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Thursday, January 25, 2007

Mis-state of the Union: President Projector

"For the terrorists, life since 9/11 has never been the same."

With those words, President Bush began the portion of his speech Tuesday night that was yet another justification for taking on Iraq, for turning it into a terrorist haven and a killing field. I am not comforted by his assurances, and not because I fear the long arm of al-Qaeda; it's how he will use his misrepresentation of success to muscle through more changes in our lives that I fear most.

I am more afraid

of my government
than I am of
my country's enemy.

This is how our lives have changed since 9/11: an abrogation of our rights and our most basic liberties, no habeus corpus for anyone in U.S. custody, warrantless wiretaps and phone company data mining, the inability to board a plane because your name is on a list, sanctioned torture, needless passport laws and a baggie full of travel-size lotions.

Hector-the-Projector struck again later in the speech, with his characterization of the enemy we are killing and dying to fight:

"They preach with threats, instruct with bullets and bombs, and promise paradise for the murder of the innocent."

If you substitute the word "democracy" for "paradise" (no, they are not always inter-changeable) Iraqis, Pakistanis and Afghans (and soon Iranians) can be saying the same thing about us.

The real problem here is Bush believes in this fight as if it were a classic biblical battle against a godless enemy, and those whom we fight feel the same:

"This war is more than a clash of arms -- it is a decisive ideological struggle..."

The problem here is that wars for ideological principles weren't even that successful in their heyday, a thousand years ago.

Just because our guns are bigger
doesn't mean we're right.

Fighting for a principal in a "civilized society" is something you do with words in Debate Club, not with weapons in an armed conflict eight thousand miles away, and not in someone else's civil war (regardless of the fact that we started it). But Bush says he didn't mean to be in a war like this:

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in."

And that is what has really changed for the terrorists since 9/11. The fight we wanted, the one that made the most sense, was the one that we could stop with a vigilant government that doesn't ignore warnings. But now, the "fight we're in" is the fight the terrorists want, and despite his Texas machismo, Bush cannot stop his own ignorant disaster from delivering the dead to our doorstep.

So be afraid, America.

"If American forces step back before Baghdad is secure, the Iraqi government would be overrun by extremists on all sides. We could expect an epic battle between Shia extremists backed by Iran, and Sunni extremists aided by al Qaeda and supporters of the old regime. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country -- and in time, the entire region could be drawn into the conflict.

"For America, this is a nightmare scenario. For the enemy, this is the objective. Chaos is the greatest ally -- their greatest ally in this struggle. And out of chaos in Iraq would emerge an emboldened enemy with new safe havens, new recruits, new resources, and an even greater determination to harm America."

Epic battles? Come on, Mr. President, this is already a nightmare. I have to believe, though, that America can be restored in spite of all you have done to bring our society to the brink. I'm counting on it.


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Waking the Monster Under the Bed in the Dawn's Early Light: A New Year's Revolution


Will Mother be home in time to take the kids to soccer?
Will I have enough time to get my taxes done?
Oh no. I missed my train.
There aren't enough hours in the day.
Junior's got too much homework.
Will the buses come and get me out on time?
The soldiers are late.
The police are sure taking a long time to get here.
What time does the food line start?
What time does the food line end?
Is his prison sentence over yet?
Did he get time off for good behavior?
Can he still walk?
Are his parents still alive? His wife? His children?
What is that acrid, ashen smell coming from my neighborhood, my town, my city?
Will he get home in time to see them?
Doesn't he know the government took his home?
Where will he sleep?
How can you?

The lumps against your back aren't because your mattress is failing; they're the buried truths of a suffering world rising up to wake you. You've been so comfortable for so long, you forget that the underpinnings of the life through which you sleepwalk are hidden under more than just the bed's dust ruffle. Heavy curtains and drapes hide horrible challenges over generations for some, while for others, life's suffering boils like magma behind a thin veil only moments old. Time, you see, does not heal wounds. It hides them.

It's time to wake up, America, and deal with our past. It's time to bow low to the whip - the slave trader's stock. It's time to feel the weight of our heavy hand at Wounded Knee and the Panama Canal. It's time to cry for the strikers who bled for industry barons and with the scarred little girls of Hiroshima who were forced to finish on their own what our bomb did not. It's time to apologize for My Lai and enabling Pinochet and the Shah and Saddam. It's time to deal with secret policies and secret wars.

What can we do about those things that were done in our name so long ago? Not much. Just be aware that it was there. But NOW, take that awareness and apply it NOW, to end suffering in Darfur and Somalia, in Iraq and in Palestine, in Iran, China and Saudi Arabia and Israel, in countries across the globe and on the street where you live.

Maybe we can make the early light of dawn in 2007 America, a promise to shine a light on all that is dark in the world, everywhere people are suffering. And look, the real power isn't going to come from me or anyone else telling you where the suffering is. Just take on easing humanity's pain as a commitment, and your course will be obvious. This is a request and an invitation for you to demonstrate your most basic compassion.

I ask that you be bold enough to share your commitment, and what it accomplishes, with other readers of Prose and Thorn. Please be bold, for there is only one time: now.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

When They Stand Up, We'll Stand Up...Again!

Pay As You Go: Balancing the Body Count

Sometime this week, Bush will share his "New Way Forward" with us, at least, as much as he is willing to. It's already known that he will order more troops into the melee for a free and independent Iraq, part of the overall Tumult on Terror, but according to this Sunday's New York Times, US troops "will be sent only if the Iraqis also increase their own forces."

So it's time for a little Orwellian revisionism. Let's put the phrase uttered by our concussive Commander-in-chief in 2004, "When they stand up...," into the the true-memory machine. I think he said - wait, I thought it was - geez! My head is spinning...can't think...ugh...seem to remember "...we'll stand down," but OW! The pressure to conform! My brain, my memory, somehow changing...and yes! It makes so much less sense to me now! I play the tape again, and I hear it clearly through the mud: "When they stand up," so far so good, "we'll stand up...AGAIN!"

Whew! So that's what a change in course looks like to our Yaley Cheerleader-in-Chief.

Let's follow this new course across to Nancy Pelosi's House. There, in the middle of a conversation about the "pay-as-you-go" budget proposals, "The New Way Forward" flies up the steps, fills the rotunda, and blows through the caucus conference. Nancy, Steny and the rest sway slightly in their seats while the breeze of this fresh Iraq policy scatters papers about the room and lifts their hair like a gale through a palm tree.

When the wind settles, the group, dishevelled but proud, in chorus boom from the Capitol, "You got your Iraq policy in our budget policy!"

And across the Mall, a whiny twang comes screaming from the White House portico, "Don't you go gettin' your budget policy in my Iraq policy. Heh. Heh."

But behold, someone in between the two, standing atop the Washington Monument, will respond with a triumphant poke at the sky, "That's it! Pay-as-you-go! The policy for fighting the budget and fighting the war! Yes," the guy who thinks he has the pulse on policy will exclaim, "we'll balance the budget with one and balance the body count with the other! It's genius!"

And then a god - who doesn't believe in beltway compromises that sound like they make more sense than they do and accomplish less than they sound like - will send a strategic bolt of lightning and crisp the finger poking fool.

Ahhh, to dream.

But seriously, escalating the war is not the way to elevate the lives of the people whose country and citizens our soldiers have destroyed and killed. We should be escalating the pace of withdrawal and elevating the notion of responsible leadership, but you can't teach a new government something your own government doesn't understand itself. It's so hard to tell these days which government could use a "New Way Forward" more, whatever that means. I guess it's better than the "Old Way Forward". At this point, I'd just settle for either a "New Way" or any "Way Forward."


Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Black Holes: No One Dies Alone

"Saddam Hussein's execution comes at the end of a difficult year for the Iraqi people and for our troops." W

How Does One Death End the Turmoil of Others?

It is as if a trio of black holes opens in the earth to swallow each, single soul, and the vast expanse of light and life in their influence is sucked in by their gravity. Now I stand over these hungry, dark funnels, holding on to the pieces of myself being stretched by the heavy pull of a dead Entertainer, a dead Ex-president and a dead Dictator.

In the universe of the Entertainer, there is joy in the loss because even those who slide into the gravity of his void hear his music echo all the way down. When he was laid out in a famous Harlem theatre, the Apollo, it seemed impossible that his repose was not just an act, that he would not just leap out of the box, the house lights go down and the kliegs light the stage as he shook off his slumber, and he would assure us that he feels good. We knew that he would.

Meanwhile, the strained, expanding funerary experience of the Ex-president kept growing to suck us in, like a sad reality show, even if we didn't want it to. Politics may know how to throw a party, but they really know how to throw a funeral. In all the platitudes of the week-long cortege, the one that sticks in my mind is my wife's. "He was the last, least scary Republican president," she said from the slick footing on the edge of the black hole where we stood before we too were sucked in by coverage that lasted almost as long as the man's term as president.

Finally, a quagmire has quickly become a black hole deeper into which we are drawn by the death of the Dictator. As if the field of black holes begun by the deaths of more than 3,000 American service men and women, and astronomical numbers of Iraqis and Afghans killed in the last five years wasn't enough, their universes have now converged to suck in the Dictator's noosed carcass like a snake eating a watermelon.

The problem is, though, that the black hole is even bigger than before, and unfortunately, it is poised to swallow even more bloody fodder the White House now proposes to feed it. We can only hope that Feeder-W (Fiddle-gee-doo) and Feeder-DC (Fiddle-dee-cee) stand so close to the edge as to succumb to the gravity in a pit of their own design.

And because of the expanded gravity created by the Dictator's death, Fiddle-gee-doo's claim that it marks the end of a terrible year unfortunately means it is the beginning of a worse one.

So you best secure all your values. Fiddle-gee-doo and Fiddle-dee-cee are claiming no responsibility for any loss or damage to your values due to the dark vortexes while your ass is parked in their country.