Friday, June 09, 2006

Friday Doll Blogging

I went to a great party last weekend. I won a prize...a doll!!

I have to marvel at how far women have come since the early struggle for women's rights.

Her name is Action Angel. (Note to feminists: she can be active yet still demure and sweet!!)

And above all, she is dressed in a hot costume with slimming red satin pants and tiny black combat boots. (Birkenstocks are definitely OUT this season!) And her long blonde tresses never become tangled when she is in Action!

It should also be noted that she carries a shield and an assault rifle. Now some would say this self-defense thing has gone too far, or is she now supposed to be both aggressor or protector?

However, she also has a medical bag, to patch up those she must shoot when she is being active but also in angel mode. There seems to be some conflict between whether she is huntress or nurturer of perhps a bit of both.

And what does the shield guard against, not bullets? It is a large shield, does she also fight people with swords accasionally? Are there ninja adversaries out there that I am unaware of? Is this in response to terrorists that may lurk in the halls of our shopping malls? The mystery deepens.

Women, wake up, it's a new day- Madison Avenue dictates- your roles are changing!
(And your draft cards will be in the mail shortly.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Finding a Place of Gratitude in the Heart

I have come to see gratitude as primary among the spiritual virtues, the wellspring, as it were.

True gratitude is magnificat; that is, it magnifies. Not just me, but others in my life as well.

Gratitude is not strictly a private emotion but uses the personal to convey something more universal, stories that others may also claim as their own or relate to in their own lives.

Gratitude can reverberate throughout one's relationships with others and the world like a small stone skipping across the pond.

I often get this sense of gratitude from trying to "see" and "feel" the world around me, trying to find a balance between activism and gratitude. I try to practice this on a daily basis, although not always successfully.

That is one reason I am often found with my camera strapped to my shoulder. I want to document the beauty of the world, not just the grisly injustice.

Yesterday I climbed up on a ladder (from a safe distance) to take these pictures of swallows nesting over my front door.

I find the new life growing so close to the heart of my home is a beautiful thing.

I often watch as the parent birds fly out from under the porch and across the front garden.

Watching a bird in flight still fills me with the same sense of awe it did when I was 8 years old.

When I pay attention and stay in the present I can become like that bird, flying over the garden and back to its nest.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Violent Baghdad deaths top 6,000

The bodies of 6,000 people, most of whom died violently, have been received by Baghdad's main mortuary so far this year, health ministry figures show.

The number has risen every month, to 1,400 in May. The majority are believed to be victims of sectarian killings.

But observers say the real death toll could be much higher.

Meanwhile police said nine severed heads were found near Baquba to the north of Baghdad - days after a similar discovery there...

The 2006 death toll at the Baghdad mortuary appeared in two local newspapers and was confirmed to the BBC by officials who asked to remain anonymous because the issue is so sensitive.

One reason for the sensitivity is that government officials fear more detailed information on these killings could further enflame sectarian tensions, the BBC's Andrew North in Baghdad says.

Iraqi security forces and US soldiers near box with severed heads found on Tuesday
Tuesday's gruesome find followed a similar discovery on Saturday

But no-one believes these are the true figures from the violence in and around Baghdad as many bodies are not taken to the morgue, or are never found, he adds.

The nine severed heads had been wrapped in plastic bags and left in a fruit box by the side of a road near Baquba, 60km (35 miles) north-east of Baghdad, police said.

But there is no civil war in Iraq, according to Bush.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Rumsfeld hints at greater military ties

Items compiled from Tribune news services
Published June 5, 2006

HANOI, VIETNAM -- Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Sunday that the United States wants to expand its military relationship with Vietnam but has no plans to seek access to military facilities with this former enemy.

Arriving in Hanoi just days after the United States signed a trade agreement with Vietnam, Rumsfeld planned to meet with the U.S. military team involved in finding and identifying the remains of hundreds of U.S. servicemen still missing in action from the Vietnam war.

En route to Hanoi, Rumsfeld talked only generally about his goals for the U.S. military relationship with Vietnam.

"I don't have a wish list" he said, "I had so many liberals in my hair, I just needed to get out of town, and I know this trip will piss off the Chinese, so win-win."

Rummy then smiled gaily and then ran into Hotel Nam to binge on Hot Cheetos and wine coolers. He has a war to run and an ex-enemy to woo.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The War in Iraq: Rebuttal Time

For those of us who want an end to the war in Iraq, how do we argue convincingly against the war?

We often hear reasons why we cannot leave Iraq. I believe that it is important to be able to articulate why you support or do not support this war.

I read this article and think the author nailed the points very well. It's a slightly long read, but by plowing through it, I guarantee you will get a better understanding of the war, and why we need to bring our troops home now.

Iraq War Fallacies: Proponents of Keeping Our Soldiers in Iraq Repeatedly Offer the Same Rationale for Their Viewpoint. Here, Their Most Often Cited Reasons Are Refuted.

by William F. Jasper

FALLACY: If the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq now, the country will collapse into chaos, civil war, and dictatorship, and will almost certainly end up being ruled by a regime hostile to us.

REBUTTAL: That is certainly possible if we pull out now, but we have no guarantee against that same outcome if we remain in Iraq three more years, 10 more years, or 20 more years, after expending thousands more lives of American soldiers and hundreds of billions more taxpayer dollars. In fact, the current "friendly" regime we have installed is very friendly with Iran, and the growing Baghdad-Tehran axis should be a major concern to all Americans.

When Iran's foreign minister visited Iraq in May of 2005, he was warmly received by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. Mr. Jaafari is a radical Shi'ite Muslim and a disciple of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who, it may be recalled, labeled the United States the "Great Satan," inspired the overthrow of the pro-American Shah of Iran, held our embassy and American citizens hostage, and launched a new age of terror. Prime Minister Jaafari, "our ally" in Iraq, made an historic pilgrimage to Tehran in July 2005, with eight of his cabinet ministers in tow, to lay a wreath on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini. Jaafari spent nine years (1980-1989) in Iran, and at Ayatollah Khomeini's behest, became a founding member of the Ayatollah's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

With Shi'ite Muslims comprising 90 percent of Iran's and 60 percent of Iraq's population, and Iraq's pro-Iranian radical Shi'ite "pope," Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, being the most influential religious leader in the country, we are already witnessing the transformation of Iraq into an ally of Iran.

FALLACY: The huge turnout of Iraqi voters in the January and December 2005 election proves President Bush's hopeful vision that this "is the beginning of something new: constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East."

REBUTTAL: It "proves" nothing of the sort. Iraq has no history of "democracy," constitutional or otherwise, and it is the height of imperial conceit to expect a couple of elections under a military occupation to change thousands of years of cultural, religious, and political tradition.

Ancient Iraq (formerly known as Mesopotamia) is often referred to as the "cradle of civilization." Yet from the time of the Sumerian empire to the Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Mongol, and Turkish empires on up to modern times, Iraq has always been under autocratic, dictatorial, or tyrannical rule. For a relatively few brief periods, it has enjoyed relatively benign autocratic rule, but never genuine self-rule and limited, constitutional government. During World War I--the war to "make the world safe for democracy"--British troops drove out the Turks and replaced them as Iraq's occupiers.

In 1920, Britain accepted a League of Nations mandate to occupy Iraq and prepare it for independence, under the British-installed King Faisal. Despite 12 years of British occupation (1920-1932), Iraq was then and thereafter regularly in turmoil, suffering assassination, coups, attempted coups, and revolution. All of which is not to say that Iraq will never become a peaceful republic, but to point out how ludicrous it is to suggest that it is on the cusp of doing so.

About the only thing any of the warring factions in Iraq agree on is getting U.S. forces out of Iraq. Independent polls (USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll in April 2004; U.S. Coalition Provisional Authority poll in May 2004; BBC/Oxford Research International poll in December 2005, to cite a few) show that Iraqis of all persuasions--Sunnis, Shias, Communists, Kurds --overwhelmingly look unfavorably on the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq, and a majority favor an immediate U.S. pullout. By continuing to stay where we are not wanted, we only assure that we will alienate all sides in this tragic corner of the world.

FALLACY: But we must support democracy if we hope to stop terrorism. As President Bush said in his second Inaugural Address: "So, it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world."

REBUTTAL: If "democracy" is our Holy Grail, then President Bush will have to be willing to accept majority votes that may be unpalatable. After all, Venezuela's Communist leader, Hugo Chavez, was democratically elected. As was his pro-terrorist, anti-American Marxist comrade, President Lula de Silva of Brazil. Ditto for Iran's democratically elected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And there are the recent victories of the radical Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's parliamentary elections. Then there's our supposed democratic ally, Pakistan, which supports a multitude of terrorist groups, and whose spy chief, General Mahmoud Ahmad, is implicated as a paymaster for the 9/11 hijackers. The UN General Assembly is filled with democratically elected despots.

We may believe the autocratic monarchical regimes in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Bahrain to be less than ideal, but who can believe that we will benefit if Iranian or Iraqi-style democracy were to sweep jihadist mullahs to power in those countries? Our Iraqi occupation is making that more likely, as each passing day stokes the anti-American fires of the extremist factions.

The United States is not and never was a democracy. Our Founding Fathers, wisely despising democracy as a dangerous fraud, gave us a constitutional republic, which guarantees the rights of all, especially minorities. It subjects us all--and especially the government--to the "rule of law," another goal frequently proclaimed by the Bush administration. However, the U.S. Constitution provides no authority for the president or Congress to establish global democracy or "end tyranny" throughout the world, even if it were possible to do so. Bush's attempts to do so are a gross usurpation of power and blatant violation of the rule of law he claims to desire to promote.

"America does not go abroad in search of monsters to destroy," said President John Quincy Adams. "She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own."

FALLACY: We must not lose our resolve because of setbacks and casualties; we must "stay the course" in the war against terror.

REBUTTAL: Stay which course? And for how long, and to what end, and at what cost? We have been the victims of a gigantic, serial bait-and-switch scam, with constantly changing goals and definitions. In the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks, the American public rightly supported military attacks on those responsible. The Bush administration made a generally acceptable case for pinning culpability on Osama bin Laden and for attacking al-Qaeda's bases in Afghanistan, as well as the ruling Taliban regime in Afghanistan.

However, after gaining approval and momentum for the Afghan invasion, the Bush administration and the foreign policy elites repeatedly misled and lied to the American people in order to expand the "war on terror" to include Iraq. After failing to provide any evidence to back its insinuations that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 attacks, the administration shifted gears: Saddam was a future terror threat who was amassing a huge arsenal of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). We were in imminent danger, we were told, of nuclear or biological weapon attacks by Saddam's agents or terrorist surrogates. Saddam must be removed immediately.

Saddam was removed. U.S. forces demolished his regime within three weeks of landing on Iraqi soil. Saddam has been captured, his sons killed, and most of the rest of his cabal of despotic, sadistic megalomaniacs killed or captured. However, after turning the country upside down, no WMDs or WMD program could be discovered. Instead of declaring "mission accomplished" and bringing our troops home, the administration changed the U.S. goal in Iraq to one of national reconstruction and establishing "democracy" and ending tyranny--not only in Iraq, but throughout the entire world.

By December of 2005, we had already sacrificed more than 2,300 American lives and spent $228 billion. Administration officials have been saying for nearly two years that we are on the verge of beating the insurgents, but we are no closer than when we started. Former Secretary of Defense Colin Powell stated in December 2005 that it will likely be "many years" before U.S. troops can be pulled out of Iraq. According to Linda Bilmes, who teaches budgeting at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, if the war lasts five years, it will cost Americans about $1.4 trillion. That's a lot of taxes for a bankrupt nation. And the toll in blood will be even more costly. Are we willing to sacrifice our sons' and daughters' lives on the Iraqi sands and indenture future generations of Americans for the ever-changing goals of this "war on terror"?

FALLACY: George W. Bush did not lie us into war. He made the best decision he could based on the intelligence he had--and the Democrats, using the same intelligence, came to the same conclusion.

REBUTTAL: That "consensus" only proves either bipartisan ignorance or bipartisan treachery. The evidence that was used as the strongest argument for invading and occupying Iraq has been shown to be false, and there is strong reason to believe that elected officials in both parties knew the evidence was false, or at least highly suspect. Those who challenged the phony "intelligence" have been vindicated.

FALLACY: President Bush is our commander in chief and it is our patriotic duty during this time of war to support him. REBUTTAL: It is unpatriotic not to question the conduct, direction, and objectives of this undeclared war. Even if genuine intelligence had conclusively shown that Iraq was indeed involved in the 9/11 attacks and/or was planning an attack on the U.S., the president is constitutionally required to obtain a declaration of war from Congress before starting hostilities. And Congress is required to go on record with a declaration of war, not simply authorize open-ended military action pursuant to some United Nations resolution. It is not unpatriotic to question the conduct, direction, or objectives of this undeclared war.

FALLACY: But Iraqi forces are rapidly being trained and are nearly ready to take over. It is irresponsible and immoral to pull out before they are capable of surviving without us.

REBUTTAL: According to General Shahwani, head of Iraqi intelligence, the insurgents have around 40,000 "hard core fighters." The only estimates from U.S. intelligence officials are that the insurgent numbers are "somewhat smaller." According to the Pentagon, the U.S.-trained and -equipped Iraqi Security Forces now number 100,000. Must we stay another two or three years and train another 50,000 or 100,000? And, if so, will that be sufficient, or will the timelines and numbers be shifted again?

If 150,000 U.S. troops--equipped with America's high-tech weapons and our overwhelming air and sea support--have not brought the Iraqi "insurgents" under control in nearly three years, it is highly unlikely that the Iraqi military, police, and government, which are saturated with anti-U.S, elements--Sunnis, pro-Iranian Shias, Communists, al-Qaeda jihadists--will do so in short order. Like it or not, this is a complex and intractable conflict that the Iraqi people must work out for themselves. We cannot do it for them, nor should we try.

FALLACY: We are helping make life sustainable after U.S. forces leave by providing schools, hospitals, water and sewer systems, and training our replacements to run the infrastructure. We can't let this all go down the drain.

REBUTTAL: Undoubtedly, there is some good that has come from our presence in Iraq. But the major humanitarian and reconstruction effort has been put in the hands of the most corrupt institution on earth, the United Nations.

Humanitarian aid is being handled by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), which is composed of UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNESCO, UNHABITAT, UNFPA, UNIDO, UNIFEM, UNHCR, UNDP, UNEP, FAO, WHO, and ILO. All of these agencies have atrocious records for waste and corruption. Iraq's reconstruction has been placed under the auspices of the UN Development Group Iraq Trust Fund (UNDG-ITF), which includes most of the same agencies as UNAMI. These are all the same UN miscreants who gave us Saddam's multi-billion dollar "oil-for-food" racket, one of the biggest heists in history. In short, the Iraq aid package is an outrageous scheme to further enrich Kofi Annan's corrupt minions and politically favored corporate cronies, while further impoverishing American taxpayers.

FALLACY: It is better to fight the terrorists in Iraq than to fight them in the United States.

REBUTTAL: Tragically, the war in Iraq is making it more likely that we will be fighting the terrorists here in the United States. First and foremost, as the 9/11 attacks clearly demonstrated, our nation is wide open to terrorist attacks because our borders are a sham and our immigration and customs security are a joke. The 9/11 terrorists had easy access to our country, violating our visa "security" with virtual impunity. Rather than taking serious measures to close the gaping holes in our borders that allow millions of aliens to freely come and go without security checks, the administration has chosen to deplete our defense forces to dangerous levels by deploying our military to the far corners of the Earth.

At the same time, our military actions in Iraq are bringing in new terrorist recruits faster than we can capture or kill them. Don't take our word for it. The Bush administration itself has admitted this. "Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-U.S, jihadists," CIA Director Porter J. Goss told the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on February 16, 2005. "These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced and focused on acts of urban terrorism," Goss testified. "They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries."

Likewise, Vice Adm. Lowell E. Jacoby, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told the same Senate panel: "Our policies in the Middle East fuel Islamic resentment.... Overwhelming majorities in Morocco, Jordan and Saudi Arabia believe the U.S. has a negative policy toward the Arab world." Adm. Jacoby said the Iraq insurgency had grown "in size and complexity over the past year." That testimony by Goss and Jacoby comports with the evidence from Muslim sources as well as independent media sources, terrorism experts, and security analysts.

In the asymmetrical warfare of terrorism, it is dangerously delusional and counterproductive to use massive military force against small, clandestine groups that mix with local populations. It is tantamount to using a sledge hammer or a shotgun to take out a mosquito in the living room or nursery. The collateral damage is unacceptable for the objective.

Iraq War Fallacies: Proponents of Keeping Our Soldiers in Iraq Repeatedly Offer the Same Rationale for Their Viewpoint. Here, Their Most Often Cited Reasons Are Refuted. William F. Jasper; The New American, Vol. 22, January 9, 2006