Comments re Blaackburg/Iraq/national leadership to Oak Run Democratic Club, Ocala, Florida 4/18/
Thirty three people died in Blackburg Monday. Just another day in Baghdad where 85 bodies were found yesterday and 200 today. But when deaths are far away, too many of us continue to ignore our complicity in the murders, yes murders, taking place in many parts of the world as the powerless react to the excesses of empire, while the powerful still think that might makes right. We can’t just blame Bush and the Republicans. Too many of us bought into the administration’s campaign to dumb us down by paralyzing us with fear, proclaiming 911 as an attack on civilization rather than a consequence of our economic and military imperialism . So where are we now? Earlier this evening CNN reported that the admiral in charge of the Persian Gulf command said our efforts are failing and failing badly. And Ali Allawi, one-time cabinet minister in Iraq since 2003, in his new book, The Occupation of Iraq, writes about the shocking mismanagement of the US occupation in which “the corroded and corrupt state of Saddam was replaced by the corroded, inefficient , incompetent and corrupt state of the new order.” Lee Iacocca says we are immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. “On the home front we’re running the biggest deficit in history, manufacturing is going overseas, gas prices are skyrocketing and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble. Our borders are like sieves. The middle class is being squeezed every which way. These are times which cry out for leadership.” But now even our leadership is looking for leadership – or at least someone to blame for the worst debacle in our nation’s history – witness the White House’s hapless search for a “war czar”. Fortunately most Democrats and, increasingly, independents, have seen the light. When Marions for Peace stand on the street each Saturday, we are now getting almost universal support from those who acknowledge us – yes, even here in so-called conservative Marion County. Last Saturday a blond woman called out to say that her son is in Baghdad that very moment and she thanked us for doing what we are doing. What are we doing? To some we may seem a pathetic group because while my e-mail list is large, the truly dedicated are so small in number. All males who stand with us have been in the military and the rest of us have relatives who have been, whether in the current war or that which produced “the greatest generation.” We think we give courage to others as they pass us by. We think that we and countless other peace and justice groups throughout the country helped turn the tide in the last election. We wonder why you and other Democrats are not standing publicly with us. The people don’t want war but too many politicians still waffle. Electing Democrats is not good enough if those Democrats are not willing to be risk takers, to speak with moral courage rather than cautious accommodation to the status quo. Vice President Cheney expects the Democrats to cave on funding, an opinion well- considered when Carl Levin, the darling of AIPAC, undercuts Harry Reid on ABC by saying that “we shouldn’t cut off funding for the troops.” And then, Reid caves despite the fact that retired generals say the “surge” is misguided and counterproductive. Why should an organization representing 2% of our population rule our foreign policy, especially since in Israel itself the majority of its citizens are not as militant as are their neocon “leaders”? Anyone see a pattern here? Of course, the argument about funding for the troops is specious. No politician or citizen intends to leave our military bereft of food, armaments and the means to return to this country. They just do not want to fund an expansion of hostilities and an explosion in the number of new pie- in- the sky weapons of mass destruction which the military/industrial complex demands in order to keep the profits of Boeing, Lockheed, Raytheon, General Electric and Halliburton going. Patriotism can be manifested in many ways. One would be to divest yourself of any stock in these companies. A week ago seven Democratic presidential candidates appeared on video at over a thousand gatherings in homes throughout the country when MoveOn.org sponsored a national town hall meeting on Iraq. How many of them possess Lee Iacocca’s ten “C”s of leadership: curiosity, creativity, communication skills, character, courage, conviction, charisma, competency, common sense and ability to act in a crisis.? JOHN EDWARDS: “Everyday this war drags on is worse for Iraq, worse for our troops, worse for our country……..Congress must stand firm. They must not write George Bush another blank check without a timeline for withdrawal. Period. If Bush vetoes the bill, Congress should send another funding bill to him with a binding plan to bring the troops home………So where will Congress find the courage, they’ll find it in your calls, in your letters, they will find it in your voice.” JOE BIDEN: You have to make Iraq the world’s problem. We should begin to draw down American combat troops within the next 3 months and have a date of getting us out of Iraq by March of 2008. That is the essence of my plan…….for ending the war and preserving our interest. Leaving Iraq is absolutely necessary but it’s not a plan if it doesn’t answer the critical question “then what?” DENNIS KUCINICH: I had the vision and the foresight to be able to say “Don’t go to war.” Stop the funding, end the occupation, withdraw the troops, and, as you close the bases, create a parallel process which involves the United Nations. As their troops come in, our troops will leave. We need to reach our to the world community and that means the president is going to have to be involved in a lot of diplomacy…….making other nations understand that we are not on the threshold of attacking them………….I’m standing for peace from the beginning and I have a vision of the world that is interdependent and interconnected and a country which stands upon the principal and imperative of peace. BILL RICHARDSON: I would have American troops out by the end of this calendar year. I would have no residual force whatsoever. We have to look at Iraq not in an isolated way. We have to look at the whole Middle East, the Persian Gulf, the Israeli-Palestinian situation and to Iran and Syria to invest in the stability of the region. It’s the constitutional right of Congress to start a war and to stop a war……………..This congress authorized the war. I would pass a congressional resolution de-authorizing the war based on the War Powers Act. I may not be a rock star but I believe I have the best vision. HILLARY CLINTON: We have to face up to the reality that the situation in Iraq is deteriorating. It is not improving and all the happy talk does not accord with the reality on the ground. I introduced legislation called the Iraq Troop Protection and Withdrawal Act under which we would begin redeployment of our troops out of Iraq in 90 days. I am absolutely clear we do not plan a permanent occupation or permanent bases. But in line with all of the legislation that has been proposed, I tried to be responsible in saying there may be some continuing missions to protect America’s vital interests and to support an Iraqi government that we hope to be an ally going forward assuming they act responsibly. CHRIS DODD: Well I believe we ought to begin redeploying our troops this evening. Have things finished by March of 08. Talk about a surge in diplomacy, a surge in politics in the region as recommended by the Baker Hamilton report and then also talk about energy independence. I believe we need new structures and new architectures. It’s not only important that we talk about what needs to be done to get out, we need to talk about what to do in the post Iraq period. I want to see an area of constructive, bold engagement by the US where we rebuild relationships and the US is seen once again as a source of good works. Where we condemn torture, no condone it. Where we end wars, not support them. Where we engage the world in part of a smart decision to allow all of us to live in with better opportunity, better hope and prosperity. BARACK OBAMA: I opposed this war from the start. In part because I believed that if we gave open ended authority to invade Iraq , we would have an open-ended occupation of the sort we have right now……….We have to realize that the entire Middle East has a huge stake in the outcome and that we need neighboring countries to help in finding a solution. Neither Syria nor Iran want to see a security vacuum in Iraq filled with chaos and terrorism and violence. Those who say we shouldn’t be talking to them ignore our own history. Ronald Reagan during the Cold War consistently met with the Soviet Union because he recognized that power without diplomacy is a prescription for disaster. . If the president thinks he can continue to ignore the will of the American people and the American congress, I think he’s badly mistaken. I believe we’re going to be able to bring our troops home. I believe we are going to refocus our efforts on the wider struggle against terrorism and more importantly, I think we have an opportunity to begin the process of restoring America’s image throughout the world. And how did George Bush measure up in his moment of crisis on 9/11? After his eight minutes of paralysis with the goat, he flew around the country seeking safe haven until photo-op time at ground zero three days later. He then led us down the yellow brick road to Iraq where we now are mired in a bloody war with no real possibility of “victory” if indeed victory could even be defined. Robert Fisk, who’s reported on the Middle East for 31 years, said recently at an event sponsored by The Nation Institute that the average man in the street has a better sense of what’s going on in the Middle East than do our politicians who are afraid to face reality for fear of being accused of anti-Semitism. He says “peace in the Middle East relies on all the people who live there, not just the Israelis.” . He says both the Iraqis and the Iranians have made overtures seeking solutions but the current administration has rebuffed them out of hand, a fact the American press does not report . He wonders why we put up with “hotel” journalism from the green zone, why we don’t know that there are 120,000 mercenaries in Iraq as well as some 140,000 or so regular military. He asks our sympathy not for journalists who can leave the country but rather for those who are driven out of their minds by their inability to escape daily bombings, and constant deprivation. Blackburg is now their way of life. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert a few months ago wrote that none of our national problems will be solved while Iraq wastes our national treasure. “There is something profoundly evil about a country encouraging young men and women to go off and fight its wars and then shortchanging them on medical care and other forms of assistance when they come back with wounds that will haunt them forever. That’s something most Americans never thought their country would do.”Moreover, we our losing control of our democracy as we lose control of the ballot box. Florida has been the laughing stock of the nation because of our inability to count correctly during the 2000, 2004, and 2006 elections. However there is hope. A bill calling for a paper ballot has just passed the Florida Senate with the support of the new governor. But we remain what Robert Fisk calls “fraudulent democracy” because so few of us vote or even attempt to make our voices heard. It’s hard to work for peace and justice in our cowboy culture of violence. But Howard Zinn says opposition to the war is the highest form of patriotism since war violates all fundamental human rights. So get out there are hold everyone’s feet to the fire – Democrat and Republican alike.