hussein – who was weak and getting weaker -- so that he would pose no threat to the region or America.And in Iraq, Kerry's ideas are better than Bush's.
First, an expanded international role could bring the benefits of true legitimacy to the forces working there--people would know it would less about the oil, the business, and the bases for America, and more about putting Iraq on its feet. Bush could never rally that support having alienated the world, but Kerry could achieve it. There is no denying Kerry's advantage there.
Second, a large contingent of Iraqi soldiers must be fully trained, not the pathetic handful Bush achieved, and then later lied about their numbers.
Third, the reconstruction plan must be aimed at helping the people of Iraq; Bush has failed to spend what he was authorized to accomplish this goal, and has left the vastly unemployed Iraqi labor force out of it (so that Halliburton can overcharge us to obscene extremes). Push through "high-visibility, quick-impact projects" to encourage the people.
And fourth, bring about real elections as soon as possible, not the sham without even giving people in huge swaths of the country the chance to vote.
I will be the first to agree that these goals don't stand a great chance of succeeding to the point where we can painlessly withdraw, but I cannot imagine a better plan considering what damage Bush has done--and Kerry would certainly be more able and credible in the effort than Bush could ever hope to be. Half a chance is better than none.
Kerry pointed out what anyone with an objective, informed view already knows: Bush misled us, committed gross errors in judgment, failed to plan properly, and bungled the post-invasion occupation. As a result, our people are being cut down with no hope in sight. I know people personally who have family members in the military who are scared to death at what they believe to be their loved ones' inevitable assignment to Iraq. The soldiers are game, they want to perform their duty. But we owe it to them not to subject them to this.
Bush's strategies in Iraq have failed miserably. A change is essential. Bush's credibility is nil. Only Kerry can bring the right credentials to the table. Bush has done little more than fail and than lie about it. Kerry could not help but do far, far better.
Kerry ended on this important note:
I believe the invasion of Iraq has made us less secure and weaker in the war against terrorism. I have a plan to fight a smarter, more effective war on terror – and make us safer.
Today, because of George Bush’s policy in Iraq, the world is a more dangerous place for America and Americans.
If you share my conviction that we can not go on as we are …that we can make America stronger and safer than it is… then November 2 is your chance to speak... and to be heard. It is not a question of staying the course, but of changing the course.
I’m convinced that with the right leadership, we can create a fresh start and move more effectively to accomplish our goals. Our troops have served with extraordinary courage and commitment. For their sake, and America’s sake, we must get this right. We must do everything in our power to complete the mission and make America stronger at home and respected again in the world.
September 22, 2004
Kerry's New York Speech
John Kerry is back on track. He's often been known as a strong finisher, and it seems like that's what we're beginning to see here. His speech at NYU is now considered a turning point, seen as strong, decisive, and capable of steering the issues in this campaign.
He started with a compelling vow on fighting terrorism, noting that he now has the official endorsement of the "Jersey Girls," the widows of 9/11 victims now famous for dragging Bush, kicking and screaming, into allowing the 9/11 Commission to be formed. Kerry is backing its recommendations (which Bush has been dragging his feet on as well).
In the speech, Kerry focused on his strengths: the potential to form international alliances (in contrast with Bush's ability to alienate the world against us), necessary if we want to fight effectively. In the wake of 9/11, there is no doubt that Kerry would have cultivated the sympathy and support of the world and used it soundly to implement a profoundly better offensive against al Qaeda, instead of pissing it away and insulting the world while letting a personal war sap our ability to focus on the real and dangerous enemy. Kerry has made it clear (to those who read or hear his entire quotes) that he would not have invaded Iraq. He would only have done so if inspections had shown that Hussein was a threat, and they wouldn't have. But I digress--back to the speech.
Kerry outlined his ideas for fighting terrorism: strong alliances (vital!), a powerful military (not one sapped by a needless quagmire which has made America unable to fight another war elsewhere), diplomacy, and a true application of American values in the Islamic world (not the abortive attempts by the Bush administration to make a few lame videos and then give up). Bush has failed in all four of these areas, but it is clear that they are invaluable to our security. Kerry can make them happen.
But the cornerstone of Kerry's speech, and to a great degree what made it so notable--in the media, finally--was his focus on Iraq. Kerry points out what should be obvious, but needs to be pointed out:
- Iraq was not related to terrorism, and diverted our focus away from al Qaeda;
- the Iraq war threatens to be a war with no end in sight;
- we have sacrificed the lives of too many good American soldiers;
- Bush failed to create anything close to a true coalition;
- Iraq is not headed towards freedom or democracy, it is deteriorating into chaos;
- American dead and wounded are rising to record numbers as violent attacks by insurgents soar;
- Bush has ceded large areas to the insurgents, "no go zones";
- conditions for Iraqis grow worse and worse, with fewer jobs and a destroyed infrastructure;
- Iraqis are not coming to our side, they resent us.
- Bush lied about why we went to war (he gave 23 different rationales);
- his main rationales (WMD & al Qaeda ties) have been proven false;
- he lied about what it would cost us;
- he lied about what kind of commitment was involved (taking years, hundreds of billions of dollars);
- he lied about forming a true coalition;
- he lied about our chances of success.
Kerry pointed out that seeing the errors Bush made in Iraq is not hindsight, but that all were seen in advance of the war. That's where he used the now-famous phrase, "colossal failures of judgment." Among them:
- We'd be greeted as liberators;
- looting would not be a problem;
- Iraq's infrastructure would not be a problem;
- we had enough troops to handle the aftermath of the invasion;
- we could rely on people like Chalabi;
- the Iraqi police, army, and civil service would be able to take over security functions and run the country.
"Nuclear dangers have mounted across the globe. The international terrorist club has expanded. Radicalism in the Middle East is on the rise. We have divided our friends and united our enemies. And our standing in the world is at an all time low."North Korea is building nukes, as is Iran; Russian WMD are not secure; Afghanistan is destabilizing. Osama bin Laden is more popular in most places in the Middle East than America is.
And while Osama got away, Bush diverted resources away from fighting al Qaeda so we could invade a country which had not attacked us and posed no real threat.
That's just the beginning of the speech. I'm not finished here, I'll be back tomorrow. But I would urge you to read the speech in its entirety--you'll see why some called it a campaign masterpiece, and you'll see why the media had little choice but to pick this one up and run with it. It's got the Kerry campaign energized.
September 14, 2004
A Famine Where Abundance Lies
Some days it's just hard to write. You see clearly what is going on, but stand in almost despair as others look the other way. You see a man who had everything paid for and handed to him, everything taken care of for him all his life, who drank, almost certainly used drugs; a man who broke the law many times, though arrested only three times that we know of; a man who has spoken outright lies too many to count; who evaded service while admonishing his peers not to do the same--engaging in hypocrisy, cowardice, and then lying about it. A man who displayed cruelty to many people, including a woman about to be put to death on his own watch.
And yet, despite all of these facts, millions of people who see character, dignity, and honor as critical somehow are able to see this man as strong in character. You wonder in disbelief how they can possibly think that.
You see a man who started a war that didn't need to be fought, sent a thousand young men and women to die and Lord knows how many thousands more to be maimed and cut up, all based on lies about how dangerous the other country was, lies proven wrong beyond any doubt whatsoever; a man who still forwards many of these same bald-faced lies. A man who hides behind the honor of fallen soldiers. A man who did all of this at the cost of fighting an effective war on terror, when from the very start he began to draw resources away from the hunt for those who had actually attacked our people. A man who has allowed and even caused by his words and actions the enemy numbers to swell, while still refusing to adequately fund real defense at home.
And yet, to so many patriotic Americans who see their children's lives as sacred and the security of our nation as paramount, this same man is somehow seen as a strong, decisive leader who is our only chance for peace and safety.
You see a man who has treated the people with disdain, stealing away their rights in the dead of night, and yet to many who cherish our freedoms and liberties, this man is somehow a protector.
You see a man who has taken a massive surplus and turned it into an unheard-of deficit, a man whose spending has gone far beyond control, and yet among people to whom small government and financial responsibility is essential, somehow this man is seen as a trustworthy manager of the treasury.
You see a man who has presided of massive job losses, over the lowering of uncounted jobs to minimal pay, who has done nothing for education or health care, and yet so many people seem to think he is the best man to accomplish these things and raise our standards of living, tasks which he has proven he cannot accomplish.
And then we turn and see the other man. A man also born to wealth and privilege, and yet he chose to serve, and did serve in combat, with such stature and bravery that a band of his comrades have given up a year of their lives to follow him and declare to anyone who will listen that they owe their lives to him, that he is a man who will lead with honor and dignity. And yet many people who respect military service and honor bravery would sooner listen to political hacks funded by wealthy partisan donors who attack this man with easily punctured lies and thinly veiled hypocrisy--and yet believe them instead. You see the first man attack not just the second, but many others (think of McCain and Cleland) who served and sacrificed with honor, attacking them with bitter lies and calling these patriots traitors, and somehow many people believe the coward who never fought, and disbelieve the men who offered their lives for their country.
You see the other man come forward with workable, sensible and fair plans where the first man has nothing but failures. You see the other man spell out his plans for education in detail, for health care that benefits the people and not the pharmaceutical corporations, a man who would tax fairly, use taxes fairly, and who would reduce the deficit, build better jobs and turn us around from four years of economic failure. But you see that nobody hears of any of this because though the man is speaking of these plans often, the cameras and the journalists do not pass them on as they are supposed to; they instead focus on what the first man is saying without questioning his veracity, and then only how the other man responds to that, and little else. You see the other man trying to tell a country how he can help, how he wishes to serve, but you only read stories and see reports buried low on the page and far into the broadcast, and even then more often than not focusing on how he's being berated or not being angry enough.
Just today, two of the top half dozen major media sites don't even mention Kerry's name on their main pages, though they all name Bush; two more of that number do not mention him until near the bottom of the page. And yet we are less than two months away from an election.
You may or may not share my views or judgments, and I am far from being without bias. There are other things to be said that oppose what I have written above, to be certain. But even taking all that into account, I still cannot fathom how so many can dismiss so much which is vital in a leader and accept a man such as Bush; I cannot believe how a man like Kerry, who, for all his faults, fought for his nation and fights for it still, a man of ambition and yet still of conscience, can be so beaten in the media and disbelieved and unheard by so many who value the things that he has accomplished and promises to do.
You look at the papers and read the news and listen to the broadcasts, and sometimes it hurts to see how the truth is being played with by veterans of spin, how you know what is right and yet also see how millions will see it as wrong, or wrong as right.
This does not mean that I am giving up, however. It does not mean I have abandoned hope, far from it. My hope is that those who fear what will come from another four years, and those who hope for what a new administration could bring, will be galvanized by the blind eye of much of the country and the jaded eye of the media. My hope still remains in my mantra now quite long in speaking: turnout, turnout, turnout.
I fear for my country, but above all I hope for it.
August 12, 2004
"There it is. That's the ten-word answer my staff's been looking for for two weeks. There it is. Ten-word answers can kill you in political campaigns. They're the tip of the sword. Here's my question: What are the next ten words of your answer? Your taxes are too high? So are mine. Give me the next ten words. How are we going to do it? Give me ten after that, I'll drop out of the race right now. Every once in a while... every once in a while, there's a day with an absolute right and an absolute wrong, but those days almost always include body counts. Other than that, there aren't very many unnuanced moments in leading a country that's way too big for ten words."In the game of "Ten Words," Bush has been winning the game.
--President Bartlet, in the West Wing episode "Game On"
Last September, after several weeks of claiming that he could invade Iraq without the permission of Congress (his staff even put together a list of legal justifications for doing so), Bush flip-flopped and put before the Senate a request to grant him war powers. Kerry agonized over whether or not to grant those powers; as other Democrats such as Barbara Boxer were saying that we should not trust the president, Kerry finally decided to back the resolution, but not without conditions or reservations:
"Let there be no doubt or confusion," Kerry said. "I will support a multilateral effort to disarm [Hussein] by force, if we ever exhaust those other options as the president has promised. But I will not support a unilateral U.S. war against Iraq unless that threat is imminent and the multilateral effort has not proven possible."It is important to remember that these were words Kerry spoke on the floor of the Senate last October, not this summer; it is important to remember that Bush had promised to exhaust all diplomatic options, to allow the weapons inspectors to finish their work, to build a true coalition and to get the full backing of the U.N. And it is important to remember that Bush broke those promises, and that he appears to have never intended to keep them at all; in this sense, Bush was a flip-flopper at least, and an outright dishonest liar at worst.
There was nothing in the resolution that guaranteed those conditions would be met. Nonetheless, he was one of 29 Democrats to vote for the resolution, which passed 77 to 23.
In his Senate speech, Kerry had said, "I will be among the first to speak out" if Bush failed to seek international support and go to war as a last resort.
But that isn't stopping Bush from trying to make Kerry look like the flip-flopper instead of himself. The first criticism he laid on Kerry was, if going into Iraq was wrong, then why did you vote for it? That answer was easy enough for Kerry to answer: because you promised to go only as a last resort (ten words exactly!). So now Bush has formulated a different ten-word attack: Knowing what you know now, would you still vote for it?
"Kerry has always had this vulnerability of looking flip-floppy on the issue and Bush is using this very shrewdly," said Walter Russell Mead, a scholar at the Council on Foreign Relations. He added "Being silent on the question makes him look evasive, and saying something, anything, gets him in trouble with one side of his party or another." (NYT)Kerry answered that he would have done so, but again, only if Bush had kept the same promise he had made before--to use force only as a last resort, and only with a true coalition and the backing of the U.N.
Unfortunately, that was not only just a little bit too long for ten words, but it also contained a conditional, which is a seeming contradiction in this context, if one does not examine beyond the ten-word limit. And Bush has been using the tip of that sword to skewer Kerry. And it is true, a lot of Democrats don't like Kerry's answer; I myself feel that even with what we knew before we found there were no WMD, that we shouldn't have gone to war--but I am comfortable with Kerry's conditions about what should be done first.
The problem is, Bush's great skill with the ten-word sword and the perception of Kerry unconditionally approving of what Bush did have been wounding Kerry in the media and in public perception recently.
Sometimes it is painful to know that your guy is right and the other guy is not only wrong, but also a lying, deceptive bastard, and yet you can still clearly understand how people can see it the other way around.
August 10, 2004
Kerry Talks to Real Crowds, Bush Talks to Fake Ones
Remember a report recently where Kerry and Edwards traded shots with hecklers? It doesn't matter which one, it's happened so often (here's just one example--Google to find dozens more). Have you noticed that this happens to Kerry, even his wife, very frequently, and that this rarely happens to Bush? That's not a coincidence.
When John or Teresa Kerry and John Edwards speak to audiences, they're speaking to real crowds, mostly Democrats as that's the crowd they draw, but also to moderates and Republicans, for whom it is simple to get in. They pay the price for that--they get heckled constantly, Republicans coordinate to disrupt their events, we start hearing about groups chanting "Four More Years!" for Bush, and so on. It's a hassle, but at least Kerry and Edwards are honest in whom they talk to--it's no PR stunt meant for the local TV station, it's the real deal, so to speak. And the advantage is not only to be seen as authentic; they also get to speak to more swing voters in person this way.
Bush, on the other hand, seems terrified of speaking in front of a crowd that isn't 100% full of gung-ho supporters--even in the military, which is strongly Republican. Remember his secret flight to Baghdad so he could serve up plastic turkey? The GI's who got to enjoy the Thanksgiving dinner were there only because they had answered a written questionnaire in which they supported the president a hundred percent--and those who answered less heartily were sent to their barracks to eat MREs. True story.
And it's no less true on the campaign trail. Bush has been doing videotaped "town-hall" meetings, and wouldn't you know, the crowds are all enthusiastically supportive of the president, the questions are softballs and there is not a dissenting or truly challenging voice to be heard. Some people don't even ask questions; they simply stand up, spout out effusive praise of Bush, and then sit down to thunderous applause. Bush spokespeople claim that these are not staged, that they never know what people will say. Riiiiigghht.
Cheney is making his rounds of the speech-and-town-hall circuit as well, and with him as well, they're not letting in anyone but the party faithful--it's invitation only, to which members of the public are wondering, "Since when does a town hall meeting feature 'invitation only' participants?"
But Bush and Cheney's standards for who gets in can be severely draconian. Nowadays, to get into one of their appearances, you actually have to sign a loyalty oath, pledging to back the president and vote for him in November before you can be given tickets. Bush people claim that they foiled organized attempts to disrupt their rallies, which is baloney--if all you have to do is sign a loyalty oath, determined protesters aren't going to stop at signing them. But the GOP goes farther than that, requiring identification as a registered Republican or other credentials which will guarantee that you will do nothing but cheer heartily once you're inside.
This fake popularity, exercised predominantly by the GOP, has its advantages--when Bush and Cheney appear on television and in news reports, they come across as wildly popular. One can only guess that this is all that Bush's people care about, and if you have to insult and piss off a whole lot of people to do it, well, the TV audience is bigger than the crowd that didn't get in.
But as the GOP continues to dismiss Michael Moore for using his craft to create false impressions, this Bush policy makes it very clear that the GOP is far more adept at creating false impressions--or as Moore would say, creating a "fictitious president."
Were Bush or Cheney to make an appearance before a real crowd of Americans, not stacked, not hand-picked, not just the party faithful, but a group of true-blue, everyday Americans, they would surely falter under the lack of enthusiasm and sometimes outrage that they have generated. The cheers would be more realistically scattered, the silence of much or the crowd thick in the air, the dissatisfaction palpable.
Which, of course, is exactly why they stack the crowds.
August 07, 2004
On July "Volatility"
One of the Bush apologists coming to comment on this site, remarking on the dismal May-July job numbers, tried to fob off the slump to the idea that July is a "volatile" month; specifically, he wrote: "HINT: July is typically a very volitile month for employment numbers."
This is what comes from believing everything you hear from the Bush administration and right-wing econopundits. The idea that we are gaining more and more jobs, and it's just that July is traditionally volatile, so we'll jump back up in August--it's a pipe dream, no more and no less. First, volatility goes both ways: it might get you numbers lower than are real, but it also might get you numbers higher than are real. Second, whether or not a month is often volatile is no guarantee that the numbers for this July were actually volatile. In other words, it's all just blowing smoke.
Let's take a look, shall we?
I went to the web site of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and found a page with all the job data since 1994. I then copied that into Excel, translated the table to columnar form, and then started banging out charts. Here's the first, and most relevant to the topic at hand--job growth figures for 2004:
What's the first thing you see? It's glaringly obvious: a spike in March, which then declines in a nice, steady curve up through July. That ain't no blip you see in July, and it's not volatility--it is a smooth, regular trend. In fact, if you see this as a straight-line trend rather than a curving one, then July's numbers should have been lower, suggesting that volatility made the July numbers appear higher than they should have been. It is possible that with next month's report, we may see July's numbers revised downward.
So much for the Bush jobs surge, and so much for Bush-favoring "volatility."
I figured that I had done all this work to get the chart made, let's look at a few others. Here's one that shows job growth during the entire Bush presidency:
Here's where we see the overall job loss during the Bush Jr. years. Note how the numbers seem to have been trying to go up in mid-2002? See how they sputtered and began falling again? That's where the job recovery should have been. And that's where it would have been, had Bush not done everything wrong. And if you add all those positive and (mostly) negative numbers together, you'll see where those 1.1 million jobs disappeared to.
But to get a real feel for how Bush anemia has stacked up against the Clinton job juggernaut, look at this chart:
Blue is total number of jobs under Clinton, red is total number of jobs under Bush. There's really no contest at all, is there?
You want jobs? Good jobs? Well-paying jobs? Or heck, even any job at all?
Vote for Kerry.
August 06, 2004
July Job Numbers a Dismal 32,000; May and June Numbers Revised Downward
After a few months of tepid job growth, the Bush administration tried to paint the economy as "recovering"--in fact, they tried to say that it was great, never better. In June, the number of new jobs dropped to 112,000, way below what anyone would consider "strong," and in fact, was below the 150,000 new jobs required simply to keep up with population growth. Republicans countered that this was only a blip, that June was artificially low, and that July numbers would prove the recovery was truly back. Nevertheless, they only projected 220,000 jobs for July, as high as possible to make things seem rosy, as few as possible so as not to look bad if numbers were not really too high. But some hopeful estimates were for as many as 300,000 new jobs.
Well, the July numbers are now out. How many new jobs?
Not only that, but revised estimates for May and June revealed that those months actually added 61,000 fewer jobs than was previously estimated. Therefore, relative to job numbers assumed true last month, there was negative job growth of 29,000. It turns out that May increased by 208,000 jobs (as opposed to 242,000), and June by only 78,000 (as opposed to 112,000).
This means that total job growth over the past three months has been, on average, only 106,000 per month, a great deal lower than what is necessary to cancel out population growth--and it is most definitely on a downward trend.
It will be extraordinarily hard to support any statement that claims we are in a "recovery."
This is what the Bush administration's tax cuts for the wealthy has wrought. And please don't try to tell me about any tax cuts for the middle class, there haven't been any; after skyrocketing fuel costs, lower and lower wages and salaries, rising local taxes and the cutting of services, in addition to all the other costs due to Bush policies, whatever money you got back from the government has long since been sucked right back out of your pocket--and as a result, the economy remains stagnant. This is not the way to go.
What we need is to have a president who will not throw hundreds of billions of dollars (as well as a thousand soldier's lives) into an unnecessary war, who will allow corporate greed and job exportation to go unchecked, who will continue to take money from the poor and funnel it to the rich. We need someone who will provide for good health care instead of sacrificing it so that drug companies can make even more obscene profits. We need someone who will not throw boatloads of cash at energy companies who are already flush at the expense paid by the average Joe, but instead have energy policy written for the people, not the energy corps. We need a president who will give tax breaks to people who need them, and who will roll back welfare-for-the-wealthy and use those billions and trillions to pay for good education (the best-payment investment for the future!) and good health care. We need a president who will give companies tax breaks for keeping good jobs here, instead of giving tax breaks to corporations that send them overseas. And we need a president who does not encourage or even allow corporations to make a huge profit and then pay no taxes by having a P.O. Box in the Cayman Islands.
Four more years of Bush will not only prolong this recession, it will also depress whatever natural recovery comes along, a recovery that even just without any action would have been here in truth already.
The only way to really recover is to get Kerry into office, evident not only by his clear-cut and rational plans (or download their book, "Our Plan for America," a 1.36 MB PDF file), but also by the historical fact that Democratic presidents always deliver the jobs.
Quick Update: Hugh over at DAJ commented that if you want a new job nowadays, try out for prison guard: 2 million Americans are now in jail, and despite losing so many manufacturing jobs, Bush created at least 206,000 new prison guard positions--probably more, since that last number was a 2002 stat.
July 31, 2004
DNC Speeches at Apple iTunes Music Store
Kudos once again to Mark at VuDeja for a brilliant heads-up:
The DNC Speeches are available as audio books, for free, downloadable from the Apple Store. Way Cool. At this moment, only the first two days' speeches are there; expect the third and fourth to appear soon.
You have to have an account at the store, which means you need a credit card with a U.S. (or European now, I suppose) billing address. There's no cost to sign up, you just have to register the credit card number. Then you can download the volumes for free. Apple also gives away one free track of music each week, BTW.
July 30, 2004
Introducing John Kerry
Finally John Kerry had his day before the nation, and finally America saw him for what he really is, not for what his opponents have tried to paint him as. The long introduction up to Kerry's speech was spectacular, and showed the real heart and soul of the candidate and the campaign. From the hilarious-but-true hamster-rescue story to the stunning realization that this man truly put his life on the line for his comrades in arms, from the loving introduction from his daughters to the stirring endorsement from his shipmates and from a true patriot, a true American, Max Cleland, America finally saw the man John Kerry is and the president he will make.
Almost everything went perfectly that night, save for the CNN "screw-up" of putting on the air someone who should never have been put on the air (thank God in Heaven that the press mostly ignored it!--more on CNN's "mistake" later). But the majority of America was focused on Kerry, riveted to the endorsements of real Americans, real patriots, real men who fought and risked their lives and truly gave to their country, for one of their comrades who did the same. They saw a beautifully produced film that gave us a real sense of who this man is (excellent choices using Spielberg and especially Morgan Freeman, and I swear that's John Williams' music, a variation of Jurassic Park).
But most of all, everyone got to hear John Kerry himself. Though not as smooth an orator as Bill Clinton or even Barak Obama, he got the message across. He portrayed himself as the son of a test pilot and diplomat, growing up seeing America and her allies standing strong in Berlin, deciding to serve in wartime, fighting for the disenfranchised as a prosecutor, serving as a Senator, and wishing to serve again as president. He brought home the importance of his military service, not just the three purple hearts as a campaign tactic, but that with his experience, with his understanding of serving in combat rather than in a champagne unit of the National Guard, that:
"As President, I will wage this war with the lessons I learned in war. Before you go to battle, you have to be able to look a parent in the eye and truthfully say: "I tried everything possible to avoid sending your son or daughter into harm's way. But we had no choice. We had to protect the American people, fundamental American values from a threat that was real and imminent." So lesson one, this is the only justification for going to war.Kerry outlined his stark differences from the occupant of the White House, outlined his plans: enact the recommendations of the 9/11 commission and do what Bush has abysmally failed to do, that is, actually fund homeland defense! Take seriously the threats of terrorists instead of simply taking advantage of fear to accomplish a political agenda. Of acting out values instead of just mouthing them, using them as props. Funding education. Protecting Social Security. Strengthening health care. Putting more police on the streets and opening fire stations instead of firing cops and closing firehouses like Bush has been doing. Protecting jobs at home instead of giving tax breaks for companies to ship them overseas. Cleaner air. Cleaner water. Better jobs. Protecting the tax cuts for the middle class while taking away the obscene tax giveaways to the rich. And telling how he's going to do them--and it's not news, these plans have been public for a long time on John Kerry's web site.
And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace."
Bush has had four years. He's an abysmal failure. He lied. He stole. He's been corrupt. He's made Bill Clinton look like a boy scout. Democrats have always grown the economy far better than Republicans. There are two, perhaps three Supreme Court positions that will open in the next four years, which Bush would use to fill the Court with young, far-right-wing judges that would leave the court stacked for as long as the next half-century if not longer.
We can't afford four more years of this. We need someone who will be able to govern responsibly. Someone who will bring America back to a place of respect in the world. Someone who can create real economic growth and give Americans jobs that mean something, not burger-flipping minimum-wage jobs--and at such a pathetic minimum wage at that. Who will go to war only when necessary, not just because he wants to. Who will really fight the war on terror, not just use it as an excuse to get his agenda passed.
Someone who, if the Republicans give him even one-tenth of the chance that Democrats have given Bush, will in fact unite us, will in fact bring prosperity, will in fact make us safer, and will in fact execute the duties of the office that will make us proud and capable once more.
Vote for John Kerry.
July 29, 2004
Including Everyone--And Meaning It
The first day of the Democratic National Convention was very good--we heard good speeches from Al Gore and Hillary Clinton, excellent speeches from Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter. Rousing speeches, filled with a great deal of what needs to be heard, that Democrats have proven they can do it right, that Bush has proven that he cannot. But Tuesday, that would be the day to be in the crowd.
Ted Kennedy was, well, Ted Kennedy, doing perhaps better than I would expect, despite his voice cracking now and again. Howard Dean did less well than I expected he would--he was too quiet, maybe affected by the reaction to The Scream, but it really seemed like after the long, well-deserved standing ovation, that someone shot him with a tranquilizer dart. He just wasn't what I hoped for there.
Ron reagan Jr. did very well, on the other hand; he did not overpoliticize, instead he described the hope for stem cell research in a way very easy to understand, in a manner very convincing and bound to find sympathetic ears beyond the liberal delegates, beyond the Democratic Party. And the final speaker of the evening, Teresa Heinz Kerry, reached just as far, if not farther, in showing people who she is and who she can be. Long painted by the right-wing smear machine as a rich elitist, more recently with a foul mouth (as if saying "shove it" to a trash journalist is something most of us wouldn't long to do), she showed the strength of character that, as her son pointed out in his introduction, prompted prominent Republicans to ask her to run as a Republican for the Senate.
Teresa started off strong--"And by now, I hope it will come as no surprise that I have something to say." That drew cheers from the crowd. And then she showed her linguistic talents, and then her oratorical talents. Despite being a scripted speech, her personality shone through, and throughout you saw the warm, radiant, smart, quietly humorous woman, and understood immediately what John Kerry sees in her.
She reached out, pointing out that she came to this country from a dictatorship and understood as well as anyone how precious and important freedom is. And that freedom must apply to everyone. Here is an excerpt:
And the crowd, quieter than before, was moved by her words, showing the same reaction one can only hope some Americans will see despite the truncated network broadcasts (what a year, with such great speeches, for the acronyms to cut back!). People who saw that speech will not now be able to buy into the smears heaped on her from the right. She made the end of the evening.
I have a very personal feeling about how special America is, and I know how precious freedom is. It is a sacred gift, sanctified by those who have lived it and those who have died defending it.
My right to speak my mind, to have a voice, to be what some have called "opinionated"... is a right I deeply and profoundly cherish. And my only hope is that one day soon, My only hope is that, one day soon, women, who have all earned their right to their opinions... instead of being labeled opinionated will be called smart and well informed, just like men.
Tonight I want to remember my mother's warmth, generosity, wisdom and hopefulness, and thank her for all the sacrifices she made on our behalf, like so many other mothers. And this evening, I want to acknowledge and honor the women of this world whose wise voices for much too long have been excluded and discounted.
It is time -- it is time for the world to hear women's voices in full and at last.
But then. Oh boy, and then. Barak Obama. Speaking before Teresa, for the keynote. Nobody's gonna make fun of his name from now, much less forget it. He gave the best speech of the convention so far. He gave a real barnburner, a speech to remember, one that roused the crowd, got everyone on their feet and cheering (as you can see at right, with our Democrats Abroad Japan representatives Terri and Lauren caught in the crowd on CNN). He said what everybody was waiting for, the words not just echoing people's beliefs that there is something terribly wrong and that Kerry is the one to make it right. He gave a message of inspiring optimism, of real inclusiveness, of heartfelt Americanism, and man, can he speak the words. If you can, watch the speech in Real player here. You need to listen and watch to get the full impact. And yet, even the written form is inspiring, and though I do not often have quotes this long, this one is worth it. Read on.
On behalf of the great state of Illinois, crossroads of a nation, land of Lincoln, let me express my deepest gratitude for the privilege of addressing this convention. Tonight is a particular honor for me because, let's face it, my presence on this stage is pretty unlikely.
My father was a foreign student, born and raised in a small village in Kenya. He grew up herding goats, went to school in a tin-roof shack. His father, my grandfather, was a cook, a domestic servant to the British.
But my grandfather had larger dreams for his son. Through hard work and perseverance my father got a scholarship to study in a magical place, America, that stood as a beacon of freedom and opportunity to so many who had come before.
While studying here, my father met my mother. She was born in a town on the other side of the world, in Kansas.
Her father worked on oil rigs and farms through most of the Depression. The day after Pearl Harbor my grandfather signed up for duty, joined Patton's army and marched across Europe. Back home, my grandmother raised their baby and went to work on a bomber assembly line. After the war, they studied on the GI Bill, bought a house through FHA, and moved west, all the way to Hawaii, in search of opportunity.
And they, too, had big dreams for their daughter, a common dream, born of two continents.
My parents shared not only an improbable love; they shared an abiding faith in the possibilities of this nation. They would give me an African name, Barack, or "blessed," believing that in a tolerant America your name is no barrier to success.
They imagined me going to the best schools in the land, even though they weren't rich, because in a generous America you don't have to be rich to achieve your potential.
They're both passed away now. And yet, I know that, on this night, they look down on me with pride.
And I stand here today, grateful for the diversity of my heritage, aware that my parents' dreams live on in my two precious daughters.
I stand here knowing that my story is part of the larger American story, that I owe a debt to all of those who came before me, and that, in no other country on Earth, is my story even possible.
Tonight, we gather to affirm the greatness of our nation, not because of the height of our skyscrapers, or the power of our military, or the size of our economy. Our pride is based on a very simple premise, summed up in a declaration made over two hundred years ago, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
That is the true genius of America, a faith in the simple dreams, an insistence on small miracles. That we can tuck in our children at night and know they are fed and clothed and safe from harm. That we can say what we think, write what we think, without hearing a sudden knock on the door. That we can have an idea and start our own business without paying a bribe. That we can participate in the political process without fear of retribution, and that our votes will be counted -- or at least, most of the time.
This year, in this election, we are called to reaffirm our values and commitments, to hold them against a hard reality and see how we are measuring up, to the legacy of our forbearers and the promise of future generations.
And fellow Americans -- Democrats, Republicans, Independents -- I say to you tonight: we have more work to do. More work to do for the workers I met in Galesburg, Illinois, who are losing their union jobs at the Maytag plant that's moving to Mexico, and now are having to compete with their own children for jobs that pay seven bucks an hour. More to do for the father I met who was losing his job and choking back tears, wondering how he would pay $4,500 a month for the drugs his son needs without the health benefits that he counted on. More to do for the young woman in East St. Louis, and thousands more like her, who has the grades, has the drive, has the will, but doesn't have the money to go to college.
Now don't get me wrong. The people I meet in small towns and big cities, in diners and office parks, they don't expect government to solve all their problems. They know they have to work hard to get ahead and they want to.
Go into the collar counties around Chicago, and people will tell you they don't want their tax money wasted by a welfare agency or the Pentagon.
Go into any inner city neighborhood, and folks will tell you that government alone can't teach our kids to learn. They know that parents have to parent, that children can't achieve unless we raise their expectations and turn off the television sets and eradicate the slander that says a black youth with a book is acting white. They know those things.
People don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all. They know we can do better. And they want that choice.
In this election, we offer that choice. Our party has chosen a man to lead us who embodies the best this country has to offer. And that man is John Kerry.
John Kerry understands the ideals of community, faith, and service, because they've defined his life. From his heroic service in Vietnam to his years as prosecutor and lieutenant governor, through two decades in the United States Senate, he has devoted himself to this country. Again and again, we've seen him make tough choices when easier ones were available. His values and his record affirm what is best in us.
John Kerry believes in an America where hard work is rewarded. So instead of offering tax breaks to companies shipping jobs overseas, he'll offer them to companies creating jobs here at home.
John Kerry believes in an America where all Americans can afford the same health coverage our politicians in Washington have for themselves.
John Kerry believes in energy independence, so we aren't held hostage to the profits of oil companies or the sabotage of foreign oil fields.
John Kerry believes in the constitutional freedoms that have made our country the envy of the world, and he will never sacrifice our basic liberties nor use faith as a wedge to divide us.
And John Kerry believes that in a dangerous world, war must be an option sometimes, but it should never be the first option.
You know, a while back, I met a young man named Shamus at the VFW Hall in East Moline, Illinois. He was a good-looking kid, 6-2 or 6-3, clear eyed, with an easy smile. He told me he'd joined the Marines and was heading to Iraq the following week.
And as I listened to him explain why he'd enlisted, his absolute faith in our country and its leaders, his devotion to duty and service, I thought this young man was all that any of us might hope for in a child. But then I asked myself: Are we serving Shamus as well as he was serving us?
I thought of the 900 men and women, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, friends and neighbors, who will not be returning to their hometowns. I thought of families I had met who were struggling to get by without a loved one's full income, or whose loved ones had returned with a limb missing or nerves shattered, but who still lacked long-term health benefits because they were reservists.
When we send our young men and women into harm's way, we have a solemn obligation not to fudge the numbers or shade the truth about why they're going, to care for their families while they're gone, to tend to the soldiers upon their return, and to never ever go to war without enough troops to win the war, secure the peace, and earn the respect of the world.
Now let me be clear. Let me be clear. We have real enemies in the world. These enemies must be found. They must be pursued and they must be defeated.
John Kerry knows this. And just as Lieutenant Kerry did not hesitate to risk his life to protect the men who served with him in Vietnam, President Kerry will not hesitate one moment to use our military might to keep America safe and secure.
John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it's not enough for just some of us to prosper. For alongside our famous individualism, there's another ingredient in the American saga. A belief that we are all connected as one people.
If there's a child on the South Side of Chicago who can't read, that matters to me, even if it's not my child.
If there's a senior citizen somewhere who can't pay for their prescription and has to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it's not my grandparent.
If there's an Arab-American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
It is that fundamental belief -- it is that fundamental belief -- I am my brother's keeper, I am my sister's keeper -- that makes this country work.
It's what allows us to pursue our individual dreams, yet still come together as a single American family. "E pluribus unum." Out of many, one.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes.
Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America.
There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America -- there is the United States of America.
The pundits, the pundits like to slice and dice our country into red states and blue states; red states for Republicans, blue states for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states.
We coach Little League in the blue states and have gay friends in the red states.
There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it.
We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
In the end, that's what this election is about. Do we participate in a politics of cynicism or do we participate in a politics of hope?
John Kerry calls on us to hope. John Edwards calls on us to hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism here-the almost willful ignorance that thinks unemployment will go away if we just don't talk about it, or the health care crisis will solve itself if we just ignore it.
That's not what I'm talking [about]. I'm talking about something more substantial. It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a mill worker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too.
Hope in the face of difficulty, hope in the face of uncertainty, the audacity of hope.
In the end, that is God's greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation; a belief in things not seen; a belief that there are better days ahead.
I believe we can give our middle class relief and provide working families with a road to opportunity.
I believe we can provide jobs to the jobless, homes to the homeless, and reclaim young people in cities across America from violence and despair.
I believe that we have a righteous wind at our backs, and that as we stand on the crossroads of history, we can make the right choices and meet the challenges that face us.
America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. And John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president. And this country will reclaim its promise. And out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.
Thank you very much, everybody. God bless you. Thank you.
July 15, 2004
Democrats: The Party of Responsible Economics
The GOP has long held that it is the party that best handles the economy, and many American still believe that. It is, of course, completely false. The fact is, Democrats have a far better record.
The Clinton boom was longer and more prosperous than the Reagan boom, but try getting a Republican to admit that. And Clinton erased the deficit during his boom, while Reagan outrageously inflated the deficit during his--but again, don't try to convince a Republican. A Republican will tell you that the Reagan deficit was the fault of Democrats in Congress, no matter how much you try to point out that 7 of Reagan's 8 budgets asked for more money than the Democratic Congress finally voted into effect. A Republican will tell you that the elimination of the deficit under Clinton was really the work of the Republican Congress, despite the fact that the budget bill that got the deficit work done was passed without a single Republican vote.
Never mind that the GOP is wrong on all kinds of reasonable progressive issues, like minimum wage; every time the Democrats try to raise that rate to anywhere near a reasonable level, Republicans wail about how it will put small businesses out of business--and it never does. Minimum wage hikes are followed by a good economy as often as they are by a bad one, and usually are followed by a net increase in jobs.
Democrats believe in the same brand of economics that Henry Ford did when he decided to pay his workers well enough so that they could afford to buy his cars. Pay the people good, decent wages and they'll buy things, thus generating a good economy. Republicans believe in the elitist trickle-down theory, which essentially says that if you give enough money to people who are already rich, enough is bound to trickle down to poor people, like scraps falling from an overloaded table, who will then use those scraps to buy more goods. Republicans see investments by wealthy people as strong for our economy, despite the fact that these wealthy people see more profit in investing that money overseas, paying people there a fraction of what Americans need to get by. It may be good for businesses, but that brand of business is bad for Americans.
And Democrats are good for jobs, too. Just refer to the chart at right (from American Assembler) which shows the net job increases of all presidents for the past 80 years, since Coolidge. What a surprise that job increases have always been better under Democrats and worse under Republicans--that the worst performance by a Democrat is better than the best performance by a Republican.
You want a better job, better pay, better benefits and a sound economy overall?
July 08, 2004
A Good Day for Kerry
Well, you probably already know about Kerry choosing Edwards; that kind of news travels faster than the speed of blogging, so I tend not to try to "announce" such things here. What I can do is comment on it all.
Edwards was the odds-on favorite, and for good reason: he brings a good deal to the ticket. While Veep choices often don't seem to help a ticket too much, they can make a contribution, and if chosen badly, can hurt the ticket. But the Edwards choice--and the fact that it came out just now, so early at 20 days before the convention (usually it's a week or less before)--has helped Kerry to dominate the news, and hopefully put him in true election-year quasi-equal footing with the incumbent.
But Edwards was a good choice for other reasons as well: he's energetic, young, handsome, and likeable; he can bring in southern voters, and is talented at addressing themes in a way that is both compelling and easy to understand (in other words, he's a good orator). He's a clean-cut American with a down-to-earth blue-collar upbringing, and a self-made man, now wealthy from his past law practice. The downside: he's relatively green, being just a 6-year veteran of the senate, he is a senator, like Kerry, and therefore his voting record can be more easily skewed and misrepresented, and the fact that he was a trial lawyer will make him a target for the GOP smear machine.
However, those negatives are mitigated; most recent presidents have had little pre-office political experience (Bush only had 6 years, too, for instance); his voting record is relatively short and can't be misrepresented as much (not to mention that he's had a more conservative record, approving of the Iraq War, for example, though not its execution); and his trial lawyer experience will be less of a liability than Republicans think--a CNN poll found that a majority of people felt this was a positive, not a negative, and Edwards is said to have chosen his cases carefully, and not argued frivolous or questionable ones, rather cases where the plaintiff was truly wronged, and deserving of sympathy in the eyes of observers.
I watched Kerry as he made a speech soon after the announcement, and he ripped into Bush, but with style, class, and conviction. He laid out a laundry list of failures of the Bush administration, along the theme of "Don't tell us that this is the best you can do; we can do better." This is Kerry beginning to hit his stride, and is a sample of what the media hasn't been showing us: the speech was a variation of one he's been giving for a while, but the "liberal" media has until now neglected to air. I'm waiting for a transcript of the speech to appear on the web--when it does, I'll post it, it's a good one.
Over the next week, we will finally see what has long been coming, many--including myself--feeling it was long overdue: his real definition. Not the asinine, snide and falsified "Kerry is an ultra-liberal flip-flopper" garbage spewed out by the Bush campaign, and not the "long-winded" label slapped on him by the "liberal" media, but Kerry as he can be, has been and will be for the rest of the campaign: a speaker with a strong message and even stronger conviction. And the speech he delivered at ooo was dead on target. There is no question whatsoever, Kerry can do better.
The Edwards announcement, though early to the point some thought was premature, may have been a brilliant idea. Instead of just one week in the spotlight and in the minds of the people, he has a good chance of being in a good light right up to the convention. Hopefully he will be able to spend all that money he's been raising in an advertising blitz before the convention and the subsequent $75 million cap until the election. After the convention, he will be at a disadvantage: he will have to make his $75 million last a month longer than Bush's, and Bush will get the later convention bounce--in large part by shamelessly and sleazily capitalizing on 9/11 in New York less than a week before the third anniversary. And the Bush campaign did not miss a beat, starting a massive smear campaign and a steal-the-thunder press blitz against Edwards just minutes after the announcement was made.
But in the next month, if Kerry can indeed maintain the spotlight, then you can expect his positives to rise and for him to jump ahead in the polls even before the convention. This will have a feedback effect of making him and even bigger focus on the news, which up until now has largely focused on Bush, both on his capitalizing on his incumbency and the perks it brings, and on the series of massive blunders, lies, scandals and crimes that he and his administration have committed. Kerry stayed quiet while Bush beat himself up with Abu Ghraib and other filthiness, but when Bush did not fall much in the polls it became increasingly clear that Kerry had to define himself, to make a forceful entry back into public view--and today's events were the perfect platform for that.
It will be interesting to see the poll numbers for next week, in this newly Kerry-aware, post Fahrenheit 9/11 atmosphere.
June 26, 2004
Kerry: Light-Years Ahead on Education
A lot of people are talking about Bush now and virtually ignoring Kerry, and I must say to my regret that I have been one of them. Kerry himself has not been rushing into the limelight, perhaps because Bush is doing such a great job of making himself appear to be the hopeless idiot he is. But Kerry needs to do more, and so do we. So here is the first of a series that will specifically focus on what Kerry plans to do as president, with Bush’s ineptitude serving only as background dressing. First up: Education—I am an educator myself, after all.
Kerry’s education plans are light-years ahead of Bush’s, more so because Bush doesn’t even follow up on his plans, leaving them unfunded and rife with corruption. Kerry understands the realities of education far better, and it shows.
Kerry has all the right priorities for education. First, he is serious about funding it. Second, he knows something Bush doesn't: that standardized tests are far from a magic wand, they are a disaster, and pledges focus on standards, not mere testing. And third, he wants to pay teachers what they’re worth, part of the worth of his higher standards idea.
The GOP has always whined that “you can't fix education by throwing money at it,” though they apparently believe that you can “fix” the economy by throwing billions at the super-wealthy, and throw money at corporations, military contractors and inane social engineering like $1.5 billion for encouraging marriage. But education, no, we shouldn’t throw money at that. And God forbid The GOP get anywhere close to a national voucher program—it would absolutely destroy education in this country were it widely applied—but I could go on for pages about that, so let’s return to our subject.
Kerry understands that you get what you pay for, and by just spending a small amount of the money given to the richest 1% in tax cuts, we could bring true improvement to the school system.
Kerry’s idea to fund schools is via a mandatory “National Education Trust Fund” which would make it illegal for the federal government to underfund educational mandates. He would also make sure that the “No Child Left Behind” program, which like Bush's AIDS assistance program in Africa has not seen the money it was promised, will get its full funding, $11.2 billion more than today, and fully fund special education as well.
Another legacy of Bush is that, like in the 80’s, attempts to cut federal spending starts by cutting support to the states. Kerry would spend $25 billion for state education aid to help keep them from gutting public education due to Bush’s shortchanging.
I can personally attest to the danger of overdependence on test scores. Here in Japan, test scores have traditionally been held as the way to gauge success. And so this is a nation full of people who received at least six years—often much more—of English language studies, but still cannot speak very well at all. Even where the education specializes—in grammar—performance is still very weak on average. But they’re great at passing tests given at their schools. That’s what they’ve learned—how to take tests. Not how to speak, comprehend, read or write.
Bush believes in tests scores. He pushed them in Texas, and when high scores were reported (jumping from 58% to 80%), he gloated before the nation in the 2000 election as to how great a job he did by making testing the new educational deity, calling himself the “Education President.” Of course, we all now know what a fraud that was. Special education test scores were exempted, artificially boosting score averages. More children with low scores were then shoved into this category so as to further inflate the grades, and then even more kids were held back a grade so that they didn’t take the test at all. In addition, teachers would drill incessantly on the tests to the detriment of process and skills, and on test days, students expected to not score well would be encouraged to stay home. As a result, the fraudulent schools got the better funding, while competent, dedicated and honest school administrators and teachers got short-changed.
Kerry, on the other hand, understands the danger of such half-baked feel-good schemes, especially those that directly tie funding to test scores. He will institute a more holistic measurement process to assess real progress and ensure that good teaching is rewarded, not numbers games or “teaching to the test.”
He also wants to make teachers the well-paid, professional educators they should be. As Bill Maher sloganed, “we call them heroes, but we pay them like chumps.” Kerry’s plan “will provide higher pay for teachers in exchange for implementing higher standards. In order to qualify for funding, school districts will have to submit a plan that includes strong professional development plan for the district’s teachers; an aggressive plan to ensure that every teacher is qualified in his/her subject area; and a plan for increasing the number of master teachers and teacher mentors in schools.” Kerry also plans to recruit competent school leaders to match better faculties.
Finally, Kerry wants to spend real money where it counts: making sure that kids are not being taught in virtual cesspools. He wants to spend $24.8 billion on school modernization and repair, fixing polluted drinking water and bad ventilation, renovating decrepit buildings, and providing badly needed new facilities for a growing educational population.
In short, Kerry wants to spend money badly needed to give our kids a chance, not just mouth platitudes and then be a deadbeat president when it comes to funding. And money should be spent, even more than Kerry is suggesting; education is perhaps the greatest investment we can make—but because no big corporations get handouts and the payoff doesn’t come for 16 years or so, the GOP blind to its benefits. Kerry is not.
And I haven't even started on his plans for improving colleges...
May 01, 2004
Kerry Takes the High Road; Bush Weasels
Hardly a surprise, is it? But that's what happened yesterday, according to this article. Kerry spoke at Westminster College, about a week after Dick Cheney appeared; Kerry, as you will remember, was invited to speak after Cheney gave a speech filled with partisan, election year attacks on Kerry despite his promise to give a major foreign policy address.
And Kerry's speech was by far the better, leaving out campaign rhetoric, and instead focusing on the issues--and saying pretty much what I said in my last post, that we have to hand over real control of Iraq to the U.N.:
Mr. Kerry urged the appointment of a United Nations high commissioner to oversee Iraq's reconstruction and political transformation. He said such a high commissioner, modeled on the role of the United Nations representative deployed to Bosnia, would be authorized by the Security Council to organize elections, draft a constitution and work with both Iraq's interim government and the United States ambassador.Kerry went on to point out that "This may be our last chance to get this right. We need to put pride aside to build a stable Iraq." This could be an unpopular idea with many Americans, but it is the right and necessary tack to take.
My feeling is that he didn't go quite as far as I did, but he is absolutely in the right direction. This is a feeling that many Democrats have in regard to Kerry's public positions--many of us feel he should be taking a much bolder stance--but it also must be understood that this election could stand on the edge of a knife, and as distasteful as it might be sometimes, candidates cannot always go too far out on a limb.
Of course, there is a difference between going out on a limb and being a complete weenie. Which, naturally, Bush was up to today. It was the one-year anniversary of Bush's aircraft carrier PR stunt. They wanted to get him out there in a jet so he could wear the suit and look like he was a military man. They made the claim that the carrier was too far out for the helicopter to reach, and even turned the carrier around so that none of the media's cameras would be able to see the San Diego skyline close by. They also claimed that another reason Bush went by plane was because they did not want to "wait until the ship was in helicopter range to avoid delaying the troops' homecoming," which is not only the opposite of the truth--Bush delayed their homecoming by turning the ship--but doesn't even make any sense, when you look at the statement carefully. And then there was the "Mission Accomplished" banner, which Bush later tried to blame the carrier's sailors for, but later had to fess up was his own people's work.
Well, those were the lies of a year ago. Today, he tried to smooth things over with a whole new batch of lies and obfuscations. "A year ago," he said, "I did give the speech from the carrier, saying that we had achieved an important objective, that we had accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein." Um, yeah, right. Actually, what he said was, "Major combat operations in Iraq have ended." But I guess he has no choice but to lie about it, with more Americans dying now at a much faster rate than before. But perhaps we can cut him some slack on that one, as he might not have foreseen how horribly he would botch the occupation so as to create an even greater combat situation than was experienced in the actual invasion.
Bush went on: "As a result, there are no longer torture chambers or mass graves or rape rooms in Iraq." Holy moley, George, can you not go ten seconds without putting your foot in your mouth? Bush made this statement even as the top story was how American soldiers had run torture chambers and rape rooms in Iraq! He may be right about "mass graves," but is it really so much better that we bury them individually instead?
Correction: There are mass graves. My mistake.
April 30, 2004
Inhumanity in an Inhuman Endeavor
It's hard to decide whether and how much to blog about the photos exposed on 60 Minutes II about the Iraqi prisoners humiliated and tortured by U.S. troops guarding them. The reason not to would be the fact that the actions taken by the soldiers involved do not reflect on the conduct or behavior of the vast majority of our troops there, and if presented the wrong way, would make people believe that it is representative.
However, the reasons for passing on this information are even more important, the most relevant reasons being the effect the war is having on our troops, and the effect that images like this will have on Iraqis. Not to mention, of course, the moral high ground we may or may not have to be there at all.
First, some of the details of how the prisoners were treated:
Some pictures show Americans, men and women in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners. There are shots of the prisoners stacked in a pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English. In some, the male prisoners are positioned to simulate sex with each other.That's part of the report--the full story is here.
According to the Army, one Iraqi prisoner was told to stand on a box with his head covered, wires attached to his hands. He was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.
Another picture shows a detainee with wires attached to his genitals. Another shows a dog attacking an Iraqi prisoner. There is also a picture of an Iraqi man who appears to be dead — and badly beaten. In most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing, or giving the camera a thumbs-up.
Despite the fact that far greater harm has been done to far greater people in the past year in Iraq, the details of this report may be more damaging to the American occupation of Iraq than anything else so far. The U.S. and British governments are fiercely denouncing the actions, but that may not matter at all in the end. The Arab world is seeing these images, and though there are few reports so far, the expected reaction would be one of outrage. Consider, for example, that "one photo is of a female US soldier standing by a naked prisoner, also hooded. The soldier is pointing at his genitals and grinning at the camera." That, to put it lightly, will not play well in the Middle East.
The soldiers accused of the crimes seem now to be pointing the finger at the military establishment, blaming it for not training the soldiers how to treat prisoners. Now, I'd be the first to blame the current administration for not seeing to the necessary details, and to stand up for soldiers I thought were being unfairly accused. But on this one, I cannot--I simply can't accept the idea that the people involved didn't know, with or without training, that what they were doing was unacceptable.
Nevertheless, there may be one mitigating factor: the war itself, and what effect it has on people. Witness this video aired on CNN of a wounded Iraqi crawling away from American forces, only to have the soldiers patiently take aim and kill the man--at which point the marines cheer. Not exactly the clean fight we usually imagine, nor the behavior we expect from our people fighting there. But then again, we have to remember that these people are living in a world of death, as evidenced by these photos (warning--some are highly graphic and disturbing) posted by an American soldier in Iraq. When this is your daily routine, the word "desensitized" doesn't seem to do the effect justice. The atmosphere of war thus contributes to the inhumanity. The only reason we see so much more of this is because of the advent of digital photography--cheap and easy to publish--in the hands of the troops there. I'll give you good odds that by the next war there will be new military regs forbidding soldiers from possessing unauthorized cameras in a war zone.
But the effect is still real, and it is not helping the effort in Iraq. It makes any American attempt to pacify the region into a situation where we take one step forward and two steps back.
Finally, there is the damage to the moral high ground we have occupied only tenuously. And I say this not as one who claimed we had it, but simply as an objective report of what the Bush administration claimed. After all, Saddam tortured all those people for his enjoyment, and that's what made him bad, right? But now Americans have been doing the same thing--kinda hard to point the finger quite so vociferously.
It's getting messier. At this time, 143 coalition soldiers (138 American) have been killed in Iraq in April, making this month the bloodiest for Americans in the entire war so far. Nearly five Americans are being killed daily. That number only stands to rise. As time goes by, it becomes more and more clear that the current effort simply cannot work.
What needs to be done, the only action that has even the slightest hope of bringing some order to Iraq, is to start from scratch. We need to be able to go to the U.N. and tell them, "this isn't working." We have to work out a plan that can be agreed upon by many nations, especially Arab nations, Egypt and Jordan to be sure, but others as well. And then the majority of U.S. troops need to be pulled out and replaced with a broad--and non-fictional--coalition of forces from dozens of countries. And the U.S. and England must stand back and take only a secondary role at best. I doubt that the Iraqis will ever accept anything else.
It is time for Americans to stop listening to the stream of bullshit that has been coming out of Bush and Cheney, to let go of the lucrative oil industry and reconstruction contracts which we so covetously deny to countries we currently do not like, admit to the failure that is the present in Iraq, and let the world community give its aura of legitimacy to the new Iraq. The fake and pathetic attempts to pretend we are doing this are not fooling anyone. To do this for real is the only chance we have of salvaging the situation.
And we all know that Bush and Cheney would sooner have Iraq burn than to do this. Which, of course, leaves us with only one recourse.