From top to bottom: An early morning meditation session Thurman Hart leading a beakout session (see his conference-opening remarks) Mainstreet Baptist (Dr. Bruce Prescott in red shirt) speaks during a group discussion Lorianne (Hoarded Ordinaries) leads a Zen meditation Islamoyankee (of Islamicate) and Rabbi Jill (of JSpot) Laptops await their owners in the conference hall. Nathan Newman (of TPM Cafe) speaks during a group discussion
"We've lost the high moral high ground everywhere in the world. We want to be respected around the world again. We want our moral authority to be restored, because part of defending America is not just well-armed troops; it's having the high moral ground."
There will be a negative economic impact - potentially extreme - from the recent Middle East instability created by Israel's own decision to act agressively after the capturing of several Israeli soldiers. Investors are spooked with good reason. The Lebanese economy, already vulnerable, will also be negatively impacted. Oil prices hit $78 per barrel on July 14th, and we can only expect more market instability as the fates and fortunes of places like Iran, Israel, and Nigeria are swept with the raging fires of war in the region.
What has our own American leadership done to create such an unstable environment? What has our American leadership done to relieve such tensions? These are the questions we need to be asking, for our national security is not only tied to minimizing the chances of terror attacks. The price each consumer must pay at the pump and for heating their homes in the dead of winter has everything to do with our national security. At such a time of uncertainty, I think about the Bush administration's burning desire to out a covert CIA agent who was working on oil-related national security matters and I think about a journalist named Bob Novak who seems to have been all too willing to carelessly help the Bush team to accomplish their terrible mission aimed toward personal destruction. The real result, despite errant excuses from the right wing, was a breakdown in our CIA's ability to safeguard our national security.
I think about the way, pre-9/11, that former Middle East envoy Tony Zinni's hands were tied by the Bush administration. I think of the times when General Zinni rightly criticized the misguided neo-conservatives in the Bush administration who saw the invasion of Iraq as some magical path to stabilization of U.S. interests in the region (including Israel), and he was viciously and wrongly called an "anti-Semite." We wasted precious time remaining diplomatically inactive in the region while making a totally unnecessary war upon Iraq. Chickenhawk neo-conservative maniacs like Bill Kristol, in his inimitable opportunistic way, dig their talons into the current instability in the Middle East and attempt to use it to further their deadly Utopian cause, of which misery, chaos, death, and failure have become a hallmark. Make no mistake, Bill Kristol wants to send your sons and daughters to his wet-dream of WWIII and the pliant President of the United States has a terrible track record when it comes to falling in with the foreign policy goals of the neo-conservatives.
More death - more economic hardship - more people around the globe ignored as they die from preventable diseases - no effective diplomacy - more hunger - virtually no progress in developing alternative energy resources - fewer opportunities here at home - more greed - God's environment ignored on behalf of the rich polluters at the expense of humanity - more partisan division in Congress as the conservative right is merely pandered to by those who claim to represent them - and not a snowball's chance in Hell for peace on Earth.
This is surely not what civil and/or faithful Americans bargained for when they trusted President Bush enough to give him four more years to sucessfully prosecute his war on terror.
We hear that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice will pay a visit to the Middle East, but no one can say when. President Bush hands over responsibility for peace to the UN, something he clearly did not entrust them with when he unilaterally and impulsively walked over them and rushed to war with Iraq in 2002/2003. Today Bush said, "What [the United Nations] need to do is to get Syria to stop Hezbollah from doing this shit." So where's Bush's magic man John Bolton? While the majority of the United Nations supports the Lebanese government, saying, "We support the call for a cease-fire and their aim of exercising full authority over the entire country" Bolton one-sidedly blusters, saying the following when reporters asked him why the United States didn't appear interested in pursuing calls for a cease-fire at this time:
"I think that the question of the legitimate exercise of self-defense, which the government of Israel is seen engaged in, is something that has to be considered very clearly..I think before you get to cease-fire you have to look at what the causes of the conflict are..I think you would have a cease-fire in a matter of nanoseconds if Hezbollah and Hamas would release the kidnapped victims and stop engaging in rocket attacks and other acts of terrorism against Israel."
How will the UN's goals to get the parties to agree to an "immediate cessation of hostilities in order to to give diplomacy time and space to work" ever be realized when John Bolton acts as if there is only one party with whom to be contended?
Today on Amy Goodman's show Democracy Now, Chris Hedges, a seasoned war correspondent and author of books on the issues of war and faith said:
Washington is probably the one force that can step in -- and not always successfully, as we’ve seen in the past -- and bring some kind of restraint to Olmert's hand, but Washington's refusal to do that thrusts us in an incredibly dangerous environment, where there is no one to stay the hand of the Israeli government. There are no checks, there are no restraints. We don't know how far they’re going to go.
What will President Bush and his administration do about the Middle East now that we're watching closely and now that we know of their many misguided (and misleading) failures? Will he fall in with Bill Kristol's proclamation that the Arab-Israeli conflict is "our war" and will Bush cave in to Kristol's cojones-threatening accusation that Bush has done 'a poor job of standing up to [Iran and Syria] and weakening them'? With the damaged public trust attached to the New York Times and the Washington Post beacause of their pre-Iraq war "steno-padding" of Bush administration propaganda, I don't imagine that Bush will get any more free passes from the mainstream press. His perceived lack of honesty, transparency, intelligence, intuition, and competence will not win him any free passes from the American public.
Americans of faith cannot tolerate - and we must not allow our representatives to fall into a scenario where we'll "Iraq" Iran. The goal leading to the killing of thousands of Iraqi civilians and the destruction of Iraq's infrastructure is so far out of proportion to any good it could have done for the advancement of human rights and/or the reduction of terror that the very thought of expanding that same war into other nations, effectively extending the dreadful lie that brought us to Iraq's unfortunate doorstep, is morally repulsive.
"I pray that Peace will come to the Middle East and to the World. But it first has to exist in your hearts, our hearts. All our hearts. Fear not. Rather love...with all your might, and all your heart. Pray for your enemy as well."
In case you haven't seen them, there are some amusing political ads that have been created and uploaded at YouTube.com by the popular travel website Kayak.com. Here are two samples:
I find it interesting, not just in this case, but in the overall business environment - thinking about the many ways a start-up could use the free uploading service at YouTube.com to employ creative advertising to compete with more established markets.