Saturday, May 06, 2006

Our Honored Children Deserve A Change in Foreign Policy

Our Honored Children Deserve A Change in Foreign Policy

"A country against which
the world is united is not a superpower

- Paul Craig Roberts

David Beamer's beloved son died while fighting for his life and the life of his fellow travelers on September 11. Cindy Sheehan also lost a cherished son who was fighting for his life, for a cause, and for the lives of his fellow Americans. Michael Berg mourns the loss of his son Nick, who was executed by terrorists two years ago. All of those young men were brave, true, and trusting Americans. Good and decent souls, all. Their parents loved them and raised them from infancy to honorable manhood.

Al Zappala, who lost his son Sherwood Baker in the Iraq War
These are his thoughts
photo by Iddybud

A movie has been made to dramatize the events that led to the death of Todd Beamer and the other passengers on the ill-fated United Flight 93 which crashed in a farmfield in Shanksville, Pennslyvania. The alleged target of the hijackers was said to have been the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Todd Beamer's father David recently wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal about "United 93" after having seen a preview of the film. He said:
"It is not too soon for this story to be told, seen and heard. But it is too soon for us to become complacent. It is too soon for us to think of this war in only national terms. We need to be mindful that this enemy, who made those holes in our landscape and caused the deaths of some 3,000 of our fellow free people, has a vision to personally kill or convert each and every one of us. This film reminds us that this war is personal."
Mr. Beamer is right. Individual conscience and liberty are at the very heart of our Declaration of Independence. If we believe our personal liberty is paramount to human rights and the rule of law, it should stand for us and for all people of this world. We need to stop acting unilaterally and begin to lead and cooperate with other nations whose people, each of them an individual of conscience, have as much at stake as we do. Mr. Beamer doesn't want his son to have fought and died in vain. Neither does Cindy Sheehan or Michael Berg want for their sons to have died in vain. America never should have split from the world community, squandering their cooperation, trust, and will to cut terror at its roots in solidarity.

President Bush is all too willing to take Mr. Beamer's caring statement and turn it into an excuse to spill his misguided brand of unilateral war (after limp shows of consulting with the international community) over to the boundaries of other nations. I am not at all comfortable with Bush's treatment of Mr. Beamer's concerns and comments.
In an interview with the financial news network CNBC, Mr Bush said he had yet to see the recently released film of the uprising, a dramatic portrayal of events on the United Airlines plane before it crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

But he said he agreed with the description of David Beamer, whose son Todd died in the crash, who in a Wall Street Journal commentary last month called it "our first successful counter-attack in our homeland in this new global war, World War III".

Mr Bush said: "I believe that. I believe that it was the first counter-attack to World War III."
The President will not change his mind once he sees the film "United 93", for his mind was made up long before September 11. His sights were set on removing Saddam Hussein and forcing a democratization in which even British PM Tony Blair is uncomfortable to have his nation participating. As Stephen Colbert wryly jabbed at the recent White House Correspondent's dinner,

The greatest thing about this man is he's steady. You know where he stands. He believes the same thing Wednesday that he believed on Monday, no matter what happened Tuesday. Events can change; this man's beliefs never will.

Understanding the consequences of the President's dogmatic and unbending style of war-making and foreign policy (even in the bold face of contradicting reality), I shudder at hearing Bush say the very words "World War Three". He has surely earned his reputation as the least-trusted President in America's history.

Mr. Beamer's concerns focus upon the potential loss of individual liberty resulting from the post-Cold War tactics of terrorists:
This enemy is on a fanatical mission to take away our lives and liberty--[..] This enemy seeks to take away the free will that our Creator has endowed in us. [..] we are at war with a real enemy and it is personal. [..] This enemy does not seek our resources, our land or our materials, but rather to alter our very way of life."
Because of our founding roots, Americans understand that no one alters our way of life unless we allow them to do so. What a shame to have to look to our own government with distrust because of their deliberate misleading and failure to go into a war with a strategy to win or a plan to get us out. The Bush administration has failed Mr. Beamer, Mr. Berg, and Mrs. Sheehan, along with the rest of the world's civil individuals.

Michael. Berg is running for public office (Green Party) and has his own strong views on President Bush's war on terror. Each parent of each lost soul in this new war has a different opinion about the way our nation is struggling with it. Emotion may tug at our hearts when we hear each of these parents reach out to the public, and it's a great symbol of the core founding of America that each one of these parents speaks out with freedom. It is then up to us, all citizens, to decide on the best future course for safeguarding our personal freedoms. That includes the ways that our nation decides to defend itself.

Mr. Beamer knows that war is sometimes inevitable :
"There are those who would hope to escape the pain of war."
In a nuclear age, I believe that we should remember that military intervention and 'hot' war should be our dead-last resort. Let's remember Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son to what she believes has been a war of lies told to America by its very own leader. Mr. Beamer has obviously read and respects the words of our Declaration of Independence and U.S. Constitution. I wish that I saw the same respect for the Founding documents by our own President. His concern for himself and for the power of his office has trumped all respect for the rule of American law. I, and many other citizens, believe that he has run roughshod over our individual liberties and mocked the rule of law. What a pity that Americans, at this time in our history, have to be so concerned for the very life of our own democracy when we should be united against those who employ terror against all the world's people.

We the People do not trust George W. Bush. What a sorry day.

Bush Punished CIA Because They Were Right & He Was Wrong

Bush Punished CIA Because They Were Right & He Was Wrong

Admiral Stansfield Turner, DCI under President Carter, has said that Goss was the worst appointment ever made to the position of director of the CIA. Goss is gone now, and the future of the CIA is still unclear. If there's one thing we understand about national security, it's that we depend on the experience of seasoned CIA to provide us with the information we need to determine our best future course. It's a tragedy that the department is in freefall. CIA's been blamed to cover for great political mistakes of the power-hungry George W. Bush. In 2004, Chalmers Johnson said that the CIA may have become "little more than a speed-bump for an imperial president who also dominates the Congress and the courts, but it is still part of the checks and balances of power within the executive branch of our government that make the U.S. a democratic republic and protect us from an imperial usurpation of power." A military man is now being considered to replace Goss, and Senate Intelligence Committee members are concerned that he is the wrong man at the wrong time. [source on Turner quote: Chalmers Johnson, November 2004].

I am convinced that there's more than professional ties to Dusty Foggo and Brent Wilkes that has caused Porter Goss to leave his position as head of the CIA. (But it certainly has generated a lot of lively talk, especially at Wonkette).

Was the White House just waiting for the prime opportunity to ditch Goss? Was an urgent-looking departure with undertones of prostitutes and poker the best way (and time) for Goss to be tossed...or did he personally want to bow out gracefully, before it was too late, from a job at which he could never have succeeded? Did he have a full understanding that he was leading a CIA with the lowest morale and confidence in the President and his administration in American history? Is it best for America that he's gone? Best for CIA? Best for Bush? With all the speculation, I'm not sure exactly what to believe other than, just like America with its tarnished reputation, the CIA has been harmed by all of the politicization of the past five years.

At a time when Generals are revolting and CIA is leaking sensitive information because of animosity toward the nation's leader, will we continue to see Bush apologist David Brooks scolding them for being bad boys (and girls)....or will he (and all of us) actually begin to see a pattern here?

In January 2005, I quoted blogger Laura Rozen. Her post told us that, all along, the pre-Goss CIA had recognized and communicated the folly of the Bush administration's disastrous foreign policy toward Iraq. It's because they knew it (and because they were RIGHT on Iraq and Bush was WRONG) that they got "the axe" from then-new director Porter Goss.

The Bush administration overtly closed their eyes to crucial and bitterly honest truths (and doubts) about Iraq before we went to war there. The Bush administration and partisans on the Intelligence Committee blamed it all on the CIA later on. How can we expect all of the pre-Iraq "eye-closing" for partisan politics' sake would ever have brought about any positive and realistic outcomes for our chief "spy" unit? Goss, in all likelihood, could never have succeeded. His mission was based on dismantling a department that was working until Bush himself marginalized them.

And now Goss is going---and a guy who has been directly tied to the NSA wiretapping fiasco is being considered for Goss's replacement. The New York Times editorial on May 6 basically says that they never cared much for Goss, anyway, and this is a "fresh opportunity for new and more creative approaches to intelligence." Is someone tied to spying domestically on American citizens such a "fresh and creative" idea? I'll surely reserve my judgement on that one. I see this whole thing as more of a tragedy than an opportunity.

From Laura Rozen's January 2005 post:
Former CIA station chief Haviland Smith, writing in the WaPo:

Given the way the Bush White House has handled intelligence during the past three years, it makes sense that it is angry at the clandestine service. The officers in that service are often required to give their opinions about policies in advance of their implementation. It is unlikely that any clandestine service officer, having spent a career in the Middle East, would see our current policy there as flawless. Thus many in the White House probably see the clandestine service as a nest of enemies. They might just want to consider an alternative possibility: that the service is made up of professionals who would like to save their country from the further embarrassment and potential difficulties of a truly flawed and dangerous Iraq policy...

Given his dogged adherence to the righteousness of that policy, it makes sense that the president would be angry with the clandestine service. It seems quite possible that the service is being punished for having been right... The agency's statutory responsibility is to speak the truth, whether the truth supports the president's plans or not. It would appear that this concept is not shared by this administration.

'Cutting off our nose to spite our face,' is how Smith sums up Porter Goss's White House ordered purge of the clandestine service underway.
Today Laura Rozen asks:
Does something about this story line that Goss suddenly left because of his long-standing tension with Negroponte, his fraternity brother from Yale, over Goss fighting to hold CIA turf seem a bit canned to you?
Why the sense of urgency about Goss' departure? What really happened? Ms. Rozen says:
The story line until today has been far different: that much of the operative camp of the Agency perceived Goss as a political enforcer, someone who wasn't seen to be looking out for them but for the White House's interests; that Goss was rather passive and out of touch and overly delegated day to day affairs to his staff, "the Gosslings," led by the fiercely partisan Patrick Murray. I don't believe I have ever heard from people in that world a sense that Goss was looking out for them. The newspaper coverage has suggested rather that a lot of the experienced bench strength cadre at the Agency had left in fights with Goss and his staff during his rocky tenure, and that the Agency had never been more demoralized. So all that time, during all those departures, Goss was covertly fighting for his folks against the new intel reorganization?
Something just doesn't sit right with Ms. Rozen. This kind of hasty departure simply isn't the M.O. of Bush administration orchestral maneuvers.
If {john Negroponte] had been lobbying to get rid of Goss, and the President was inclined to support that decision, there were a hundred ways to do it in a way that would project stability, confidence, normalcy.
I love Duncan Black's sense of humor. At his blog, he wryly makes the astute observation that the press pretends that they've known it all along "even though they didn't bother to tell the rest of us about it."

Larry Johnson, former CIA, has said this today:
There also is truth to the rumor that Goss was not happy with presiding over a CIA that had been rendered a co-equal with the Department of Defense intelligence units. Prior to the creation of the National Director of Intelligence, the CIA was the lead intelligence agency. No longer. Ironically, part of the impetus for the creation of the NDI was the perceived "failures" of the CIA with respect to 9-11 and Iraq. Recent revelations by retired CIA officers, such as Paul Pillar and Ty Drumheller, make clear that the CIA basically got it right on Iraq and was ignored by the Bush Administration.
You may hear that Goss left because of some poker party-hooker-and-limousine scandal (when the hell will these boys grow up?) in which he was only remotely connected because it was one of his staffers involved. After reading Mr. Johnson's statement today, no one could convince me that that is the primary reason Goss is gone.
What is even more unfortunate is the effect of this scandal on the CIA and ultimately this nation. The CIA has endured the shame of the president, the vice president, and the Republican controlled Congress, blaming it for intelligence failures in Iraq when in fact, the CIA told the truth on critical issues but the leaders did not want to hear it. The CIA also has endured a president and vice president whose immediate staff have been implicated in the outing of an undercover CIA officer. Despite a promise to get to the bottom of this breach of secrecy, President Bush has permitted one of the participants in that leak - Karl Rove - to stay on the job. And now a sex scandal that implicates, by association, the former Director of the CIA and the number-three man at the Agency.

Hopefully, President Bush will seize this opportunity to remove the taint of politics from the CIA. We need a professional, not a political hack running the CIA. We live in a dangerous world that requires an organization like the CIA capable of operating in the world of the covert and clandestine. Faced with a crisis of leadership and confidence, however, the CIA may be distracted from its mission of helping protect this nation. Viewed in this light, the sudden departure of Porter Goss is a real tragedy.
In 2004, Chalmers Johnson reminded us that:
Bush apostle David Brooks [wrote] in the New York Times that the CIA is engaged "in slow-motion brazen insubordination, which violate[s] all standards of honorable public service. . . . It is time to reassert some harsh authority so CIA employees know they must defer to the people who win elections. . . . If they [people in the CIA] ever want their information to be trusted, they can't break the law with self-serving leaks of classified data."[4] Brooks seems to think that the CIA is the President's personal advertising agency and that its employees owe their livelihoods to him.
Brooks is swift to scapegoat and diminish the best minds of the CIA, isn't he?

In the Josh-Bolten age, is this the end of what Tom Engelhart once called the "full-scale fantasy regime"? Or is it just a new and better-looking way of politically propping it with partisan perpetuity in mind?

If William F Buckley Jr. Was Our King..

If William F Buckley Jr. Was Our King...

He'd forbid us and everyone we care about to smoke.

Gas Prices and US Energy Policy: No New Gasoline Tax

Gas Prices and US Energy Policy: No New Gasoline Tax

New York Times columnist John Tierney recently offered a suggestion that would make most politicians and citizens shudder. In a nutshell, he's saying that a new gas tax is the only way to go in order to solve the problem of conservation and the promotion of alternative energy.

It's hard to believe that, here in 2006, the middle class is being blamed for their alleged "addiction to oil" while their political leaders, for all intents and purposes, have abdicated their responsibility to effectively lead America toward less oil dependence. Mr. Tierney hops on board the blame-train and suggests that we punish the poor and middle class for their need to drive their gas-guzzling vehicles by slapping on more taxes to force them to stay at home when they feel like doing those "crazy, impulsive" things like going to work or going to get a week's worth of groceries or taking their children to football practice. Tierney's taking the issue of environmentalism and turning it into just another tax scheme.  

The voodoo gas-tax plan that Mr. Tierney presents to temporarily solve the problem of high gasoline costs is a mishmash of "what-ifs" and "maybes" and "you pay now, we'll probably take care of you laters". Read this excerpt:

The problem would be selling the tax to voters, but it could be phased in discreetly -- say, a new dime of tax whenever the gas price declines 20 cents -- with the promise that all the money would be given back. The new revenue could be evenly divvied up each year, either by mailing a check to every car owner or (my pet proposal) by putting it into a new private account for every worker now paying into Social Security.

Mr. Tierney's ideas about a gas-tax are not entirely new. He's been floating them ever since the post-Hurricane Katrina days when most of New Orleans was floating. Back in October 2005 he said, "The $3-per-gallon price probably isn't going to last." Given the state of the world today, I wonder who he thinks he's kidding? When does he expect that world demand for oil will decrease? In October Mr. Tierney also said that new tax revenues from an increased gas-tax would be divided equally among all workers and go right into their "personal accounts." Given the final outcome of the popularity of Bush's Social Security scheme last year, I wonder who he thinks he's fooling?

Grover Norquist from the anti-tax lobbying group Americans for Tax Reform egged Mr. Tierney on when he reassured him that he wouldn't be "cast into the abyss" for presenting his gas-tax scheme. He figured it could be safely hidden within an annual tax-cut bill so that it wouldn't be noticed by the public as a violation of his fundamental "no-tax (at any and all costs to the public welfare) pledge."

Mr. Tierney said in this week's column:

I know it's naïve to think anyone in Washington really cares about sensible conservation.
I respectfully disagree. One look at the facts surrounding Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Wa.) and Senator Arlen Specter's (R-Pa.) amendment that called on energy bill negotiators to set an oil savings target for the United States of at least a million barrels of oil a day by 2015 (blocked by a Republican majority) will show you that three are some in Washington DC who do care - on a bipartisan basis.  

Hard-working American taxpayers need to hear realistic solutions, and not an economic scheme that promises them a future benefit that is more like a crapshoot than a dependable pledge. Americans can best benefit now by a realigning of our economic priorities and seeking a new energy policy. We would all benefit from:

* Repealing gas taxes for the 2006 summer months. (a temporary but necessary relief).

* Rolling back those outrageous Big Oil tax breaks and subsidies that Bush signed into law. [as Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) recently suggested to his colleagues on the Senate floor for 4 1/2 hours]. American consumers have seen no return on their tax investments. Big Oil's current record of increased profits are an affront to the taxpayer who supplements Big Oil with corporate welfare and, at the same time, pays $3 a gallon at the pumps.

* Rolling back those Bush tax cuts that benefit the richest Americans while shrinking the middle class. Increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) amounts and eligibility for poor working Americans who cannot afford gasoline to get back and forth to work.

* Repealing the law that allows Big Oil to avoid federal royalties on oil they extract from public lands.

* A renewed presentation of the Cantwell-Specter oil savings amendment requiring a  40 percent reduction in imported oil.

* Creating a transparent new federal energy program funded by all taxpayers (not punishing only the poor and middle-class gas consumers who haven't learned about loopholes). The new taxes should be firmly dedicated todirect investments in the research and development of alternative energy and should foster efforts to raise fuel-efficiency (CAFÉ) standards.

*  Supporting research to find ways to gradually reduce the long-term structural demand for oil, including a public relations campaign with Hollywood stars and political leaders from both sides of the aisle coming together to do one-minute public service ads to promote conservation. Don't punish already-economically-burdened Americans with new taxes - lead by example.

* An investment in consumer incentives toward the purchase of new fuel-efficient cars and tax incentives for a retooling of the auto-manufacturing industry.

* Supporting American farmers rather than developing a brand new national addiction, this time to sugar cane from Brazil. Brazil, by the way, is years ahead of us on the development of alternative fuels within their own country. A resourceful nation like ours should be embarrassed. We should employ the Farm Bill to produce opportunity by promoting the development and production of biomass ethanol and farm-based renewable energy right here in our own country. We must continue to invest in American ingenuity or we will always be addicted to another nation's goods and will therefore be at their mercy.

Seeing the government totally unprepared for the switch to ethanol from MTBE [methyl tertiary butyl ether], cutting refinery output and pushing prices higher while demand for oil and gasoline is already high has made the public feel insecure. Republicans have  blocked legislation to make price-gouging by oil companies a crime. VP Cheney's secret meetings with industry heads about energy policy did not increase the public trust. It is of the utmost importance that transparency is relayed from our government to the American people, along with a sense of responsibility, accountability, fairness, and justice.

Americans care about their own economic future and they worry about the world their children will someday face. Most of them believe that America is headed in the wrong direction. We need to see leadership that causes them to believe it is possible to have hope for a realistic and pragmatic solution to the many problems that come with energy dependence.

We don't have to make Big Oil our enemy. We should be encouraging the best minds in the business to help America come up with solutions to protect the environment while decreasing our dependence on oil and our pain at the gas pumps. We can make Big Oil more accountable by stepping in with some new federal regulations and a new way of distributing our hard-earned tax dollars to them. I think most middle-class Americans paying insane prices at the pumps today would be willing to support and trust a solution that would directly work to ease their economic pain and more clearly promise a better future for their own children. Americans don't want voodoo plans that translate to new taxes on the middle class while the government runs nightmarish deficits. Instead, Americans want a clear plan that works, even if it doesn't give them some pie-in-the-sky promise of private accounts or, as the NY Times editorial said on May 2, sticking with the "pathetic recipe" of borrowing "money from the Chinese central bank, and use it to give every voter $100 to buy more gas." There are many better ideas that will bring long-term benefit and gain to the American people. Let's tell our political leaders what we think.  

- Cross-posted at One America Committee