Denial: It’s Not Just For Third World Countries Anymore

It is a human nature truth that sooner or later, parallel characteristics will surface between opposing extremist views, and the people who hold them.

Consider the bizarre similarities that have become evident between US president George W. Bush and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Both of these guys came into power under questionable circumstances, at best. They both promised improved conditions for their people that failed to materialize.

Both of these men hate each other, and would like nothing better than to destroy each other and each others’ ability to make war. They would love to stand upon the body of the other, proclaiming loudly that (insert your favorite deity here) was on their side.

In the run-up to a possible attack by Iran on Israel, and equally in a run-up to an attack by the US on Iran, there are those on both sides that are planning for the destruction of the other’s war-making capability in minute detail. And they are both denying that such activity exists.

A significant similarity is the denial of reality that both these presidents demonstrated to the rest of the world.

Both men are fond of pointing the finger at others and blaming those others for the problems they face. Bush saw Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the “axis of evil”. He pushed for the US invasion of Iraq on false pretenses, stating that we had to invade Iraq to prevent a greater war from occurring. The premise was that, ostensively, the other countries were planning for war against their neighbors and the US. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, has rattled the saber against the US, claiming that it is on the verge of invading Iran. (some people in the US in a position to know things that the average citizen doesn’t say that Ahmadinejad may not be that far from the truth).

What is more telling is that both men seem to have a very poor view of the people they represent. They both make statements that seem to indicate that they think most people are utterly stupid and uninformed. Just this week, Ahmadinejad publicly declared, in what was probably the worst possible venue on the planet to do so (Columbia University), that there are no gays in Iran. While laughable, it is no different from Bush declaring that the Iraqi people love us, or that he is a asset to the Republican party in its seemingly futile pursuit to regain a majority in Congress and retain the US presidency in 2008.

Just prior to Ahmadinejad’s speech at Columbia, the president of Columbia University, Lee Bollinger, gave a scathing speech about Ahmadinejad, saying he exhibits “all the signs of a petty and cruel dictator.”

Isn’t that the way any educated person would describe a US president that suspends basic civil rights such as habeas corpus, the right to legal representation, the right be free from torture and from warrant-less government surveillance, the right to hope for a cure because of supported stem cell research, and the right to expect that the president and his administration won’t commit violations of numerous laws and the US Constitution because he thinks he knows better and he’s the “decider”?

Finally, both of these guys hide behind their respective religions as the motivating force behind their conduct and many of their decisions.

It does seem that these two “leaders” really believe that the public hangs on their every word as if each was a gift of knowledge to the ignorant masses of the world. But in the real world they would be well served to stop denying what failures they are as leaders and to simply finish out their terms of office quietly. As Donald Trump said earlier this week in an interview with Wolf Blitzer in the Situation Room on CNN, his best advice for Bush would be for the president to stop talking and find a far corner to hid in. That advice could apply equally to Ahmadinejad.

The republicans campaigning for president must be hoping for the same thing. But it’s a good bet that Bush will not be quieted or influenced by the needs of his party, any more than US senator Larry Craig (R) Idaho is, or Ahmadinejad is. After all, they know better, right?

And the democrats couldn’t be happier, had they planned all this themselves.

Change Or More Bush Snake Oil?

The past seven days have provided a plethora of news stories about changes that may be genuine, or may just be snake oil in a new fancy wrapper.

Last week, as expected, General Patraeus addressed the US Congress, and attempted to convince those folks, as well as everyone else, that the US military “surge” was working in Iraq. To make a long story short, he stated that military objectives were largely being successfully addressed. Then George W. Bush made a prime time address to the US (and the world) to claim that the surge was successful, conditions were changed in Iraq as a result, and that we should reap a “return on success”. He announced that some troops will be home by Christmas, and more possibly by July 2008, which, by the way, is four short months before the US general election in November 2008.

Although a token number of US troops will leave Iraq by Christmas, these troops were scheduled to be rotated back home anyway. And bringing more troops home in July only reduces the troop level in Iraq to where it was in January of this year, approximately 130,000 troops.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Iraqi government is no closer to solving its problems. Wasn’t THAT the objective of the surge?

Evidently, the Bush administration still thinks that the American people are mindless idiots that can be led around at the administration’s whim. But polling released today indicated that the Bush administration is tragically out of touch with reality.

According to a new CBS News poll with a margin of error (MOE) of plus or minus 4%, before the speech, 41% of Americans believed that the military action in Iraq was the right thing to so. After the speech, that number went down to 39%.

Additionally, according to the poll 35% of Americans believed that the surge was making Iraq better before the speech. But after the speech, only 31% felt that way.

A Pew Research Center poll indicates that 54% of Americans want the troops brought home now. That poll has an MOE of plus or minus 2 1/2%.

Of course, Bush’s approval rating among Americans hasn’t budged much, either. He pulled a 30% before the speech. But after it, it was 29%.

These numbers are nothing for the Bush administration to be proud of. It is clear that a significant majority of Americans do not support Bush’s warped view of the world, and they haven’t for quite some time.

Only conservative republicans still think the president is right and good and acceptable. But then, they always have. So it seems that this purported “change” is just so much more “snake oil for sale”.

Another news item hit the news that involved change or snake oil, depending upon what you want to believe.

Senator Larry Craig, republican from Idaho who pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct in an airport men’s room when he “allegedly” solicited sex from an undercover policeman, said, under pressure from his own party, that he would resign his senate seat by the end of September. Then he waffled about that.

Yesterday he showed up for work as a senator in Congress as if nothing has happened. Of course, there are still eleven days left in September, and the betting has started with Las Vegas odds being set in earnest upon whether or not republican senator Larry Craig still be in the senate on October 1st (email natca1@cox.net if you want to place a little side “gentleman’s wager”). Larry Craig, of course, proclaims his innocence, even though he had already pleaded guilty to the charge back in August.

Nothing could be better for the democrats than for Craig to stubbornly hang on to his seat. Like numerous other republicans before him, he will drag his own party down in a pointless effort to save his power.

In the final “truth or Dare” news item, Alan Greenspan, who headed the United States Federal Reserve for eighteen years, and who has been a staunch conservative republican all of his life, came out swinging against the Bush administration in a new book, stating (quite correctly) that Bush gave free reign to the drunken-sailor spending of the republican-controlled US Congress from 2002 through 2006, and that Bush never even once vetoed a single republican pork-laden spending bill. This had the effect of pushing the US budget deficit up to record levels during those years. Greenspan further accused Bush of abandoning the fiscally responsible values that republicans claimed they stood for.

Additionally, Greenspan also made the widely believed statement that the Iraqi invasion by the US was largely about oil. Later, when cornered, Greenspan admitted that he had advised the Bush White House before the invasion that if Saddam Hussein wasn’t stopped, the supply of oil traveling through the Persian Gulf could be threatened.

Well…if it looks like oil, smells like oil, and produces huge profits for the American oil companies like oil…maybe it really IS oil.

Every time Greenspan has spoken, the whole world has stopped and listened. Thus, it is not logical to assume that the “chompin’-at-the-bit-for-reasons-to-invade-Iraq” (besides the “Saddam Hussein tried to kill my dad!” reason) Bush administration somehow ignored Greenspan at the time.

Finally, Greenspan also commented that Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton were more intelligent than Bush. Gee what a shock.

And all of this is coming from a staunch republican who is well-respected throughout the world.

That is not snake oil. It’s something you can take to the bank. Pun intended.

If We Hadn’t Invaded Iraq…

On the second night after the sixth anniversary of the 9-11 attacks, George W. Bush addressed the nation and the world, claiming that his “surge” of troops in Iraq has worked. He said that he is ordering a small fraction of the surge troops to return to the US by Christmas, with more returning by next summer sometime. This will leave over 130,000 American troops still in Iraq, which was the pre-surge level.

Of course, the entire world knows that the large American military force had to have some military impact in Iraq. But it has had practically no impact on ending the Iraqi civil war.

At this point, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the Iraqi civil war will somehow be winding down by July 2008. The central government of Iraq is similar to the central government of South Vietnam in 1970: Corrupt, ineffective, incapable of uniting and/or securing its own country, immersed in civil war, and probably doomed to extinction sooner or later.

This is the situation as it exists in Iraq four and a half years after the US invaded Iraq for what turned out to be non-existent reasons.

Consider the pre-invasion conditions:

By March 2003, which was a year and a half after the 911 attacks, the US, along with a minor spattering of “coalition” troops, essentially controlled the country of Afghanistan. They had routed the Taliban government and eliminated the Taliban’s ability to wage war or control any part of Afghanistan.. A quasi-representative national government had been set up, and the Afghan people had begun to rebuild their lives with considerably more freedom than they had ever known.

Most importantly, Osama Bin Laden and his inner circle were on the run, their cave network in the Afghan mountain largely destroyed by US bombing. As a fugitive on the run from hide-out to hide-out, most believed that it was simply a matter of time before he was captured or killed, as long as the pressure continued to be exerted upon him and his gang.

Across the border in Iraq, the tyrannical Saddam Hussein was completely marginalized by the US. The “no fly” zones prevented Saddam from using whatever was left of his air force against his own people. Of course, he didn’t really have much of an air force, since he had delivered it to Iran in 1991. He still controlled his country through fear, and intimidation which he used at will against his internal enemies, but the Iraq people had electricity, drinking water, jobs, and educational facilities. The country’s infrastructure was largely intact and operational. Saddam’s troops would occasionally shoot at US fighters flying on patrol over Iraq, but the shots always missed, and were answered by the destruction of the anti-aircraft battery that shot in the first place.

Additionally, despite the claims of the Bushies and the neo-cons that Al Qaeda was operating in Iraq under Saddam, the fact is that Saddam had no more use for the independent terrorist group than the US did. He was the first one who didn’t want any interference from the terrorists with his stranglehold on Iraq and its people. Al Qaeda was being held in check, unable to establish an effective foothold in Iraq, as opposed to today’s situation, where Al Qaeda has free reign in a large portion of Iraq, using it as a training and proving ground for operations elsewhere, and capturing, torturing, and killing Iraqis at will.

Iran had no stomach for embroiling in hostilities with Iraq. Thus,Iraq was serving as a counter-balance and obstacle to Iran.

Saudi Arabia (Bush family’s personal friends and business associates) wasn’t happy with Saddam, but the stability of the region was secure because no one really wanted to tangle with the despot leader of Iraq, who they knew was capable of doing really childish and vengeful things, like setting oil wells on fire. And if Saddam actually tried anything, everyone knew that the US would come to the rescue.

So, if we had not invaded Iraq, what would it look like today?

First and foremost, the gargantuan US budget deficits of the past four years would have been much smaller. The Iraq war today is costing, according to certain reports, USD $3 billion a day. If medical science had that kind of funding, perhaps cancer, diabetes, heart disease and many other human illnesses could be cured. Alternate energy sources would today provide most of our energy needs, and no child in the US would suffer because of a lack of medical insurance.

Globally, the US would not be viewed by the rest of the world as the hated arrogant self-appointed policeman of the earth. Money spent on war could have been spent on education, stopping the genocide in Darfur, repairing the crumbling US infrastructure, and scientific research directed toward improving the quality of life.

Saddam would probably still be there, but there would be resources available to train and arm resistance fighters, or perhaps even mount a covert “regime change” plan that only targeted Saddam.

Al Qaeda would NOT be in Iraq any more than they were in 2003.

G.W. Bush would still be surrounded by a corrupt, secretive, paranoid, power-hungry administration, but perhaps they would have been somewhat more contained. Joe Wilson would have never written the New York Times Op-Ed piece that caused the Bush administration to “out” his CIA-secret-operative wife in retaliation. And it’s a cinch that Dubya’s approval ratings would be higher than the 30-odd percent he’s been carrying around for a couple of years now.

Osama might well have been captured or killed by now, since the military activity in Afghanistan would not have been forced to take a back seat to the incredibly miscalculated long-term fighting in Iraq. With that kind of military force focused on Afghanistan, the country’s poppy growers would also have been contained, instead of the present situation in which Afghanistan is now producing record crops of heroine-poppies.

The whole strategy upon which the Iraqi “surge” was based would have actually been implemented in Afghanistan four years ago. The Afghan government works a lot better than the one in Iraq and the country would be incredibly stable today, instead of experiencing a resurgence of the Taliban, which actually can win military battles today.

Most importantly, almost 4000 American troops, and well as hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians would be alive today. The quality of life of the average Iraqi would be far, far better than anyone thinks will be possible in Iraq for years and years to come.

Most people who are asked today, even many neo-cons, admit that the reasons the US invaded Iraq were flawed, based upon the currently available info. But the neo-cons say that, regardless of any mistakes made early on, we’re there now, and we have to stay until we win.

Sometimes, when you commit an error and the overwhelming data makes that clear, an admission of error which includes an apology and every effort to fix the error is the appropriate course of action. Only the terminally stubborn, arrogant and egocentric will insist on forging forward when every logical data point indicates a mistake has been committed.

In the case of Iraq, every data point is screaming that it was a mistake. But the “deciders” in the US continue to forge forward.

What does that say about the “deciders”?

Will the Real GOP Please Stand Up?

In the news this morning was an astonishing story about how Larry Craig, the Republican U.S. senator from Idaho, seemingly has decided not to resign from the U.S. Senate at the end of September after all, despite his announcement on Saturday, September 1st, 2007, that he would in fact and deed resign from the senate by September 30th.

At issue, of course, is Craig’s pleading guilty to charges of lewd conduct back in June after he was arrested and arraigned for allegedly seeking to have gay sex with an undercover policeman in the men’s room of an airport.

The Republican Party (GOP) has been plagued with doubt about its chances for any kind of meaningful election victory in the upcoming general elections of November 2008. As a result, the GOP leadership has urged Craig to resign, knowing that the republican governor of Idaho would appoint another republican to serve out Craig’s term. Net vote loss for the GOP in the senate? Zero.

Apparently, the rest of the republicans in the senate figured that demanding Craig’s resignation would somehow enhance the re-election chances for those republicans running for election and/or re-election in November 2008. Their thought process is that the GOP, which lately has endured an unofficial change in their name from “Grand old party” to “Gay old party” (remembering ex-U.S. Congressman Mark Foley, the republican from Florida, who was forced to resign just before the 2006 mid-term elections because of his gay relationships with congressional pages a.k.a. teenage boys), will be well served if they staunchly show disdain for, and rejection of Craig.

If this is followed through, then the conservatives in the GOP, who have kidnapped the party and generally have no use for gay people, will love the GOP leadership at election time. So will many other people, including Independents, or so their warped thinking goes. After all, the Mark Foley incident cost the GOP control of both the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2006, they say to each other.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The reality is that the issue is not about gays, and was never about gays. Gay are part of our citizenry, and are Americans first and foremost. They deserve the same rights and privileges as any other American. Both parties have gay people in them, although it seems that the democrats have much less problem admitting when they are gay, and the voters could actually care less. Witness the case of Barney Frank, gay democratic congressman from Massachusetts, who continues to be re-elected every two years.

Democrats admit that they are bunch of lecherous pigs. They believe in universal availability of contraception, for goodness sake. Lots of sex is good for you, they say. Get knowledge, get protection, and then get sex. Why? ‘Cause it feels yummy!

The GOP, on the other hand, preaches that sex is bad, should never be done out of wedlock, and should only be performed with one’s spouse to procreate, thus eliminating any need for contraception or abortions or sex education about family planning, or avoiding pregnancy or disease.

And gay rights? Forget about it.

Except that…these “holier-than-thou” folks in the GOP keep getting caught with their pants down and their hands (or other parts) in the proverbial “cookie jar” (so to speak).

They just don’t get it. They just can’t fathom how hypocritical the GOP appears to many because of this “do as I say, not as I do” conduct.

The true reality is that the GOP did not lose the 2006 election because Mark Foley was gay, anymore than they will lose the 2008 election because Larry Craig is gay. These two guys are slimes, and would still be slimes if their actions had involved females instead of males. The GOP has the wrong side of the issue, in an era where they continuously latch onto the wrong side of the issue.

If the GOP really wants to know why they’re losing support in this country, perhaps they should examine the following list to measure just how far they have strayed from the GOP’s original ideals and values:

1. The 2002-2006 GOP majority in Congress is biggest spender in history. They authorized the republican president to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on an ill-conceived war in Iraq, and they continue to attempt to throw good money after bad in an effort that almost everyone on the planet knows is doomed to failure.

2. With a few, albeit increasing number of exceptions, they continue to rubber-stamp the agenda of an extremely unpopular president who long ago lost the support of the vast majority of Americans, and certainly most of the rest of the world, due to his complete inability to grasp reality. “We, the people…” in the preamble of the U.S. Constitution, seemingly has been rewritten, at least in their minds, as ‘We, the GOP and our big-business friends….”

3. From 2002 through the end of 2006, the congressional republicans favored themselves with tons of pork-barrel projects, such as the infamous Alaskan “bridge to nowhere” (Alaskan republican U.S. Senator Ted Stevens’ pet project) and countless other favorite-son projects that the American people had to pay for.

4. They have been involved in scandal after scandal involving corruption and influence-peddling in government. Even the most devoted conservative voters get tired of this after awhile.

5. They have almost completely lost touch with the traditional roots of their own party: smaller government, less interference with other nations, and honesty and integrity in government. While the traditional GOP might not have been big on social programs, they certainly understood that America is strongest when Americans….ALL Americans…are united.

United is not a word that anyone can use today to describe “We, the people of the United States…”

The democrats have got to be smiling from ear to ear over this Craig debacle, hoping that he does indeed fight to keep his senate seat. That will put his seat up for grabs in 2008, because a GOP replacement will have less time to establish himself or herself in Idaho. But moreover, it also will bring further discredit to the GOP elsewhere, making threatened republicans less electable in 2008.

If the GOP finally “gets it”, and begins to re-embrace the traditional principals and ideals of the one-time Grand Old Party, they might actually be able to stop, or at least slow the hemorrhage of support for them in the U.S. However, it is hard to believe that all of a sudden, the light will come on and they will come to their senses.

More likely is the scenario that they will seek cover, entrench, and blame their lot on side non-issues such as gays, democrats, global warming believers and all those evil people who have sex more than once a month.