First I want to thank you for granting our main wish for 2006: the humiliating defeat of the RoveBushCheney cabal in the midterm election. And for removing the robes of war-power from Donald Rumsfeld. (On the other hand, Bush replaced him with Robert Gates, another company man willing to do the bidding of his masters.)
But now I'm hoping you and your elf friends will be willing to crank up the ol' political workshop this Christmas to grant us the following dozen wishes for 2007.
1. Please send the President some brains. He's preparing to "surge" 20,000 to 50,000 U.S. troops to Iraq "temporarily," to help control the situation in Baghdad. Anyone with any knowledge of urban guerrilla warfare (and only 17% of Americans think "surging troops" is an intelligent idea) knows that there is no such thing as "temporarily" in that kind of war.
And there's no longer any good chance of America "controlling" what happens in Iraq. It's a bloody civil war and we'd better get out while the getting is good. Counting on a "surge" to turn the tide is little more than fantasy. Colin Powell said as much a few days ago. ( www.iht.com/articles/2006/12/17/news/policy.php )
2. Please send Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi some courage. Reid says his Democrats could accept such a "surge" in U.S. troops to Iraq as long as "temporary" means two or three months. Have Reid and Pelosi already forgotten that the Republicans lost the midterm election because they wanted to prolong the Iraq War and the Democrats offered hope for an alternative? But prolonging the war with constant infusions of American troops is loony-tunes, which is what "temporarily" would mean in practice. It didn't work in Vietnam, it won't work in Iraq.
(Is it possible that Reid is playing a little rope-a-dope? He may know that Bush's "surge" plan requires at least a year or two to get into full operation, so the incoming Senate Majority Leader can seem to be cooperating with Bush while knowing that Bush will reject his two-month suggestion. But, if so, it's a dangerous game Reid is playing, being willing to risk the Democrats' moral reputation like that. Better for the Democrats to stick to being the Opposition Party, rather than appear to be selling out to the unpopular, immoral GOP plan.)
DEMS COULD USE SOME SPINE
3. Please send the Democrats some backbone. They need to stand tall for what they believe in and for what the voters sent them do do.
Instead, the Democrats seem to be regressing, behaving as if they're still the timid minority party, worried about being called "unpatriotic" unless they support Bush's war. They now control the Senate and House, and thus are in position to set the legislative agenda. That agenda should be led by getting U.S. troops out of Iraq as soon as possible -- not in 2008 but starting to pull them out now. Putting more troops in would turn a tragedy into a catastrophe.
If the Democrats follow Reid and new House Intelligence Committee chair Sylvestre Reyes by buying into any part of the BushCheney surge-plan for Iraq, they will lose the moral high ground and in the popular mind will be blamed along with Bush for the Iraq disaster. Not a good way to go into the 2008 presidential race.
4. Please send the Iranians some smarts. Sponsoring a convention of Holocaust-deniers makes the Iranian leaders seem lunatic. And barely cooperating with the United Nation's nuclear inspectors makes those leaders seem like they're hiding something. It's almost as if they want the U.S. and/or Israel to bomb them, so they can become the "martyred" leaders among the Muslim Middle East. (Interestingly, over the weekend Iranian voters in local elections moved away from Iranian extremists and overall favored the more moderate candidates.) ( www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-iran-elections.html? )
NEEDED IN MIDEAST: COMMON SENSE
5. Please send the Israelis and Palestinians some common sense.
Israel's prolonged (brutal) occupation of Gaza and the West Bank doesn't do the Jewish state any good; it fact, it endangers Israeli security. Much as they might like it to be so, the Palestinians are not going to disappear from the scene. Israel should pull back to its '67 borders, remove its settlements from Palestinian territory, and negotiate significant treaties with a new Palestinian state, even if it's ruled by leaders Israel (and the U.S.) don't like.
Similarly, the Palestinians, regardless of which faction rules, must come to realize their children and grandchildren will know no stability and security until they reluctantly concede that the Israelis aren't going to disappear either and therefore a peace must be made, somehow.
If Israel and Palestine were able to begin to make peace -- with the Bush Administration seriously helping in that effort -- the tension level would go down throughout the region. Local disputes would remain local, not necessarily get translated into apocalyptic Muslim vs. the (Christian-Jewish) West.
JOBS AS ANTIDOTE TO TERROR
6. Please send jobs to the poor and downtrodden around the world, especially in Iraq and Palestine. Idle hands, as the saying goes, make for mischief. If heads of family have jobs and are earning money for their families, they will have more self-respect and more of a stake in the society, and thus wouldn't be as interested in bombing it and tearing it down.
But Bush in Iraq, for example, made sure that the young men in that society would not be permitted to participate in job-rich "reconstruction" projects, and thus had even more reasons for anger. And the Israelis daily humiliate the Palestinians, destroying their farmers' olive groves and often keeping other workers from their jobs in Israel -- not very smart.
Do both sides really prefer war, since that's what they know how to do, and back away from negotiations, since peace is messy and requires more creative thinking? Sure does look like it.
VOTING, ROVE & RUMSFELD
7. Please send Americans a real, reformed voting system. Even my after-school boys' club could count votes better, and with more honesty and transparency, than adult Americans voting for Congress or the President. We boys all wrote down our votes for our leader on a piece of paper, dropped them into a box, and tabulated the winners with everyone watching; something similar happens in France, Germany, Canada, et al., with no major problems.
Don't adult Americans know how often e-voting computers mess up and are vulnerable to hacking and manipulation by programmers? Middle-schoolers already know that. But America's ruling circles pretend that the situation is not that dire. The result is that increasingly more Americans, and a healthy slice of the world community, believe that U.S. election results are not on the up-and-up.
The remedy is simple enough. Junk the computer-voting process, currently controlled by three Republican-supporting corporations, and institute verified paper ballots, tabulated by experienced civil servants as observed by party representatives.
8. Please throw Karl Rove out of the White House and Donald Rumsfeld into jail. Rove has been up to his ears in voting fraud for years and in the outing of a covert CIA agent, and Rumsfeld was responsible for lying to get the Iraq War started and for authorizing torture of prisoners in U.S. care, which is a war crime and should be treated as such.
KIBBLE FOR TONY, PLEASE
9. Please send Tony Blair to a kennel for the rest of his term. The British prime minister was such a lap-dog to Bush, giving him cover for his reckless policies in Iraq, that he should be placed where he would feel most at home, amidst all the other neutered poodles. Either there or to The Hague, where he could stand trial for war crimes along with Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, Rice, Hadley, Cambone, Feith and friends.
10. Please send hope to the victims of the wholesale genocide in Darfur in the Sudan. As in Rwanda in years past, the West looks the other way when the victims are black Africans. No way this slaughter would be tolerated for this long if the victims were Europeans. And so many of the violence victims in Darfur are children deprived of parents in the bloodbath, boys kidnapped into serving as soldiers, girls raped and/or enslaved by the marauders.
11. Please send America a better crop of candidates for high public office. Sometimes it seems that most of those running are wealthy fools or demagogues, power-driven and morally corrupt; candidates with integrity and vision and a genuine caring for the public appear to be few and far between. Given the enormous sums of money it takes to fund a campaign for office these days, it seems only the wealthy can run; why not bring the gift of public financing of elections, too, while you're at it?
12. And finally, send the internet some long-awaited protection from the forces of government authority across the globe -- but especially in America, where Newt Gingrich and John McCain are leading the charge -- angered at what they cannot control. The internet is perhaps the last bastion of free speech on the planet right now, and that effective tool of democracy must be preserved and made to flourish.
Thank you for all your past presents and jollyness. Make Christmas this year one of peace, justice and hope for all around the world.
Thank you. And enjoy the cookies and milk we left for you under the tree.
First published by The Crisis Papers 12/19/06.
Copyright 2006 by Bernard Weiner.