For the past 12 months, at least on paper, economic growth was solid: unemployment was relatively low, the housing market strong, and consumer spending firm. Yet a nagging sense of uncertainty just wouldn't go away. Perhaps it was pure logic: after all, consumers spent money they didn't have, companies continued to lay off workers by the thousands, and wage growth was non-existent. Throughout it all, bullish Wall Street economists ignored their instincts to claim all was well. LINK
Recently, two experts on the economy were asked, on Fox News Sunday, for their opinions on the 2006 election fallout from the current economy, and both experts gave dismal predictions for Republicans because the majority of average Americans are not feeling that they are any part of this economic recovery. Interestingly, all records of that exchange on Fox News Sunday have been purged from - or have never been included in any internet record.
Christian Women the Only Hope for Western Survival?! Give me a break!
Pay close attention to what Father Joseph D. Fessio, who is the Provost of Ave Maria University in Naples, Florida has said in a recent interview with Hugh Hewitt:
I don't think Benedict XVI is thinking that we're going to have a new Christendom, in which Christian principles permeate all of society. I think he probably is more, his vision is that we must be faithful to Christ, and He will support us and strengthen us, and we can't predict what our role will be in society. But it's probably going to be as a minority....
...Once there's an Islamic majority...it's going to eliminate religious freedom. However...and therefore, Western civilization as we know it. However, in the United States, we also are not having children. There's abortion. There's contraception....I believe that Christians in the United States are the ones who will be able to save not just Christianity, but Western civilization, if we maintain our fidelity to the scriptures, our fidelity to Christ, our fidelity to family life, and our fidelity to fertility and fruitfulness in marriage.
According to this Jesuit priest, the future of Western civlization is based upon a dependence upon women to submit to oppression for its ideological sake. This would require a great loss of freedom and progress for women. If this was taken seriously, it would mean the West's societal/cultural shift backwards to the illegalization of birth control, education, and equal labor opportunities for the female population, along with a silencing of their ideas in the public square.
Excuse me, but that sounds an awful lot like what we are accusing Islamic theocrats of doing.
Knowing that a Jesuit priest would use the faith to cut into human freedom in worldly panic about the end of Western values - well, my own Bible-based Christian intuition tells me not to trust that line of thinking - and to run from it.
Target Iran? Washington Times editor talks tough but offers no international solutions
Washington Times editor Arnaud de Borchgrave is at it again - spinning some genuine international concern into an accusation of naivete and gullibility....which will undoubtedly launch a fear-saturated public discussion about Iran. Call me a fortune-teller - this will generate another unilateralist reason with the hard-liners for the U.S. to go to preemptive war with yet another sovereign nation. "Target Iran?" No one speaks about the destabilization of the Middle East if and when that would happen. As I have recently said, I'm sick and tired of media editors and pundits planning US wars for my son - and yours. Iran's leaders may be "sticking it in our face" with their rhetoric, but we have an impulsive, determined, and reactionary White House administration who we know, from experience, could arrogantly neglect the existence of the UN tools-in-existence and send our troops into Iran for blatant neoconservative wishes. That is an extremely dangerous thought, knowing how our military is already stretched because of the mess in Iraq. Anyone who believes that Middle Eastern destablilization caused by our unilateralism would not be destructive to our nation's economy and security is naive and gullible.
Borchgrave criticizes President Bush for being naive about all of Islam, and in defense of President Bush, this is not true. I have heard the President clearly separate the overwhelming majority of Muslims from those who would use the religion for power and violence. Borchgrave is out of line.
Let's get real. We are a part of the greater world. Ask any modern economist. It's a dangerous world - and we can't go it alone.
I hope that President Bush will start listening to sane voices instead of the neoconservative voices he's let into his head. Power cannot be genuinely won by the level of unilaterlism our President has employed - only hatred and the turning away of the hearts and minds we needed so desperately throughout this world (the very kind that Borchgrave describes in his fear-mongering manifesto with the brave title "Target Iraq" and no further comment about how Iran should be "targeted.")
Tolerance or Terror?
Israpundit tells us of a revealing investment tale about the two faces of one particular Saudi prince. I think it's fair to ask: What will it be? Tolerance or terror?
Journalist as enemy? What the hell are we thinking?
Dr Fadhil is working with Guardian Films on an investigation for Channel 4's Dispatches programme into claims that tens of millions of dollars worth of Iraqi funds held by the Americans and British have been misused or misappropriated.
This is very troubling on all sorts of levels. US troops do not have a Status of Forces agreement with Iraq and do not have a constitutional right to arrest civilians without a warrant. And, the US military should not be harassing journalists reporting on contract fraud.
Jill Carroll and the Raid on a Sunni Mosque Note - I've changed the name of this post since I learned of Jill Carroll's abduction. See Update below.
It should be a foregone conclusion that an American raid upon an influential Sunni civic organization will not convince Sunni Arabs that assimilation into an Iraqi democracy would be an advantageous venture. A raid upon one of its trusted institutions tells the Sunnis: We believe that you are the enemy.
Sunni Arabs are .. angry about a raid by U.S. soldiers this weekend on the offices of the Muslim Clerics' Association, an influential group of Sunni scholars.
Reuters Television footage showed spent shotgun shells and special explosive charges used to blow out door locks lying on the ground following the pre-dawn raid on Sunday.
Many office doors showed signs of forced entry, papers were strewn on the floor and windows smashed.
The U.S. military said the raid was conducted in response to a tip-off of "substantial terrorist activity" in the mosque complex and says its soldiers behaved respectfully.
But the Iraqi Accordance Front, the main Sunni Arab coalition, urged its followers to gather at the Umm al-Qora mosque on Tuesday to protest what it described as the "sinful assault."
"It is a direct and intended act against Sunnis," said Abdul Hadi al Zubeidi, a senior member of another Sunni coalition, the Sunni Gathering. "It is an assault. It will only worsen relations with them (the U.S. military)," he told Reuters.
The raid came at a time when Washington is trying to encourage Sunnis to abandon support for the insurgency.
I am not saying that our military didn't have reason to be on alert. I am saying that this a twisted and tangled cause that will not be straightened by any of the logic that the Pentagon and White House are spinning about. We say that we want the Sunni Arabs to join in the forming of a democracy - and we blow down the doors of their religious institutions, suspecting them of terrorist activity.
Which is it? Are they terrorists or citizens? Who decides?
This brings to mind the pirate's quote from St Augustine's "City of God":
"Because I do it with one small ship, I am called a terrorist. You do it with a whole fleet and are called an emperor."
UPDATE January 10:
+ I have found out that this attack was related to the story of the missing (kidnapped) Christian Science Monitor journalist Jill Carroll, whose writings I have found to be extremely valuable to the uncovering of the truth in Iraq. Look at how recently I used the information she was sending. I was not aware of her abduction because there was a weekend news blackout on the abduction of the CS Monitor reporter. [see Editor & Publisher] I'm hoping that the reason she was taken was to inform her - not to hurt her. I am concerned, however, that information is not in the forefront of her captors' minds because her translator was murdered. My heart is with Jill and her family right now. May she return safely.
US spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Barry Johnson said the raid was ordered "as a direct result of a tip by an Iraqi civilian that activities related to the kidnapping were being carried out inside the mosque. Both Iraqi and coalition forces raided the mosque in the early morning hours in order to minimise the impact on worshippers and the surrounding neighbourhood," he added.
It is an inescapable perception. The attack on the Umm al-Qura mosque is seen by some Sunni Arab Muslims as an attack on Muslims and Islam. We may not agree, for we have been informed of the reason for the raid. If any journalist was endangered, I would want her (or him) to be brought to safety at just about any cost. In the real world, wars happen when people can't agree. This war is seeming more senseless by the day. There is no ethical integrity - only a dangerous and deadly neoconservative pipe dream about Western democracy within an Islamic theocracy. You could ask Jill Carroll if she could only be here, and she would tell you that we're negotiating with the same factions that are abducting our journalists. We are abducting their journalists. Our occupation is increasingly making things worse.
At Slate, Jack Shafer, emotion about a fellow journalist removed, asks how long is long enough for the media to black out a kidnapping story:
I know it's easy for me to meditate about this topic from the safety of my Washington office while journalists labor under the threat of death every day in Iraq. But the questions remain. If the press should spike news to help a colleague, how long an interval is decent? Should it be 48 hours, as in Carroll's case? Until the local press reports the story? Until the abducted person's employer confirms the news? Until the U.S. Embassy does? Or until the kidnappers make their announcement on the Web? I don't have any easy answers, just easy questions.
The president of Military Reporters and Editors (MRE), Sig Christenson, criticized U.S. media outlets late Tuesday for engaging in a two-day blackout. [Editor and Publisher]Sig Christenson asks:
"Do we really want to put reporters in a special class when we do a story? Is it ethical to do that and is it wise?"
Comments regarding an IPS article by Brian Conley and Isam Rashid:
I have to say that something doesn't jibe here, and the journalists are pointing it out. Does it strike you as odd that we would act as we did against this Sunni organization, given the nature of their status as brokers for peace throughout the war?
..there is no known connection between the organisation and such groups, or with the abduction of Jill Carroll. The U.S. forces apparently acted on a tip-off from one Iraqi....It is difficult to understand why the United States would single out the Association of Muslim Scholars as an initial target in the investigation of Jill Carroll's abduction. The organisation has condemned the taking of hostages in Iraq. It has opposed the political process under the occupation, but has continued to call for peace.
Read the following:
Through the raid, the offices of the Association at the mosque were ransacked. Witnesses said they found graffiti by way of stylized crosses drawn with thick markers.
If our soldiers did this, do we think it's something they should be allowed to do? I certainly think it's detracting from the overall mission and giving the appearance of an admission that we are fighting the Holy War so many of the Islamic fundamentalists wish to think they are fighting. How will this serve to better protect Jill Carroll, who freelanced regularly for the Christian Science Monitor?
"If the occupier would leave, Iraqis would live as brothers.
- Dr. Harith Al Ubaidi, Sunni political leader
Brothers who will likely continue to kill one another in warlord turf-battles. When the Grand Ayatollah in Najaf gives his fatwa for US ground troop withdrawal (which will inevitably occur when Iraq thinks it's ready,) we will probably move to the air-war phase and blow up selected militias in the name of the new Iraqi government. Regardless of when we leave, the rage will remain. Thousands of our ground troops could have left 3 years ago with the same result.
What will we have accomplished, when we leave Iraq, knowing that the rage will remain - and that we only inflamed it when our nation decided, with our own brand of noeconservative fundamentalist determination, to break Iraq? How will we be proud of the fact that, regardless of its touches of Western-style democracy (enough to secure capitalist goals, not quite enough to avoid a setback for women) it is a de facto Islamic theocracy? How does any of this compare to our American revolution? Did our forefathers blow each other up in the common after the Declaration of Independence was read? All we wil be able to say is that elections were held for a loose central (theocratic) government in Baghdad that the Kurds will ignore and the Sunnis feel left out of, and we (often unsuccessfully) tried to keep warring factions of the society in Iraq from slicing each other's throats while it happened. And then..........
UPDATE - JANUARY 13
Vigorous efforts are under way on many fronts – by the Monitor, many media organizations, and government forces in Iraq – to locate and secure the release of Jill Carroll, the freelance reporter kidnapped January 7 in Baghdad while on assignment for the Monitor. No one has yet claimed responsibility for her kidnapping. [CSM]
Human rights activists say that Jordan's parliament should firmly reject a "strong-arm attempt by the US to exempt its own citizens from international law." Jordan's parliament has approved a new law that prevents Amman from handing over U.S. citizens accused of war crimes to the international criminal court (ICC).
There seems to be a split in key ideas about strategy between top military commanders in Iraq. How well will this serve America's mission? Who's pulling the strings? Which opinion will be gagged and muffled? If this public split in philosophy does not die down, who will back down? Is it a civil war in Iraq or not? If it's not a civil war happening in Iraq today (regardless of the US support/presence there) what is it? Why is the President and his administration having such a hard time explaining the "who's who' categories of those who are killing our troops and one another in Iraq? It gets increasingly complicated. The storyline behind the war is cracking. Our emotional strings that have been pulled by the Commander in Chief about the glories of freedom and democracy in Iraq are being met with public discord as those strings begin to fray under the tension of a strikingly different tune. Iraqis aren't only killing us. They're killing each other. On a daily basis.
The current split in the Generals' publically-stated views, along with the knowledge that J. Paul Bremer tried to warn the Secretary of Defense and the President that we strategically had it very wrong from the very beginning of this war in Iraq, causes me to realize that, for whatever reason, one of these Generals isn't being forthcoming enough.
When we decide to pull out of Iraq, what are we going to leave behind? How will we redeploy? There has never been a day of real security in Iraq since we got there. How long can our military stay there and pretend that there is a real goal for success and peace in their sights? What about the ethical aspects - being responsible for what we have done? We broke a nation - and flattened its civil structure - and we are going to let them foot their own bill for reconstruction? This does not make me a proud American.
The Iraq war has not only loosened a regime in a foreign country, it has loosened the glue of unity among citizens at home. We're told, by political leaders like Senator Joe Lieberman, that questioning the credibility of our own President is damaging to our security, but don't we we have the duty to stand up for what we think is right? We've learned important lessons by looking back on world history, when there have been many leaders who should have had their credibility questioned much sooner - before great damage was done. How can we trust in men who employ politics and war as a means to retain power rather than acting cooperatively with the world toward a safer world?
From yesterday's NY Times:
Sectarian rivalries and inefficient Iraqi ministries could turn the Iraqi security forces into "militias or armed gangs," Lt. General John Vines, the senior US operational commander in Iraq, said in an interview....In the weeks leading up to the December election, however, General Vines differed with his boss, Gen. George W. Casey Jr. over how and where to assign troops to ensure a peaceful and successful balloting.
Karen Kwiatkowski [Huffington Post] asks 'What's up with the "he-said/he-said" upon reading the public disagreement this week between Green Zone commander General George Casey and his predecessor, 5th Corps Commander in Germany, Lt General Ricardo Sanchez. Like Lt. Gen John Vines, General Sanchez says that he believes "Iraq is on the verge of civil war." [source: Stars and Stripes] Dr. Kwiatkowski says:
Within hours, Casey, speaking to CNN in Washington, said specifically that Iraq was NOT on the verge of civil war. [CNN]
The confused message reveals a crack in the Bush rhetoric about the "good" we've been doing in Iraq by bringing our war to their land. Dr. Kwiatkowski:
"..the real truth is uglier than simple civil war. The destruction of a sovereign Iraq was the primary objective of this war - and that mission has in fact been accomplished."
When the rubber meets the road of reality, we see that the Bush administration has never believed in any moral cause in Iraq. Dr. Kwiatkowski:
"The cost in human lives, spirit, and hope on all sides, as well as the financial cost may not have been worth it for those "piling on" and going "defeatist" in the reality based world, but who cares? The reality-based world is an ugly place. The Casey-said, Sanchez-said debate prefigures a year ahead that may be remembered as the year the reality-based world rudely intruded on the Potomac, shattering what is left of the façade and completely exploding the myth that Bush-Cheney policies have made either the Middle East more democratic, or America safer."
In a cold and unforgiving world, the neoconservative method of using our military to "spread democracy" is a cruel, ineffective, and dangerous prospect.
The split in the General's ideas about the status of Civil War in Iraq is raising many questions about whether we should stay or go; whether we are leaving Iraq broken and having to fend for its own reconstruction (*"See ya - wouldn't wanna be ya"); whether the world has been made safer for Americans; whether America has been made safer or left with a stronger democracy; whether we have wasted and ruined many lives for a war that was never necessary, in hindsight.
Some defenders of the war may accuse me of using sentimentality to use as ammunition in my writing about the truth of what we have done in Iraq for the past three years.
As a writer and a human being, I think it's cowardly for political pundits to demean a writer's sense of sentimentality and humanity in the hope that avoiding it altogether will facilitate an amoral political goal that is producing immoral results. The discounting of sentimentality reveals itself to be democratically damaging if we fail to ask ourselves if what we are doing in Iraq has been effective - and if it has mattered.
All sentimentality aside, it's important for the American people to understand the reality of what our nation has done in the name of its citizens. The American public's base fears were played like finely-tuned fiddles by fear-mongering Republican propaganda in the 2004 Presidential election campaign. This created an elective result that was an affirmation to continue what we now know was an amoral and, by the nature of the results, an immoral cause.
Our leaders may not have lied to us, but they certainly did not tell us the truth.