Saddam Hussein’s Hanging, The Bush Administration, Forgiveness, and Happy New Year

Saddam Hussein, who is very much one of God’s beloved, fallible children (just like the rest of us) met his death with dignity and courage.


If all such world leaders who wreak ill-conceived, reckless, needless mayhem, who destroy innocent lives in their ambitious pursuit of influence and power, deserve such grisly ends, then some of our current world leaders ought to be feeling a bit queasy just about now.


A fully-functioning Department of Peace (see ) would do much to make such dismal futures less likely for all.


There is a lot of irony in the sad fact that we’ve spent hundreds of billions of hard-earned and greatly-needed tax dollars to kill off one violent despotic regime in Iraq, simply in order to install another one equally unpopular and equally dependent upon maintaining its power via the same undemocratic brutish means—armies and secret prisons and assassinations and torture. Why else would we need to send ever more armies into Iraq to prop them up?


The Bush administration sold us their disastrously costly war by drumming up American fears of an evil madman imminently threatening U.S. citizens, yet not only could we not find such weapons, we couldn’t even pull off a demonstrably “democratic” (i.e., fair) trial convincingly proving that Saddam Hussein indeed deserved death by hanging for even one single alleged killing spree.


The west is absolutely accountable for forcibly creating a country called “Iraq” from out of many original tribes, and for supporting their own preferred despot, Saddam Hussein, with only a single aim: to keep cheap oil pumping west. When Saddam later thumbed his nose in the direction of his original kingmakers (Rumsfeld/Cheney they were so incensed that they were willing to do anything and everything to depose and replace him with yet another (hopefully more loyal) crony—regardless of how despotic and evil—again with their sole goal of keeping cheap oil pumping west. (The Bush administration recently reclassified all their original distasteful and disgraceful historical machinations with Saddam Hussein in order to cover up their bloody incestuous tracks.) What a grievous waste in every sense—human, material, political, financial, spiritual—this terrible war has been.


And to think that all we ever had to do was humbly stand in line to pay for oil at the market price, just like every other country.


The “war-for-democracy-and-for-love-of-Iraqis” notion came up briefly only when the American public (and, probably, our still-innocent and idealistic president) could no longer stomach the evil-Saddam-imminent-weapons-fear-thing. Rather than admit that this had always been a war about oil, Cheney/Rumsfeld used Rice to convince Bush (and the public) that continuing the war in order to spread democracy and save Iraqis (at least the ones who weren’t currently shooting at us) was important and necessary. Now they’re finally admitting, at least to one another and to a few others, that this war is indeed a smarmy geopolitical struggle for power, money, resources, and influence; that admission, however, doesn’t make the war any more wise or moral.


Democracy cannot be spread by war, just as peace can only arise from peace. We aging hippies used to say in the 60’s that fighting for peace is like fucking for chastity….


We need to begin acting like Americans again. We need to generously support peaceful leaders everywhere, and use our power and influence in ways that demonstrate our highest, most deeply American ideals. We need to stop acting like big bullies, and rebuild international good will with generosity and acceptance and statesmanship and diplomacy. We need to build up our economy ethically, and base our businesses and long-term trade partnerships on mutual advantage, not unbridled greed, power, and indifference. Peace on earth will come only when each of us learns to offer peace. And yes, we need to be the ones to go first, to take the first step, because we are still the most powerful, most envied, most influential nation on earth.


We can still use multilateral international police forces well-trained in non-violent intervention as necessary to lock up and re-educate violent criminals of all stripes. But we must simultaneously teach our next generation (every child on this small blue planet) to live peacefully with one another, to share, to love our mother earth, and to live and work morally, generously, and sustainably. (Again, please consider the beautiful Department of Peace proposed legislation already supported by 75+ congressional leaders, at ).


The world of the future will not be one of vengeance and anger, but one of reconciliation and forgiveness (if it is to be, at all.) Human beings—we ourselves, as well as Saddam Hussein, George Bush, all those we love and all those we fear–each of us–will always make mistakes. Of course we should be held accountable. Of course we should see the grief we have caused others, and learn to regret our mistakes and make amends. But just as I would rather not be condemned or tortured or killed or thrown in prison forever for the harm I’ve done in my life (frankly, I’d really rather be forgiven, and supported in doing better) so too do I hope that in this new year and in all the coming new years, we will all learn to live and love and forgive others their trespasses, as we would have others forgive us our own, and then move on to build a new world, together, with love.




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A Gift to Our Soldiers

I spent a fascinating part of the recent Veteran’s Day weekend watching C-Span’s excellent programming—book discussions, interviews, and panel discussions with combat veterans, writers, and journalists from the Iraq, Afghanistan, Gulf War, Kuwait, and Vietnam campaigns. I later attempted to summarize my hours of viewing to a friend, explaining that all the men and women who spoke were proud of their service and very willing to fight and die for their country; they asked, however, only one thing—an informed, caring, thoughtful citizenry and government that would never again send them too-hastily or wrong-headedly into an avoidable, immoral, or ill-planned war.
“So what’s our answer to their request?” my friend asked me. “How can we guarantee that future for our soldiers and veterans? Considering all our past mistakes, it’s the least we can do. How can we ensure that we honor their request, out of respect for the sacrifices they’ve made, and the ones they’re willing to make again?”
An unambiguous, wholehearted answer to this reasonable request from our veterans and soldiers would be to establish a cabinet-level Department of Peace, inserting into every future decision and negotiation, from local schools to the highest levels of national security, a needed voice of sanity, caution, vision, knowledge, experience, and expertise with proven peaceful alternatives.
As beautifully thought out in H.R. 3750 and S 1756, a Department of Peace will make America more peaceful, safer, and more respected and trusted internationally, while reflecting our highest ideals and most cherished beliefs. These bills are already supported by 77 visionary Members of Congress.
We owe our brave and selfless sons and daughters, and our beloved dead, nothing less than passing this legislation—before we plunge into the darkness of yet another unnecessary war, before another Veterans’ Day goes by, before we face another 9/11. Instead of leaving our soldiers feeling alone, uncertain, frustrated, and unappreciated, we must act to honor their small request.
Please review this ground-breaking legislation establishing a Department of Peace at , act now to support it by attending the Department of Peace convention in Arlington, VA on February 3-5, and work with our soldiers, their friends and families, and other lovers of peace across the nation to pass this legislation supporting our courageous warriors and veterans—past, present, and future—as our gift of gratitude honoring our debt to them.
President Bush, if you take the lead in passing this bill and signing it into law, future historians will call it your greatest legacy.
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Choosing Freedom from Fear (also see my photos attached)

Please read what I (helped) write about the upcoming elections–and check out my photo below–I'm the tall, smiley lady…. America's not perfect, and neither is our political/election system–but what is, in this world? We are so fortunate to have a chance to make our voices count…. Thank you for voting! – Eppy Harmon  (a member of Women in Black Frederick)
“America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way (in a) revolution of values. There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from reordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. These are the times for real choices and not false ones.” –Martin Luther King, 1967
All of us are inundated with images and messages that bathe us in fear. It has become the dominant, and numbing feature of our world. There is no doubt that we face many dangers. But living in fear is destructive personally and to our nation. The constant promotion of fear by all sides is driving policies and actions that have taken a toll on our nation’s soul and institutions.
It is important for us to understand the fears we are being urged to accept. We need to learn to live in this environment, and to find a way to put the dangers we face in proper context for our personal and national lives and actions. It is important that we learn how to not let fear dominate our lives and country in a way that loses the moral center of who we are.
We are hearing messages of fear from all sides of the political spectrum, and can easily feel manipulated, disturbed and confused. As a rational and moral people, we have it within our power to ask our own questions about what kind of America, what kind of world we want to live in. We can demand that our government take action guided from a moral center that represents the best of our American ideals.
Women in Black Frederick mourns the devastating consequences of fear-based politics in our country. We mourn the violence that has resulted from how we have responded to fear. We seek ways forward to build a strong and lasting peace, based on non-violent change and justice for all. We believe it is time to take a new approach to tackling the roots of global insecurity. It is time to invest in building the world we want.
The future of democracy in the U.S. depends upon our informed, active participation. Well-informed voters, high voter participation, and elected officials who feel a strong sense of accountability to voters are key components of a healthy political system. Political candidates—whether incumbent or new—“listen louder” during campaigns than at any other times in their careers. We shouldn’t miss this opportunity to speak our minds! It will be particularly important for us not to be swayed by the messages of fear, sent our way in order to gain our acceptance of the unacceptable: war, torture, abandonment of civil liberties and human needs. We will need to find ways to discern when candidates’ records are distorted in fear-based attacks. We need to ask hard questions of all the candidates.
Supporting U.S. Troops by Bringing Them Home:
After half a trillion dollars, and almost 3000 U.S, 100,000 Iraqi lives lost, we ask: What legislation did you support this year, or would you support to challenge the course of the failed war strategy in Iraq? Will you vote for a plan and timetable for the complete withdrawal of U.S. troops if elected? Congress is not supporting U.S. troops in Iraq by simply endorsing the failed occupation of that country. The latest National Intelligence Estimate, U.S. soldiers returning from Iraq, and some of the U.S. generals running the war argue the U.S. occupation of Iraq is fueling the insurgency and helping to recruit anti-U.S. extremists around the world. A majority of Iraqis, including many in the Iraqi government, want foreign troops out within a year.
Supporting and Strengthening Nuclear Non-Proliferation Policy:
What policies and legislation will you support to make the nuclear non-proliferation policy of the US one that seeks to eliminate nuclear weapons at home and everywhere? Will you oppose funding and development of new nuclear weapons? Will you oppose any efforts to establish or implement a US nuclear first strike policy?
Current U.S. policy argues for maintaining thousands of nuclear weapons for the foreseeable future and nuclear weapons will continue to “play a critical role in the defense capabilities of the Unites States, its allies and friends.”
Additionally, U.S. policy promotes a more “flexible” role for nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons will no longer solely be used to deter a nuclear war but also to deal with multiple contingencies and new threats.
Making Sure There are No More Pre-emptive Wars:
Will you support dialogue and diplomatic negotiations with Iran? In the final hours of this congressional session the Senate passed the Iran Freedom Act of 2006 with no debate. This legislation imposes new unilateral sanctions on Iran, threatens to undermine the fragile international negotiations currently underway that would bring Iran into compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, and further isolates the U.S. in the world community.
Investing in Peace:
Will you vote to provide more money for non-military tools—such as diplomacy, community-based development, and international institutions—to solve international problems before they lead to deadly violence? A huge portion, about 95 percent, of what the U.S. spends to engage with the rest of the world is allocated to the military budget.
A tiny amount, about five percent, is devoted to diplomacy, development, and supporting international institutions that can help to solve problems before they turn into wars. “….A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death. If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight ….” –MLK
Keeping People Safe at Home:
How do you think the U.S. government should prioritize the federal budget to keep us all safe from the aftereffects of natural disasters, from the effects of environmental degradation, from regional economic problems that cause widespread unemployment, and from the deprivations of poverty for those left out of the nation’s economy? Almost half of the federal budget pays for military responses to U.S. and global problems. Hurricane Katrina reminded all of us that not all threats to our safety are military threats. “…. We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and those it calls enemy, for no document from human hands can make these humans any less our brothers…” MLK
Supporting Court Review of All Government Spying:
Would you vote to halt this massive domestic spying program, and to require U.S. intelligence agencies to get warrants so that we have at least some assurance that they’re focusing only on suspected terrorists or criminals? In the name of national security, the Bush administration has tapped into information on phone calls made by some 200 million U.S. residents. This invasion of privacy is unprecedented.
Outlawing Torture Now, with No Exceptions:
How did you or would you vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006? And would you continue to work for legislation to abolish torture and the opportunity for torture — without exceptions? On 9/28 and 9/29 2006 Congress approved legislation that authorizes the president to order torture and abusive, humiliating treatment; permits indefinite detention of human beings without safeguards recognized as essential by U.S. law and treaty obligations; and transfers significant congressional power to the president. This legislation is morally reprehensible.
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Thanksgiving Thoughts on The Many Useful Uses of Gratitude, Appreciation, and Contentment

When I married at twenty-one, my grandmother admonished me to feel very very grateful for such a rich start in life. She reminded me very solemnly that many of my contemporaries, some of my cousins even, could barely squeak by during those difficult times.


I loved and respected my grandmother, but never asked her my burning question: how does one go about honestly “feeling grateful” when one doesn’t really feel particularly grateful?


In fact, I thought myself legitimately entitled to the handsome, charming man I had fallen for, and equally entitled to the many luxuries we enjoyed. My friends were marrying similarly educated, professional men, and after all, my family had made it clear to me that it was my job to marry “wisely.” I never considered marrying any other sort of man. Far from feeling lucky, I felt rather more constrained and obligated to marry a financially solid type. Why, I wondered, should I now feel fortunate to have earned that reasonable expectation?


But my grandmother said I should feel grateful, and my grandmother, I always thought, was very good and very wise. So how did I go about cultivating a feeling of gratitude? And, for that matter, why? And who might possibly profit from such feelings of gratitude?


I was at a stage in life where I had rejected many of my childhood religious beliefs, and my newly revised version of God was different than the old, unattractive, sycophant-approving sort somehow dependent upon his children’s continual praise and gratitude for his jollies.


My parents and husband knew I was grateful for their many gifts—for my education, my life, their love, time, and talents—but that wasn’t what Gram meant. Surely working at feeling grateful couldn’t change anything in my life. Wasn’t gratitude a lot like worry, in that it couldn’t change a hair on my head? If so, why do it? If gratitude couldn’t affect anything, what was the use of it?


I finally decided that Gram wanted me to constantly feel at least a little guilty for having so much good in my life while others in the world had so little, which truly seemed like a waste of my time. I mean, what could be good about feeling bad about the good in life? Could she reasonably expect me to feel guilty about being young and healthy and smart and funny and sexy, when, frankly, I didn’t feel like I was to blame for it, but was sort of just born that way? If others were not so, even if many others were living miserable lives, how was that my fault? How could my feeling guilty all the time possibly help them?


In fact, I felt already too heavily burdened with guilt to feel grateful about anything, and I wasn’t eager to add on any more guilt. Like many young people, rather than feeling accomplished, I always felt I was falling way behind in what I was capable of, in what was expected of me. Instead of acknowledging my achievements and possessions, instead of noticing the good and the beautiful in my life, and in the-world-as-it-is, mostly I just felt guilty because I hadn’t done more, hadn’t been more, hadn’t acquired more. I was all too clearly aware of every one of the mistakes and misdirections of my brief life so far, and I was certain that, had I been more conscientious, made better choices, been less selfish and more wise, I could have been much further along in attaining the somewhat vague adult state of global perfection I thought I was supposed to pursue.


I rarely slowed down long enough to feel grateful for anything I earned or accomplished, aside from the first quick momentary flush of happiness and pride before I dismissed the importance of whatever I’d done. I never even went to any of my graduation ceremonies, but instead, silently accused myself of being a slacker (“I should have done this much quicker…”) before rushing on to focus on the next thing. I had enthusiasm and talent and smarts, but a poor work ethic, no concept of goal-setting or commitment or loyalty or clear personal goals, a belief that I should know the answers already (so don't ask questions) and no understanding of doing my best. So I took little pride in anything I accomplished. Even the fact that I had accomplished something diminished its value, because I knew well my careless habits: surely if I could do something, anyone could have done it.


From both my upbringing and the pressures of a materialistic culture, I always felt that much more was expected of me than of most others, certainly more than I had ever achieved. I knew that more was expected of those to whom much was given, and indeed I had been born, if not with a gold spoon in my mouth, at least a silver one. So I always felt rushed and pushed and far behind-the-eight-ball. Taking the time to stop and savor my achievements seemed a little like false pride, considering my advantages, and anyway, although I sometimes felt conceit, I rarely felt proud.


I looked at life as an arbitrarily and unfairly handicapped race to a vague and impossible-to-reach finish line that was general human perfection. I was resentful of those who seemed to have an unfair “head start” on me, the girls with more money and character and possessions and direction and good habits and good sense, not to mention more adventures and fun.


I rarely looked around me to notice how comparatively very lucky I was, rarely compared my good fortune with those having less than I. I was too busy focusing on all the other people who seemed to have a head start on me. It never occurred to me that life might not be a race, that each person’s goals could be finite and unique, or that where one starts or arrives is far less interesting or commendable than what one does with the time and opportunities one has. All I knew was that my life seemed very pressured, and that the broad goals of generalized human perfection seemed chaotically both mutually competitive and completely unattainable.


Ten years later, years filled with gains and losses and an ever-louder drumbeat reminding me that I was falling behind, falling behind, falling behind, screaming at me that all my many impulsive tradeoffs were bad choices or downright mistakes, I felt nearly hysterical about all that still seemed “expected of me” that I hadn’t yet attained.


One evening in my early thirties, at a small study group in a church, it was announced that we would do an exercise on gratitude.


Finally, I thought, maybe now I’ll learn what Gram wanted to teach me, so long ago. I knew by now that she couldn’t have been thinking of constant guilt….


We were asked to draw a word from a paper bag full of words, and then to meditate silently for ten minutes on our feelings of gratitude for whatever item we drew. The word I drew was: “my car.”


My car?! My stupid, ugly, old clunky and unreliable car, so embarrassing to drive and so costly to maintain. How on earth could I be expected to be grateful for my dumb car!? I couldn’t possibly be grateful for it for one minute, much less ten!


I was indignant, so sure that this idiotic exercise wasn’t going to work at all for me because I had drawn the wrong word, a thing no one could be grateful for. Maybe the exercise would have worked for someone with a nice XKE convertible….. but when I thought of my car at all, it had always been with resentment. I usually mentally kicked its leaky tires and cursed its doggy interior and rusting, peeling paint. What a pointless exercise.


But, dutifully, I sat…and thought. And realized, to my astonishment, that there were a million things my dumb old car made possible for me and for my little daughter. I began to count all the things that we couldn’t do, without my car….


By the end of the exercise, I was profoundly grateful for my car, and never again drove it without a feeling of deep appreciation. And that same gratitude has carried over to every other car I’ve ever owned.


And, as well, to every possession and person and achievement in my life from then on, each of which, I finally recognized, I would be very sad without.


Here’s what I didn’t get about gratitude, way back when: As far as happiness is concerned, the important difference between people is not what they do, have, or achieve, but whether they notice and appreciate what they have, do, and achieve. Those who cultivate gratitude (or contentment or appreciation) in their life are always much happier than those who don’t, no matter how materially rich or poor they are. For proof of this, consider how many wealthy bored housewives and restless husbands there are, spending their lives fretting and unhappy, while others far less materially blessed than they seem to find contentment in the tiny satisfactions of their ordinary, everyday lives.


I recently learned a little anti-insomnia exercise that never fails to put this me into a contented dreamland. Like the old Bing Crosby song, it’s about appreciation: “When you’re worried and you can’t sleep, just count your blessings instead of sheep.” I focus on all the little things in my life, with appreciation for every little detail, right down to my sheets and my country, my pillow, the weather, my dear husband asleep beside me…zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.


The time I spend deliberately focusing on feeling grateful—counting my blessings—always adds to my happiness, just as the time I spend fretting over negative stuff always subtracts from my happiness.


My paean of appreciation, now, today, at this moment, is gratitude for these ideas, the words to express them, the freedom and free time to write them, this computer, the internet, my blog, my home, my husband’s support for all my activities, this cup of tea, my health, education, experiences, my hard-learned lessons….


Focusing on losses and worries is an artifact of living in the past and future (which don’t exist) instead of living in the present moment, the only time anyone ever has to live, love, work, to achieve or enjoy or build or celebrate anything. Regrets and envies and fears are always about the past and future. All good things, including appreciation, happen only right now.


Having lots of things doesn’t guarantee our enjoyment of them once the newness quickly wears off. Many who grow roses forget to stop and smell them, just as we can become oblivious of the many kindnesses which come our way, unless we stop to enumerate them. In truth, we never really possess anything, unless we take the time to appreciate it.


I also now practice a kind of reverse gratitude, something Buddhists practice, reminding myself that all of my blessings, and all of my “curses”—my challenges and heartaches—will all alike someday pass away. One of my favorite sayings nowadays is, “This too shall pass.” Appreciation truly comes with the realization that all things change with time, change being one of the few constants we can count on in this life. No matter what good or bad is in our lives, this too shall someday pass away. God giveth and taketh away. I try to hold in mind, not morbidly, but humbly, that a war or an accident or a natural disaster or a disease or someone’s moment of insanity could instantly take away everything.


My mother’s thirty-year struggle with an unusually severe case of rheumatoid arthritis helped me, in retrospect, learn to enjoy what I have, in the present. As her disease progressed inexorably, crippling a new area every few years—first her knees, then her feet, her hands, her shoulders, her jaw–she found it very difficult to see that she still had opportunities in the present moment to use and enjoy the faculties which she still had. I remember how, after each attack, she would sigh, “If only I had appreciated how much I could still do back when I still had my good feet (hands/neck…. )…when I could still chew and enjoy my food….” Although she did her best to protect her children from her sorrows, her very human focus on the negatives of her disease left her frightened and suffering much of her later life.


One of her many gifts to me, a gift I cherish, is the reminder to focus here and now, in every aspect of my life, not on my losses, or on worries about inevitable future losses, but on all that I still have to be grateful for, all that I still can enjoy. With every loss, I try to say, “Well, at least I still have (whatever)” and count my blessings for all that is still good and beautiful and worthwhile in this world and in my life at this moment, all I still can do, be, and have, and not what is no longer possible. Bad things have happened and will happen again in my life and in every life whether we worry about them or not, so I try to remember that worrying can only hurt but never help.


I also know unarguably, whenever I see a sad face along my path, that I could have been that person. Certainly I have made as many mistakes as most others have made, yet somehow had many second chances at happiness. I’m grateful for my awareness of the fragility of life, and the knowledge that, at least in this lifetime, all my joys and sorrows, my possessions and abilities and opportunities and loves will gradually (or finally) be taken from me. Rather than a depressing thought, this realization helps me live fully here, now, during the only time when life can be lived.


No one ever solves this great puzzle of human life, this problem…but maybe that’s OK; because maybe we’re not meant to solve it. Maybe life isn’t a riddle at all, but an open-ended adventure to be lived, different for each unique indiividual, but still, the gift of life….. Maybe I can learn to embrace my one-of-a-kind life “as it is,” in all its complexity and chaos and change.


A wonderful scene in Thornton Wilder’s play, Our Town, shows Emily rising up from her endlessly peaceful sleep on a graveyard hill, to go back and invisibly observe a day in her youth. Of course she sees herself, her parents, her future husband, and all the everyday richness and boredom and frustration and beauty of her life through newly appreciative eyes. In fact, she finds it all too poignant and painful to bear, and cries out, “Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you…. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?—every, every minute?”


The answer is, of course: No. We all get caught up in our dramas, delusions, and tragedies and forget to appreciate what is. But even knowing this, we can try, amidst our goals and our strivings, to remember to take some time to bless each person, each flower, each gift we give and receive, each moment, happy or sad, with our awareness and gratitude. Love, appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness of the world, just the way it is, is the way I wish to walk always, in gratitude. I know my life will be happier, richer, and more alive for embracing such always-available contentment.


Another way, perhaps the best way, to notice how much I have, is to give it away—not only money and goods, but also talents, help, and forgiveness. All my gifts demonstrate to me how richly blessed I am, and my sense of wealth only increases with the giving. How much richer Bill and Melinda Gates must feel these days as they travel the world in support of their charitable foundations. And since we are all—in the most profound sense—one, whenever I give, I give but to myself, and it can be but my own gratitude that I earn.


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Bad Things That Could Happen If We Ignore the Rumors of a Coming Coup in Iraq

David Ignatius casually mentions widespread rumors of a coming regime-change/coup/junta in Iraq, in his recent Washington Post column Beyond the Coup Rumors, Options for Iraq; other reporters also mention scheming among many Iraqi politicians fearful of a U.S. retreat. I hope lots of influential people including politicians, reporters, bloggers, and members of Congress are presently investigating and reporting these rumors, because, well, so much smoke means something's smoldering somewhere. Too often, elaborately orchestrated coups are carefully concealed by the small, powerful cadres which hatch them—until after the coup is a fait accompli.


Why the stealth? Because coups are illegal, immoral, undemocratic, and politically insupportable, at least before the fact. And  also, because forgiveness is easier to get than permission.


If a coup in Iraq takes the predictable and dangerous course which fourteen previous clandestine American regime changes have taken in the past, it will be closely followed by a rabble-rousing pretext demanding immediate increased involvement to sustain that coup (see my review of  Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq) ( ) or Chalmers Johnson's Blowback.


Historically, the concocted pretexts for expanded involvement after coups are well-publicized, highly inflammatory attacks and atrocities upon Americans or other innocents, flagrant events which incite the public to knee-jerk U.S. involvement, rescue, and/or revenge.


A planned Iraq coup could well coincide with upcoming congressional elections; it could also quickly be followed (after the elections, of course) with a massive troop buildup in the Middle East, as necessary to sustain it.


Because such actions are rarely the will of the American people, it would behoove responsible oversight members of Congress to immediately investigate the sources of these rumors, identify their planners, and subject them to close oversight examination or preventative legislation–before any such coup can be initiated.


David Ignatius hints at plans to overthrow the current, (somewhat) democratically elected Maliki government via a military coup or junta. He doesn’t say whether the rumored plots are supported by U.S. corporate interests or government agencies, although he alludes to commission-style juntas composed of neocon and Sunni-favored politicians.


Neo-cons may dream of another Hussein-look-alike henchman who takes brutal control of Iraq and re-establishes order, so that everyone (except, apparently, irrelevant Iraqis) can return to the golden days of yesteryear when oil gushed reliably and prices stayed low.


However, a coup would make no sense to anyone except the few currently ruling (and panicking) neocons, who may see this approach as the only way to achieve their vision of a colonialized corporatocracy in the Middle East, free of Bush’s irritating preferences for democratic processes.


Such a coup would be insupportable insanity. The U.S. cannot micromanage the future course of the peoples of the Middle East, as if we still lived in the age of empire of Attila, Alexander, Rome, Great Britain, or even the 20th century U.S. Our common twenty-first century planet is too small, too interconnected, too self-aware—and maybe finally just compassionate enough to refuse such an unrighteous solution.


People everywhere want to overcome the destructive selfishness and violence of the past, to live mindfully in peaceful, mutually-supportive diversity on our fragile blue planet. People everywhere want to work together with all other nations to solve the real problems of this century: the ravages of disease, injustice, hopelessness, hunger, greed, environmental degradation, natural disasters, ignorance, addiction, prejudice, nuclear proliferation, crime, poverty, war, terrorism, and yes, violence itself.


President Bush can still redeem himself in the eyes of history as the good old boy he means to be, but first he must stand up courageously and presidentially to his neocon friends and their misguided schemes. If Mr. Bush wishes to be remembered as a force for good, rather than a dupe for a tiny manipulative clique, he should go to work immediately with Congress and cabinet to cut short any planned coups, and to plan a thoughtful withdrawal of all U.S. troops and bases from Iraq.


During his remaining years in office, he has an opportunity to devote the $2 billion/a day we currently spend on war, toward brokering a lasting Middle East peace agreement. Then he can offer generous support to those regional leaders willing to compromise, together rebuilding a peaceful Middle East to their mutual specifications, not ours.


If President Bush wades deeper into an exploding Iraq now, to prop up a coup or to attend to certain blowback from it, he will waste his last two years, and all our money, not to mention vast swaths of American and Iraqi lives, on a futile, catastrophic, Vietnam-like last-gasp effort to impose narrow-minded changes upon a very distant, very old, and very dissimilar civilization.


If the coup rumors are ignored, Americans will wake up someday soon to news that a coup has already taken place (or has been disastrously attempted); that American lives are in danger; and that a far-more massive American military force must be rushed immediately off to Iraq. In just this way have fourteen previous regime changes secretly been engineered by past Presidents and their administrative and corporate cronies, all to American discredit, all at shocking human and material cost.


Once such jingoistic adventures get started on their mindless juggernauts, once demagogues begin feeding the public imagination with new reasons for new fighting, then an unending toll of new, unforeseen losses and enemies will make the widening conflicts almost impossible to stop. If a few right-wing zealots might welcome an “inevitable” Armageddon in the Middle East, the vast majority of Americans would not.


It would be wonderful if James Baker could visualize the shape of an eventual compromise following such a catastrophe, and be so bold as to broker that same compromise right now, before any more bloodletting.


But the United States cannot offer itself as an honest broker until we withdraw our own selfish corporate and national interests from the current struggle for resources and power being waged among those having fair, reasonable and moral interests in the Middle East—that is, those who live there. A peaceful regional solution cannot be “about” American interests. Our only interest should be the advantages to all of a lasting Middle East peace. When we relinquish our insistence upon regional control, and act instead as a wealthy, influential “outside” party, we can contribute greatly to a peaceful outcome, and earn back invaluable international respect and cooperation.


Having played Middle East control freak for too long, it may be difficult to lay our selfish material interests aside and let other agendas lead, but we must limit ourselves to offering only money and peaceful assistance toward the reconstruction goals of cooperative, peaceful regional leaders.


We owe David Ignatius a debt of gratitude for warning us about the possibility of coming reckless political adventuring. Whether bloggers, reporters, members of Congress or other influential leaders will rise to prevent such a tragic escalation…we shall see. For all concerned—and that’s all of us—Albert Einstein offered this startling observation: “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but I know that World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”


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Last-Minute Dithering Before I Cast My Ballot

Leaders throughout history have terrified citizens into going to war by hinting at unverifiable secret knowledge that is so terrifying it can’t be told without compromising national defense, knowledge which insidiously “necessitates” encroachment upon civil freedoms until power finally comes to reside far away from the people.


The vote in November really does come down to whether we move rapidly toward a police state, or work our way steadily toward a peace state.


As President Bush continues to aggrandize his growing illegal kingly powers through “signing statements” and other such indignities, he is lurking  in the deepening shadows of that police state, where my not-so-brave little blog—and many others far braver—will flicker out, replaced by a cornucopia of Roveish to Limbaughesque blog options.


My vote this time will go only to those having track records of resisting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are urging an end to war now.


Withdrawing from Iraq while protecting Iraqi allies, and while righting, as best we can, the wrongs we have inflicted upon this tragically exploited nation, is an expensive, complicated proposition we must undertake immediately.


Alternatively, if we continue to spend $2 billion a week warring on Iraq, we can:


  • “have our troops come under attack every 15 minutes;
  • spawn new legions of terrorists who rise up against the overspending;
  • destroy what was left of the Iraqi infrastructure;
  • create a civil war for our own amusement and then shake our heads at their violence;
  • traumatize the lives of innocent Iraqi children;
  • kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people;
  • secretly set up state-of-the-art torture chambers;
  • use lots of toxic chemicals to ensure that the land and water are destroyed;
  • test our latest weaponry on real live targets;
  • illegally imprison innocent people for years;
  • listen to the fear spin that is the Bush administration mantra;
  • watch our national integrity rapidly erode, and
  • feel the disintegration of our own humanity as we turn a blind eye to the crimes we commit.

 Now is not the time to turn that blind eye or to remain silent. Fear does not have to rule, and peace is a cost-effective and far less deadly alternative.”*


I will also be looking for leaders willing to invest heavily in peace, including a cabinet-level Department of Peace (see as well as leaders who will keep people safe at home, outlaw torture now with no exceptions, support court review of all government spying, reduce our dependence on oil, and support safe, legal immigration.


*Many thanks to Nancy Arnold of Union Bridge, MD, from whose recent Letter-to-the-Editor of The Frederick News-Post the above excellent quoted points were taken.






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If THE DEPARTED Reflects American Cultural Offerings to the World, Then We Yankees Truly Should Stay Home

The Departed is a too-long slog through a repellent underworld of hopelessness, human frailty, and continual struggle. An angry, bitter old man’s cynical vision of despair and disillusionment, it mocks all human efforts to transcend past and primal influences. Its desired audience-response seems to be disgust.


Although The Departed offered challenging roles to talented actors and film-makers, I kept wondering, why did any of them, the immensely talented and capable Scorsese included, even bother? Why make this movie? What’s the point of pooling all that energy, creativity, and talent on such a boring, pointless script? The Departed is neither entertaining, nor satisfying, nor thought-provoking, nor enlightening, nor any other respected goal of movie-making—unless perhaps you find pleasure in staring at cripples or ogling car wrecks.


Scorsese’s many clumsy attempts at youthful (Tarantinoesque?) edginess played out as merely shock-by-politically-incorrect low-life humor,  inspiring only embarrassed titters. I found this film completely lacking in compassion, crass, boorish, and childishly defiant about religion, race, and responsibility. It was definitely a movie offering family values–all the wrong ones. For those hooked on action and violence who want to see positive values, start with L.A. Confidential or A History of Violence (see my review elsewhere in this blog), In the Line of Fire or The Fugitive. It can be done!


When I compare this kind of American blockbuster to, say, the Iranian blockbuster, Children of Heaven–also a depiction of human struggle under the most difficult circumstances–I can certainly understand why many Muslims find our culture decadent, and why they hope to prevent us from infecting their own cultures.


Always in search of high-quality action movies which my husband and I can both enjoy, we saw The Departed on opening night out of respect for Scorcese’s better (if uneven) previous efforts—The Age of Innocence, Taxi Driver, Casino, and Raging Bull. We even heard, while standing in line, that the reviews so far were stellar. What a disappointment.


Leonardo di Caprio’s and Mark Wahlberg’s brilliant performances were very appealing and convincing, but I found little else to like. The sound was uneven too—either way too loud (I literally protected my ears) or too soft.


In comparison, Invinceable—although formulaic—was a recent high-quality action movie we will add to our collection, one which I would be proud to export to other countries as an example of American culture and entertainment. That we might use our great wealth and freedom in order to corrupt the minds of our own youth and those around the world with garbage like the life-sucks-and-then-you-die story offered by The Departed is a truly depressing thought. 


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Good Comic Strips (About War and Sexuality) That I Wrote, But Never Drew

First, the comics about war:


Two of my (unfinished) comic strip characters were kids–one, a smart, mouthy, radical multi-racial activist type, “Krissy,” and the other, her conservative, wealthy, red-blooded-American patriot boyfriend, “Cole,” who loves war toys and dreams of a military career.  These two kids are crazy about each other, but they are also always arguing about politics…. Since I wrote (but never drew) these panels, will you imagine them with me? 



(Cole, thinking aloud)


Krissy’s version of patriotism seems like a lot of trouble.


It takes years of work, money, time, and sacrifice to make a peaceful difference in the world.


In the old days, all you had to do to be patriotic was … die… and kill… and maim…and maybe get maimed….


But at least you could get it over with!





 (Cole, thinking aloud)


Krissy thinks true patriots work for peace and justice all the time.


She says dying for your country is not enough.


She says you have to be willing to live for your country, too.


Dying seems like a lot less trouble.





(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy says it’s no longer enough to be willing to kill and die for your country.


She says true patriots live for their country by working and sacrificing all their lives.


But realizing global peace and justice is so much work!


When I said I’d be willing to give my life for my country, I never meant this!






(Cole thinking aloud)


Patriotism is a lot more complicated nowadays.


History has shown that even America has fought unjust, immoral wars.


In the olden days, patriots only had to be willing to kill and die for their country.


Nowadays, I guess they’d better understand why, too.





(Cole to Krissy)


I think I prefer the old days….


…when all you had to do to be a patriot was die for your country….


I mean, living for your country in peacetime could turn out to be a real drag….


I mean, what if I have to live a really long time?!





(Cole thinking aloud)


Patriotism used to be only a two-year hitch.


Now Krissy tells me true patriots should work hard their whole lives to prevent the injustices that cause war.


But if we prevent all war, everyone will have to live peacefully ‘til they’re really really old!


What a rotten deal….




(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy thinks the truest patriotism is living, not dying for your country.


She thinks we all need to learn more about national and global politics….


…and work hard to uphold our country’s ideals for everyone in the world.


It seems like dying would be a lot simpler….




(Cole thinking aloud)


Krissy says ideals can’t end at national borders.


She says we either want liberty and justice for all, or we don’t really hold those ideals at all.


She says “liberty and justice for some” just doesn’t ring true.


I have a feeling this is gonna be a lot of trouble.




(Krissy is carrying a “protest sign” in the first panel (“IF YOU WANT PEACE, WORK FOR JUSTICE”)


(Cole) Hey! I’m not my brother’s keeper, you know!


I’m only interested in looking out for American interests! I can’t worry about everybody else on the planet!


(In this panel he has his hand over his heart, pledging) “I pledge allegiance…to the flag…with liberty and justice for all…uh…er…all … uh… Americans…. Hmmmm.


(Cole, angry, with hands on hips.) RATS….

(Krissy is carrying a protest sign that says, THINK GLOBAL. ACT LOCAL.




OK, since you’ve so patiently waded through my peace comics, here are some good sex comics….


I read a wonderful how-to book (Sex and Sensibility: The Thinking Parent’s Guide to Talking About Sex, by Deborah M. Roffman, about the importance of values-oriented sex education, and then I wrote the following panels using my four comic strip characters (all young children), and introducing a new character, Ms. Z, an elderly Jewish lady who was once a sex education public health nurse. She’s a tiny fiery fireplug of a woman, a very stereotypically loving Jewish-mom-type who nurtures her four neighbor-kids. (Ms. Z is based on my best friend/next-door neighbor, age 80+) I never drew this series either. Four panels each, with usually at least two of the kids talking in each panel, and sometimes all four talking in a panel.



My parents seem to think it’s not nice to talk and think about sex until I’m an adult.


Mine too.

But it’s a difficult thing to do.


I mean, we’re surrounded by talk about sex, all day every day, on TV, in books and magazines, the kids at school, the stuff on the net….


I guess we’re not supposed to notice….





What our parents don’t get is that we’re surrounded by sex, all day every day, whether we like it or not.


Yeah. They don’t know what we know.


And we don’t know what we don’t know.

 It’s sort of a conspiracy of silence.


Hmmm. Do you think we’re the good guys or the bad guys?





My mom says parents will tell kids everything they need to know about sex on their wedding night.


So when do we get to ask our questions?


I guess after that.


When it’s too late.






My mom thinks I know nothing about sex, and she plans to keep it that way.


That’s why I can’t ask her any questions—if I do, she worries about me knowing about sex and thinking about it.


So why don’t you just maturely tell her you know a lot already, but need her help sorting it all out?


I don’t think she’s developmentally ready for that yet….





From what I can tell, sex is all one big disaster.


Yeah, it can make you sick, crazy, poor, and sometimes it even kills you.


I guess we’re supposed to learn about sex from our mistakes?


You’d think they’d invent a better way….





My mom encourages me to talk with her about sex and then freaks out when I ask her questions.


Sometime it seems like sexuality is something I should learn all about in order to be a mature, responsible, caring, healthy adult.


And sometimes I feel like it’s a naughty nasty secret that we’re not supposed to know anything about.


Schizophrenia begins at home….





Everywhere I turn, the subject of sex comes up.


I have so many questions that I really need to have answered.


I mean, I wanna be good, smart, and happy, and I really wish I could understand where sex fits into all of this.


(Looking sad) Everybody’s talking about sex, but nobody’s listening….





If the subject of sex even comes up in my family…


My mom gets embarrassed.

Mine gets mad.

My dad changes the subject.

Mine leaves.


I guess we’ll just have to learn about sex from our friends and the internet.


We’re twenty-first century kids trapped in nineteenth century families.






…and then, if you pray, millions of sperm fly like electricity through the air, and…


Are you sure that’s the way it works?


I think so, but my parents get all freaked out and embarrassed when I ask questions.


I guess sex is something we’re supposed to learn by trial and error….





Sex seems to have something to do with being bad.

And with secret body parts.

And sneaking around.

And unwanted pregnancies.

And infections.

And even dying.


But it also seems to be about love and caring.


(They stare blankly at each other in silence.)


Well, I sure don’t get the connection….

 No, I can’t see any connection either…..





The kids on the playground all say that grownups, are like, you know, like dogs? They rub their thingys together until they make a baby?


Ooog. Disgusting. That’s it? That’s everything?

Yeah, that’s it.


Well, I guess we finally understand all about sex.


(in unison, depressed) What a bummer.








I guess when we’re adults, we’ll understand all about sex.


But for now, I hate it that I have so many questions and no one to ask.


My parents seem to know all about it, but they get all freaked out if I ask questions about it.


I wonder who they asked?





Y’know, between the four of us, we know a lot about sex.


Yeah, we’ve learned so much from books, magazines, our music, parents, the internet, TV, and each other. I mean, how can we help it? It’s everywhere!


Well, it still seems all crazy and confusing to me. I wish we had someone who could answer our questions….


(in unison) Ms. Z!!!





My mom says Ms. Z was a sexuality education nurse before she retired.


Yeah, I’ve known her since I was little.

Me too.

She’s really nice.

My parents say we can ask her anything.


(They stare at each other in silence)


You first.





What did Ms. Z do when you asked her your sex question?


Well, she answered it. She didn’t even act surprised, embarrassed, angry, or bossy. She seemed, actually, fine about it.


 (They stare at each other, looking uncertain, in silence.)


Maybe she’s an alien.





Was Ms. Z shocked that you knew something about sex?


Was she mad that you were interested in it?



Did she make you feel dumb?


Or treat you like a little kid?



Did she embarrass you?


Did she answer your questions?



Boy, we could sure use her on the school playground.





Ms. Z says sex is about who you are as much as about what you do.


She says sex is about caring, communicating, and taking responsibility, as much as it is about genitals.


So what do you think?


Sounds very unlikely.





Ms. Z answered that sex question I was wondering about for so long.


So now you understand all about sex.



Well, actually, to be perfectly honest, there’s a problem with having someone who will answer your sex questions for you.



Now I have more questions.






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Today’s Muslims: More “christian” Than Christians?

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People everywhere, many Americans included, have begun to think of Muslims as more “christian” than many Christians—in the traditional sense of “christian spirits” that are loving, forgiving, pious, selfless, gentle, kind, and peaceful in their attitudes toward other human beings.
While most Americans still aspire to such qualities, we are today viewed globally as both culturally and politically rather more mean-spirited than christian-spirited. Many foreigners now see Americans as greedy and materialistic, and think of America as an arrogant young nation that tries to tell others how to live, that foolishly and hurtfully pushes its culture, economics and politics onto unwilling others.
If Osama bin Laden had wanted to increase world awareness of past and present American support for regime changes, friendly tyrannies, and repression of democratic movements around the world, he succeeded brilliantly, even though few Americans are even aware of these sad and distinctly un-“christian” exploitations in support of American corporate interests.
And if Osama bin Laden had wanted to stir up empathy for Islam, he could hardly have dreamed up anything more brilliant than our current bloody military adventuring in the Middle East. Ignoring all expertise, we’ve turned a criminal, political, social and economic problem—terrorism—into a military one, barging willy-nilly into a very un-christian war against peaceful people who never threatened us.
But Osama’s biggest bang for his comparatively small, if immensely tragic, PR. buck was sending our reading public—most of whom previously couldn’t find Iraq or even Israel on a map—scrambling for best-sellers about Islam. Because, sometime during the last five years, Americans finally noticed that Muslim cultures, although very different from ours, are, in fact, very “christian” in ways we greatly admire—along with having many unique shortcomings, like every culture.
For example, many Americans are motivated by their christian spirits to protect women’s rights to equality—to enter any profession, to be educated, to be equal citizens—but they are also sadly free to become drunks, addicts, prostitutes, rape victims, divorcees and unwed mothers. Muslims’ “christian spirits” motivate them to overprotect their wives and children, with the many drawbacks that come with that approach. Future christian-spirited dialogue and exchange between our two cultures will bring us all closer to understanding and agreement about our common, universal, “christian”—if not exclusively “Christian”—values, all those which offer respect and support to all human life everywhere.
The single sad silver lining behind bin Laden’s blood-and-publicity-soaked attack was to open western eyes and hearts to Islam. We have finally seen enough Muslims to look past the angry, despairing extremists, past the unfamiliar turbans, suspicious scarves and rough accents, to see clearly the many kind human faces and wise human hearts of gentle fathers, bright mothers, laughing daughters and fierce sons—who are, after all, not really so different from our own.
For the first time, Americans are experiencing the christian spirits of this exotic and unfamiliar culture which devoutly prays many times daily, is devoted to family, and which, just like Christians, exhorts its children at home, mosque and school to acts of goodness, kindness, generosity, and peace.
When we choose to see them through christian-spirited eyes, we’ll see a gentle people who have suffered greatly during a century of relentless violence from outsiders, simply because oil was discovered on the land of their ancestors, who yet still reach out hospitably to all who come, not as occupiers and invaders, but as peaceful, respectful visitors and citizens.
Most Muslims, like most Christians, have “christian” spirits, wanting to raise families in a compassionate culture which nurtures universal values. Yet most Americans today agree that, somewhere along the way, America has lost many of her ‘christian’ ways.
Certainly we’re coming off very poorly in our latest war. Our national leadership has acquired a well-deserved international reputation as far-from-christian-spirited religious extremists, unschooled in diplomacy and too quick on the draw.
I am not an expert on Islam; I keep up with the news and have a lifelong interest in all world religions and philosophies. But I do know that Islam is the fastest-growing religion in the world, one which accepts Jesus as a great prophet, along with all his teachings.
I have closely observed my Muslim neighbors, and know them by what we used to call their “christian witness”—that is, by the way they live their lives. As a group, Muslims are pious, kind, neighborly, civic-minded, charitable and scholarly. Islam, as practiced by its most thoughtful and faithful practitioners, embraces the high ecumenical values espoused in Jesus’ teachings, particularly those about universal brotherhood, peace, charity, service, forgiveness, and love of God.
Yet, right after the towers fell, Christian extremists, perhaps fearing their congregations would be pulled away by curiosity about Islam, forgot to exhort their flocks to christian-spirited unity with their global brothers, and instead chose to preach sermon after mean, frightening, televangelical sermon demonizing Muslims as violent, cruel, scheming, and anti-Christian.
Muslims everywhere were dismayed and frightened by such un-christian televised messages, not to mention the rude insistence of multinational corporations to hawk materialist values and profitably push distinctly un-christian habits and lifestyles to anyone anywhere anytime.
Neither God nor Jesus nor any prophet, philosopher or saint cares which faith you pray to them from, nor what names you call them by, nor what form your prayers take; but they do care that all their many pleading and peaceful messages of acceptance, compassion, and reconciliation are spread everywhere to unify and bring peace to a frightened, suffering world.
On C-Span, CNN, and other media, Americans have heard the sad voices of Muslims in war-torn countries pleading to be left in peace, along with the voices of articulate and caring Muslim leaders sharing their concerns and patiently explaining their unfamiliar approaches. Many of us have also enjoyed the brilliant, award-winning family-values films and books streaming out of Iran and other Muslim countries.
We have also been terrified by American demagogues that Iran will acquire a nuclear weapon and use it against Israelis or Americans. Yet, just as worrisome to many, is the terrifying possibility that our own malleable President, egged on by powerful, trigger-happy sidekicks, will use our own vast American nuclear arsenal to initiate a very un-christian WWIII.
Muslims and Christians alike want most to live their lives in peace, in accordance with their beliefs and values. We want our children to grow up in warm, safe communities, in homes and schools that support—or at least, do not undermine—our heartfelt beliefs and values. Muslims and Christians alike think it unreasonable to be under continual attack from commercial and media corporations who use our freedoms and our public airwaves to hammer away at our cherished values.
Muslim immigrants come to America for the same reasons all immigrants have ever come: for the freedoms and benefits of good government which serves and supports the quality of all the human life which God created equal on this fragile blue planet.
We all want a justice system which respects and serves all people equally, quickly, and affordably. We all want fairly-elected, familiar local public servants who spend our hard-earned tax money on our youngest and neediest citizens, on convenient, quality health care for all, on retraining workers, on offering quality public services and infrastructure, on supporting emerging technologies and creating competitive economic opportunities within a thriving economy offering living wages. We all want well-disciplined, high-tech educational environments and opportunities that offer all children a real chance in life.
Instead, Americans seem stuck with a bloated and increasingly indebted federal government which cuts local services to pay for its steady stream of immoral foreign wars, which only line the pockets of corporate war profiteers, while bankrupting average Americans and compromising our children's futures.
Instead of offering good local government, where small local militias are well-trained in non-violent conflict resolution and stand ready to assist local communities during emergencies—floods, hurricanes, epidemics, invasions—we have instead a vast, far-flung military machine enforcing hegemonic American corporate interests wherever in the world they see an opportunity to make a fast, if un-christian, buck.
Soon—although not soon enough for the hundreds of thousands of dead, disabled, and desperate Muslims and Christians we have harmed—America will retreat from its current un-christian aggressions, will expensively buy peace in Israel and reconciliation in Iraq, and will stand aside while Muslims shake off their dictators and sort out their own political destinies, whether violently or in a more christian spirit, as would better suit all our mutual interests and befit the highest values of all our various religious and cultural traditions.
When their oilfields have been carved up among them, may our charitable American christian spirits uphold their right to spend their oil money creating opportunities for their hungry youth, while we refrain from using our own vast stores of nuclear weapons during this most-dangerous era of unaccustomed American humility, as we wait in line politely for Middle Eastern oil like any other paying customer.
Hopefully, we will all—Muslim, Christian, Jew, Hindu, and atheist alike—support only leaders demonstrating christian lives and spirits—whether or not they are Christians—leaders who advocate politics which reflect the universally cherished golden rule of treating all others as we ourselves would want to be treated.
May Christians and all other Americans join with all people everywhere in making christian-minded personal choices, and may we all support only political representatives having peaceful christian hearts, words, actions and lives—regardless of whether they be Christian, Jew, Atheist, Muslim, Hindu, or any other.
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Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s OVERTHROW: AMERICA'S CENTURY OF REGIME CHANGE FROM HAWAII TO IRAQ

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Sanctimonious History Overthrown in Stephen Kinzer’s Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq
People like to feel good about themselves, and Americans are no exception; so only a relative handful of scholarly Americans are even aware of their government’s direct historical responsibility for a century of violent regime changes in fourteen countries from Hawaii, Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Nicaragua, and Honduras, to South Vietnam, Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.
Kinzer offers a compelling case that, without exception, all this violent meddling has worked against the overall best interests of Americans, and—with the possible exception of Grenada—against the citizens of all these exploited nations.
Kinzer’s brilliant decision to summarize the colorful particulars of who-what-when-where-how leading up to, during, and following each overthrow, give range to his best journalistic talents, while reducing his biographer’s breadth and historian’s bounty of facts, figures, places, and times into fourteen short, lively, memorable tales of derring-do, intrigue, overreaching, ignorance, prejudice, greed, and mayhem.
Reading Overthrow brought to mind the darker aspects of Margaret Meade’s assertion, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has,” while adding credibility to the mounting evidence that the tragedy of today’s Middle East is indeed directly traceable to the benighted machinations of a few dedicated, powerful, and sorely misguided neocons in Washington, D.C. For each case of regime change, Kinzer implicates a small group of daring individuals usually acting for corporate interests, and always acting with presidential authority.
Kinzer’s reasonable-length history is backed by over twenty pages of end notes, as well as an impressive international, multilingual twentieth-century bibliography of nearly five hundred on-the-spot memoirs, biographies, government documents and news accounts, and a twenty-page index. Kinzer definitely entertains, but more importantly, he connects the dots and fills in the necessary details of significant historical events which many would prefer to erase, to our nation’s peril.
I’m very grateful for the years of persistent and generous scholarship necessary to produce this readable summary which surely deserves wide consideration. Overthrow fills in the many gaps and blanks left by incomplete reporting-at-the-time, and offers an opportunity for synthesis, analysis, and reconsideration of the patterns, results, and morality of our past violent involvements in the political, economic, and social lives of people in faraway nations, as well as their implications for the present and future:
“There is no stronger or more persistent strain in the American character than the belief that the United States is a nation uniquely endowed with virtue…. This view is driven by a profound conviction that the American form of government, based on capitalism and individual political choice, is, as President Bush asserted, ‘right and true for every person in every society.’…By implication, it denies that (culture) changes only slowly, and that even great powers cannot impose their beliefs on others by force…  For more than a century, Americans have believed they deserve access to markets and resources in other countries. When they are denied that access, they take what they want by force, deposing governments that stand in their way. Great powers have done this since time immemorial….When the United States intervenes abroad to gain strategic advantage, depose governments it considers oppressive, or spread its political and religious system, it is also acting in its commercial self-interest….Most American-sponsored ‘regime change’ operations have…weakened rather than strengthened American security. They have produced generations of militants who are deeply and sometimes violently anti-American; expanded the borders that the United States feels obligated to defend, thereby increasing the number of enemies it must face and drawing it ever more deeply into webs of foreign entanglement; and emboldened enemies of the United States by showing that despite its awesome power, it has a soft and vulnerable underbelly….Most of these adventures have brought (Americans), and the nations whose histories they sought to change, far more pain than liberation.”
These are important lessons we need to learn, and Kinzer has assembled the foundational stories, facts, and figures necessary to establish their credibility.
Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent with reporting experience in more than fifty countries on four continents, including service as New York Times bureau chief in Turkey, Germany, and Nicaragua. He has previously written four well-received histories focusing on Iran, Turkey, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
Kinzer prefers patient diplomacy to violent regime-change, pointing to the efficacy of our productive continuing dialogues with China, the former Soviet Union, South Korea, and countries in South Africa. While he asserts that nations always act in their own self-interest, I wish he had also concluded that, on today’s tiny, interconnected, fragile blue planet, everyone’s national self-interests are irretrievably tied to the interests of everyone else, everywhere else. Pragmatically, we can no longer afford to think in terms of “them,” but only “us.”
I pray that President Bush will soon decide to become presidential, Christian, politically astute, humble, and visionary enough to boldly shift from a doomed-to-fail, self-centered foreign policy based on international competition, to one of enlightened, self-interested global cooperation. Neither approach is simple, obvious, or guaranteed, but only one has any chance of succeeding.
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