Friday, May 25, 2007


Democrats or Republicans, neither is interested in establishing a lasting peace in Iraq.

From Keith Olbermann yesterday :

This is, in fact, a comment about… betrayal.

Few men or women elected in our history—whether executive or legislative, state or national—have been sent into office with a mandate more obvious, nor instructions more clear:

Get us out of Iraq.

Yet after six months of preparation and execution—half a year gathering the strands of public support; translating into action, the collective will of the nearly 70 percent of Americans who reject this War of Lies, the Democrats have managed only this:

  • The Democratic leadership has surrendered to a president—if not the worst president, then easily the most selfish, in our history—who happily blackmails his own people, and uses his own military personnel as hostages to his asinine demand, that the Democrats “give the troops their money”;
  • The Democratic leadership has agreed to finance the deaths of Americans in a war that has only reduced the security of Americans;
  • The Democratic leadership has given Mr. Bush all that he wanted, with the only caveat being, not merely meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government, but optional meaningless symbolism about benchmarks for the Iraqi government.
  • The Democratic leadership has, in sum, claimed a compromise with the Administration, in which the only things truly compromised, are the trust of the voters, the ethics of the Democrats, and the lives of our brave, and doomed, friends, and family, in Iraq.

You, the men and women elected with the simplest of directions—Stop The War—have traded your strength, your bargaining position, and the uniform support of those who elected you… for a handful of magic beans.
You may trot out every political cliché from the soft-soap, inside-the-beltway dictionary of boilerplate sound bites, about how this is the “beginning of the end” of Mr. Bush’s “carte blanche” in Iraq, about how this is a “first step.”
Well, Senator Reid, the only end at its beginning... is our collective hope that you and your colleagues would do what is right, what is essential, what you were each elected and re-elected to do.
Because this “first step”… is a step right off a cliff.

And this President!
How shameful it would be to watch an adult... hold his breath, and threaten to continue to do so, until he turned blue.
But how horrifying it is… to watch a President hold his breath and threaten to continue to do so, until innocent and patriotic Americans in harm’s way, are bled white.
You lead this country, sir?
You claim to defend it?
And yet when faced with the prospect of someone calling you on your stubbornness—your stubbornness which has cost 3,431 Americans their lives and thousands more their limbs—you, Mr. Bush, imply that if the Democrats don’t give you the money and give it to you entirely on your terms, the troops in Iraq will be stranded, or forced to serve longer, or have to throw bullets at the enemy with their bare hands.
How transcendentally, how historically, pathetic.
Any other president from any other moment in the panorama of our history would have, at the outset of this tawdry game of political chicken, declared that no matter what the other political side did, he would insure personally—first, last and always—that the troops would not suffer.
A President, Mr. Bush, uses the carte blanche he has already, not to manipulate an overlap of arriving and departing Brigades into a ‘second surge,’ but to say in unequivocal terms that if it takes every last dime of the monies already allocated, if it takes reneging on government contracts with Halliburton, he will make sure the troops are safe—even if the only safety to be found, is in getting them the hell out of there.
Well, any true President would have done that, Sir.
You instead, used our troops as political pawns, then blamed the Democrats when you did so.

Not that these Democrats, who had this country’s support and sympathy up until 48 hours ago, have not since earned all the blame they can carry home.

“We seem to be very near the bleak choice between war and shame,” Winston Churchill wrote to Lord Moyne in the days after the British signed the Munich accords with Germany in 1938. “My feeling is that we shall choose shame, and then have war thrown in, a little later…”

That’s what this is for the Democrats, isn’t it?

Their “Neville Chamberlain moment” before the Second World War.
All that’s missing is the landing at the airport, with the blinkered leader waving a piece of paper which he naively thought would guarantee “peace in our time,” but which his opponent would ignore with deceit.
The Democrats have merely streamlined the process.
Their piece of paper already says Mr. Bush can ignore it, with impugnity.

And where are the Democratic presidential hopefuls this evening?
See they not, that to which the Senate and House leadership has blinded itself?

Judging these candidates based on how they voted on the original Iraq authorization, or waiting for apologies for those votes, is ancient history now.

The Democratic nomination is likely to be decided... tomorrow.
The talk of practical politics, the buying into of the President’s dishonest construction “fund-the-troops-or-they-will-be-in-jeopardy,” the promise of tougher action in September, is falling not on deaf ears, but rather falling on Americans who already told you what to do, and now perceive your ears as closed to practical politics.
Those who seek the Democratic nomination need to—for their own political futures and, with a thousand times more solemnity and importance, for the individual futures of our troops—denounce this betrayal, vote against it, and, if need be, unseat Majority Leader Reid and Speaker Pelosi if they continue down this path of guilty, fatal acquiescence to the tragically misguided will of a monomaniacal president.

For, ultimately, at this hour, the entire government has failed us.

  • Mr. Reid, Mr. Hoyer, and the other Democrats... have failed us.
    They negotiated away that which they did not own, but had only been entrusted by us to protect: our collective will as the citizens of this country, that this brazen War of Lies be ended as rapidly and safely as possible.
  • Mr. Bush and his government... have failed us.
    They have behaved venomously and without dignity—of course.
    That is all at which Mr. Bush is gifted.
    We are the ones providing any element of surprise or shock here.

With the exception of Senator Dodd and Senator Edwards, the Democratic presidential candidates have (so far at least) failed us.

They must now speak, and make plain how they view what has been given away to Mr. Bush, and what is yet to be given away tomorrow, and in the thousand tomorrows to come.

Because for the next fourteen months, the Democratic nominating process—indeed the whole of our political discourse until further notice—has, with the stroke of a cursed pen, become about one thing, and one thing alone.
The electorate figured this out, six months ago.
The President and the Republicans have not—doubtless will not.
The Democrats will figure it out, during the Memorial Day recess, when they go home and many of those who elected them will politely suggest they stay there—and permanently.
Because, on the subject of Iraq...
The people have been ahead of the media....
Ahead of the government...
Ahead of the politicians...
For the last year, or two years, or maybe three.

Our politics... is now about the answer to one briefly-worded question.
Mr. Bush has failed.
Mr. Warner has failed.
Mr. Reid has failed.
Who among us will stop this war—this War of Lies?
To he or she, fall the figurative keys to the nation.
To all the others—presidents and majority leaders and candidates and rank-and-file Congressmen and Senators of either party—there is only blame… for this shameful, and bi-partisan, betrayal.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Letter to the President

Dear President Bush:

As a proud citizen of the United States of America and humble follower of Jesus Christ, I ask, in your capacity as chief executive of the federal government and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, that you close Camp Delta and Camp Echo in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prosecute all offenders to the fullest extent of our civil law, and negotiate releases for all detainees who cannot be so charged. All international citizens remaining uncharged or innocent should be re-integrated into their country of origin or if not, returned to their country of capture.

As another Republican war leader once appealed to his country, I, too, wish to address “the better angels of our nature.” For Jesus said, “[W]hatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matt. 25:40) As Christians, we are led by example to feed the hungry, offer drink to the thirsty, give clothes to the stranger and visit those sick and in prison. As a citizen and believer, I cannot understand the need for detainment facilities operating outside of the United States and its laws, nor the meaning behind violating the rights of these detainees protected by both the United States and its allies.

As you have so often asserted, “We're a nation of laws, and we must enforce our laws.” We ask other countries to define democracy by the standards we set. We laud our system of check and balances, habeas corpus, and freedom of speech. We demonstrate our distaste for tyranny, no matter where it is found in the world. For in these beliefs, we echo the soul of our ancestors:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

Despite these ideals, we detain at least four hundred people in Cuba, including sixty who were captured as children. Of these detainees, over two hundred may never face a trial, held indefinitely without charge. At least 38 prisoners are held by the CIA as “ghost detainees” and many covert intelligence camps exist throughout the world, outside of our justice system. This does not include the detainment camps in Iraq where countless Sunnis and Shiites have been tortured and killed at the hands of militias whose funds and weapons we supply.

In over five years, only one detainee has ever been convicted. Entering a plea agreement, Australian David Hicks received only a nine-month sentence. Unlike Australia, many countries who once clamored for release of their citizens now refuse to accept them back. No doubt the world fears that if these people were not terrorists before, they have now become so. The CIA has confirmed this reality.

We all must agree that the need for security is great, but surely, the part is not greater than the whole. As the events of Pearl Harbor and 9/11 have proven, the spirit of the United States cannot be crushed by tragedy. The spirit of the United States is defined by the defense of liberty and justice, not by the avoidance of these ideals. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” You have echoed the same sentiment:

The desire for freedom resides in every human heart. And that desire cannot be contained forever by prison walls, or martial laws, or secret police. Over time, and across the Earth, freedom will find a way.

Although our past may be riddled with low points, we are a country held to high aspirations. Through our missteps and scandals, we remain and should continue to remain committed to a global community united in peace. The undefined detainment of suspects does not hold the world to an example we wish them to follow. When we imprison without domestic or global jurisprudence, how can we emphasize law and order? When we claim that international law does not apply, how can we condemn the isolation and arrogance of other nations? The moral justification seems hypocritical and disingenuous.

As a supporter of the Civil Rights movement, I am sure you will remember the civil disobedience model implemented by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. Incarcerated for twelve days, he wrote the famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, where he justified the movement as a struggle of “moral law or the law of God” over what is “morally wrong and awful.” His example followed that of Mahatma Gandhi, whose fasting in prison both broke the back of oppression and calmed the angry spirit of his people. They were neither the first, nor surely the last that we should honor and respect as defenders of freedom and justice.

When I read of the hunger strikes in Guantanamo Bay, I was dismayed at how soon this history is forgotten. We answered their refusal to eat, not with the dignity every individual deserves, but with feeding tubes forced down their throats. Some tubes went so deep as to draw blood and puncture lungs. General Bantz Craddock even joked that at least hunger strikers got to choose the color of their feeding tube and the flavor of lozenge. Stripped of all rights as citizens or lawful enemy combatants, we extend the travesty further and deny them to be human beings.

As a member of the community of life, I know you must appreciate the value of life no matter how seemingly insignificant. Life cannot be curtailed or made forfeit by a whim, but only under due process of the law. Having overthrown the yoke of British oppression, our Founders intended the Bill of Rights as a safeguard against oppression, by protecting individuals from “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and ensuring that those arrested are “informed of the nature and cause of the accusation.” Without lawful trials and just treatment of our enemies, how can our system of justice overcome the wanton violence of terrorism? If we define terrorism as unjust violence against innocent individuals, then should we not determine each detainee’s guilt or risk becoming terrorists ourselves?

For what claims can we make for freedom and justice if Guantanamo Bay remains as a log in our eye? If we are to combat terrorism and injustice, we must do so with the spirit and breadth of our laws or risk the legacy we leave to coming generations. It is when we are most desperate that we do the most astounding and terrible things. A breeding ground that generates desperation can only engender separation and hostility. If we are to fight against lawlessness, then should we not do it with the full force of the law? If we do not protect the rights of all people, there will be no difference between the innocent and the guilty. As Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. once observed:

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.

I ask that you, as a man of faith and endowed with great power, will shut down the bases in Guantanamo Bay, and the extralegal system associated with them, to demonstrate to your people and the rest of world the ideals upon which our country is founded. This powerful gesture would echo in the halls of history for generations to come, and you would remain a leader of freedom and justice in troubled times.



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