Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Bush Cites New Reason for Iraq War: OIL !

He finally admits it. It was about the oil.

Of course, he says it was about his heroic administration protecting Iraqi oil from evil, rather like a responsible parent sheltering a precious child from the bad guys. Not about greedy profit-mongering by the US oil & gas industry. Never.......

So we're halfway to the truth, anyway.
From the San Francisco Chronicle on August 30, 2005:

"President Bush on Tuesday answered growing anti-war protests with a fresh reason for American troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country's vast oil fields that he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists."

Read the entire article here.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Cheney Pushes Unconscionable Changes to National Parks

This is unconscionable..... and classic Dick Cheney. Simply unconscionable.
The lead editorial today in the New York Times, Destroying the National Parks

Most of us think of America's national parks as everlasting places, parts of the bedrock of how we know our own country. But they are shaped and protected by an underlying body of legislation, which is distilled into a basic policy document that governs their operation.

Over time, that document has slowly evolved, but it has always stayed true to the fundamental principle of leaving the parks unimpaired for future generations. That has meant, in part, sacrificing some of the ways we might use the parks today in order to protect them for tomorrow.

Recently, a secret draft revision of the national park system's basic management policy document has been circulating within the Interior Department. It was prepared, without consultation within the National Park Service, by Paul Hoffman, a deputy assistant secretary at Interior who once ran the Chamber of Commerce in Cody, Wyo., was a Congressional aide to Dick Cheney and has no park service experience.

Within national park circles, this rewrite of park rules has been met with profound dismay, for it essentially undermines the protected status of the national parks. The document makes it perfectly clear that this rewrite was not prompted by a compelling change in the park system's circumstances. It was prompted by a change in political circumstances - the opportunity to craft a vision of the national parks that suits the Bush administration.

Some of Mr. Hoffman's changes are trivial, although even apparently subtle changes in wording - from "protect" to "conserve," for instance - soften the standard used to judge the environmental effects of park policy.

But there is nothing subtle about the main thrust of this rewrite. It is a frontal attack on the idea of "impairment." According to the act that established the national parks, preventing impairment of park resources - including the landscape, wildlife and such intangibles as the soundscape of Yellowstone, for instance - is the "fundamental purpose." In Mr. Hoffman's world, it is now merely one of the purposes.

Mr. Hoffman's rewrite would open up nearly every park in the nation to off-road vehicles, snowmobiles and Jet Skis. According to his revision, the use of such vehicles would become one of the parks' purposes. To accommodate such activities, he redefines impairment to mean an irreversible impact. To prove that an activity is impairing the parks, under Mr. Hoffman's rules, you would have to prove that it is doing so irreversibly - a very high standard of proof. This would have a genuinely erosive effect on the standards used to protect the national parks.

The pattern prevails throughout this 194-page document - easing the rules that limit how visitors use the parks and toughening the standard of proof needed to block those uses. Behind this pattern, too, there is a fundamental shift in how the parks are regarded. If the laws establishing the national park system were fundamentally forward-looking - if their mission, first and foremost, was protecting the parks for the future - Mr. Hoffman's revisions place a new, unwelcome and unnecessary emphasis on the present, on what he calls "opportunities for visitors to use and enjoy their parks."

There is no question that we go to national parks to use and enjoy them. But part of the enjoyment of being in a place like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon is knowing that no matter how much it changes in the natural processes of time, it will continue to exist substantially unchanged.

There are other issues too. Mr. Hoffman would explicitly allow the sale of religious merchandise, and he removes from the policy document any reference to evolution or evolutionary processes. He does everything possible to strip away a scientific basis for park management. His rules would essentially require park superintendents to subordinate the management of their parks to local and state agendas. He also envisions a much wider range of commercial activity within the parks.

In short, this is not a policy for protecting the parks. It is a policy for destroying them.

The Interior Department has already begun to distance itself from this rewrite, which it kept hidden from park service employees. But what Mr. Hoffman has given us is a road map of what could happen to the parks if Mr. Bush's political appointees are allowed to have their way.

It is clear by now that Mr. Bush has no real intention of living up to his campaign promise to fully finance the national parks. This document offers a vivid picture of the divide between the National Park Service, whose career employees remain committed to the fundamental purpose of leaving the parks unimpaired, and an Interior Department whose political appointees seem willing to alter them beyond recognition, partly in the service of commercial objectives.

Suddenly, many things - like the administration's efforts to force snowmobiles back into Yellowstone - seem very easy to explain.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Democratic Leadership Vacuum Lives On, with Exceptions

For the most part, I agree with this Common Dreams story (excerpts below). Most Democrats in Washington have been gutless and highly self-interested on the subject of the morally and fiscally bankrupting Iraq War travesty.

There are exceptions, though. General Wesley Clark penned a credible, rational strategy in his Washington Post editorial on August 26, and in his appearance this morning on Meet the Press, he was outspoken, articulate and intelligent.

And as always, Senator Russ Feingold was the first.....and so far, only....US senator to take a firm public stand against the continuing US occupation of Iraq. As is his habit, he takes a stand regardless of political consequences....or perhaps, he successfully blends risk-taking with morality.

Neither Clark nor Feingold are gutless, and Feingold is assuredly one of the least self-interested members of the Senate. Gutless pseudo-leaders will no longer have my vote for the presidency.

On the whole, the Democratic moral leadership vacuum continues.....including Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, John Edwards and Joe Biden, all pretenders to the 2008 presidential race.....
Democrats Fumble Iraq Policy by Jim Lobe

While Republicans voice growing unease over U.S. President George W. Bush's vow to "stay the course" in Iraq, Democrats remain deeply divided about their position on a conflict that most of them privately describe as a major foreign policy disaster.

Despite the plunging popularity of the war -- and of Bush's approval ratings -- leading Democrats, particularly the party's brahmins in the Senate, have so far refused to countenance talk of withdrawal, preferring instead to attack the president over tactical issues rather than the war itself.

But their reticence -- no doubt inspired by their fear of being depicted as "soft on terrorism" and the memory of their disastrous Vietnam War-era splits between hawks and doves in the late 1960s and early 1970s -- is appearing increasingly untenable as the party's grassroots activists enlist in what is becoming, thanks to the mother of one fallen soldier, a serious, new anti-war movement, and as prominent Republicans themselves demonstrate a growing willingness to question the war....

"We should start figuring out how we get out of there," Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam War veteran with presidential ambitions, told a national public-affairs television programme Sunday. "I think our involvement (in Iraq) has destabilised the Middle East. And the longer we stay there, I think the further destabilisation will occur," he said, comparing the present conflict's similarity to the Vietnam War....

Hagel's remarks came as a new spate of polls found that public opinion against the war has strengthened over the summer. Bush's approval ratings have fallen to their lowest level ever -- between 36 percent and 40 percent -- amid strong indications that his performance on Iraq is the main culprit. Other recent surveys have found that majorities now see the decision to go to war as a mistake and favour either an immediate or gradual withdrawal.

While one would think that Hagel's public concerns and Bush's sinking poll numbers -- as well as the surprising near-victory by a strongly anti-war Iraq veteran in a recent election in a solidly Republican Congressional district in Ohio -- would give leading Democrats the political confidence to stake out a more aggressive position on the war, that has not turned out to be the case. While about half of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives -- the chambre considered closest to the grassroots -- voted in May for a resolution requiring the president to formulate an exit strategy for Iraq, the party's Senate leaders have refused even to table such an initiative.

So far, only one likely 2008 presidential candidate, Sen. Russell Feingold, has called for a complete withdrawal -- by Jan. 1, 2007 -- although, in a television interview Sunday, he stressed that the date should considered a "target", rather than a "deadline".

On the other hand, five of the party's most prominent leaders -- 2004 presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Sen. Joseph Biden, Sen. Evan Bayh, and Sen. Hillary Clinton -- have not only opposed setting a date for withdrawal, but have also, at various times, supported substantially increasing the number of troops in Iraq, as well as the size of the U.S. Army and Marine Corps. The last three are all considered by the party establishment as strong presidential candidates.

"If we were to artificially set a deadline of some sort, that would be like giving a green light to the terrorists, and we can't afford to do that," Clinton, whose ex-president husband has also refused to publicly criticise the war, noted last February.

Biden, who, as ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, serves as the Democrat's chief foreign-policy spokesman, warned earlier this summer, "We cannot afford to lose." Even the party's chairman, former anti-war candidate Howard Dean, has been mute on the issue.

Unlike Feingold, all five Democratic leaders also voted in October 2002 to give Bush the authorisation to go to war, a fact that may make it far more difficult for them to call for a pullout, lest they be accused, like Kerry during the 2004 campaign, by Republicans of "flip-flopping" on a vital national-security issue.

They are also clearly haunted by what happened to the party during the Vietnam era when a split between hawks and doves paved the way for Richard Nixon's victory in 1968 and his landslide 1972 defeat of George McGovern, whose straightforwardly anti-war stance has been repeatedly caricatured by Republicans to label the Democrats as "soft" on national security.

Indeed, some top Democratic advisers, including Clinton's savvy former communications chief Michael McCurry, insist that Democrats should indeed be very careful in criticising Bush. "Credit the Democrats for not trying to pour more gasoline on the fire, even if they're not particularly unified in their message," McCurry told the Washington Post this week. "The smartest thing for Democrats to do is be supportive."....

At the same time, however, the refusal of top Democrats to reassess their position is spurring growing frustration and even anger, both among grassroots Democrats who have been emboldened both by the polls and by the way that Cindy Sheehan, the bereaved mother of a dead U.S. Marine who camped out most of this month outside Bush's Crawford, Texas ranch, has put the president on the defensive, and by some prominent unelected leaders and funders. ...

Indeed, former Sen. Gary Hart, a long-time national security honcho whose 1988 front-runner presidential candidacy was derailed by an extra-marital affair, charged in a Washington Post column entitled "Who Will Say 'No More'?" Wednesday that leading Democrats were "cowardly" for remaining silent in what he called "a moral crisis."

"No Democrat, especially one now silent, should expect election by default," he wrote. "The public trust must be earned and speaking clearly, candidly and forcefully now about the mess in Iraq is the place to begin," he argued, challenging Democratic leaders who supported the war to say, "I made a mistake..."

Read the rest here.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hugo Chavez Wants To Lower US Gas Prices

It's easy to understand one reason why the Bushies and the oil-industry connected Presidential cabinet hate Hugo Chavez: he wants to significantly lower the price of gas in the US.

It's hard to imagine anything they would like less.

From Reuters, via Common Dreams.....

Chavez Offers Cheap Gas to Poor in U.S. by David Pace

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, popular with the poor at home, offered on Tuesday to help needy Americans with cheap supplies of gasoline.

"We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States," the populist leader told reporters at the end of a visit to Communist-run Cuba.

Chavez did not say how Venezuela would go about providing gasoline to poor communities. Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA owns Citgo, which has 14,000 gas stations in the United States.

The offer may sound attractive to Americans feeling pinched by soaring prices at the pump but not to the U.S. government, which sees Chavez as a left-wing troublemaker in Latin America.
Gasoline is cheaper than mineral water in oil-producing Venezuela, where consumers can fill their tanks for less than $2. Average gas prices have risen to $2.61 a gallon in the United States, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

Chavez said Venezuela could supply gasoline to Americans at half the price they now pay if intermediaries who "speculated ... and exploited consumers" were cut out.

Venezuela supplies Cuba with generously financed oil and plans to help Caribbean nations foot their oil bills.

Chavez, in Cuba to attend the graduation of Cuban-trained doctors from 28 countries, was seen off at the airport by Cuban President Fidel Castro. Washington has accused the two leaders of being a destabilizing influence in South America.

Chavez and Castro offered to give poor Americans free health care and train doctors free of charge.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Timely Christian Words: Martin Luther King, Jr. on War

"We will never have peace in the world until men everywhere recognize that ends are not cut off from means, because means represent the ideal in the making, and the end in process. Ultimately, you can't reach good ends through evil means, because the means represent the seed and the end represents the tree."
"True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice."
"This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation's homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of people normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice and love.

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."
"It is time for all people of conscience to call upon America to return to her true home of brotherhood and peaceful pursuits. We cannot remain silent as our nation engages in one of history's most cruel and senseless wars. During these days of human travail, we must encourage creative dissenters. We need them because the thunder of their fearless voices will be the only sound stronger than the blasts of bombs and the clamor of war hysteria.

Those of us who love peace must organize as effectively as the war hawks. As they spread the propaganda of war, we must spread the propaganda of peace....We must demonstrate, teach and preach, until the very foundations of our nation are shaken. We must work unceasingly to lift this nation that we love to a higher destiny, to a new plateau of compassion, to a more noble expression of humanness. "
"The church cannot be silent while mankind faces the threat of nuclear annihilation. If the church is true to her mission, she must call for an end to the arms race."

All quotes taken from "The Words of Martin Luther King, Jr" selected by Coretta Scott King.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Feingold and Bush: How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I greatly admire Senator Russ Feingold's political courage and common sense when others seem to have none, and his desire to represent the peoples' desires, rather than to placate the pressures of lobbyists.

Be sure to read my profile of Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat with Courage of Convictions.
From The Nation, via Common Dreams.....

Feingold Tunes in to Antiwar Sentiment by John Nichols

President Bush and US Senator Russ Feingold have taken dramatically different approaches to the traditional August break from Washington intrigues.

Bush has gone into hiding, while Feingold has gone to talk with Americans.

It should not come as much of a surprise that the man who has gotten in touch with the country's grassroots--Feingold--has recognized the need to set a timeline for the withdrawal of all US forces from Iraq. Nor should it be shocking that aides to the man who has cut himself off from the national discourse--Bush--have trotted out tired old excuses for rejecting Feingold's proposal to set a December 2006 deadline for extracting US troops from the Middle East quagmire.

As he has in the past, Bush is spending August in seclusion, holed up behind the security fences that surround his ranch in rural Texas. According to official accounts, he is attempting to read a book about salt and to learn how to ride a bike without falling off. Unofficially, but quite obviously, he has spent most of his time dodging requests for face time with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of one of the more than 1,800 Americans killed in the President's ill-fated invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Feingold has gone a completely different route from Bush. He has traveled extensively, and made himself available to anyone who wants to talk with him about the Iraq imbroglio at more than fifteen town-hall meetings in his home state. What Feingold has heard during listening sessions with constituents across the heartland state of Wisconsin has emboldened him to become the first senator to call for setting a date to end the occupation and bring the troops home.

"I call what I am doing breaking the taboo," the Democrat who is being boomed as a potential 2008 presidential candidate said. "[Most] senators have been intimidated and are not talking about a time frame. We have to make it safe to go in the water and discuss this. A person shouldn't be accused of not supporting troops just because we want some clarity on our mission in Iraq."

Of course, the Bush Administration--which has resisted all efforts to provide clarity as regards the Iraq mission--dismissed Feingold's call by claiming that "It would...send the wrong message to our troops. We are serious about completing the mission, and they need to know that they have our full support. And it would send the wrong message to the enemy, who, as the President has said many times, would just then have to wait us out."

In fact, there is nothing further from the truth. As Feingold noted, the former chief of Australia's armed forces, General Peter Cosgrove, has been arguing that the foreign troop presence has fueled terrorist activity in Iraq. Noting that Cosgrove has called for foreign troops to leave Iraq by the end of 2006, Feingold said, "Those remarks were constructive, and we need to be having this discussion here at home. I am putting a vision of when this ends on the table in the hope that we can get the focus back on our top priority, and that is keeping America and the American people safe."

While the White House bumbles deeper into the quagmire, it is Feingold who says he wants to take steps to establish an exit strategy that will "undermine the recruiting efforts and the unity of insurgents, encourage Iraqi ownership of the transition process and bolster the legitimacy of the Iraqi authorities, reassure the American people that our Iraq policy is not directionless and, most importantly, create space for a broader discussion of our real national security priorities."

The differences between the Bush and Feingold approaches are easily explained: Bush refuses to listen even to the concerns of the grieving mothers of America's war dead. Feingold, on the other hand, has listened closely enough to recognize that the American people want a way out of the Iraq mess.

And while the Wisconsin senator's way may not be the perfect route--as he readily admits--it provides the impetus for a real debate that honest observers of the crisis have been longing for.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Worshipping Dead Radicals, Despising Living Radicals

From the Huffington Post by former Senator Gary Hart. The comments are as interesting as this insightful sure to read them.

In the late 1980s the most respected leaders in the world -- Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Lech Walesa (and earlier Martin Luther King) -- all had one thing in common. They had spent time in jail. More important, they had spent time in jail for their beliefs, beliefs that threatened the power structures of their countries. It seems strange that many Americans idolize protesters in other countries and ridicule them at home.

Equally strange is the tendency of conservatives to revere the protesters of early times -- Tom Paine, the Bostonians who painted themselves like Indians and threw tea in Boston harbor, even the abolitionist John Brown -- and vilify those who protest today. Someone once said that conservatives are the worshipers of dead radicals.

Nevertheless, there is a rich history of protest in America, by laborers, by women, by war opponents, by environmentalists, by African Americans, and in almost every case the protests changed American ideas and policies for the better. Protesters make us think, that is those inclined to think. They stir things up, they rock the boat, they challenge the status quo and the conventional wisdom. They force us to look at reality often in painful ways. Protesters sometimes get themselves thrown in jail.

It is a great wonder that war opponents, including increasing numbers of Democratic "leaders," are so silent. Some of the most visible simply believe the invasion of Iraq, which they endorsed, has been mismanaged, that more troops (not fewer) are needed! Even today, they seem untroubled by the false statements and manipulated intelligence of the administration. The most difficult political statement in the English language is: I made a mistake.

Speaking only for myself, I will find it very difficult to support any Democratic "leader" who remains silent at this critical moment but who wants to be president in 2008. There are defining moments in political careers and in national life where true character is revealed, where moral authority is achieved, or forfeited. Recall Dante's well-known warning that a special place is reserved in hell for those who, in times of moral crisis, preserve their neutrality.

There are those who earn their moral authority the hard way, by going to jail or, like Cindy Sheehan, by sacrificing a loved one. Such people do not merely earn an audience with the president.

Such people deserve an accounting.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Bush Sets Record for Most Presidential Vacation Days

From The Daily Pick....

"Heartfelt congratulations to President Bush, who on Friday August 19th breaks Ronald Reagan's all-time record for most vacation days.

The old record was 335 days, though Reagan took his sweet time of eight years to accomplish this feat. President Bush did it in nearly half the time. And with another two weeks of vaction on tap, he's obviously not content with simply breaking the record, he's going to smoke that record right out of the hole.

Great going, President Bush! We knew you could do it!"

(One commenter noted, "Don't Forget--Reagan was 25 years older....a genuine senior citizen.... and--wait for it--was shot within 100 days of taking office, so his vacation time naturally had to be high.)

Seriously....could George Bush be any more self-absorbed and utterly disdainful of the American people?

Today, rather than meet with families who had loved ones die in the War in Iraq, Bush went for a bike ride with sports celebrity Lance Armstrong.

Friday, August 19, 2005

An Ordinary Mother with Extraordinary Courage

My son tells me that there was a candlelight vigil last night in his neighborhood, 13 miles south of my home. At last, at last......the anger is welling and coalescing into public action over this deadly, directionless War in Iraq.

Be sure to read my
background article (at on Cindy Sheehan, as well as a blogger conference call with her.

A new leader has arisen, and like all leaders of movements, she's self-effacing, passionate beyond reason, determined to sacrifice all for her cause, and yet, a very ordinary person who simply decided she couldn't take the dishonesty anymore.

Praise God for Cindy Sheehan, an ordinary mother with extraordinary courage.
From the
Boston Globe, via Common Dreams.....

Vigils Across State, Nation Back Mother of Dead SoldierThousands support woman at Bush ranch by Ralph Ranalli

With twilight and candlelight playing across solemn faces, thousands of antiwar protesters gathered at more than 50 vigils at sites from Northampton to Quincy last night, in solidarity with a mother of four from California who has camped outside President Bush's ranch in Texas for 10 days and who vows to remain until he explains why her soldier son had to die.

The number of hastily organized protests across the state and the country -- more than 50,000 registered for 1,627 vigils across the United States, the political action group said on its website -- showed a new depth of feeling against the war that has coalesced around Cindy Sheehan and her protest in Crawford, Texas, organizers said.

In Cambridge alone, five separate vigils were scheduled for last night. In some cases, the gatherings were intimate, no more than extended groups of friends gathering outside an apartment, but many were large and were held in public spaces.

In Somerville, about 250 people attended a gathering called ''Davis Square Supports Cindy Sheehan," the 48-year-old mother of Army Specialist Casey Sheehan, who died last year in Sadr City, Iraq. Many held candles, and one protester held a sign that read: ''Honk if the War Makes You Sick."

At least 10 passing motorists honked their horns, but one man leaned out of his car window and yelled, ''The terrorists are going to get you next!"

Protesters said the rapid and enthusiastic response to the call for vigils this week indicated that Sheehan's protest at Bush's ranch has struck a chord with opponents of the Iraq war.

''I think she has really inspired people with the idea that one person can make a difference," said Rose Gonzalez, 30, of Somerville, who attended the Davis Square protest with her 2-month-old son, Marcos, in a baby sling across her chest and her 2-year-old daughter, Talia, alongside.
'People think, 'Wow, it is OK to speak up about this,' " she said.

Gonzalez, a member of the group Military Families Speak Out, said her 47-year-old mother has been stationed north of Baghdad since January with the Massachusetts National Guard. A few weeks ago, Gonzalez sent her mother an e-mail message with the subject, ''Are you OK?"
Her mother replied a couple of days later; the subject was ''Alive," and there were only a few terse sentences in the e-mail reply.

Last night in Gloucester, about 75 people holding candles gathered in a large circle around a monument to the wives of the city's fishermen. A guitar player strummed peace anthems as someone held up a rainbow flag with the word peace embroidered on it.

In Concord, a vigil was held near the Concord Town House, where Henry David Thoreau read his 1849 tract ''Civil Disobedience," which influenced nonviolent civil rights leaders such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

''What better place to be than in Concord, Massachusetts, where civil disobedience started," said Richard Smith, 45, an historian from Acton who said he feels a special affinity for Sheehan. ''She's really just trying to get the same answers to questions we've been asking for three years: Why are we there?"

Another 75 or so protesters met on the Wollaston Beach seawall in Quincy, holding antiwar signs as cars passed. Organizer Helene Sansoucy of Quincy said she was ''just fed up" with the conflict in Iraq.

''When we went into Afghanistan, that had some logic," said Sansoucy, who wore a ''War is not the answer" button. ''But [for the president] to say that there's a connection between 9/11 and Iraq is unbelievable."

The vigils displayed the speed with which Cindy Sheehan and her 10-day protest have become a focal point for opposition to Bush's handling of the war.

In a brief telephone interview from the Crawford protest site, Sheehan called the protest turnout ''overwhelming and amazing."

''I think it happened because America was ready," Sheehan said. ''The kindling was there; it just needed a spark. This definitely is a mainstream thing, normal Americans who know this war is a mistake and want it to be over. Enough is enough."

Sheehan's son, Casey, was killed at age 24 in the Sadr City section of Baghdad on April 4, 2004. After his death, she cofounded Gold Star Families for Peace and crisscrossed the country speaking out against the war. But it wasn't until she traveled to Crawford this month that she became national news.

Nancy Lessin, 56, who as stepmother of a US Marine from Jamaica Plain cofounded Military Families Speak Out, said she believes a confluence of factors paved the way for Sheehan to become a protest leader.

The surge in US military deaths in Iraq, Bush's announcement that he was taking a month of vacation, and his recent statement that US casualties had died for ''a noble cause," she said, all contributed to a growing sense among ordinary Americans that Bush is mishandling the war.

''And it didn't hurt that the White House press corps was just sitting around Crawford," Lessin said of the flood of publicity Sheehan has received. ''But seriously, I think that America was ready to hear this."

Sheehan said she has no grand plans for her impromptu protest movement beyond staying in Crawford until she either meets with Bush or he goes back to Washington. ''We are just going day by day," she said. ''It's an organic thing that's really taken on a life of its own."

Thursday, August 18, 2005

While He Waits for His Date with Lance Armstrong....

As the President waits expectantly for his bike-riding date this Saturday with Lance Armstrong, Bob Hebert's op-ed today in the New York Times says eloquently it all for me....

Blood Runs Red, Not Blue by BOB HERBERT

You have to wonder whether reality ever comes knocking on George W. Bush's door. If it did, would the president with the unsettling demeanor of a boy king even bother to answer? Mr. Bush is the commander in chief who launched a savage war in Iraq and now spends his days happily riding his bicycle in Texas.

This is eerie. Scary. Surreal.

The war is going badly and lives have been lost by the thousands, but there is no real sense, either at the highest levels of government or in the nation at large, that anything momentous is at stake. The announcement on Sunday that five more American soldiers had been blown to eternity by roadside bombs was treated by the press as a yawner. It got very little attention.

You can turn on the television any evening and tune in to the bizarre extended coverage of the search for Natalee Holloway, the Alabama teenager who disappeared in Aruba in May. But we hear very little about the men and women who have given up their lives in Iraq, or are living with horrific injuries suffered in that conflict.

If only the war were more entertaining. Less of a downer. Perhaps then we could meet the people who are suffering and dying in it.

For all the talk of supporting the troops, they are a low priority for most Americans. If the nation really cared, the president would not be frolicking at his ranch for the entire month of August. He'd be back in Washington burning the midnight oil, trying to figure out how to get the troops out of the terrible fix he put them in.

Instead, Mr. Bush is bicycling as soldiers and marines are dying. Dozens have been killed since he went off on his vacation.

As for the rest of the nation, it's not doing much for the troops, either. There was a time, long ago, when war required sacrifices that were shared by most of the population. That's over.

I was in Jacksonville, Fla., a few days ago and watched in amusement as a young woman emerged from a restaurant into 95-degree heat and gleefully exclaimed, "All right, let's go shopping!" The war was the furthest thing from her mind.

For the most part, the only people sacrificing for this war are the troops and their families, and very few of them are coming from the privileged economic classes. That's why it's so easy to keep the troops out of sight and out of mind. And it's why, in the third year of a war started by the richest nation on earth, we still get stories like the one in Sunday's Times that began:
"For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks by insurgents."

Scandalous incompetence? Appalling indifference? Try both. Who cares? This is a war fought mostly by other people's children. The loudest of the hawks are the least likely to send their sons or daughters off to Iraq.

The president has never been clear about why we're in Iraq. There's no plan, no strategy. In one of the many tragic echoes of Vietnam, U.S. troops have been fighting hellacious battles to seize areas controlled by insurgents, only to retreat and allow the insurgents to return.

If Mr. Bush were willing to do something he has refused to do so far - speak plainly and honestly to the American people about this war - he might be able to explain why U.S. troops should continue with an effort that is, in large part at least, benefiting Iraqi factions that are murderous, corrupt and terminally hostile to women. If by some chance he could make that case, the next appropriate step would be to ask all Americans to do their part for the war effort.

College kids in the U.S. are playing video games and looking forward to frat parties while their less fortunate peers are rattling around like moving targets in Baghdad and Mosul, trying to dodge improvised explosive devices and rocket-propelled grenades.

There is something very, very wrong with this picture.

If the war in Iraq is worth fighting - if it's a noble venture, as the hawks insist it is - then it's worth fighting with the children of the privileged classes. They should be added to the combat mix. If it's not worth their blood, then we should bring the other troops home.

If Mr. Bush's war in Iraq is worth dying for, then the children of the privileged should be doing some of the dying.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Good Vacation Is....

A good vacation is over when you begin to yearn for your work.

~Morris Fishbein

I shall yearn to see you again here at Heart, Soul & Humor on August 18.
Until then, blessings to you.....

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

George Bush Foolishly Creates Martyr for Anti-War Movement

George Bush apparently plans to have Cindy Sheehan, mother of a solider slain in Iraq, arrested on Thursday, August 11.

As I wrote at, I keep asking where our collective anger is over this corrupt and corrupting war. Arresting Cindy Sheehan may just be the trigger to finally galvanize our country to stand up and demand truth and an exit strategy.

After all, every contagious movement needs a martyr in handcuffs....or a crown of thorns.


In case you don't know who Cindy Sheehan is.....Every Mother's Son by William Rivers Pitt

George W. Bush hauled stakes for Texas and a vacation a few days ago. Cindy Sheehan followed. She got off a bus Saturday afternoon and started walking to the Crawford ranch. She wanted some answers and was going to get them.

Sheehan had met Mr. Bush once before. On April 4, 2004, just shy of a year after Bush stood on an aircraft carrier beneath a banner that read "Mission Accomplished," Cindy Sheehan's son, Army Specialist Casey A. Sheehan, was killed in Iraq when his unit was attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and small-arms fire. He was 24 years old.

After Casey's death, Cindy Sheehan was invited to the White House for a visit with Mr. Bush in June of 2004. Her first memory of Bush's appearance that day was when he walked into the room and said in a loud, bluff voice, "Who we'all honorin' today?"

"His mouth kept moving," Sheehan later recalled of her meeting with Bush, "but there was nothing in his eyes or anything else about him that showed me he really cared or had any real compassion at all. This is a human being totally disconnected from humanity and reality. His eyes were empty, hollow shells." Bush called her "Ma" or "Mom" throughout the whole meeting, and never got around to learning her name.

"The whole meeting was simply bizarre and disgusting," Sheehan said later. "Designed to intimidate instead of providing compassion. He didn't even know our names. I just couldn't believe this was happening. It was so surreal and bizarre. Later I met with some of the other fifteen or sixteen families who were at the White House the same day and, sure enough, they all felt the same way I did."

That was it. Cindy Sheehan, who had never been politically active in her life, became an activist. She traveled the country to speak to whomever would listen, she told the story of Casey's life and death, and she threw fire at George W. Bush with the passionate anguish of a mother who was forced to bury her son.

"Casey was told that he would be welcomed to Iraq as a liberator with chocolates and rose petals strewn in front of his unarmored Humvee," Sheehan wrote in February. "He was in Iraq for two short weeks when the Shi'ite rebel 'welcome wagon' welcomed him to Baghdad with bullets and RPG's, which took his young and beautiful life. Casey was killed after George Bush proclaimed 'Mission Accomplished' on May 1, 2003. Hundreds of our young people and thousands of Iraqis have been needlessly and senselessly murdered since George Bush triumphantly announced an end to 'major combat' almost 2 years ago now. All of the above events have been heralded by this administration as 'turning points' in the 'war on terror' — or as wonderful events in the 'march of democracy.'"

In June of 2005, Cindy Sheehan testified at a hearing in Washington DC about the Downing Street Minutes, the recently leaked British intelligence documents which exposed the fact that Bush intended to invade Iraq almost from the beginning of his first term, and that "Intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of invasion.

"I believed before our leaders invaded Iraq in March, 2003," said Sheehan in her testimony, "and I am even more convinced now, that this aggression on Iraq was based on a lie of historic proportions and was blatantly unnecessary. The so-called Downing Street Memo dated 23 July, 2003, only confirms what I already suspected: the leadership of this country rushed us into an illegal invasion of another sovereign country on prefabricated and cherry picked intelligence. It appears that my boy Casey was given a death sentence even before he joined the Army in May of 2000."

And so it came to pass that George W. Bush hauled stakes for Texas and a vacation a few days ago, and Cindy Sheehan followed. She got off a bus Saturday afternoon and started walking to the Crawford ranch. She wanted some answers and was going to get them. She got as far as a police checkpoint, and has gotten no further. She is still there, waiting to speak to Mr. Bush so she can get an answer to her question. Why did her son die?

The folks on the Crawford ranch sent out some important people to speak to her. They sent Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser. They sent Joe Hagin, a deputy White House chief of staff. Cindy Sheehan sent them both packing.

By Sunday, a media frenzy had erupted around her. On Sunday night, the New York Times published a story about Sheehan's Texas standoff. "Her success in drawing so much attention to her message — and leaving the White House in a face-off with an opponent who had to be treated very gently even as she aggressively attacked the president and his policies -- seemed to stem from the confluence of several forces," wrote the Times. "The deaths last week of 20 Marines from a single battalion has focused public attention on the unremitting pace of casualties in Iraq, providing her an opening to deliver her message that no more lives should be given to the war."

"At the same time," continued the article, "polls that show falling approval for Mr. Bush's handling of the war have left him open to challenge in a way that he was not when the nation appeared to be more strongly behind him. It did not hurt her cause that she staged her protest, which she said was more or less spontaneous, at the doorstep of the White House press corps, which spends each August in Crawford with little to do, minimal access to Mr. Bush and his aides, and an eagerness for any new story."

Casey Sheehan was every mother's son. Cindy Sheehan is every son's mother. She loved him with every cell in her body and every breath in her soul, and mourns his absence in every second of every day, and will have some answers for her pain and loss, or will know the reason why. She is down in Crawford, right now, waiting for George W. Bush to stop sending lackeys to placate her. She wants to speak to the man who sent her son to die. She is waiting.

(William Rivers Pitt is the author of "War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn't Want You to Know" and "The Greatest Sedition Is Silence.")

Monday, August 08, 2005

Stalin Redux: US Corporations Now Manufacture Most Goods Made in China

I just heard a statistic in a speech given by Christine Todd Whitman, former EPA Administrator and former Governor of New Jersey......that sunk my heart about the lack of loyalty of American corporations.

She cited that 60% all of US imports from China are good manufactured by US companies in China.

That's's American companies who are enriching themselves at the dire cost of the US economy. Greed once again triumphs over principle and loyalty, .and literally kills everything the US once stood for.

Unfettered capitalism will cannibalize itself. I read that Josef Stalin once said that the US will sell the rope that another country will use to hang it. Stalin's prophecy has come true.

Ultra-Conservatives Quick to Play Anti-Religious Card

Excellent point, well stated, from Common Dreams....

Supreme Contradiction by Melissa Rogers

Here’s the bargain: Citizens have the right to bring their religious convictions into policy and political debates. But those who do cannot hurl charges of anti-religious bigotry simply because others disagree with them. The Family Research Council is quick to accept the first part of this bargain, but it balks at the flip side.

FRC is sponsoring another “
Justice Sunday” event this Sunday, August 14. The majority leader of the House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, will join the gathering, to be held in a church in Nashville, Tenn. In an interview last month with The New York Times, FRC president Tony Perkins said, “the new telecast would again say that questions posed by Democrats about a [judicial] nominee’s personal beliefs on abortion and other issues would amount to an unconstitutional ‘religious test.’“

There’s a problem with this argument: Religious opponents of abortion have long argued that one can embrace their position on this issue without subscribing to their faith. For example, scholar and Catholic political conservative George Weigel has said: “You don't even have to believe in God to engage the Catholic Church's pro-life argument.”

If one recognizes that a person can oppose abortions for non-religious reasons, one can’t say that those on the other side of the abortion debate are a fortiori anti-religious. Yet this is the argument some religious conservatives are making regarding the nomination of Judge John G. Roberts to serve as a justice on the United States Supreme Court.

Put another way: Imagine the Senate is providing its advice and consent on two hypothetical nominees for the Supreme Court. Both nominees have written law review articles arguing that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided and that abortion should be illegal in the United States. Their biographies reveal that one is Catholic, while the other subscribes to no religious beliefs.

Would both nominees be opposed by some senators for their position on the abortion issue? Of course they would, rightly or wrongly. Thus, as Cathy Young wrote in The Boston Globe on April 25, it is simply incorrect to claim that mere opposition to a judicial nominee based on his or her views on abortion constitutes anti-religious bigotry.

As Young further argued: “Let’s say that a Democratic president had nominated to the federal bench a judge known for passionate, Christian-based hostility to capital punishment. Would it be ‘anti-Christian’ for Republicans to oppose the nomination?” Or, “[w]ould it be ‘religious bigotry’ to oppose the presidential candidacy of a devout Quaker who declared that his policies would be rooted in his religious belief that all use of military force is wrong?” Of course it wouldn’t.

Neither conservatives nor liberals should be constrained in their decision-making on these issues simply because some positions may be based in part in religious convictions. Thus, no one should oppose the nomination of John Roberts because he is Catholic or for his theological beliefs—that would be inconsistent with the religious test clause found in Article VI of the Constitution.

But it is quite fair to ask him about his judicial philosophy on legal issues, even if his perspective on some issues may be informed partly by religion. And, whether it is good or bad, it is permissible for senators to oppose a nominee solely for his judicial philosophy on abortion or on other legal issues—it does not constitute the imposition of a religious test.

Moreover, whenever religious groups claim that their opponents are anti-religious simply because they disagree on certain legal and policy issues, they are not playing fairly. Perkins opened the first Justice Sunday event by saying, “We believe we have a voice in this process. Just because we believe the Bible [is a] guidepost for life does not disqualify us from participating in our government.”

Religious people of all theological and political stripes clearly can take positions on public issues. Then others must be free to scrutinize and critique those positions.

A focal point of Justice Sunday II apparently will be to underscore the argument that the court has been anti-faith. Perkins has said that the Nashville event will focus on the Supreme Court’s “hostility toward religion and Christianity in particular” and that it would call attention to 5-4 decisions by the court on subjects including public displays of religion and aid to religious schools.

The flier from Justice Sunday II says: “Only by confirming judicial nominees that follow the U.S. Constitution can we be assured that faith will not be removed from the public square.”

It has become fashionable to say that the court is demonstrating hostility toward faith when it prevents the government from promoting faith for us. But those who make this argument are either ignorant of or willfully blind to the rationales expressed in Supreme Court precedent in this area.

The court traditionally has refused to promote or to interfere with religion not because it is anti-religious, but because it wants to leave people free to make choices in matters of faith and to ensure that religious people and organizations may worship as they see fit, rather than as the government sees fit. Further, anyone who suggests that the court has scrubbed religion from the public square is inexplicably missing the rich religious landscape all around us—a landscape that has thrived in the midst of the Supreme Court’s so-called “hostility” toward religion.

Family Research Council has every right to hold this event. The precise role religion should play in public life, the exact place where the court should draw the church-state line, and the morality of abortion as well as other policy and legal matters are all legitimate topics for public debate. Religious citizens have the same rights as non-religious citizens to argue their side. But disagreement with those positions is not automatically anti-religious bigotry or hostility to faith.

(Melissa Rogers is an attorney who currently serves as visiting professor of religion and public policy at Wake Forest University Divinity School.)

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Astronauts See Widespread Erosion & Deforestation from Space

In case you missed this at my site or my Environmental Concerns Center at

From Reuters, via
Common Dreams:

Shuttle Commander Sees Wide Environmental Damage by Jeff Franks

"Commander Eileen Collins said astronauts on shuttle Discovery had seen widespread environmental destruction on Earth and warned on Thursday that greater care was needed to protect natural resources.

Her comments came as NASA pondered whether to send astronauts out on an extra spacewalk to repair additional heat-protection damage on the first shuttle mission since the 2003 Colombia disaster.
Discovery is linked with the International Space Station and orbiting 220 miles above the Earth.

'Sometimes you can see how there is erosion, and you can see how there is deforestation. It's very widespread in some parts of the world,' Collins said in a conversation from space with Japanese officials in Tokyo, including Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

'We would like to see, from the astronauts' point of view, people take good care of the Earth and replace the resources that have been used,' said Collins, who was standing with Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi in front of a Japanese flag and holding a colorful fan.

Collins, making her fourth shuttle flight, said the view from space made clear that Earth's atmosphere must be protected, too.

'The atmosphere almost looks like an eggshell on an egg, it's so very thin," she said. "We know that we don't have much air, we need to protect what we have.' "

Amen, Commander Collins.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Cheney, Powell, Bush Pay Tribute to New Saudi King, Not Slain Ohio Soldiers

Does it bother anyone else (but me) that today, Vice President Dick Cheney, former President George HW Bush and General Colin Powell , former Secretary of State, traveled to Saudi Arabia to pay tribute to the new Saudi King Prince Abdullah and to pay their respects to the late King Fahd............rather than paying tribute and respect here at home to the 20 soldiers from Ohio recently killed in Iraq?

Cheney, Powell and Bush's eldest son, the President, initiated the Iraq conflict, in purposely misguided retribution for 9/11, which was masterminded and executed mainly by Saudis.

There's nary a shred of evidence that Cheney, Powell, the Bush family or the Saudis give a damn about those Ohio soldiers or their families.

A tribute will be held this Monday evening at the Cleveland, Ohio Convention Center. I truly pray that Cheney, Powell or any Bush will have the decency to attend it.

If so, it would be the first memorial to a US solider slain in Iraq attended by Cheney or a Bush.

Where is the anger? Why are Americans not shouting out their anger? Where is the "I'm mad a hell, as I'm not going to take it anymore?"

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Please Read These Heartfelt, Honest Words!

I deeply admire Cindy Sheehan, mother of a young US soldier killed in Iraq. Her testimony at the Downing Street Memo hearings was inspiring beyond words. Please read Cindy's words.....

Published today at Common Dreams and at DailyKos.....

Where Do I Live? by Cindy Sheehan

One very positive aspect of my public anti-war, pro-peace stance is that it has put me in contact with so many people all over the world. I believe that my willingness to share my heart and tragic story (and in the process, tell the truth) helps people open up to me in ways that they cannot do with another. In the past few days, I have been bombarded with horror stories about what our government is doing to innocent Americans.

I was driving from one event to another the other day, and I got a call from an Iranian woman who is now a citizen of the United States, and who has been in the US for 30 years, is married to an American, has a 5 year old son, and a brother who has been in prison for 9 months for wanting to serve America.

My new Iranian/American friend, I will call her Susie, since her family is in danger of reprisal, told me that her brother signed up for the National Guard to give something back to the country that he has adopted as his own. He was lied to by his recruiter, who said he could have his student loans paid off and become an American citizen within a year. He also has severe learning disabilities and his recruiter falsified his test scores and his application. Susie’s brother was told that the mistakes would be "corrected" before the application was turned in. Like my KIA son, Casey, Susie’s brother naïvely trusted his recruiter.

One day, Susie’s brother, who was at that time in training as a chemical specialist, was sitting in class, when FBI agents came in and hauled him off to prison. He was told it was because he went to Iran twice after 9/11 (his country of birth and his family’s country), and because he falsified his application to get in the National Guard. Susie’s brother thought going into the National Guard was going to be a good and admirable thing, and he was deceived and betrayed. He didn’t get his student loans paid off, he didn’t get citizenship, but he did get thrown in jail without proper legal representation. Susie called her state’s senators to see if they could help her and her brother and she was told to quit making trouble, or her entire family would be investigated.

Then yesterday when I was traveling from event to event again, I got another phone call from a hysterical mom, Summer, whose son had been killed in Iraq in April of this year. Her medic son was found face down on his bunk with some morphine bottles around him. Summer was told that he died of a drug overdose and the report stated that her daughter-in-law and her son’s battle buddies all said that he abused drugs in Iraq.

Summer was devastated. She knew her boy. She knew her son didn’t take drugs. She finally got a hold of the reports that contradicted what she was told by the military. All of the people interviewed said her son DID NOT abuse drugs. She received the toxicology report 2 months after her son died and he DID NOT have any drugs in his system. How did Summer’s son die and why is the Army trying to cover it up? Wasn’t it bad enough that this government took Summer’s son and killed him in an unjust, immoral, and illegal war? They had to lie to her, too?

This weekend, I also spent time at Kevin and Monica Benderman’s house at Ft. Stewart, Ga. Kevin, a conscientious objector, who refused to go back to Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division and kill innocent people and participate in other war crimes, was convicted in his court-martial on July 28th of "missing movement" and he was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison. Kevin was obviously made an example to other soldiers who are also thinking of protesting this obscene occupation by refusing to kill blameless people, or die themselves. From the testimony that was given by the prosecution at the court-martial, it is clear that witnesses lied about Kevin and documents were falsified.

I hate to see a brave, honorable, and patriotic American like Kevin railroaded to federal prison for standing up for what he knows is moral and correct. What makes Kevin’s treatment even worse is that those who are responsible for killing and maiming tens of thousands of innocent people and for the destruction of an innocent country are roaming around the world free to unleash more death and pandemonium.

For my effort in trying to awaken America to the dirty tricks and fraud of our government and for trying to call attention to the fact that thousands of people are dying and in harm’s way in Iraq for the lies, I am often called a traitor, terrorist supporter, Jane Fonda, unpatriotic, etc. I am called names that contain words that good Christian supporters of George should not even know, let alone use. I am accused of not supporting the troops, and people tell me that Casey would be spinning in his grave on which I am alternately: spitting, pissing, or s*itting on.

What has happened to America? What has happened to our freedoms? Where did sanity go?Where is the due process that we have always been entitled to? Why do people feel free to castigate the mother of a "war hero" for exercising her freedom of speech and why does our leadership feel free to lie to mothers of "war heroes"? Why aren’t the liars being held to the same standards as the people who are trying to expose them?

Stories like the above are becoming more and more common in the USA. The un-Patriot Act and the total disregard for the Constitution by nearly everyone who holds an elected or appointed position in our federal government is starting to hit too close to home for many people. When will the rest of America finally come out of its coma? When, God forbid, the jack-booted thugs come pounding on their door some midnight?

People like the Bendermans, Summer, Susie, and her brother should be defended and supported by every true American. The injustice of what is happening to some good, hard working and honest Americans is overwhelming, unfair, and un-American.

Ben Franklin said: "Those who would sacrifice essential liberties for a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." We are rapidly becoming a nation with neither. We should demand both, and refuse to give up any of our liberties or our security. These things are our birthrights. Please don’t give up yours. I am not giving up mine.

(Cindy Sheehan is mother of needlessly slain soldier, Casey Sheehan. She is cofounder of Gold Star Families for Peace and one of the organizational supporters of After Downing Street.)

Brand America Viewed as Culture-Free & Coarse

Fascinating, saddening and, in retrospect, not surprising.

From the
Financial Times of London, via Common Dreams....

World Turning Its Back on Brand America by Kevin Allison in New York

The US is increasingly viewed as a "culture-free zone" inhabited by arrogant and unfriendly people, according to study of 25 countries' brand reputations.

The findings, published online today, will add to concerns that anti-Americanism is hurting companies whose products are considered to be distinctly "American". Right now the US government is not a credible messenger.

Keith Reinhard, president, Business for Diplomatic Action The Anholt-GMI Nation Brands Index found that although US foreign policy remained a key driver of hostility, dissatisfaction with the world's sole superpower might run deeper.

"The US is still recognized as a leading place to do business, the home of desirable brands and popular culture," said Simon Anholt, author of the survey. "But its governance, its cultural heritage and its people are no longer widely respected or admired by the world."

Keith Reinhard, president of
Business for Diplomatic Action, a group of business leaders dedicated to improving the US's image overseas, said help from the private sector was needed to repair Brand America.

"Right now the US government is not a credible messenger," said Mr Reinhard, chairman of DDB Worldwide, the advertising group. "We must work to build bridges of understanding and co-operation and respect through business-to-business activities."

Such initiatives could include lobbying for less stringent visa requirements for foreign students entering the US, increased cultural exchanges between US businesses and their foreign counterparts, and courses in diplomacy and foreign languages at business schools.

The US ranked 11th in the Brands Index, which asks people around the world to rate 25 countries according to their cultural, political and investment potential and other criteria. Australia received the highest overall score, with respondents expressing "an almost universal admiration of its people, landscapes and living and working environment", according to the report.

Although the US received high marks for its popular culture, it ranked last in cultural heritage, a measure of a country's "wisdom, intelligence, and integrity", according to Mr Anholt.

That the world takes a dim view of the US people will surprise most Americans themselves: the study's American respondents consistently placed the US at the top of all six categories polled.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Bush Sends Damaged, Inappropriate Goods to the UN

The New York Times lead editorial today says it all about UN Ambassador John Bolton.....Ambassador Bolton

If there's a positive side to President Bush's appointment of John Bolton as ambassador to the United Nations yesterday, it's that as long as Mr. Bolton is in New York, he will not be wreaking diplomatic havoc anywhere else. Talks with North Korea, for instance, have been looking more productive since Mr. Bolton left the State Department, and it's hard not to think that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's generally positive performance in office is due, in part, to her canniness in dispatching Mr. Bolton out of Washington.

But the appointment is, of course, terrible news for the United Nations, whose diplomats have heard weeks of Senate testimony about Mr. Bolton's lack of respect for their institution and his deeply undiplomatic, bullying style of doing business. Senator George Voinovich, the Ohio Republican who became one of Mr. Bolton's strongest critics, said yesterday that he planned to send the new ambassador a book on how to be an effective manager. It couldn't hurt, but this may be the first time a world superpower has used its top United Nations post as a spot for the remedial training of a troublesome government employee.

Mr. Bush had been unable to get Mr. Bolton's nomination confirmed by the Senate, so he waited until Congress left town and used his constitutional power to make recess appointments. This is a perfectly legal tactic, though one that has seldom been used to fill this kind of position. A recess appointment is particularly dicey for a major diplomatic post, where a good nominee should carry an aura of personal gravitas and legitimacy.

The problem here from the beginning has been that Mr. Bush clearly has little respect for either the United Nations or international diplomacy in general.

There is plenty to complain about at the United Nations, but real work happens there, and it requires the services of men and women who know how to wring agreement out of a group of wildly different and extremely self-interested representatives. The president has not just sent the United Nations what Senator Christopher Dodd accurately termed "damaged goods." In Mr. Bolton, he has selected goods that weren't appropriate for the task even before the Senate began to hold hearings - when Mr. Bolton's reputation was still in one piece.

The United Nations could certainly be improved, but Mr. Bolton is a poor candidate for a reformer. To make the institution better, the Bush administration would first have to show that it has a vision of what the U.N. could be. That vision has to begin by accepting the fact that nations other than the United States have a right to have a say, and sometimes take the lead.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Three Republican Senators Stand Against Torture

Thank God for these three Republican senators, all veterans, willing to stand tall for morality, decency and truth. They have my respect and admiration.

A New York Times op-ed today.....Who We Are by BOB HERBERT

You won't find many people willing to accuse John McCain, John Warner or Lindsey Graham of being soft on terrorism. But the three Republican senators are giving the White House fits with their attempt to get legislation approved that would expressly prohibit cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment of detainees in U.S. custody.

There was a dramatic encounter during the floor debate last week when Senator Jeff Sessions, a Republican from Alabama, spoke out against the legislation, saying there was no need for it because, as he put it, the detainees are not prisoners of war, "they are terrorists."

Senator McCain, of Arizona, argued that the debate "is not about who they are. It's about who we are." Americans, said Mr. McCain, "hold ourselves" to a higher standard.

The stakes in this confrontation are high. Senators McCain, Warner and Graham are all influential members of the Armed Services Committee (Senator Warner is the chairman), and they have introduced the legislation in the form of amendments to the nearly half-trillion-dollar Pentagon authorization bill for fiscal 2006.

That such an initiative would come from high-ranking, hawkish Republicans is extraordinary, and the White House is not happy about it. In addition to prohibiting cruel and degrading treatment, the legislation would restrict military interrogation techniques to those authorized in a new Army field manual.

The senators seemed clearly to have been moved by the dismay expressed by current and former members of the military over the lack of uniform standards for the treatment of detainees. Many have argued that the lack of standards and clear guidance from the highest levels of government have led inexorably to abuses.

Senator McCain has been the point person on the legislative amendments, and his office has released a letter from more than a dozen retired officers, including generals, admirals and former prisoners of war, offering support for his effort to establish standards designed to rein in the abusive treatment of prisoners.

The letter said, in part, "The abuse of prisoners hurts America's cause in the war on terror, endangers U.S. service members who might be captured by the enemy, and is anathema to the values Americans have held dear for generations."

Senator Graham, who is from South Carolina, successfully sought the declassification and release of memos from current high-ranking military lawyers who were critical of the legal interpretations by the Bush administration that led to the harsh interrogation policy at Guantánamo. One of the memos, from Maj. Gen. Jack Rives, deputy judge advocate general of the Air Force, said, "Several of the more extreme interrogation techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law" as well as military law.

The White House has fought intensely, but so far unsuccessfully, against this revolt in the usually steadfast Republican ranks. Vice President Dick Cheney, in a meeting with Senators Warner, McCain and Graham, said the legislation would interfere with President Bush's ability to fight terrorism. He was not able to change their minds.

Unable to fend off the amendments, the Senate majority leader, Bill Frist, put off further consideration of the defense bill until September. Senator McCain and his allies will try to build further support for the amendments during that period. The White House has threatened to veto the defense bill if the amendments are approved.

We should take a moment, however this debate turns out, to applaud the effort by three Republican senators to stand up to the White House and insist that the United States not just fight harder than its enemies, but also stand taller. No one should be surprised that these voices of reason are coming from men experienced in the ways of war. Senator McCain was a P.O.W. for five years in Vietnam. Senator Graham spent many years as an Air Force lawyer. And Senator Warner is a veteran of World War II and Korea.

A few days ago I spoke with John Hutson, a former admiral who is now president of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H. He was one of the signers of the letter to Senator McCain. He stressed that this is a very big issue for the country. If the United States fails to get its act together with regard to the humane treatment of detainees, he said, we will "have changed the DNA of what it means to be an American."