Nel's New Day

September 11, 2014

Demand Exit Strategy for War

Filed under: War — trp2011 @ 8:36 PM
Tags: , , , , ,

With the drums of Iraqi war beating more loudly and steadily, President Obama made a brief address last night to announce his plans. It was a mild speech that largely dealt in generalities:

  • Increase airstrikes to “roll back” ISIL in Iraq and into Syria, if necessary.
  • Strengthen troops by sending off another 475 military members to help Iraqi and Kurdish forces as well as ask Congress to authorize a million to equip and train Syrian opposition. (We won’t call them “boots on the ground.”)
  • Prevent terror by stopping attacks on the homeland through cutting off ISIL’s funding and improving U.S. intelligence.
  • Protect civilians such as Iraqi Christians.

ISIL knew that video of the beheadings of two U.S. citizens would draw the U.S. public into war. The militants also know that conservatives in this country will oppose anything the president plans. ISIL has won the war of fear with the help of irresponsible statements from such conservatives as Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX), Cory Garner (Democratic Sen. Mark Udall’s opponent in Colorado), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY). The heretofore Libertarian/isolationist said, “If I were president, I would call a joint session of Congress. I would lay out the reasoning of why ISIS is a threat to our national security and seek congressional authorization to destroy ISIS militarily.”

Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) assessed congressional support—or lack thereof:

“It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.”

Rep. Buck McKeon (R-CA), chair of the Armed Services Committee, said that the House didn’t have time to take a vote on any proposed military action in the Middle East. (Yawn.) would probably not take a vote on military action because they didn’t have the time. Tommy Christopher explained:

“Congress, especially Republicans in Congress, has responsibilities it doesn’t want, especially when it comes to military action. The less they have to do with making actual decisions, the more they can play Goldilocks on Sunday shows and complain that the president’s actions are too weak, or too strong, or too pitchy, dawg, or whatever.”

GOP members of Congress are currently suing the president for tweaking the Affordable Care Act as the GOP wanted, but they’re telling the president to make all the decisions about ISIL because any position on war is dangerous to their re-election.

Legislators such as Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lindsey Graham (R-NC) calling for more airstrikes and more aggression in the Middle East ignore the most important factor of war—an exit strategy. In the early 21st century, George W. Bush, led by Dick Cheney and other advisers, charged into Iraq with no idea how to get out. Now conservative media, led by Fox network, are playing a 2007 video of Bush II warning that the withdrawal of troops from Iraq would mean “surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaeda. It would mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It would mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan.” Bush finished by saying that U.S. troops would have to go back later against an even more dangerous enemy.

The U.S. left Iraq on a timetable that Bush established. The October 2008 Status of Forces Agreement, ratified by Iraqi lawmakers, stated, “All the United States Forces shall withdraw from all Iraqi territory no later than December 31, 2011.” People probably forgot about SOFA because a man threw a shoe at Bush during the press conference when he and Mouri al-Maliki announced their agreement on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq by New Year’s Day 2012. Bush ducked the problem in the same way that he ducked the shoe.

Conservative war-mongers could have left Saddam Hussein’s regime intact and let him suppress the Islamic extremists. Instead they chose to remove Hussein which spends an indefinite length of time there (Arizona’s GOP Sen. John McCain suggested 100 years), lives (almost 5,000 from the U.S. and a possible 600,000 from Iraq), and dollars (between $2 trillion and $6 trillion). Cheney knew it would be a disaster almost a decade earlier, but he did it anyway. Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair (1997-2007) was told “before invading Iraq that a stable post-war government would be impossible without keeping large numbers of troops there for ‘many years.’”

Cheney, mistakenly identified by The New York Times as a former president instead of vice-president, met earlier this week behind closed doors with GOP members of Congress this week and called for more defense spending. He’s sure to want more money for his business, Halliburton, like the funds he got  from the no-bid contracts he awarded his company during the earlier Iraq war. Rep. Peter King (R-NY) said they appreciated Cheney’s advice “because most of us think we did the right thing in Iraq.”

As for sending all those arms to the people who we like—right now—in the Middle East, just read about ISIL’s resources. Their M-16 assault rifles bear U.S. government markings, and their anti-tank rockets are identical to the 1980s-era M79 rockets used by the moderate Free Syrian Army (FSA) to bring down planes flying at 16,000 feet. Other quantities of weapons, including warplanes, come from Syrian military installations. ISIL got more military gear and U.S. equipment, including U.S.-made amored Humvees, that Iraqi army soldiers abandoned. ISIL brings in over $1 million a day in addition to tanks, grenade launchers, field guns, and anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles produced in Russia, China, the Balkans, and Iran. Descriptions are available here. More arms that the U.S. sends to the Middle East will provide more arms to ISIL.

Over two years ago, former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) gave a speech on the floor of the House that included this advice:

  • Stop creating wars.
  • Stop funding and arming mercenaries.
  • Stop causing abject chaos by “liberating” countries and delivering them to illegitimate non-state actors, i.e. terrorists.
  • Stop NATO and other Western front groups from promoting neo-conservative agendas which lust for empire, for control of oil and gas resources, and which bait countries into conflict to cause an increase in arms trade.
  • Stop playing the naïve fool and falling for the theater of propaganda while interest groups and arms dealers stand at the cash register.

In that speech, Kucinich said, “In the weeks and months ahead, when our leaders are calling for military strikes, without considering the consequences or knowing the end game, let’s remember our recent history.” There’s something terribly ironic about calling for air strikes that kill civilians when that was the issue calling Bush to declare war.

Today is the 13th anniversary of the killing of over 3,000 people in the United States because 19 terrorists were able to take over four airplanes and use them as bombs. It is also the day that allowed Bush, Cheney, and others to convince the people of the United States to start the Middle East conflict that continues today.

Yesterday, The New Yorker published an article about 28 pages that George W. Bush excised from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks. According to Bush, that information damage U.S. intelligence operation. Rep. Walter Jones (R-NC) said, “There’s nothing in it about national security.” Yet Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) said that it describes complicity of some Saudi people and entities in Al Qaeda’s attack on the United States. Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), another co-sponsor, said that reading those 28 pages has made him more cautious about a military response to ISIL.  These three representatives have co-sponsored a resolution to declassify the 28 pages.

Most of the people in the United States desperately need help. Most of us grow poorer every year, and wealthy members in the Congress won’t even begin to increase minimum wages to match the 1960s. The NRA and the gun industry demand the ability for so-called “responsible” gun owners to wound and kill more and more innocent people. A ginned-up fear from conservatives is driving people to want more trillions of dollars sent to a crisis on the other side of the globe that Dick Cheney and his minions created over a decade ago and that isn’t going to go away because the war-mongers have no exit strategy. The wealthy will continue to get richer from war profiteering while the poor will be forced to subsist on less and less until they revolt.

September 8, 2013

Working for Separation of Church and State

The Pledge of Allegiance is back in the news, after the 9th Circuit Court ruled three years ago for the 11 states in its jurisdiction, that the pledge does not represent a government endorsement of religion. This time, the case is in Massachusetts where the Commonwealth’s highest court is hearing a case, asking that the Pledge wording revert to its past form without “under God.” The pledge worked quite well for over a half century throughout both world wars until 1954 when Congress thought that the word “God” would protect the country from the Red Menace of the USSR Communists.

Fox “News” host Dana Perino, said that if atheists don’t like having “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, “they don’t have to live here.” She might be upset if she knew the pledge’s background. It came into being after Francis Bellamy’s words were used in 1891 as a device to sell U.S. flags to public schools as a premium for subscriptions to the magazine Youth’s Companion.   Co-founder of the Christian Socialists, Bellamy championed the “rights of working people and the equal distribution of economic resources” and supported public schools—two issues which Fox opposes.

Another ray of hope this week came from Oklahoma where the Tulsa Public School District is defying Christian leadership by abandoning abstinence-only programs. This year schools will use comprehensive sex education in grades 7, 9, and 11. The abstinence-only state has the fourth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, and nearly half of all these pregnant teens don’t graduate from high school. Without the necessary education, they can’t get good jobs which causes a higher rate for welfare in the state. About one-fourth of young unmarried mothers end up in poverty, also a cause of teen pregnancy.

For every dollar that Okahoma sends to the federal government, the state receives $1.36, making Oklahoma a welfare state. A look at the ranking of states receiving federal funding reveals that the vast majority of conservative states are welfare states; only Texas pays more than it receives. In these states that spend millions on failed abstinence-only programs, students don’t know how to protect themselves from HIV, STDs, or unwanted pregnancies, costing the federal government more money.

Two stories about drag queens in the news this week are downright fun.  Jose Sarria, known as the Rosa Parks of the gay rights movement and Empress Jose I, died last month at 90 and left the agenda for his funeral service at San Francisco’s Grace Cathedral. Female titleholders from his Imperial Court, which he created in 1965, were to wear “black/dark full length (understated) mourning attire, crowns, shoulder length veils covering both crowns and one’s face” along with “black gloves (opera length if wearing short sleeves).”  Males titleholders were “respectfully requested to wear dark suits, crowns and white gloves.” Ten limousines and six buses brought mourners to “a sensational and inspirational graveside ceremony” where Sarria was sent off with full military honors, a band concert, and a song from drag performer Donna Sachet. He was buried next to self-proclaimed Emperor of the United States, Joshua Norton, who died in 1880. It was the event of the season.

sarriaSarria served in the United States Army during World War II. Under five feet tall, he was too short for the height requirement, but he got into the Army Reserve after the attack on Pearl Harbor by seducing a major on the condition that the major approve Sarria’s enlistment. From there he was called up to active duty. When Sarria ran for a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961, he was the first openly gay man to run for office. Although defeated, he became a powerful voice for gay rights.

The Advocate provided a wonderful photo spread including Sisters-of-Perpetual-Indulgencex633The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence and elected city officials. Other photos are available on Google.

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Other drag queens are planning an action at the Westboro Baptist Church headquarters in Kansas. Planting Peace, an anti-hate nonprofit group for equal rights, plans a drag show at its Equality House on October 26. The facility, painted in rainbow colors as a symbol for peace, compassion, and positive change, is located across the street from Westboro’s Topeka buildings. The event will be called the “Drag Down Bigotry” walk-a-thon.

Filmmakers Lara Zizic and David Turner are premiering their film Mission Congo at the Toronto International Film Festival this Friday, and Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network isn’t pleased. CBN is considering legal action against the depiction of Operation Blessing and how it diverted charitable activities to Robertson’s mining projects. Although volunteers for the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) performed the vast majority of work to save Rwandan refugees, CBN claimed the credit, and Robertson raised millions of dollars. He continues this charade despite the official investigation accusing him of “fraudulent and deceptive” claims for running an almost non-existent aid operation.

Some of the most damaging criticism of Robertson comes from former aid workers at Operation Blessing, who describe how mercy flights to save refugees were diverted hundreds of miles from the crisis to deliver equipment to the televangelist’s diamond mining concession. The documentary shows how dredges, used to suck up diamonds from river beds, were delivered hundreds of miles from the crisis in Goma to a private commercial firm, African Development Company, registered in Bermuda and wholly owned by Robertson. The pilot said that of the 40 flights he flew into Congo, just two delivered aid, and the others were connected to the diamond mining. He had the words “Operation Blessing” removed from the tail of his airplane.

Revelations of Robertson’s fraudulent Congo activities were initially exposed in the Virginia newspaper, the Virginian Pilot, in the 1990s. Robertson has a history of mining controversies in Africa when he supported the then president of Liberia, Charles Taylor, during that country’s civil war without revealing at the time that he had an $8 million investment in a Liberian gold mine. Taylor was already indicted by a UN war crimes tribunal at the time and was later convicted of crimes against humanity.

Another church group has been exposed for its racism. The Freedom House Church wants “only white people” as greeters, according to a pastor, Makeda Pennycooke. He explained that “first impressions matter” and the church needs “the best of the best on the front doors.”

Obamacare may be linked with Syria when the U.S. House returns. On Washington Watch, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) talked to Family Research Council head Tony Perkins about the importance of defunding Obamacare. Jordan’s suggestion was to hold the budget and debt ceiling raise as leverage (aka blackmail); Perkins one-upped him by saying that the president should choose between funding Obamacare and funding a war in Syria (aka blackmail). Personally I vote for Obamacare!

Separation between church and state is getting even thinner after the Southern Baptist Convention banned members from taking part in weddings, counseling sessions, and couples retreats for same-sex couples. The Convention provides the greatest number of active-duty military chaplains.

American Family Association’s Sandy Rios has already given up on any hope of winning in Syria. Her position is that intervention is doomed because homosexuals and pregnant women have taken over the U.S. military. Another self-proclaimed Christian told his radio flock that people who attend gay weddings should tell the grooms “they shall both be put to death.” Kevin Swanson recommended holding up a sign with  Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man sleeps with a man as he sleeps with a woman the two of them have committed an abomination and they shall both be put to death.”

AugustaColorado’s first gay Speaker of the House, Mark Ferrandino, and his partner, Gret Wertsch, have adopted a daughter, and even a conservative blogger congratulated the couple. Not so former state Sen. Dave Schultheis (R-Colorado Springs) who posted a comment calling the adoption “perverted” and “deliberate child abuse.”

And just because it’s Sunday, we’ll end with the Catholic leadership, this time Bishop Thomas Paprocki’s interview with the Washington Times, controlled by the Unification Church. One of his issues dealt with David Letterman’s joke: “I am telling you if there is anything kids can’t get enough of it’s a 76-year old virgin. Come on, world youth day, or as the Vatican calls it, a salute to altar boys.” Paprocki thinks that this is just plain bigotry and ignorance because the Catholic Church’s success in dealing with the situation:

“For one thing it shows the ignorance of someone who identifies the Catholic Church and, particularly the priesthood, with sexual abuse. Certainly, we have had our unfortunate share of scandals and sin and the church is dealing with that. I would venture to say that of any institution in the country – perhaps in the world–I don’t think anyone is dealing with it as responsibly as the Catholic Church has. So public figures like that continue to point their finger at the Catholic Church and say you have a problem with sexual abuse and people are ignoring where most sexual abuse is taking place. It’s occurring in families. It’s occurring in schools.”

Paprocki’s blinders led him to claim that the main force behind child sex cases was “none other than the devil.” He also claimed that voting for Democratic candidates will doom a person to Hell and said that country is now a “pagan” culture no different from the era of the Roman Empire which oppressed and martyred Christians. He did overlook the fact that the church leaders have neither corrected the problem nor given appropriate restitution to the victims. With the Pope’s permission, they just move all their money into a safe place—the cemetery fund.

September 4, 2013

Attacking Syria, A Very Bad Idea

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:46 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Congress took its first step toward military action today when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted 10-7 to pass the resolution giving the president limited authority to use force against Syria. Three Republicans voted for the resolution—Bob Corker (TN), Jeff Flake (AZ), and John McCain (AZ). Evidently McCain spent enough time from playing poker on his smart phone to cast a vote.  Two Democrats, Chris Murphy (CT) and Tom Udall (NM) voted against it and Ed Markey (MA) voted present. The White House assumes that the full Senate will vote next week, followed by the House the week after.

Speaking at a House committee hearing, Secretary of State John Kerry argued that the U.S. had to strike to stop extremist groups fighting against the Syrian government from becoming stronger. If the U.S. doesn’t punish the Assad government, Kerry said, Arabs will provide arms and financing to the rebels. “We will have created more extremism and a greater problem down the road.”

The politicians trying to push the country toward military action keep referring to the videos of the dead people and worrying about the poor children. Children have died in Africa and Asia—even in the United States—but these legislators demonstrate no concern for anyone in those areas. The only area of concern is the home of oil. The U.S. wants continued access the Middle East countries that pump the black goo into our nation. We gone into Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and now Syria in only 13 years to keep the fuel supply freely flowing.

President Obama admitted as much in an interview on PBS: “If we are clear about the free flow of energy throughout the region that affects the entire global economy…,” then one can understand the need for dealing with Syria. This greed goes back over 100 years when the UK took over oil in the Middle East to power their fleet; in that way the country emerged victorious in the first two world wars.

Congress and the president sat by as 100,000 Syrian people were killed and another 7 million displaced. With unsupported intelligence that under 1,500 people were maybe killed with chemicals, the administration and some legislators want to attack Syria.

The president has promised that his only intention is to “degrade” Syrian weapons through a few bombings. Any misplaced attack or counterattack would result in escalation into a huge military action causing trillions of dollars. We watched this happen just ten years ago.

No one is talking about the danger to civilians from trying to destroy chemical weapons through bombing that can release toxic chemicals. In addition to killing civilians, bombing can also create an environmental catastrophe. Under the best of conditions, at least 20 to 30 percent of poison would remain in lethal form after the use of explosives. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association, said, “It’s a classic case of the cure being worse than the disease.” Some of the suspected storage sites are in or near major Syrian cities like Damascus, Homs and Hama, cities with a combined population of well over 2 million people, according to Kimball.

The president has promised “no boots on the ground,” but even if he changed his mind, sending in soldiers to seize and destroy chemicals would not ensure its destruction, according to Ralf Trapp, a French chemical weapons consultant and longtime expert in the field. Temperatures would have to be up to 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit. Environmental damage and deaths from the attempted destruction would come from such factors as wind, heat, time of day, strength of the storage unit, and quantity and type of chemicals.

The only precedent for bombing a chemical weapons storehouse was in 1991 when the U.S. bombed a bunker in Iraq that may have contained 2,500 artillery rockets filled with sarin. Over 20 years later, no one can go near the site because of the contamination. “An entry into the bunker would expose personnel to explosive, chemical and physical hazards,” according to a 2012 report by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.

U.S. intelligence no longer knows who controls some of Syria’s chemical weapons supplies. “That’s a very real risk,” said Susannah Sirkin, international policy director for the Physicians for Human Rights, which has been monitoring weapons of mass destruction for more than two decades. “You would risk dispersing agents into the environment,” she said. “Given that sarin is not seen or smelled, that’s terror.”

Another issue is that by bombing storage sites that are near contested areas in the civil war, the chemical weapons can fall into others’ hands, including extremist rebels or pro-Assad militia, Kimball said. “What we’re looking at in Syria is an unprecedented situation.”

There are more reasons that military action in Syria is a very bad idea:

  • A US military attack would be illegal: The U.N. Charter prohibits using force against another country or intervening in an internal or domestic dispute in another country. The only exemptions are when a country is directly being attacked or the U.N. Security Council specifically authorizes force because all peaceful means have been exhausted. The U.S. has ratified the charter, meaning that attacking Syria is against U.S. law even if Congress does authorize such action.
  • There is no reason for military action in Syria: The president doesn’t want to change military balance or overthrow the regime, but attacks will cause great damage and death in Syria. In fact, the attacks could accelerate the regime’s missile strikes. Punitive airstrikes have rarely worked and often lead to greater retaliation. The more the U.S. terrorizes people in the Middle East, the greater the number of members in their terrorist organizations.
  • Military intervention would likely lead to greater death and destruction: Beyond the guaranteed civilian causalities, foreign military interventions increase the length of civil wars because both sides are less likely to compromise.
  • The U.S. doesn’t know that the Syrian government is responsible for any chemical attacks: In addition, the U.S. has tried to undermine control of weapons and weaken enforcement agencies such as the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. Its director general, Brazilian diplomat Jose Bustani, oversaw the destruction of 2 million chemical weapons and two-thirds of the world’s facilities, but the George W. Bush administration got him dismissed. Both the Bush and Obama administrations have threatened to withdraw the organization’s financial contributions, more than 20 percent of the organization’s budget. The U.S. has also continually opposed a U.N. ban on chemical weapons and other non-conventional weapons because it chooses to use weapons such as napalm and white phosphorous against civilians and supported Saddam Hussein when Iraq used chemical weapons to kill up to 5,000 Kurdish civilians. In fact, the U.S. even provided Iraq a key chemical for mustard gas.
  • A military attack likely would strengthen the Syrian regime: Attacks from outside always result in nationalism, particularly true in Syria because millions of them believe that they are the last country resisting both Islamist extremism and Western imperialism.
  • A military strike likely would reduce the chances of successfully ending the war: The only ways to reduce bloodshed is through negotiation or broad-based nonviolent pro-democracy struggle.
  • The U.S. has no support from the international community: Only France, which occupied Syria for much of the early twentieth century, has shown any interest in supporting U.S. attacks. Military action against Syria will increase the world’s anti-U.S. sentiment and decrease any diplomatic influence of the U.S.
  • People in the U.S. oppose military intervention in Syria. 

Attacking Syria is a lose-lose situation. If Assad stays in power, we have a bad relationship with the country because we tried to beat up on it. If the rebels take control, it could be even worse because they are anti-U.S., anti-Israel, and anti-Western while being pro-al Qaeda.

For days, pro-war politicians and pundits have puffed themselves up and said that we need a military action against Syria to maintain credibility. According to them, our reputation is on the line. That’s what they said about Vietnam. And Iraq.

After a summer hiatus, comedian Jon Stewart is back and answers the credibility question: “We have to bomb Syria because we are in 7th grade. The red-line that they crossed is actually a dick-measuring ribbon. The only way to keep America’s penis from looking small is to conduct a limited operation designed to fail. We’ll call it Operation Just the Tip.”  No one escaped Stewart’s scalpel, including the “parade of idiots,” the cabal from a decade ago who took the nation into the disaster called Iraq. You can check out this clip.

August 31, 2013

A Look at Who Might Decide a War on Syria

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 1:24 PM
Tags: , , , ,

Syria dominates the news after Secretary of State John Kerry gave an impassioned speech about the tragedy of at least 1,419 deaths from chemical warfare. Last week most people were opposed to involvement in Syria with 25 percent saying that they might change their minds if chemical weapons were used. Thus Kerry made the case yesterday that that Bashar al-Assad’s regime used these weapons, and President Obama is weighing “limited and narrow” action. Britain voted against military action so France has now become the United States’ BFF after they said they would strike. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a delay in any military action until inspectors present their findings.

Only the day before Kerry’s assurance, U.S. intelligence officers said that the picture is “not a slam dunk,” referring to then-CIA Director George Tenet’s insistence in 2002 that intelligence about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction was a “slam dunk.” It was that “intelligence” that sent the United States into a disastrous and expensive war ten years ago, intelligence that as just plain wrong.

At least one-third of representatives in the House, led by Tea Party members, think that the president should consult with Congress before making any decision, possibly with the hope that they can vote down any military action. Today President Obama announced his decision to “seek authorization for the use of force from the American people’s representatives in Congress.” In another world, this might make sense. Intellectually, this makes sense if we consider that these legislators are rational and thoughtful beings. Many of them aren’t.

The House of Representatives is controlled by Republicans whose only goal is to defeat every Democrat candidate by disagreeing with everything that the president recommends. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) will shut down the government to get his own way in defunding Obamacare and cutting Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid. He said that his position “may be unfair” but he’ll do it anyway, holding the United States’ people hostage.

Rep. Paul Ryan, the House GOP’s budgetary chieftain, said that the GOP will only negotiate with Democrats over the budget if they can stop votes about the U.S. economy.When they aren’t threatening to shut down the government, the House GOP concentrates on blocking legislation, passing restrictions against women, and defunding Obamacare.

Impeaching the president is also on the GOP agenda. Rep. Kerry Bentivolio (R-MI) bragged about calling in lawyers to tell him how to impeach the president of the United States. In a sane world, he would need evidence, but GOP-land has its own rules. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-TX) told people at a town hall meeting that the House would probably have enough votes to impeach but the Senate wouldn’t convict. He didn’t have any reasons either.

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) was a little more careful; he told his constituents that the president was “perilously close” to the standard for impeachment. He also said, “Thank goodness it doesn’t have to happen in the Senate until they’ve brought charges in the House.” Once again, no evidence. The same with Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) who claimed that the only reason they couldn’t impeach the president is that Democrats control the Senate.

In addition to Cruz’s other insanities, he thinks that he can become president if he drops his Canadian citizenship. Although quiet during the entire “birther” kafuffle, he gets most of his support from Tea Party birthers. One of them has total faith that Cruz is a natural-born citizen because “as far as I am concerned, Canada is not foreign soil. That’s the way I look at it.” (It’s worth watching several times!)

Ten days ago after he failed to bring the IRS up on charges, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) promised to expand the probe of the four deaths at Benghazi. Yet when the U.S. government flew its personnel out of Yemen and the State Department urged all Americans in Yemen there to leave “immediately” because of an “extremely high” threat of a terrorist attack, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) described that people who left as “cowards that go running away.”

Rep. Tom McClintock (R-CA) asserted that there is no such thing as white collar crime, because “for a criminal practice there has to be a gun.” (Maybe there’s no crime in Syria because they used chemical weapons?) Would he then think that there was no crime in Syria because chemical weapons may have been used?)
He asserted that bad financial decisions are the responsibility of the individual because that’s “the price we pay for the freedom to make all of the good decisions in our lives.”

Rep. Steve Stockman (R-TX) has invited a clown to perform in his district–the same clown who gained notoriety by wearing an Obama mask and a broom sticking out of his baggy-pantsed rear. Stockman is also known for tweeting, “The best thing about the Earth is if you poke holes in it oil and gas come out.”

In GOP-land, legislators vote against anything that doesn’t benefit themselves. Arizona Republicans Sen. Jeff Flake, Sen. John McCain, and Rep. Paul Gosar all voted against emergency relief funding for SuperStorm Sandy victims, but after an Arizona wildfire, they complained that FEMA isn’t helping their state. The agency tried to explain that they had funded firefighters but couldn’t pay for uninsured private residences damaged in the fire. McCain said he’d call the president.

Along the same lines, Rep. Ted Yoho (R-FL), whose family was on food stamps for two months, told an audience that huge proposed cuts to food aid would not impact anyone, that “not one person would lose a calorie or crumb that deserves it.” He thinks most Americans on food stamps actually deserve to starve although more than 50 million people in the United States don’t know where their next meals are coming from.

Those in GOP-land will make up any excuse to refuse immigration reform. After the president delayed one part of Obamacare because of administrative issues, Rep. John Fleming (R-LA) said on the House floor that he wouldn’t vote for any part of the immigration plan. “One of the biggest fears we have about the Senate amnesty bill … is we can’t trust the president. We can’t trust him.”

McCain has wanted to support the Syrian rebels with “heavy weapons” for several months, despite the fact that ABC’s Martha Raddatz reminded him that some of the rebels are terrorists swearing allegiance to al Qaeda. “There aren’t that many” terrorists that he would provide with “heavy weapons,” McCain said. After a trip to Syria, a photo distributed to news organizations showed McCain with a group of rebels, two of them later identified as kidnappers of 11 Lebanese Shi’te pilgrims. On CNN, McCain told Anderson Cooper, “We can identify who these people are. We can help the right people.” It’s hard to tell who the “right people” are. 

Here’s a preview of debate about invading Syria. Two days ago, Gohmert insisted that Saddam Hussein “had weapons of mass destruction” and may have moved the stockpiles “over into Syria.” Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) supported Gohmert: even though Terry is opposed to military intervention in Syria, his “gut feeling” is that the Syrian government now possesses chemical weapons that came from fallen Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. He added, “[W]e all we know that Iraq had … chemical and biological weapons and then they weren’t there.”

Once again! Iraq’s WMD stockpiles didn’t exist. They couldn’t have been moved to Syria because Iraq didn’t have any.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) worries that U.S. might be “used to kill Christians.” He also thinks that debate should “start with the Constitution,” despite the fact that this document never refers to Christians—or God or religion–except to declare that people can be free from it. About 10 percent of the Syrian population, many of them Palestinian refugees, identifies as Christian. Has a bomb been invented yet to identify religions?

Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) hopes he has a compelling reason for staying out of Syria: the United States cannot afford it. “Our military has no money left,” the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee said in a statement three days ago. He cited the $500-billion cut over the next decade mandated by the sequester. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff disagrees, having assured the president that they are ready to “strike whenever we choose,”

The body that should approve any action against Syria is the United Nations, according to former President Carter. “Punitive action” without a mandate from the U.N. Security Council or “broad support from NATO and the Arab League” would be “illegal under international law and unlikely to alter the course of the war,” Carter said.

We’ve regressed ten years—just with a different president. The disaster that started in Iraq ten years ago was all about oil—and this proposed war with Syria has the same motivation. That topic, however, probably won’t be mentioned in the debates.

August 27, 2013

Iran, 1953; Syria, 2013

Our nation commemorates several anniversaries at the end of August. Yesterday was Women’s Equality Day because of women’s suffrage become federal law in 1920, and tomorrow is the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington, featuring Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech. Less noticed, however, was a tragic anniversary last week on August 19, 60 years after the United States, collaborated with Britain to overthrow Iran’s democratically-elected Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh and thus keep Western companies’ control of the country’s rich oil fields.

Although the U.S. had no oil companies in Iran in 1953, the CIA joined the coup when Prime Minister Winston Churchill called in the debt for helping the U.S. during the Korean War. Therefore the U.S. government manipulated Western media into reporting Mossadegh as intemperate, unstable, and otherwise unreliable.

Mossadegh had clashed with the Shah Reza Pahlavi about the extent of the monarchy’s power. Once Mossadegh was arrested under a flimsy pretext, he was sentenced to prison and died in 1967 under house arrest. The shah, who fled to Rome during the coup, returned to a 26-year dictatorship complete with imprisonment, torture, and slaughter of dissidents. He also  invited BP—famous for the recent Gulf oil disaster–along with American, Dutch and French companies to enjoy the decades-long Iranian oil boom. Because the U.S. had done most of the work for the coup, they got a big chunk of BP. The U.S. also supplied Iran with military hardware and trained the new regime’s brutal secret police.

The coup of 1953 led to the American hostages in the U.S. Embassy in Tehran during the revolution of 1979 and the ensuing formation of the Islamic Republic of Iran ruled by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The overthrow of an elected, secular-minded nationalist in Iran led to its extremism in that and neighboring countries.Iran has never forgiven the U.S. anti-democratic self-interest actions six decades ago.

The facts have now been revealed in a newly declassified CIA document:

“Mosadeq, [sic] was neither a madman nor an emotional bundle of senility as he was so often pictured in the foreign press; however, he had become so committed to the ideals of nationalism that he did things that could not have conceivably helped his people even in the best and most altruistic of worlds. In refusing to bargain—except on his own uncompromising terms—with the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company, he was in fact defying the professional politicians of the British government.  These leaders believed, with good reason, that cheap oil for Britain and high profits for the company were vital to their national interests.”

If Mossadegh were flawed, it was because he was incorruptible and implacably committed to reforms, everything from pest control to unemployment compensation, from agricultural reform to housing, from women’s rights to religious freedom. His education in France and Switzerland and his belief in secular democracy put him at odds with those in the government who wanted religious control. Truman blamed the “blockheaded” British as much as Mossadeq for any tension in Iran, but Dwight Eisenhower took over the presidency in 1953.

Under the machinations of the new Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and his brother Alan Dulles, head of the CIA, Kermit Roosevelt, Theodore Roosevelt’s grandson and CIA operative, met secretly with the shah and with General Fazlollah Zahedi to set Operation Ajax into motion. Their design was to replace the ethical Mossadegh with the general, a grain profiteer who was imprisoned by the British for working with Nazi agents to organize a tribal revolt at the same time as a German attack in Iran.

According to the CIA report, the “complete secrecy about the operation” with some leaked information, made it “relatively easy for journalists to reconstruct the coup in varied but generally inaccurate accounts.” Malcolm Byrne, National Security Archive research director, wrote that the report is the first time the CIA admits to “using propaganda to undermine Mossadegh politically, inducing the shah to cooperate, bribing members of parliament, organizing the security forces, and ginning up public demonstrations.”

Iranian newspaper editors were paid to spread lies that Mossadegh was pro-communist and out to destroy the armed forces. Claiming that they were ordered by Mossadegh, CIA-funded street thugs attacked religious leaders. General Zahedi bribed fellow officers to gain the needed military support against any resistance. Thousands of people were paid to participate in anti-government rallies. Members of parliament were bribed to—when the word was given—push a vote to dismiss the prime minister in order to “rescue” Iran from chaos. A firm believer in democracy, Mossadegh kept the police from taking action against the protesters and did not censor the newspapers.

In a 1979 interview, Roosevelt talked about the horrible example that the coup in Iran had established. Dulles was so caught up in the Iranian events that he wanted to duplicate them in the Congo, Guatemala, Indonesia, and Egypt, where he wanted to overthrow President Gamal Abdel Nasser. Roosevelt said he resigned from the CIA because of  Dulles’ plans. The Iranian venture did become the prototype for Vietnam, Guatemala, Cuba, Afghanistan, Nicaragua, et cetera although these full official records are still classified.

Steven Kinzer’s Bitter Fruit tells about the CIA’s 1954 coup in Guatemala leading to mass slaughter of Maya Indians, and All the Shah’s Men describesthe Iranian coup. An excellent article gives a brief history that led up to these tragic events, starting with the British involvement in Middle Eastern oil, and a bibliography about the U.S. corruption and deceit.

Parts of the 1953 coup were repeated 20 years later against Salvador Allende in Chile when the U.S. participated in the overthrow of the elected socialist president. Following decades of being considered a beacon of democracy and political stability, Chile was controlled by despot Augusto Pinochet in a reign of terror that lasted 16 years.

These are just a few of the U.S.-involved coups in the last century, some of them against democratically-elected leaders. In the beginning of this century, George W. Bush started preemptive wars against two separate Middle Eastern countries, and a decade later, we are facing another one in Syria. The Congressional war hawks demanding an attack on Syria are led by former presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) who has support among some lawmakers.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R-VA) has gathered at least 37 legislator signatures on a letter asking the president to reconvene Congress for a debate about and vote on any military action in Syria, per the 1973 War Powers Resolution. Even senators who support punishing Syria for its alleged chemical weapons attacks are requesting Congressional approval before any action against Syria.

At this time, the United Nations has not determined that there were attacks with chemical weapons or who might have carried them out if these indeed did happen. Extreme caution should be demanded, especially based on the country’s track record of lying to the world about the need for global violence.

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