My prayers go out to Israel's leader Ariel Sharon and his family. The Prime Minister suffered a massive stroke yesterday. Reuters has offered some facts on Israel's acting prime minister, Ehud Olmert. One of the most relevant is the fact that although he served as a legislator for the right wing party Likud in the 1990s, Olmert broke with more hardline faction colleagues by backing a leftist proposal for Palestinian self-rule. He quit Likud last November to form the more centrist Kadima Party.
President Bush gave a fairly convincing speech today (a rarity as far as I'm concerned), telling us what we can expect this year in Iraq. As things get incredibly messy in Iraq, it sounds as if Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (who should have been fired years ago) is finally giving the Generals some serious consideration (2100+ troop's lives too late). Here is what we're told to expect:
- fewer US troops as we move through 2006 (not a surprise) - an increase in number of US forces dedicated to training Iraqi security forces - an increase in our support of intelligence capabilities - police training led by Lt. General Martin Dempsey - embedded coalition troops in Iraqi police units (called transition teams)
The President says he's disturbed by stories about the sectarian militias in Iraq, as well he should be. They're making his success in Iraq - along with his positive Presidential legacy - an impossibility at the present time.
I have recommended a greater call for international police-training support and an actual coalition of international police forces that will replace US armed forces. The sooner our troops are removed as an occupying force in Iraq, the sooner security will be possible for everyday Iraqis. I do not believe that we can reach true success in Iraq alone, and while I trust Lt. General Dempsey to do the best job that he can in training police forces, I realize that he's playing with fire. He's in charge of training police officers who will have some culturally instilled differences from ours. We are empowering those who consider what we see as human rights abuses as an acceptable option. I know General Dempsey will face a lot of violent (and possibly insurmountable) opposition based on organic hatred between Iraqi sects. He will need the support of the international community (especially from Middle Eastern nations) or Iraq is going to be a place where the purple-fingered freedom-seekers will be not able to live in peace.
If President Bush cares about his legacy, he'd best secure it with an assurance of success without worrying about his neoconservative cheerleaders. As Harvard's Stephen Walt recently said, "Realism says one should isolate one’s enemies while maximizing allied support, and a foreign policy that is doing the exact opposite is hardly in the U.S. national interest."
If the President wants to gain our confidence, he should start by firing Donald Rumsfeld, because Rumsfeld has misled him (and all of us) every step of the way. The President should begin listening to people who really care about what happens to the people of Iraq. If Iraq continues to descend into violent chaos, Bush's last rationale for war (after all others have factually crumbled) will fall flat on its face. I sensed some sincerity in Bush's statements this morning but I believe that he needs to rethink his strategy. I do think he's getting closer - although I don't think any of us will ever get over the one fact that will haunt the historic retelling of the Iraq war, especially if the Iraq experiment fails:
The war was never necessary.
Meanwhile, there are potentially destructive forces in this world that move independently because we have forgotten to place importance on international respect.
I keep asking myself this question:
How much money did certain Americans make off the back of this unnecessary war?
There is a child dying every few seconds in this world because of a poverty for which our nation has been particularly stingy - yet we pay dearly in tax dollars for an unnecessary war. Worse, someone was enriched. I wonder how the creeps who made tons of money from this war of option can live with themselves. Bush said "We lost some really good folks" this year in Iraq - and he's right.
Now if this cannot come to pass, And he must pay the price at last. The miner leaves his last demand Keep my child safe above the land.
- A Coal Miner's Prayer by John & Millie Quann
12 Coal Miners and False News
I can't begin to express my sorrow over the news I got this morning. I went to bed last night with the false belief that 12 miners had survived after the disaster in Tallmansville, West Virginia. Upon awakening, a friend who knew why I was especially concerned about the welfare of the miners gave me the awful news - and I thought he was joking. All the hype I'd heard on the cable news networks last night reminded me of what self-righteous pundits often accuse bloggers of doing - running wild with rumor and misinformation. I was angry to have been misinformed. My heart dropped to my feet for the families.
Petition for a US Postage Stamp dedicated to the Coal Miner
I understand the sorrow of a mining family, for I have shed the tears over a miner's life gone too soon. My grandfather was a miner in the anthracite coal mines of northeastern Pennsylvania, and he was another statistic of the deathly toll that the mines take on hard-working men. Black lung disease took him before he had a chance to see his grandchildren grow to adulthood. He, of all people, would have wanted to be here to see us. He is the one who struggled to see that my generation would never have to look at the shafts of the mines. A sculpture of a coal miner by the American folk artist Frank "Wyso" Wysochansky, who did the sketch you see above, sits on my father's bookcase in his home office. Wyso had given the sculpture to one of my great aunts as a gift when he was a very young man. There is an exhibition of Wyso's work currently being shown at the Seigel Gallery, Iacocca Hall at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania. It runs through February.
The miner does the most dangerous of jobs - and he does it every workday. I heard someone on a cable news network calling the lone survivor a hero. If he is a hero, every coal miner is a hero, whether or not he's lived through a blast. If we see these men as heroes, why don't we get behind them and push for better safety regulations for them? Why is it that we only call them heroes when they die - or when they survive a horrendous accident? Why does Republican government resist the miners' union organizing?
"The false news about survivors spread quickly after people overheard cell phone calls.."
I hear the media starting to play the blame game for the confusion last night. In some way, I believe they are responsible for hyping what turned out to be nothing more than rumor based on some ringing church bells. There was undoubtedly a lack of appropriate gravitas before stories of survivors were confirmed - a decided lack of professionalism - - which I imagine will be a story in and of itself. I'm sure there will be tiresome navel-gazing from the media as they backtrack from embarrassment.