Thursday, June 30, 2005

An Exhortation... or a rant, if you will

This is just my opinion... and I freely acknowledge that I do not have one of the great minds... nonetheless I want to throw this out here. I think we're losing, if we haven't already lost, to the terrorists of the world.
I don't believe... and I don't know of anyone who believes... that Osama bin Laden ever intended to conquer and occupy the Unitied States. I don't think that's what terrorists go for. I don't think that's what Timothy McVeigh was going for. I think they want to make an impact and change the status quo.
Forty five months after the suicide attacks on 9/11 I've just read a woman complaining that she is still able to take a train from her home to Washington, D.C., and back without security screening or a baggage search. Forty six months ago she'd have fought such an intrusion tooth and nail.
How many times did the President ring the 9/11 bell last night in a speech to boost a war we initiated in a country that had nothing to do with 9/11? Oh, sure, there are al-Quaeda forces active in Iraq now... because we took out the guy who'd have never let them in and dismantled his army. Sure, they're there now!
I'm not minimizing what happened on 9/11/2001. I'm saying that it's 6/30/2005, and we seriously need to get past this and get our country back in shape. Post-traumatic stress is perfectly understandable, but take a look at yourselves! Forty six months ago did you want to be living like this?
The people who are trying to keep us frightened and off-balance may not be deliberately working to advance the terrorists goals, but they are sure not representative of the America I knew on 9/10/2001. Every day we go on living in reaction to what they did is another good day for al-Quaeda.
The world didn't change on 9/11. We did. We need to get past it. For one thing, we need to get back to resenting intrusion.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Thoughts on Outmoded Concepts

I've been reflecting on the discussion going on at Two Babes and a Brain regarding What Victory Looks Like. It occurs to me that part of the problem may be that we're using an early 20th century vocabulary to discuss a 21st century conflict. Chris is asking the question. Lisa is offering examples of our numerous good deeds and accomplishments in the course of our occupation as though those were victories of a sort.
It occurs to me that, since the end of WW II, we've gotten away from the concept of "victory." Now it's more on the order of "That's close enough. We're outta here." In Korea, in VietNam, and now in OEF/OIF, victory has simply not been an achievable outcome.
Bear in mind that when I said "we" above I referred to the Executive Branch of the government and not to the military.
"War" used to mean a fight to win... or lose. When people with no concept of the meaning of war start to misuse the word, then we get into trouble. Declaring a war on poverty... declaring a war on drugs... these are meaningless declarations that desensitize people to the concept of a war.
A Global War on Terror... as if it was really possible to suit up and rehabilitate or kill every person on earth who hated us enough to kill us... and then they send the troops off in the wrong direction. Karl Rove, you son of a bitch, we knew within hours who was responsible for 9/11, and instead of taking them out you and your people took advantage.
People... people I respect... tell me that there really aren't many similarities between VietNam and OIF. Maybe not... but we abandoned Hamburger Hill... and we're still taking casualties out of Fallujah after how many months. You tell me... are we fighting to win? No, nor should we be. We shouldn't have been there at all. At some point we're looking at: "That's close enough. We're outta here."

Friday, June 24, 2005

The Trade-Offs Between Liberty and Security

As I was reading this piece I was trying to remember where I'd heard or read about a Department of Homeland Security before and it came to me. They combined the functions carried out by our CIA, FBI, and Secret Service... they called it the Committee for State Security or KGB in Russian.
I recalled when Ed Meese, President Reagan's Attorney General, returned from a visit to the Soviet Union that he had expressed a level of... envy?... at the depth and scope of their organization. Imagine my surprise at discovery of these remarks prepared by Ed Meese for the Heritage Foundation and published in October, 2001.
"First, policymakers must distinguish between constitutional liberties on the one hand, and mere privileges and conveniences on the other. Second, they must understand that liberty depends on security and that freedom in the long run depends on eliminating the threat of terrorism as soon as possible." He goes on to express that the threat of terrorism calls for warrantless searches, and denial of the right of the accused to confront witnesses against him.
Did anybody else see this piece on a Massachusetts woman carrying $47,000 in cash boarding a flight to Texas for plastic surgery (she says). A DEA agent told her she had a nice body and didn't need plastic surgery; and then pocketed the cash on the suspicion that it was drug money.
The thing that I don't understand is why some people say that I'm liberal when they are the ones who are circumventing the Constitution.
Ed Meese wrote: "While American troops may be asked to pay for liberty in blood, most Americans will be asked merely to give up a few privileges and conveniences. Surely, this is a sacrifice they can afford to make."
Ed, our brothers bled so that Americans wouldn't have to make that sacrifice. We swore an oath to defend the Constitution, not to get around it. You and Admiral Poindexter and Oliver North keep forgetting that.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Thoughts on the Futility of Intentions

I was reflecting on the death of HM2 Cesar Baez who died on June 15th from small arms fire in al-Anbar Province in Iraq. Doc Baez was already 37, but just starting his life.My last little stint with the Marines was in 1981 at the tender age of 34, and they damn near wore me out. Almost all of my time in the Navy was with the Navy, and we didn't typically do 25 milers. I left the Navy to go finish college at 38.
There is an odd mix of feelings. I miss it. I miss the life. I miss the sense of purpose. I miss the brotherhood.
I do not believe in Bush's wars. When a guy plots to fly planes into buildings you hunt him to the ends of the earth and you take him out... and if he has any friends then you take them out, too. He's a mass-murdering criminal. I guess that would define me as a liberal by Karl Rove's standards.
In past years the U.S. invested a lot in support of equipping and training Afghans in resistance to a puppet regime supported by the Soviets. Apparently Dubya missed all that because his first (mis)step in the "Global War on Terror" was to commit our forces to support of a puppet regime in Afghanistan. Somehow Osama bin Laden survived that, but the President said that didn't matter because bin Laden was pretty much out of action.
After that we allegedly needed to take out Saddam Hussein. He did or did not have Weapons of Mass Destruction (it turns out that it didn't matter if he did or not), and he did or did not support bin Laden and al Qaeda (it turns out that it didn't matter if he did or not), but he absolutely did some fairly terrible stuff to his own people during the time he was enjoying substantial U.S. support during our stand-off with the Ayatollahs in Iran. It wasn't that we cannot abide a dictator because obviously we can, but he wasn't our kind of dictator... not anymore anyway.
Guys talk about the good that's coming from our presence. I'll give them that. It doesn't justify the war, but the troops are giving it their all. Who wouldn't try to scrounge up some candy or a stuffed toy for a scruffy little street kid? Who wouldn't pitch in to help dig out a well or rebuild a school? It is practically a given that every man and woman over there is committed to the success of their mission. The problem isn't that the troops aren't doing their best. The problem is that we can't succeed.
It'll be a pretty good day for the Afghans and the Iraqis if they can get back to a peaceful night's sleep in their own beds without fear, but if that happens... and I pray that it does... it won't be because we were there. It will be because they overcame it. They are waiting for us to leave... in a year or ten years or a hundred years... and then everyone we installed into power will be in for a fight for their lives as the Kurds try to establish their Kurdish state and Afghans and Iraqis do whatever it is they will wind up doing with their countries after we're gone.
So how sick is it that I'd pick up and go tomorrow if they identified a billet for a 58-year old HMC with a gimpy leg and prostate cancer?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

The Good News - There's a Surplus. The Bad News - There's a Plan.

I'm feeling a little angst here. I know that Crabby Old Lady at As Time Goes By has been out looking at property, but the Republicans are busy trying to sell us a new brand of snake oil to cure what ails Social Security.
Republicans now want to fund their "Private Accounts"... (Why do you suppose Wall Street financial managers are so eager to get this passed? Do they love us?)... with what they choose to call the Social Security Surplus. A Social Security Surplus? The President is spreading the alarm that within a few years the presesnt system will be bankrupt... but at the moment he has a surplus... and he wants to invest it for us? And how will this work in the coming years when there is no surplus?
If any Bush supporters read my blog... what is wrong with you?... and do you happen to know if Mr. Bush ever actually made any money for his investors in his business ventures before he took up a life of... politics?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Some Thoughts on the "Patriot Act"

Regarding the impending renewal/"enhancement" of the Patriot Act...
The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States says: "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
The Sixth Amendment says: "In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence."
A few things come to mind as I reflect on this.
This was written and adopted by people who had suffered... first hand and often cruelly... the pains of war and depredation and who had taken the position that never again should anyone experience such violations of their rights.
As I read the entire Bill of Rights I did not find the word "citizen." The Constitution defines... and limits... the powers of the government, but nowhere do I find that it only defines and limits those powers with respect to its own citizens.
I could be a whacked-out liberal civil libertarian... or I could be a conservative strict-constructionist... but it occurs to me that many Americans today appear to be all too willing to give up the heart of who we were and what it used to mean to be an American because we got hurt and scared four years ago.
The Administration is saying that this is all going to be okay because they have never misused their authority so far. Even if you believe that, it doesn't matter! People... other than the President and Vice President... have committed their lives to preserving these rights. You don't risk losing it all just because you're having a panic attack. That's just... wrong. That would mean that I spent twenty years of my life defending... nothing?

Monday, June 20, 2005

Justice Delayed... Justice Denied?

The Question of the Day at MSNBC is: “should the U.S. go after Osama bin Laden no matter what.” This is the Question of the Day on June 20, 2005.
We’ve invaded and overthrown the government of Afghanistan. We’ve invaded and overthrown the government of Iraq which, to my knowledge, hadn’t done anything to the U.S. since putting a missile into USS Stark. In an interview to be published in next Monday's Time
the Director of the CIA is going to say that, although he has an “excellent idea” where the man who directed the attacks of 9/11/2001 is to be found, the “United States’ respect for sovereign nations” makes his capture more difficult. Since when?
Forty five months after 9/11, and we’re being asked if the U.S. should take all necessary steps to apprehend Osama bin Laden. Yeah… and I kind of wish we’d been doing that all along. There would at least have been some point to it all.