Evolution and Eden: Integrating Genesis with Fossil Records

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

children's health care, a socialist plot: just ask a conservative.

A Socialist Plot
By Paul Krugman
The New York Times

Monday 27 August 2007

Suppose, for a moment, that the Heritage Foundation were to put out a press release attacking the liberal view that even children whose parents could afford to send them to private school should be entitled to free government-run education.

They'd have a point: many American families with middle-class incomes do send their kids to school at public expense, so taxpayers without school-age children subsidize families that do. And the effect is to displace the private sector: if public schools weren't available, many families would pay for private schools instead.

So let's end this un-American system and make education what it should be - a matter of individual responsibility and private enterprise. Oh, and we shouldn't have any government mandates that force children to get educated, either. As a Republican presidential candidate might say, the future of America's education system lies in free-market solutions, not socialist models.

O.K., in case you're wondering, I haven't lost my mind, I'm drawing an analogy. The real Heritage press release, titled "The Middle-Class Welfare Kid Next Door," is an attack on proposals to expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Such an expansion, says Heritage, will "displace private insurance with government-sponsored health care coverage."

And Rudy Giuliani's call for "free-market solutions, not socialist models" was about health care, not education.

But thinking about how we'd react if they said the same things about education helps dispel the fog of obfuscation right-wingers use to obscure the true nature of their position on children's health.

The truth is that there's no difference in principle between saying that every American child is entitled to an education and saying that every American child is entitled to adequate health care. It's just a matter of historical accident that we think of access to free K-12 education as a basic right, but consider having the government pay children's medical bills "welfare," with all the negative connotations that go with that term.

And conservative opposition to giving every child in this country access to health care is, in a fundamental sense, un-American.

Here's what I mean: The great majority of Americans believe that everyone is entitled to a chance to make the most of his or her life. Even conservatives usually claim to believe that. For example, N. Gregory Mankiw, the former chairman of the Bush Council of Economic Advisers, contrasts the position of liberals, who he says believe in equality of outcomes, with that of conservatives, who he says believe that the goal of policy should be "to give everyone the same shot and not be surprised or concerned when outcomes differ wildly."

But a child who doesn't receive adequate health care, like a child who doesn't receive an adequate education, doesn't have the same shot - he or she doesn't have the same chances in life as children who get both these things.

And insurance is crucial to receiving adequate health care. President Bush may think that lacking insurance is no problem - "I mean, people have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room" - but the reality is that the nine million children in America who don't have health insurance often have unmet medical or dental needs, don't have a regular place for medical care, and frequently have to delay care because of cost.

Now, the public understands the importance of health insurance, even if Mr. Bush doesn't. According to a recent New York Times/CBS News poll, an amazing 94 percent of the public regards the fact that many children in America lack health insurance as either a "serious" or a "very serious" problem.

So how can conservatives defend the indefensible, and oppose giving children the health care they need? By trying the old welfare queen in her Cadillac strategy (albeit without the racial innuendo that made it so effective when Reagan used it). That is, to divert public sympathy from people who really need help, they're trying to change the subject to the supposedly undeserving recipients of government aid. Hence the emphasis on the evils of "middle-class welfare."

Proponents of an expansion of children's health care have, as they should, responded to this strategy with facts and figures. Congressional Budget Office estimates show that S-chip expansion would, in fact, primarily benefit those who need it most: the great majority of children receiving coverage under an expanded program would otherwise have been uninsured.

But the more fundamental response should be, so what?

We offer free education, and don't worry about middle-class families getting benefits they don't need, because that's the only way to ensure that every child gets an education - and giving every child a fair chance is the American way. And we should guarantee health care to every child, for the same reason.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Democrat response by former Senator Max Cleland, to Bush radio address

Saturday , August 25, 2007

by former Senator Max Cleland.

Paschal: I stand four square with Mr. Cleland on this. I lost friends and classmates both in Korea and Vietnam. I have served in or with all four branches of our military, both enlisted and commissioned, active and reserve. Over one half of the 58,000 on the Vietnam memorial were lost after our leaders knew the war could not be won, and could not and would not face it. Max was a combat veteran of Vietnam.

This week, President Bush gave a speech comparing the ongoing war in Iraq to the Vietnam War. He used this analogy in his latest plea to the American people for yet more time to continue his war.

I know something about the Vietnam War. I know something about the price that was paid for continuing that war long after it was clear we could not succeed. I know something about years of war failing to produce a stable, secure and democratic country.

I know something about enemy attacks increasing and taking an ever higher toll on our troops. Fifty-eight thousand young Americans were killed in Vietnam; 350,000 were wounded. I was one of them.

There are similarities between the war in Iraq and the war in Vietnam. One of the lessons to be learned from Vietnam is that the commitment of American military strength alone cannot solve another country's political weakness. This should be a somber warning to us all to responsibly end the war in Iraq and the additional loss of precious American lives.

Congress has required the president to issue a report soon on the state of the war. This assessment gives him yet another opportunity to do the right thing and change course in Iraq.

Unfortunately, it appears he will continue to argue that, if the American people and the U.S. Congress will just be patient, things will work out. He is likely to say that, given more time, victory is just around the corner. He is likely to argue that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

But like political leaders during the Vietnam era, this president has a "credibility gap." The majority of Americans see a profound difference between President Bush's optimistic rhetoric and the grim reality which lies beneath. Our history in Vietnam and the facts on the ground in Iraq today prove the American people are right.

How do I know? Because I've seen this movie before. I know how it ends. I know that all the P.R. in the world didn't change the truth on the ground in Vietnam and won't change the truth on the ground today in Iraq.

What is this truth? The truth is that more than 3,700 Americans have already lost their lives, more than 20,000 have been wounded, and nearly $500 billion in American taxpayer funds have been expended.

The truth is that, despite this enormous sacrifice, we find ourselves mired in a civil war with no end in sight and Iraqis unable or unwilling to make the political decisions necessary to end this conflict.

And the truth is President Bush's decision to go to war and stay at war has actually encouraged thousands of new recruits for Al Qaida in Iraq and around the world, has made the Middle East and other parts of the globe less safe, has alienated the Muslim world and allowed Al Qaida — the enemy that attacked this nation six years ago — a chance to rebuild and restore its terror network.

These are the facts. But the facts will not stop the president and his fellow Republicans from trying once again to sell the American people a bill of goods on the Iraq war.

The failures in Iraq are not the fault of our troops or their courage in battle. They have done everything asked of them and more. The conflict in Iraq is an Iraqi political problem, not a U.S. military problem.

We can't continue to sacrifice American lives, deplete our treasury and weaken our national security. We can't expect our soldiers to continue to risk their lives, especially when the Iraqi leaders themselves show no interest in achieving a peaceful political solution.

President Bush's report to Congress will attempt to show that his escalation has produced improved security in certain parts of Iraq. But it will ignore the stark truth in Iraq: that his overall strategy to buy time for Iraqis to make the needed political decisions has failed and, just like Vietnam, we are enmeshed now in an open-ended war for which our troops and our country will pay the price for decades to come.

That's why we must act now. This fall, Democrats in Congress will continue to stand with our troops and with the American people to remember the lessons of history and end the Iraq war.


Saturday, August 25, 2007

Why our pullout from Vietnam worked and Bush is wrong...

Why America's Pullout From Vietnam Was a Success
By Michael Hirsh

Thursday 23 August 2007

The truth behind Bush's mangling of Cold War history.

The Soviet Union was in its final days of existence when I visited Vietnam in late December of 1991. The cold war was about to end forever with the collapse of one of the two adversaries that had kept it going for 40-odd years. A lot had changed in Vietnam, too, I discovered during my trip. The coziness between Moscow and Hanoi, once comrades within the Soviet bloc, had curdled into mutual hatred. Throughout the country, but especially in the North, the Vietnamese had come to despise the large resident Russian population for its cheap spending habits and arrogance. Visiting Americans, by contrast, were welcomed with smiles ("Russians with dollars," we were called.) On the day I visited the old U.S. Embassy in Saigon - the where some of those iconic photos symbolizing American defeat were taken - I discovered government workmen removing a plaque that once commemorated the North's victory over the "U.S. imperialists." In the waning days of that epochal year, 1991, the propaganda against American involvement in Southeast Asia was suddenly no longer politically correct. Hanoi's new message: Yankee Come Back (and bring your investment dollars). Today Vietnam remains nominally communist, but Hanoi knows it is an ideological relic surrounded by Asian capitalist tigers, all of them U.S. allies or dependents (one reason Vietnam was so eager to have Bush visit last November: it wants to be part of that club). The cold war dominoes did fall - but the opposite way.

This was the "harsh" aftermath that George W. Bush attempted to describe this week when he warned against pulling out of Iraq as we did in Vietnam. His remarks to the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Kansas City on Wednesday were an abuse of historical fact - no surprise, perhaps, coming from a president who is just now catching up with the Political Science 101 reading he shrugged off at Yale. Yes, a lot of Vietnamese boat people died on the high seas; but many others have returned to visit in the ensuing years. Above all, we have learned that Vietnam and Southeast Asia were never really central fronts in the cold war (although Korea at the time of the outbreak of war in 1950, when Beijing still kowtowed to Moscow and before the Soviet Union and China split, might have fit that bill). The decision to pull out had very little effect on the ultimate outcome. America triumphed in the cold war because it had the right kind of economy - an open one - compared to Moscow and Beijing, and its ideas about freedom were more attractive to the states within the Soviet bloc than their own failed ideas were.

The president would like to make the argument that Iraq is about the same struggle. It's not, for several important reasons. In contrast to the Soviet and Chinese communists, or for that matter the fascists of the 1930s and '40s, Al Qaeda and its ilk have no universalist program, no persuasive alternative ideology to globalization and some brand of democracy. They are nihilists, and they have failed to capture half the world's attention as communism and socialism once did. So, yes, while a U.S. pullout would no doubt inspire a great deal of Al Qaeda propaganda about how they succeeded in forcing the Americans to withdraw from Iraq as they forced the Soviets to do in Afghanistan, the majority of the world's elites won't buy it. And the truth is, the slow bleed of America's might and prestige on the streets of Iraq makes for a far more compelling picture of U.S. weakness than any Al Qaeda propaganda could ever do. If we leave, Al Qaeda will rant triumphantly on the Web sites and perhaps win more adherents, but that won't get them any closer to "victory" over us than they are now.

We need to face facts. The problem of Iraq has very little to do with "the terrorists" whom Bush vaguely refers to in speech after speech. The problem of Iraq is that four years of a botched bloody occupation have created a failed state defined by fear, sectarian slaughter and the flight of Iraq's educated class. Iraq is being held together by just one thing now: American glue, the glue of U.S. troops on the ground. The noises you hear now about the ineffectiveness of the government of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki are merely the sound of an approaching collapse long in the making. The only really appropriate analogy to Vietnam is that Bush's policy of Iraqification - handing over things to the Iraqis - is far too similar to Vietnamization. Like the South Vietnamese government, the Iraqi politicians hunkered down in the Green Zone have little legitimacy any longer. Whatever authority they gained in the January 2005 elections has long since been frittered away and overtaken by the sectarian power struggle that is the governing reality on the ground. This power struggle is the reason why the Parliament is hopelessly paralyzed and why Maliki has almost no freedom of action. As a loyal Shiite of the Dawa Party, he is and will remain incapable of defying the new consensus among his sect for Shiite dominance. So powerful are these centrifugal forces pulling Iraq apart that the Iraqi Army seems to be disintegrating faster than it can be trained up. As seven soldiers of the 82nd Airborne Division wrote in The New York Times on Aug. 19: "Reports that a majority of Iraqi Army commanders are now reliable partners can be considered only misleading rhetoric. The truth is that battalion commanders, even if well meaning, have little to no influence over the thousands of obstinate men under them, in an incoherent chain of command, who are really loyal only to their militias."

Iraq will have to sort out these problems itself. There needs to be dramatic scaling back of the U.S. presence so that U.S. attention and resources can turn to the real terrorists. Most of them are still outside Iraq, especially in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where the whole thing started and where the "war on terror" should have always been focused. Even some very smart people don't seem to understand that Bush's larger idea of a "war on terror" has always been a fraudulent concept ginned up to justify his invasion of Iraq by broadening the enemy beyond the handful of Afghanistan-based bad guys who attacked us on 9/11. Mark Lilla, the Columbia University professor whose forthcoming book, "The Stillborn God," was excerpted in The New York Times Magazine last Sunday, is so intimidated by the threat of Islamism that he argues, nonsensically, that the separation of religion and politics achieved in the West is the exception rather than the rule in the world today. Lilla writes: "A little more than two centuries ago we began to believe that the West was on a one-way track toward modern secular democracy and that other societies, once placed on that track, would inevitably follow. Though this has not happened, we still maintain our implicit faith in a modernizing process and blame delays on extenuating circumstances like poverty or colonialism."

This is a misreading of history almost as profound as Bush's. In fact this process has happened. It's called globalization. Yes, there are some pretty large parts of the globe that haven't experienced it much yet: much of the Islamic world - let's narrow that to certain Islamist and Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and Iran - and most of Africa. But in every other developed or developing part of the globe - the Americas, Europe, most of Asia, even Putin-controlled Russia - this Western-engendered system in which secularism eclipses religion in politics and governance has been accepted. (In fact, when it comes to mixing religion and politics, the most backsliding we've seen in the developed world in recent years has been right here in the United States, with the rise of the evangelical right). Even if we were to vastly oversimplify the terms of the conflict, we'd have to conclude it's the 4 or 5 billion (give or take a few hundred million) of the international community versus 1 billion or so Muslims. And thanks to this process, we of the majority - the international community - are still winning. Just ask that dwindling band of communists in Hanoi.

Go to Original

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Recommended: The Politics of God, by Mark Lilla,

There is in today's Sunday Magazine of the NY Times, a very relevant and important analysis of how and why our society has the conflicts it currently experiences and some thoughtful recommendations of what is necessary for peace and justice.

You can go to the New York Times, find the Sunday Magazine button on the left of indices, and go to the article itself and print it if you choose for reading. It is 12 pages, but here I will copy the last two, re recommendations.

VII. The Opposite Shore

This is not welcome news. For more than two centuries, promoters of modernization have taken it for granted that science, technology, urbanization and education would eventually “disenchant” the charmed world of believers, and that with time people would either abandon their traditional faiths or transform them in politically anodyne ways. They point to continental Europe, where belief in God has been in steady decline over the last 50 years, and suggest that, with time, Muslims everywhere will undergo a similar transformation. Those predictions may eventually prove right. But Europe’s rapid secularization is historically unique and, as we have just seen, relatively recent. Political theology is highly adaptive and can present to even educated minds a more compelling vision of the future than the prospect of secular modernity. It takes as little for a highly trained medical doctor to fashion a car bomb today as it took for advanced thinkers to fashion biblically inspired justifications of fascist and communist totalitarianism in Weimar Germany. When the urge to connect is strong, passions are high and fantasies are vivid, the trinkets of our modern lives are impotent amulets against political intoxication.

Realizing this, a number of Muslim thinkers around the world have taken to promoting a “liberal” Islam. What they mean is an Islam more adapted to the demands of modern life, kinder in its treatment of women and children, more tolerant of other faiths, more open to dissent. These are brave people who have often suffered for their efforts, in prison or exile, as did their predecessors in the 19th century, of which there were many. But now as then, their efforts have been swept away by deeper theological currents they cannot master and perhaps do not even understand. The history of Protestant and Jewish liberal theology reveals the problem: the more a biblical faith is trimmed to fit the demands of the moment, the fewer reasons it gives believers for holding on to that faith in troubled times, when self-appointed guardians of theological purity offer more radical hope. Worse still, when such a faith is used to bestow theological sanctification on a single form of political life — even an attractive one like liberal democracy — the more it will be seen as collaborating with injustice when that political system fails. The dynamics of political theology seem to dictate that when liberalizing reformers try to conform to the present, they inspire a countervailing and far more passionate longing for redemption in the messianic future. That is what happened in Weimar Germany and is happening again in contemporary Islam.

The complacent liberalism and revolutionary messianism we’ve encountered are not the only theological options. There is another kind of transformation possible in biblical faiths, and that is the renewal of traditional political theology from within. If liberalizers are apologists for religion at the court of modern life, renovators stand firmly within their faith and reinterpret political theology so believers can adapt without feeling themselves to be apostates. Luther and Calvin were renovators in this sense, not liberalizers. They called Christians back to the fundamentals of their faith, but in a way that made it easier, not harder, to enjoy the fruits of temporal existence. They found theological reasons to reject the ideal of celibacy, and its frequent violation by priests, and thus returned the clergy to ordinary family life. They then found theological reasons to reject otherworldly monasticism and the all-too-worldly imperialism of Rome, offering biblical reasons that Christians should be loyal citizens of the state they live in. And they did this, not by speaking the apologetic language of toleration and progress, but by rewriting the language of Christian political theology and demanding that Christians be faithful to it.

Today, a few voices are calling for just this kind of renewal of Islamic political theology. Some, like Khaled Abou El Fadl, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, challenge the authority of today’s puritans, who make categorical judgments based on a literal reading of scattered Koranic verses. In Abou El Fadl’s view, traditional Islamic law can still be applied to present-day situations because it brings a subtle interpretation of the whole text to bear on particular problems in varied circumstances. Others, like the Swiss-born cleric and professor Tariq Ramadan, are public figures whose writings show Western Muslims that their political theology, properly interpreted, offers guidance for living with confidence in their faith and gaining acceptance in what he calls an alien “abode.” To read their works is to be reminded what a risky venture renewal is. It can invite believers to participate more fully and wisely in the political present, as the Protestant Reformation eventually did; it can also foster dreams of returning to a more primitive faith, through violence if necessary, as happened in the Wars of Religion.

Perhaps for this reason, Abou El Fadl and especially Ramadan have become objects of intense and sometimes harsh scrutiny by Western intellectuals. We prefer speaking with the Islamic liberalizers because they share our language: they accept the intellectual presuppositions of the Great Separation and simply want maximum room given for religious and cultural expression. They do not practice political theology. But the prospects of enduring political change through renewal are probably much greater than through liberalization. By speaking from within the community of the faithful, renovators give believers compelling theological reasons for accepting new ways as authentic reinterpretations of the faith. Figures like Abou El Fadl and Ramadan speak a strange tongue, even when promoting changes we find worthy; their reasons are not our reasons. But if we cannot expect mass conversion to the principles of the Great Separation — and we cannot — we had better learn to welcome transformations in Muslim political theology that ease coexistence. The best should not be the enemy of the good.

In the end, though, what happens on the opposite shore will not be up to us. We have little reason to expect societies in the grip of a powerful political theology to follow our unusual path, which was opened up by a unique crisis within Christian civilization. This does not mean that those societies necessarily lack the wherewithal to create a decent and workable political order; it does mean that they will have to find the theological resources within their own traditions to make it happen.

Our challenge is different. We have made a choice that is at once simpler and harder: we have chosen to limit our politics to protecting individuals from the worst harms they can inflict on one another, to securing fundamental liberties and providing for their basic welfare, while leaving their spiritual destinies in their own hands. We have wagered that it is wiser to beware the forces unleashed by the Bible’s messianic promise than to try exploiting them for the public good. We have chosen to keep our politics unilluminated by divine revelation. All we have is our own lucidity, which we must train on a world where faith still inflames the minds of men.

Mark Lilla is professor of the humanities at Columbia University. This essay is adapted from his book “The Stillborn God: Religion, Politics and the Modern West,” which will be published next month.

Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company

Thursday, August 16, 2007

HOuse of War, by James Carroll, review by Mick J

August 16, 2007

Book Review "House of War" by James Carroll

By Mick J

I have just completed James Carroll's "House of War"which is a history of the Pentagon. I should start with a disclaimer - I read it as a CD during my daily commute and I was not planning on reviewing it before I started.

The basic statement of the book is that the Pentagon, almost from its inception, has been a "House of War" intent on propagating its own huge defense (offense) budgets by persistently and erroneously inducing paranoia among administration, politicians, and citizens. Carroll's thesis is that it has largely failed in its wars and that its much touted success of "winning the cold war" is not true. It was the citizens of the Communist world that did that, as well as the Communist systems internal inefficiencies.

I chose to read the book because I had been extremely impressed by "Constantine's Sword" a previous Carroll tome (and Carroll's books are tomes - long and wandering while also being informative and well written). Lurking within each of these massive books is a more readable book 70% of the length, never to be published. "Constantine's Sword" deals with the Roman Catholic church, anti-semitism and much European history.

"House of War" deals with a totally different subject and is focused on a mere 60 years of history. It shares with "Constantine's Sword" much personal anecdotal information. In "House of War" this is more relevant since Carroll's father was a 4-star Air Force general in the Pentagon and Carroll , as a young boy, sometimes used to play in the Pentagon on Sundays when his father was in the office. He also was able to interview many people who knew his father, e.g. McNamara, because of their connection to his father.

The Pentagon was dedicated in 1943, which year also happens to mark Carroll's birth. The book spends many chapters discussing American bombing in WW II leading up to the double dropping of the atomic bomb. In that discussion it is interesting to note that the Americans, initially, were much more reluctant to bomb civilians than the British, but moved quickly to the British position of high level bombing of cities. The death toll of this bombing was very high in some of the cities e.g. the bombing of Tokyo. Curtis LeMay, who Carroll calls his 'dark hero" was an advocate of such bombing and said of the Japanese that there are "no innocent civilians". Hmmm, I thought, that is what Osama Bin Laden might say today of Americans.

The first secretary of defense at the Pentagon was James Forrestal who set the pattern for much of the aggressive paranoid thinking that marks so much of the Pentagon's history. Today, a large statue of Forrestal greets the visitor at the main entrance to the Pentagon. Forrestal was a man who had an obsessive fear of Communism. He saw the nuclear bomb as just an instrument of war to be put under military control, as did Curtis LeMay. As we move on to the development of the H-bomb, and thermonuclear war we meet with Paul Nitze who was to remain a cold war warrior over 35 years and serve with nearly all the presidents during that period. He, along with George Kennan, totally distrusted the Soviets, and yet failed to see the obvious fact that in the development of the A-bomb, the H-bomb, submarine nuclear launch facility, intercontinental rockets, multiple independent nuclear warheads, Anti-Ballistic Missile systems, and many more such defense systems the Russians always lagged the Americans.

Truman, to his credit, firmly placed use of nuclear weapons under presidential control and thus made the use of nuclear weapons much more unlikely. In the book we learn, not surprisingly, that Kennedy put the US on highest nuclear alert during the Cuban crisis. We also learn that Nixon secretly did it three times. No other US president has ever put the country on the highest alert; nor did the Soviets, ever. It does not add much gratification when Carroll relates that in Kissinger's memoirs he relates that he called the White House in the evening and spoke to the "drunk". How close the world was to a nuclear holocaust!!

Carroll joined the anti-Vietnam protestors and was a great admirer of the Berrigan brothers. He marched against the Pentagon in sight of his father's window but was hidden from identification by the anonymity of the vast crowd of demonstrators. Carroll constantly praises Gorbachev in the ways that he responded to the growing civil nonviolent protests to Communist rule.

We continue to the depressing Clinton years, which actually slowed the nuclear arms reductions. It makes sad reading how Clinton was dominated by Powell, then armed services chief. I had forgotten, or perhaps, I never registered the incident when Clinton boarded the aircraft carrier, Theodore Roosevelt, and a young sailor did not salute his commander-in-chief. Clinton did nothing in face of this insubordination, and neither did the Navy brass. The Lewinsky affair would have terminated any respect of the military for Clinton, except it was already zero.

The book closes with a discussion of the new Bush doctrine of preventive war. Carroll is careful to differentiate between "preventive" and "pre-emptive" wars. The latter which may be defined as an attack to prevent an certain, imminent enemy attack (e.g. Israel in the 1967 war), may be permissible under international law. The latter never are.

Carroll is optimistic, believing as he does in the power of citizens to effect major systemic changes. I hope he is correct, but I fear that in the US the citizenry, collectively speaking, may be compared to the farm animals that bleat "baa, baa".

Authors Bio: Mick is an immigrant working in the computer industry living in the US heartland. He immigrated from Great Britain about 30 years ago and became a citizen. He likes biking and hiking. He is married with three kids.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Catholic priests for Justice, opposed to USA military use of torture.

Pre-Trial Continues for Priests Who Denounce Torture
By Sari Gelzer
T r u t h o u t | Report

Monday 13 August 2007

Two Roman Catholic priests, who were arrested as they approached the Fort Huachuca gatehouse on November 19, 2006, will face a continuance of their pre-trial hearing this August 13 in Federal Court in Tucson, Arizona. The intent of Franciscan Fr. Louis Vitale, 74, and Jesuit Fr. Steve Kelly, 58, was to speak with enlisted personnel and deliver a letter denouncing torture to Major General Barbara Fast, commander at the post.

The letter addressed to Major General Fast voices the priests' concern with what is being taught to interrogators who are being trained at Fort Huachuca, the headquarters for the intelligence services of the US military.

"The Army Field Manual on interrogation (Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual) was written at Fort Huachuca," wrote Bill Quigley, law professor and human rights lawyer at Loyola University New Orleans.

Quigley, who also happens to be representing both priests in this case, goes on to say: "A number of the officers and soldiers responsible for human rights abuses at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison have worked at or were trained at the Headquarters for Army Intelligence Training at Ft. Huachuca."

Before becoming the Commander of the US Army intelligence Center in Arizona, Major General Fast was the top US intelligence officer in Iraq. She was responsible for reviewing the status of detainees at Abu Ghraib before their release, and was serving her post during the period in which practices of torture by US military personnel were occurring in the prison.

The priests found it fitting to discuss US acts of Torture with Major General Fast and ask her what is specifically being taught to US military interrogators at the US base. In their letter, they address Major General Fast:

"We are here today as concerned US people, veterans and clergy, to speak with enlisted personnel about the illegality and immorality of torture according to international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions. We condemn torture as a dehumanization of both prisoners and interrogators, resulting in humiliation, disability and even death."

The priests were at the base in Sierra Vista, Arizona as part of a demonstration of over 120 people that gathered on Sunday, November 19, 2006, to protest military training that fosters torture. Frs. Vitale and Kelly were stopped as they approached the military gates. When they were not allowed to go inside to speak with the service men and women being trained, the two men knelt in prayer and were arrested.

The demonstration at Fort Huachuca was held in conjunction with the 16th annual vigil at Fort Benning, Georgia, organized by the group, School of the Americas Watch. On Saturday, November 18, 2006, over 20,000 protesters arrived at Fort Benning to call for the closing of what was formerly known as the School of the Americas. The school's name was changed in 2000 to the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).

A Congressional task force found that soldiers, responsible for the massacre of six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her teenage daughter in El Salvador in 1989, were trained at the School of the Americas, which moved to Fort Benning from Panama in 1984. The protesters accuse the school of participating in mass human rights abuses in Latin American and beyond.

Fr. Vitale and Fr. Steve Kelly face federal and state charges of trespass and refusal to follow police orders.

Fr. Vitale is co-founder of the Nevada Desert Experience, a faith-based organization that has opposed nuclear weapons testing for a quarter of a century. He was arrested at a Fort Benning Protest in 2005 and served six months in federal prison.

Fr. Kelley has served time in federal prison for the nonviolent, direct disarmament of nuclear weapon delivery systems. In December of 2005, he served as chaplain for Witness to Torture, a delegation of US anti-torture activists who peacefully marched in Cuba to the gates of the Guantanamo Bay naval base and prison camp.


To View the Letter: http://tortureontrial.org/media.html#letter
For Information on the Trial: www.Tortureontrial.org
School of the America Watch: www.soaw.org/

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Terror we (USA) wrought on civilians 62 years ago.

The Terror America Wrought
By Robert Scheer

Tuesday 07 August 2007

During a week of mayhem in Iraq, in which terrorists have rightly been condemned for targeting schoolchildren, it is sobering to recall that this week is also the 62nd anniversary of a U.S. attack that deliberately took the lives of thousands of children on their way to school in the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. As noted in the Strategic Bombing Survey conducted at President Harry Truman's request, when the bomb hit Hiroshima on April 6, 1945, "nearly all the school children ... were at work in the open," to be exploded, irradiated or incinerated in the perfect firestorm that the planners back at the University of California-run Los Alamos lab had envisioned for the bomb's maximum psychological impact.

The terror plot worked all too well, as Hiroshima's Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba recalled this week: "That fateful summer, 8:15 a.m. The roar of a B-29 breaks the morning calm. A parachute opens in the blue sky. Then suddenly, a flash, an enormous blast-silence-hell on Earth. The eyes of young girls watching the parachute were melted. Their faces became giant charred blisters. The skin of people seeking help dangled from their fingernails. ... Others died when their eyeballs and internal organs burst from their bodies-Hiroshima was a hell where those who somehow survived envied the dead."

Like most of the others killed by the two American bombs, neither the children nor the adults had any role in Japan's decision to go to war, but they were picked as the target instead of an isolated but fortified military base whose antiaircraft fire posed a higher risk. The target preferred by U.S. atomic scientists-a patch in the ocean or unpopulated terrain-was rejected, because the effect of hundreds of thousands of civilians dying would be all the more dramatic.

The victims in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were available soft targets, much like the children playing in Iraq, suddenly caught in the crossfire of battles waged beyond their control. In "White Light/Black Rain," a devastating HBO documentary released this week, there is an interview with the sole survivor of a Japanese elementary school of 620 students. The murder of the other 619, and the 370,000 overall deaths attributed to the bombings, 85 percent of which were civilian deaths, has never compelled a widespread examination of the "end justifies the means" morality of our own state-sanctioned acts of terror. Indeed, the horrifying footage taken by Japanese and American cameramen soon after the devastation, and shown in the HBO film, was long kept secret by the U.S. government for fear that an informed American public might question this nation's incipient nuclear arms race.

Just exactly what distinguishes the United States' use of the ever-so-cutely-named "Fat Man" and "Little Boy" atomic bombs on cities in Japan from the car bombs of Baghdad or the planes that smashed into the World Trade Center? To even raise the question, as was found in one recent university case, can be a career-ending move.

Of course, we had our justifications, as terrorists always do. Truman defended his decision to drop the atomic bombs on civilians over the objection of leading atomic scientists on the grounds that it was a necessary military action to save lives by forcing a quick Japanese surrender. He insisted on that imperative despite the objections of top military figures, including Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, who contended that the war would end quickly without dropping the bomb.

The subsequent release of formerly secret documents makes a hash of Truman's rationalization. His White House was fully informed that the Japanese were on the verge of collapse, and their surrender was made all the more likely by the Soviets' imminent entry into the fight.

At most, the Japanese were asking for the face-saving gesture of retaining their emperor, and even that modest demand would likely have been abandoned with the shift of massive numbers of Allied troops and firepower from the battlefront of a defeated Germany to a confrontation with its deeply wounded Asian ally. Instead, the U.S. played midwife to the birth of the nuclear monster, the ultimate terrorist weapon that presents a continuing and growing threat to the survival of human life on Earth.

This is a lesson to be pondered at a time when President Bush plays power games with a nuclear-equipped Russia while coddling Pakistan, the main proliferator of nuclear weapons to rogue regimes, and Congress authorizes an expansion of the U.S. nuclear program to better fight the war on terror by "improving" the ultimate weapon of terror, which the U.S. alone stands guilty of using.


More Links:

For a fuller explanation of the suppression of footage taken shortly after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki attacks, follow this link.

Click here to go to HBO's site for "White Light/Black Rain."

Monday, August 06, 2007

Pariots who love our troops to death. . . .yes

Patriots Who Love the Troops to Death
By Frank Rich
The New York Times

Sunday 05 August 2007

Gerald Ford spoke the truth when he called Watergate "our long national nightmare," but even a nightmare can have its interludes of rib-splitting farce.

None were zanier than the antics of Baruch Korff, a small-town New England rabbi who became a full-time Richard Nixon sycophant as the walls closed in. Korff was ubiquitous in the press and on television, where he would lambaste Democrats and the media "lynch mob" for vilifying "the greatest president of the century." Despite Nixon's reflexive anti-Semitism, he returned the favor by granting the rabbi audiences and an interview that allowed the embattled president to soliloquize about how his own faith and serenity reinforced his conviction "deep inside" that everything he did was right.

Clearly we've reached our own Korffian moment in our latest long national nightmare. The Nixon interviewed by the rabbi sounded uncannily like the resolute leader chronicled by the conservative columnists and talk-show jocks President Bush has lately welcomed into his bunker. For his part, William Kristol even published a Korffian manifesto, "Why Bush Will Be a Winner," in The Washington Post. It reassured us that the Bush presidency would "probably be a successful one" and that "we now seem to be on course to a successful outcome" in Iraq. A Bush flack let it be known that the president liked this piece so much that he recommended it to his White House staff.

Are you laughing yet? Maybe not. No one died in Watergate. This time around, the White House lying and cover-ups have been not just in the service of political thuggery but to gin up a gratuitous war without end.

There is another significant difference as well. Washington never drank the Nixon Kool-Aid. It kept a skeptical bipartisan eye on Tricky Dick throughout his political career, long before the Watergate complex had even been built. The charmed Mr. Bush, by contrast, got a free pass; both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and both liberals and conservatives in the news media were credulous enablers of the Iraq fiasco. Now a reckoning awaits, and the denouement is getting ugly.

The ranks of unreconstructed Iraq hawks are thinner than they used to be. Some politicians in both parties (John Edwards, Chris Dodd, Gordon Smith) and truculent pundits (Peter Beinart, Andrew Sullivan) who cheered on the war recanted (sooner in some cases than others), learned from their errors and moved on. One particularly eloquent mea culpa can be found in today's New York Times Magazine, where the former war supporter Michael Ignatieff acknowledges that those who "truly showed good judgment on Iraq" might have had no more information than those who got it wrong, but did not make the mistake of confusing "wishes for reality."

But those who remain dug in are having none of that. Some of them are busily lashing out Korff-style. Some are melting down. Some are rewriting history. Most seem more interested in saving their own reputations than the American troops they ritualistically invoke to bludgeon the wars' critics and to parade their own self-congratulatory patriotism.

It was a rewriting of history that made the blogosphere (and others) go berserk last week over an Op-Ed article in The Times, "A War We Just Might Win," by Michael O'Hanlon and Kenneth Pollack. The two Brookings Institution scholars, after a government-guided tour, pointed selectively to successes on the ground in Iraq in arguing that the surge should be continued "at least into 2008."

The hole in their argument was gaping. As Adm. Michael Mullen, the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said honorably and bluntly in his Congressional confirmation hearings, "No amount of troops in no amount of time will make much of a difference" in Iraq if there's no functioning Iraqi government. Opting for wishes over reality, Mr. O'Hanlon and Mr. Pollack buried their pro forma acknowledgment of that huge hurdle near the end of their piece.

But even more galling was the authors' effort to elevate their credibility by describing themselves as "analysts who have harshly criticized the Bush administration's miserable handling of Iraq." That's disingenuous. For all their late-in-the-game criticisms of the administration's incompetence, Mr. Pollack proselytized vociferously for the war before it started, including in an appearance with Oprah, and both men have helped prolong the quagmire with mistakenly optimistic sightings of progress since the days of "Mission Accomplished."

You can find a compendium of their past wisdom in Glenn Greenwald's Salon column. That think-tank pundits with this track record would try to pass themselves off as harsh war critics in 2007 shows how desperate they are to preserve their status as Beltway "experts" now that the political winds have shifted. Such blatant careerism would be less offensive if they didn't do so on the backs of the additional American troops they ask to be sacrificed to the doomed mission of providing security for an Iraqi government that is both on vacation and on the verge of collapse.

At least the more rabid and Korff-like of the war's last defenders have the intellectual honesty not to deny what they've been saying all along. But their invective has gone over the top, with even mild recent critics of the war like John Warner and Richard Lugar being branded defeatist "pre- 9/11 Republicans" by Mr. Kristol.

It's also the tic of Mr. Kristol's magazine, The Weekly Standard (and its Murdoch sibling The New York Post), to claim that the war's critics hate the troops. When The New Republic ran a less-than-jingoistic essay by a pseudonymous American soldier in Iraq, The Weekly Standard even accused it of fabrication - only to have its bluff called when the author's identity was revealed and his controversial anecdotes were verified by other sources.

A similar over-the-top tirade erupted on "Meet the Press" last month, when another war defender in meltdown, Senator Lindsey Graham, repeatedly cut off his fellow guest by saying that soldiers he met on official Congressional visits to Iraq endorsed his own enthusiasm for the surge. Unfortunately for Mr. Graham, his sparring partner was Jim Webb, the take-no-prisoners Virginia Democrat who is a Vietnam veteran and the father of a soldier serving in the war. Senator Webb reduced Mr. Graham to a stammering heap of Jell-O when he chastised him for trying to put his political views "into the mouths of soldiers." As Mr. Webb noted, the last New York Times-CBS News poll on the subject found that most members of the military and their immediate families have turned against the war, like other Americans.

As is becoming clearer than ever in this Korffian endgame, hiding behind the troops is the last refuge of this war's sponsors. This too is a rewrite of history. It has been the war's champions who have more often dishonored the troops than the war's opponents.

Mr. Bush created the template by doing everything possible to keep the sacrifice of American armed forces in Iraq off-camera, forbidding photos of coffins and skipping military funerals. That set the stage for the ensuing demonization of Ted Koppel, whose decision to salute the fallen by reading a list of their names in the spotlight of "Nightline" was branded unpatriotic by the right's vigilantes.

The same playbook was followed by the war's champions when a soldier confronted Donald Rumsfeld about the woeful shortage of armor during a town-hall meeting in Kuwait in December 2004. Rather than campaign for the armor the troops so desperately needed, the right attacked the questioner for what Rush Limbaugh called his "near insubordination." When The Washington Post some two years later exposed the indignities visited upon the grievously injured troops at Walter Reed Medical Center, The Weekly Standard and the equally hawkish Wall Street Journal editorial page took three weeks to notice, with The Standard giving the story all of two sentences. Protecting the White House from scandal, not the troops from squalor, was the higher priority.

One person who has had enough of this hypocrisy is the war critic Andrew J. Bacevich, a Boston University professor of international relations who is also a Vietnam veteran, a product of the United States Military Academy and a former teacher at West Point. After his 27-year-old son was killed in May while serving in Iraq, he said that Americans should not believe Memorial Day orators who talk about how priceless the troops' lives are.

"I know what value the U.S. government assigns to a soldier's life," Professor Bacevich wrote in The Washington Post. "I've been handed the check." The amount, he said, was "roughly what the Yankees will pay Roger Clemens per inning."

Anyone who questions this bleak perspective need only have watched last week's sad and ultimately pointless Congressional hearings into the 2004 friendly-fire death of Pat Tillman. Seven investigations later, we still don't know who rewrote the witness statements of Tillman's cohort so that Pentagon propagandists could trumpet a fictionalized battle death to the public and his family.

But it was nonetheless illuminating to watch Mr. Rumsfeld and his top brass sit there under oath and repeatedly go mentally AWOL about crucial events in the case. Their convenient mass amnesia about their army's most famous and lied-about casualty is as good a definition as any of just what "supporting the troops" means to those who even now beat the drums for this war.