Posts Tagged ‘WMD’

Today is 9/11 and that brings with it a ton of memories, most of them painful and almost surreal.  For those in NYC and those who lost loved ones on that horrible day, all of it is much more immediate–almost palpable, even after all these years.  Consider too the ripple effect from that violent day.  It spawned two wars practically on the other side of the world–one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.  We went to Afghanistan for revenge and we went into Iraq out of fear.  To the soldier on the ground, going through his or her daily dance with death, the reason is of little consequence.  There have been 6,500 casualties in the wars and that has a ripple effect for all of the loved ones who live on and remember.  For the soldiers that make it home, they often don’t make it home in one piece.  And many of the injuries are unseen until they boil over.  The truth that very few people are talking about is that there are estimates of over 50,000 injured vets that have come or will come home.  Triple that number to account for undiagnosed brain trauma and PTSD.  These soldiers will have very special needs that will require a grateful nation to step up to the plate and care for them.

I could get political but I won’t. Now is not the time for it.  Time enough for that crap tomorrow.  Today I just want to acknowledge all the ripples that began with 9/11 that have gone out to envelop the world.  Because of 9/11,  many of my fellow citizens died or suffered, many will continue to suffer for the rest of their lives, and hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have lost their lives, been driven from their homes, or wander the world as refugees.  No, today is a day of remembrance for all of these people and the sacrifices made in the past, acknowledgement of the sacrifices the rest of us will have to make in the future to repair, as best we can, what has been broken, and to learn the important lessons so as to never repeat these same mistakes again.   I think we can all agree there are lessons to be learned, but what those lessons are will be up for debate in the years to come.  But again,  not today.  Today, I humbly own my country’s obligations to my fellow citizens, most especially the soldiers, and to the world in general.  We most assuredly were attacked on 9/11 and became victims that day.  But how we reacted to it….that I own–we own…today of all days, let us take on the yoke of that responsibility.

Peace be with you and yours.

You might be shocked to learn that there is another reason to despise former President G.W. Bush and his gang of Neocons*…then again, maybe not. Jon Stewart had the author Trita Parsi on his show Thursday night to promote a new book entitled, “A Single Roll of the Dice” about American Diplomacy with Iran from 2003 to the present day.

You really should see the entire interview but in case you don’t have time, let me give you an important piece of information. This information is crucial to know when considering war with Iran in the near future as so many politicians, from both parties, seem to be advocating (Sen. McCain I am looking at you).

Pres. Bush received a letter in 2003 from the Iranian leaders that offered to sit down at the negotiating table giving us every concession asked for. Yes, you read that right. They offered to stop enriching uranium, to stop supporting jihadist groups, to stop interfering politically in neighboring countries, to stop threatening Israel, etc. It was the motherload, the holy grail, of foreign relations–a peaceful end to a long and ugly diplomatic battle to restrain and contain the destructive theocratic government of Iran. Most likely they were afraid we would invade them.  They had reason to fear such plans, as you will soon find out.

You know what the President Bush’s response was? He ignored it. You know why? We had just invaded Iraq and he felt that was so darn successful that we ought to do the same to Iran and we could get even more than they were willing to concede in the letter. Many people, myself included, would have advised that we take the offer because we the jury was still out on Iraq and I was never entirely convinced that war with Iraq was even necessary.

The whole point of Iraq was, at the time, because we thought they had WMD and thought they had ties to Al Qaeda….at least that’s what they told us. When that turned out not to be true, that’s when we learned that there was a bunch of Neocons (such as VP Cheney**, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, and many more) were advising President Bush to invade for the purpose of regime change and the other reasons, if true–great. But if not true, “too bad, so sad”.  The typical response from these Neocons to such criticism was, “Well Saddam was evil and needed to go anyway.”  Have you heard this from people around the U.S.?  I have and I know they are simply parroting the same Neocon talking point that the GOP and Fox News propaganda machine (FOPGOX as I like to call them) had been drilling into their viewers minds to make it a little bit easy to swallow the disaster that Iraq had become.

Using Neocon logic, I can make a very long list of leaders that are evil and need to go.  But are we REALLY going to invade every one of those countries? That would be pure insanity. And yet, this is the reasoning Neocons through FOPGOX have used and are now pushing with Iran. And the problem is that this concept is leaking into the center of politics, now heard in the stump speeches of former centrist politicians like Mitt Romney and Pres. Obama (although to be fair the President is simply saying that the military option is on the table, he is not advocating for war). However, even just having the military option on the table is dangerous because it is a possibility–a possibility that is making the Neocons and their associated war profiteers (Halliburton, I’m looking at you) salivate at the prospect.

It also makes us much more vulnerable to the machinations of Israel.  If Israel were to get  into an armed conflict with Iran, we would be very hard pressed not to support  them with military forces, especially since our current President has admitted to leaving that option reluctantly open and the GOP alternatives are all eagerly clamoring for it.  I can imagine a worst case scenario where Prime Minister Netanyahu leads Israel this year to a first strike against Iran for the purposes of not only stopping their uranium enrichment project, which is real, but also to influence our November 2012 election.  This is a horrible thought, but it is a possibility since the conservative coalition that Netanyahu represents in Israel has never liked or trusted Pres. Obama.  The Prime Minister has already returned to Israel and said that our timetables for dealing with Iran are different.

Allaying fears of any imminent action, Mr. Netanyahu told the commercial Channel Two that stopping Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons capability was “not a matter of days or weeks.” But he added, “It is also not a matter of years.

In other words we would prefer to wait until after the election and they would not.  So comforting that it will be a matter of months and not years. Thanks for that Israel.

I am less much less eager to waste more lives and treasure on such endeavors now or even next year. We are the U.S….we are not supposed to be the invaders nor warmongers. We should be the protectors of democracy, the keepers of the holy flame of liberty.  If we can  solve something peacefully, we should do everything possible to do so.  We should not be involved in the ugly conflagration of regime change via military conflict, which is what this would be.  Don’t be fooled by the talk about Iran having a nuclear weapon.  Iran doesn’t have one and there is no intelligence whatsoever to suggest that they have one or are yet capable of even making one.

So remember when you vote this November, that we had peace with Iran and the real possibility of stability in the Middle East was in our hands in 2003 and that the Republican leadership through arrogance and the Congressional Democratic leadership*** through ignorance and naivete chose war and conflict instead.  That  Pres. Obama is seeking a peaceful solution through sanctions with the military option on the table (talking softly but carrying a big stick) instead.  I would rather have no war at all, but if given the choice of a President who openly advocates for war or one who is reluctant  to go to war, I would prefer the reluctant President.


*A Neocon means “new conservative”, a group within the Republican party that openly advocates using military force to bring democracy to other countries, i.e., invading someplace like Iraq using any excuse they can manufacture in order to force Democracy at the end of a gun on the unsuspecting populace. They are currently behind the current drum banging for war with Iran.

**Cheney, an executive at Halliburton, profited to the tune of millions of dollars from the Iraqi invasion, among other things…but that is a book in and of itself and some may have been written on the subject

***Then Senator Obama was opposed to the invasion of Iraq but once troops were committed his opposition changed to one  of  reluctant support.  He did not want to cast votes that might under fund the troops and put them in harms way but he still wanted to express his disagreement with the war in some fashion. This is the kind of nuance that escapes most voters and is eagerly used against any nuanced politician during election campaigns.

h/t to Dan_in_DE fellow commenter over at Bob Cesca’s Awesome Blog for the oil example

The best way to find out if you can trust somebody is to trust them. – Ernest Hemingway

Let’s face it, there is a certain percentage of Americans in 2008 who did not trust then candidate Obama. After he was elected, nothing changed for them. They still didn’t trust President Obama. And nearing the end of his first term, they continue not to trust him.

The question that plagues many liberals is why and why to such an extreme degree? We’ve spent, collectively, tons of time and millions of words on this topic alone. Every time there is a new conspiracy theory on the right, it’s ugly head crops up again. Here’s an example of one of those “conspiracy of lies” adding one more brick to the wall of distrust that many conservatives have been carefully erecting for the last four years.

Item A: from the Pres The U.S. is at peak oil production and so much so that we are actually exporting more oil than we are importing. This is in part due to less driving (due to recession and more fuel efficient cars), to more drilling (and fracking, etc) permits being granted by the Federal Government within the U.S., and the increasing diversification of our energy sources (natural gas, ethanol, solar, wind, etc.). I.e., President Obama has helped the country reduce it’s dependence on foreign oil from 60% in 2005 to 45% in 2011.

Item B: from the Internet While overall use of oil has gone down, it has only gone down because of the Recession. As a percentage of the oil we use, foreign oil has actually gone up under Pres. Obama about 3%.

Okay, so a rational person would say, let me check out the data to see who is telling the truth. To verify the President’s data you should look at many federal agencies, such as the EPA, the Department of Commerce, the Port Authorities, etc, etc. To verify that the second item’s data you would look at one site (and then see it repeated and spread to other sites)–a blog by a guy by the name of Misha, who says he is an “investment advisor” for a capital management company who got his data from a reader, who’s name is Tim Wallace. We are not given any other information on this Tim–no claim to expertise, no location, no research study to read, no source for the data, at all.

So would a rational person believe Item A or Item B? Item A because 1) the data sources have a lot of expertise, that’s what they do. 2) There’s a lot of different agencies involved in determining what resources we are using and from where and then the calculation is done by yet another agency, etc. If it were a lie, it would be lie being perpetrated by thousands of people employed by the Federal Government across several states over a long period of time. That makes the odds that this is some conspiracy infinitesimally small.

But what do conservative voters believe? Item B because they just do. Let me give you another example. Take a look at the chart I made below. According to my sources of information the U.S. did not experience a Recession recently. See that line, clearly GDP has been rising so the Recession must have been a lie.

My Example:  The GDP from 1960 to Present

My Example: The GDP from 1960 to Present

Except you KNOW that the Recession wasn’t a lie. You know or have experienced yourself the economic downturn. You can see its effects everywhere. Furthermore, see that dip there in GDP? That’s the recession and it may not look like alot but remember we’re talking trillions of dollars here. Also, note that GDP only took a temporary downturn so now it is up. So I’m not lying when I say we’re not in a Recession now but that is only part of the story. So what did I do? I made the chart lie and I used some partial truths. Here is what the GDP chart REALLY looks like and the source is the World Bank, an authority on such things.

The REAL chart:  GDP from 1960 to Present

The REAL chart: GDP from 1960 to Present

Who am I? I could be anybody. What expertise do I have in regards to economics? None, but I could give myself all kinds of advanced degrees and experience and you would have to accept what I say (otherwise you would have to go to great lengths to see if my bio was real or not, which no one seems to do for many posters who claim expertise on the Internet). Plus, even the mainstream media thinks it’s okay. How often do you hear, “Some people say….”. That’s not a friggin journalistic source. My eight year old daughter often says that “time is passing so slowly” but that doesn’t mean I can say on Fox News that, “Some people say that time is slowing down.”

So we’re back to WHY do conservative voters not trust Pres. Obama–why are they more likely to believe the word of an anonymous person on the Internet but not the thousands of federal employees and their agencies, the White House staff and the President himself? In pondering this question this morning, I realized something important.

I remembered that I never trusted Pres. G.W. Bush. Back in the run up to the war in Iraq in early 2003, I asked people around me, “Do you trust him? What if he’s lying about the WMD? What if he’s lying about ties between Al Qaeda and Iraq?” A year later I read the 9/11 Commission report and knew he had lied about ties between Iraq and Al Qaeda. And the country found out about that the WMD’s didn’t exist. Whether Pres. Bush lied about it is still being debated today. I, obviously, felt vindicated, but it was not all that pleasant since far too many people had lost their lives. I would have rather been wrong.

So what did I base my distrust of Pres. Bush back then? It was a predisposition on my part to distrust someone like him. That predisposition included 1) a deep disdain for silver spooners who have had everything in their life handed to them, 2) a resentment of people that fail over and over again in spectacular ways that hurt other people but still they are given a million chances to do it again, 3) he wasn’t a true southener. My experience in life has been exactly the opposite. My family has been in the South for over 200 years, before we were even a nation. Furthermore, I had to fight for every little thing in my life (but some good luck played into it too, that I don’t deny). But at some very crucial points in my life I have lost out on some incredible opportunities because a “silver spooner” got the opportunity instead. Merit had nothing to do with it, but who you know, how much money you have, and the presence of a penis did have something to do with it. And Pres. Bush was bad at everything he did in life. His time in the National Guard was a joke–they’re not even sure if he was in the state (FL I think) at the time he was supposed to be serving. He ran the Texas Rangers into the ground and then foisted the losing baseball franchise on the taxpayers of Texas. He did crappy in one of the best schools in the nation (which he never would have qualified for if not for his family). Let’s face it, if he had been from an average family, he’d be lucky to rise to the level of middle manager at some company. And if he’d been born to a poor family, he’d be lucky to manage a Fast Food Restaurant (I’m not disparaging those jobs, BTW, having worked in middle management and fast food restaurants myself on my way up the ladder).

Could conservative voters feel the same way about Pres. Obama? Do they distrust him because he seems so different from them and their experience? And if so, how so? There were three narratives about the President’s bio that were pushed into the media very effectively by the right without any legitimate proof whatsoever. There’s the Birther/Islamo-Fascist narrative, the elitist academic snob narrative, and the typical African American thug from Chicago narrative. All of these were thrown at the wall to see what stuck and surprisingly, to me and other liberals at least, all three stuck. So much so that you will often see conservatives ranging from one narrative to the other in a single conversation. Why were they so ready to believe he was a Manchurian candidate with ONLY a blurry and clearly photoshopped birth certificate online? Why were they so ready to condemn him as elitist for using bigger words than the previous President? Because they were predisposed to not trust him, and again we come back to why?

The reality is that Pres. Obama’s story is an excellent example of the American Dream, and he and I have many similarities in our life story (raised by single parent, put self through school and grad school by working and student loans, had to travel to meet father, struggled as a teen, etc). Moreover, he and I agree on many ideas about government, domestic and foreign relations, economic theories, etc. His values matched my own pretty closely. So I was predisposed to trust him. I am sure many conservative voters would say that he did not match their values and that’s why they didn’t trust him. But what are those values? They tend to be Christian–he’s a Christian. They tend to be middle class either from middle class families or from lower class families–he was, socieconomically, lower class that climbed the ladder to the middle class, until he wrote his best selling books and then he became upper class. They believe in higher education as a vehicle to move up the social ladder- so does he and he’s living proof of it. They have had to work their ass off to get where they are–so has he. They believe in the traditional family–so does he, his family is the perfect example of a healthy, traditional family. They love their Medicare and he has promised to keep it safe. They hate the deficit and so does he. What is so different about him?

Conservatives will counter with “buts…” and I can counter again with my own “howevers”. 1) “he also believes in non-traditional families”–true, however he was against a national law declaring marriage as being allowed for everyone, and proposed that states figure it out individually. 2) “he didn’t go to a traditional Christian church…he went to one preaching hate against America”–partially true, partially false, he went to a traditional African American Church that did some preaching of Liberation Theology–a very common thing in the U.S. that most white people aren’t aware of because they don’t go to black churches. 3) “he didn’t produce his actual birth certificate”–true, however no President has ever been able to get their ACTUAL birth certificate. The original is ALWAYS kept on file by the state-ALWAYS. The only way to SEE it is to get a certified copy from the appropriate state agency…which he did and which he posted on the Internet PLUS had the original certified by Hawain authorities like all the Presidents before him. Do you see what I mean?  It’s all a matter of trust.  The facts in the end don’t matter to most people.

I know what’s in my own brain and what my biases are. The problem is, the average voter probably doesn’t. That introspection is completely lacking with many conservative voters and perhaps it’s because what they might find is probably disturbing or at least should be disturbing. Their willingness to always find “buts” and look for the disimilarities, even the far out and completely untrue dissimilarities, confirms a bias. Many have said it’s racism and I think they’re right for some conservatives, who really knows how many. Could it just be a party loyalty thing? Sure. Could it be a generational thing? Sure, he is pretty young. Could it be a jealousy thing? Sure, he’s smart, he makes everything look easy and he’s made it to the big leagues whereas most people haven’t. But are any of those things enough to justify the level of distrust and in many cases hatred of him? No, I don’t think so. So after having gone through the elimination of all the things above (and many more I won’t continue to bore you with), I can’t think of anything else that’s left but racism? Can you?  This is another one of those instances where I hope I am wrong and that the American people are better than this.

I read some interesting blog posts about the invasion of Iraq and the war against Al Qaeda.

Andrew Sullivan over at The Daily Beast said this today, it was entitled “Bin Laden’s Victory”:

He got the US to spend $4.4 trillion in a decade on counter-terrorism, using just a handful of men with boxcutters – and a whole lot of fear. For good measure, he goaded incompetents like Dick Cheney into violating core US standards of morality.

Later in the day I read a post in response by Tim F. on Balloon Juice entitled “Almost like some sinister fifth column did it”.  Tim reminds us (in re: to going to war today in Libya, Syria, & elsewhere) that instead of paying attention to those who offer apologies for being wrong back then and are offering advice now on current conflicts (i.e., Sullivan supported the Iraqi invasion only to regret it later), it would be wise to listen to those that were correct and opposed the invasion back then.  If they were right then (and people like this were hectored, pilloried, sometimes fired, and definitely silenced at the time, Valerie Plame anyone?), they must have some foreign policy insight and wisdom that many, many people did not have and still do not have today.

Unfortunately, do we see any of the people that were right facing down those who were wrong then and continue to be consistently wrong today in the MSM?  On the Sunday talk shows?  In our papers and magazines?  No, we don’t. We see sycophants and grifters, pundits and politicians–most of whom were wrong and never, ever admitted it.   Something like Iraq could happen again I fear because of this.

Just maybe there were enough individuals in society who might actually have planted seeds of critical thinking in the minds of those around us.  I was teaching Ethics to college students back then and used the Iraq case made by Pres. Shrub and the Just War Theory as an exercise.  I remember clearly asking the class, “What if Pres. Bush is lying?  What if he is being mislead?  What are the consequences?  How serious is the ties with Al Qaeda?”

Very few people asked these questions publicly and even when the evidence that the likelihood of this was pretty high, no one would change their mind.  I feared that Pres. Bush was at worst  lying and at best being purposely mislead.  The students no matter what their differences all felt if there were ties to Al Qaeda and/or there were WMD then we were justified to invade.

I shared with them the evidence presented publicly and that it didn’t support WMD.  I asked them if they trusted the President when he said he had “secret” evidence he couldn’t share about WMD.  They did and I didn’t. Fair enough.  I presented the evidence of ties to Al Qaeda and the evidence that showed the ties were, if not outright lies, so minimal as to be ridiculous.  I presented evidence that the consequences, both short term and long term, could be devastating to include not only the loss of an entire generation of young people in battle, the loss of many innocent Iraqi citizens, and the use of treasure better spent domestically (and we’re seeing the results of that now).  I discussed the problems with waging a war on two fronts for long periods of time in addition to the difficulties of seeking to accomplish regime change in Iraq while at the same time bombing the shit out of the country.

Ultimately I concluded it wasn’t worth invading Iraq and that by doing so, we handed Bin Laden a victory of astounding proportions.  As Sullivan suggests Bin Laden succeeded in starting our country’s downward spiral.  None of this changed their minds.  I faced some harsh criticism and not a few low evaluations at the end of that term.

I wonder if they ever think of me now after we now know the truth.  I sure as hell hope so, because I sure do think about them.  And I sure as hell hope they use their critical thinking capacities better in future because nothing combats malaise or fifth column exploits like a good old fashioned logical examination.  Because in such an examination fear has no seat at the table.