Thursday, May 27

What's It All About, Part II

"However, on religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God's name on one's behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom. They are trying to force government leaders into following their position 100 percent. If you disagree with these religious groups on a particular moral issue, they complain, they threaten you with a loss of money or votes or both. I'm frankly sick and tired of the political preachers across this country telling me as a citizen that if I want to be a moral person, I must believe in 'A,' 'B,' 'C,' and 'D.' Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of 'conservatism.' "
U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater, source is the Congressional Record, 1981.

I've been asking myself for the past two years, "Why Iraq?" Why is the United States waging a second war with this nation? For twelve years it has struggled just to survive under the United Nations' sanctions and inspections. Why would America wage a "uni-lateral", "pre-emptive" war with a nation as bereft of menace as this one? Iran, Syria, Libya, Sudan, North Korea, Pakistan, are more powerful, more dangerous and more contentious as far as U.S. interests are concerned.

Is it oil? Halliburton and other "civilian vendors" currently in Iraq are reaping financial benefits, but it's costing them a lot too. Oil is not getting to our gas pumps either. Gas prices in the U.S. are the highest in my lifetime and climbing, so it's painfully obvious that if the US waged war to gain oil reserves for America, it's lost the war. It's probable that American companies that are providing everything from security, intelligence, soldiers, and food services are in Iraq to further the robot-war dreams of Rumsfeld. They're getting richer while making his glorious vision of a computerized, privatized US military a sad reality. Don't bother him with the details like lax oversight, bribery, greed and corruption that a mercenary military breeds. He and Poindexter are working on the final frontier of an all mechanized and useless military. Blood for oil? Where's the oil? The Saudi Arabians are the only ones giving American's a break at the gas pump and I'd guess they've been pressured by the Bush family to do so or else. Oil, graft, corruption are definitely out of control in Iraq. I suspect that there are quite a few Milo Mindbenders over there willing to do anything to rake in the tons of loose millions that cannot be accounted for by Congress. America has spent almost $115 billion on its "anti terror" war campaigns and it's estimated that between ten and twenty percent of the "expenditures" have no expense report receipt. It's a royal rip-off, and I do not accept it but I understand how it happens because it's a familiar war scenario.

Can anyone believe we are in Iraq to liberate the people from tyranny? Sorry, but this lame excuse just begs the question: "Isn't the Patriot Act pretty far along the road to tyranny?" It's also clear that the Republicans in power today don't care about liberating anyone; especially America's poor and downtrodden. Take a look at their voting record on children, the working poor, even our veterans and their dependents. Why on earth would they care about downtrodden foreigners? Really, people. If our government can't be nice to it's own citizens why should it be nice to the citizens of a country it invades. The Iraqis know Uncle Sam is not their savior and friend. Over the decades, they've become experts at ignoring the false promises of tyrants and making judgments based on actions not speeches. Americans can learn a lot about telling the truth from the lie from these people.

I'm not even going near the bogus claim of weapons of mass destruction. Well, maybe for a second. Before the President's January 2003 Inauguration Speech about Iraq and it's weapons of mass destruction, the UN inspectors, UN Security Council members, government web sites, blogs and my next door neighbor were not convinced that Iraq was capable of launching a nuclear attack against the US. For a while I thought it might be possible that Saddam had supported the terrorist attack on 9/11 until I did some research and realized how much Osama and Saddam hated and distrusted each other. Bush and more recently Rumsfield have both admitted publicly that Iraq was not an imminent threat to America. The only die-hard on this issue is Cheney and he keeps his granite skullcap well maintained so nothing penetrates his fortress of dormant brain cells. WMD are DOA.

Could the invasion of Iraq be the start of a culture war? Is it a war similar to the old "crusades" idea of Christian vs. Muslim? A long while ago, I gave this idea a nudge and couldn't fathom it. I couldn't find a cohesive connection between the Christian coalition and the neo-con Jewish coalition. The dots didn't seem to really connect so I let go of this bizarre idea. It has been niggling at the edges of my brain for a while, though. Every time Bush appoints a religious right-wing judge, or he suggests a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriages, or signs a law allowing "faith based" charities to discriminate in their hiring and funding practices, or he says the word, "evil doer", I cringe and think, "culture wars." Mentally cringing has become a habit over the past three years and five months. Today, I read a short essay published in one of my favorite internet communities devoted to the written word. It almost gave me a mental seizure.

"Christian Reconstructionism - The Foundation of Modern Conservatism," is a well-written essay, written by "revcats" with some supportive documentation that speaks to the idea of a culture war in Iraq. There are over two hundred comments for and against this idea, and many commentaries challenge the sanity and believability of the concept. The author is pretty clear in laying out five principles of this political concept and further explains political conflicts that seem to be directly related to it. The author's explanation of Israel gave me the missing link between neo-cons and the religious right:

"Israel - The nation of Israel ties heavily into Reconstructionist thinking, being the place they believe Jesus will first physically appear after his return. Further, since they believe that the Jews are ultimately doomed, they give little thought to the humanitarian violations visited upon the Palestinians by the Israeli government. Their only concern insofar as Israel is concerned is to make sure it continues to exist as a state until the Rapture comes."

Wild, isn't it? I lived in Arizona when Barry Goldwater was America's conservative Republican god. His ultra-rich family and supporters seemed so out of step with the mainstream and he was often portrayed as a dangerous anti-communist warmonger. But, he never had any tolerance or support for groups like the John Birch Society and religious fundamentalists that constantly dogged his steps with praise and condemnation. Back then, they were considered "beyond the fringe", in the same league as the underground Weathermen and Black Panthers. His quote above and many others shed the light on those that would erode America's political foundation: the separation of church and state. Old Barry did not pull any punches and he had a great big fist for religious zealots.

My mind wants a simple, single reason for the bloodbath in Iraq. Oil, the establishment of a political power base in the Middle East, Rummy's need to "field test" his war toys, religious fanatics, because it's there, and other undiscovered "reasons" are the most likely culprits for this horror show. It’s time to bring the curtain down on this shameful tragedy and start producing shows that truly represent how a secular Republic lives, works, plays, worships and rules itself. How about calling this new production, America Loves Bill - (tagline) a ten-part series on the Bill of Rights.

Vote for anyone but the Bushites in 2004!

Tuesday, May 25

What’s It All About?

" is not necessary to accept everything as true, one must only accept it as necessary.” - The Trial by Franz Kafka

On May 8, I read the story of the arrest of Portland attorney, Brandon Mayfield. Newspapers reported that Spanish investigators had found his phone number in the bomb blasted apartment of the seven men wanted by the law for the terror bombing of a Spanish train on March 11, 2004. The reports also mentioned that his fingerprint was found on a plastic bag that held bomb detonators. Because he was in Portland on the day of the bombing, he was not suspected of participating in the terrorism, but was being held as a material witness. Meaning, I supposed, that he knew someone connected or had helped the terrorists in some way.

There were several more reports over the weeks justifying his arrest by exposing his background as a former US army lieutenant and a “white” convert to Islam. A few blurbs on TV showed his obviously Muslim wife explaining to the press how the FBI arrested her husband without charging him with a crime and invaded their home and took belongings and confidential client files. Her name is Mona and she looked like a serious, calm and determined woman who would not support a wild assed, terrorizing murderer. I had yet to see a photo of Brandon Mayfield and, intrigued, I located his photo and scratched my head. He looked completely levelheaded and understandably grim.

Each little dot of information seemed to take on a life of its own but the connecting line seemed to be that he is a Muslim. Digging a little deeper, I finally found the truly revealing dot of information: Mayfield had served as a child-custody lawyer for one of the Portland Seven; a group of Muslims accused of attempting to wage war on the United States. Uh Oh! Maybe the FBI was right this time. Maybe the provision in the Patriot Act that allows the FBI to invade a “suspects” home without their knowledge and detain them without charge is justified if people like Mayfield can do their dirty deeds in Portland.

Shortly before discovering a homegrown terrorist in our midst, I saw the excellent and frightening PBS program on the Weather Underground, a violent splinter group of the Students for a Democratic Society that was so influential on college campuses during the Viet Nam war years. This look back at the radical anti-war, anti-government 1960s brought back vague memories of federal building bombings, Patty Hearst bank robberies, and bloody shootouts. It also showed seemingly nerdy men and women who were capable of planning and executing terrible violence while eluding detection for years. Many of the ringleaders eventually went to jail or are still in jail, but some lived underground for decades.

Mayfield’s connection to anti-American activists hit a nerve and for weeks I was convinced he was detained (nice word) deservedly. Then last week, Spain challenged the FBI’s database evidence claiming that the fingerprints belonged to a man from Algeria and that they had tried to convince the FBI of this fact since April. What is truly puzzling is that the FBI would use the 1984 fingerprints of Mayfield, prints taken for a minor burglary when he was a teenager. Why didn’t they verify these old prints with his army prints or his law license prints? It's a good thing that the Spanish investigators were not bogged down with databases and computers and could look outside the grim and frightening little box in which the FBI had placed Mayfield. Maybe the FBI did cross check and verify old finger prints with new. I hope so, but their apology to Mayfield makes me wonder. Here it is.

"The FBI apologizes to Mr. Mayfield and his family for the hardships that this matter has caused," the bureau said in a statement. The agency also said it would review its practices on fingerprint analyses.

The article doesn’t attribute this apology to a person just to the FBI, so maybe that’s the problem. The FBI has become a digital machine and has lost its intuitive abilities. I’m beginning to believe that our government is ignoring the prime directive of the digital age: garbage in = garbage out. Too many resources are being spent on collecting garbage and too few are spent on assessing what is true. In Mayfield’s case truth lost out to necessity.

Sometimes I hate it when a person is right, especially Kafka.