Fort Hood's Nidal Hasan – or – Why Today's Soldiers Go Crazy

The tragic recent murders by Maj. Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood are part of an epidemic of suicides, violent crimes, and shooting sprees among active-duty and former soldiers which stem in great part from their understandable moral and ethical confusion about the nature of war and the uses of power and violence. Women soldiers newly serving in combat positions often struggle with their uncertainties about adopting formerly-despised “male” traditions of violence and dominance, especially since their use of such power—as male soldiers have always known—can and does often lead to a sense of separation from the human race, to feelings of isolation, aloneness, difference, wrongness, fear, inadequacy, failure, loss and rejection.


Add to these moral conundrums of conscience the fact that soldiers are expected to behave in uncivilized and dominating ways while “at work,” and then nimbly revert back to behaving civilly and helpfully at home, flexibly “getting back in touch with their feminine sides” and working in equitable partnerships, building family affection, connections and wholeness. Clearly, twenty-first century soldiers have their hands full to be all they can be.


Military trainers work very hard to try to turn selfless, idealistic, caring young recruits into good soldiers who can be both safe and effective in war zones, prepared to perform as knee-jerk killers, to instantly shoot down complete strangers—often innocents themselves who are protecting their own homes and families and comrades-in-arms—and to carry out the cold-blooded duties of snipers, bombers, interrogators and other executioners who must kill with no hesitation or trace of due process random members of any population demonized as “the enemy,” “others”—i.e., people it’s OK to treat as non-humans.


Good soldiers are offered a fuzzy kind of contextual logic to (temporarily) ethically “cover them” and their bloodiest actions, for at least as long as they can believe that their killing and dying serves a worthwhile purpose—that is, to protect their friends and families and fellow-citizens, or to serve their country in some way, or to further its noble ideals and purposes. Soldiers can often do their duty if they can cling to some hope that their “jobs” are generally positive ones, that they are necessary, valuable and moral, that their terrible personal losses and cruel sacrifices were not in vain, and that they wasted neither their own lives nor the lives of others.


Unfortunately—or perhaps, fortunately—it’s much harder nowadays in the age of media for us to continue to see complicated human instances of violence in simple black-and-white terms. The rapid pace of change, the continual clashing of conflicting old ideas and emerging new ones, our own American biggest-kid-on-the-block mentality, and our often-thoughtless, retributive, greedy habits of government policy-making with respect to war, empire and militarism—added to our too-violent and vengeful culture—together create a mentally and emotionally combustible, dangerous, crazy-making conundrum for even our best, most well-intentioned and professional soldiers.


“Schizophrenic behavior” is defined as behavior which is motivated by contradictory or conflicting principles, or which results from the co-existence of disparate or antagonistic activities. In other words, when your ideals frequently conflict with each other, and when your actions feel equally conflicted, it can drive you nuts. Fallible human attempts to live up to one’s ethics, values, standards and goals can make even the best soldiers feel schizophrenic.


Growing up on military posts, I believed, just as most citizens of most countries are taught to believe, that our military forces were always a force for good, an organization that helped people, supported peace, promoted freedom and democracy. Since then, I’ve learned that military forces everywhere—like violence of all kinds, from abuse to crime to terrorism—usually harm many more people than they help. I’ve also learned that peace, freedom and democracy cannot co-exist with war, because wherever war goes, anything resembling peace, freedom and democracy quickly disappear.


Even the best-trained soldiers—those convinced that military actions are all about duty, honor and country, taking care of one another, following orders, and serving with excellence, integrity and honor in order to further the protection and interests of loved ones and the best nation on earth—in the midst of war, wonder whether their actions are truly helping or hurting people, whether they are on the “giving” or on the “taking” “side.” Every soldier prays that he will someday look back and believe his life and work have served the best interests of humanity—and heaven forbid that they have served on the side of darkness, pain, grief, and cruelty. In the midst of actions far from their homes, all soldiers wonder at times whether their devotion to military ideals and country may not conceal larger, deeper, sadder contradictions about the nature and missions of militarism and war.


When soldiers from any nation come home from their wars, of course they have trouble rectifying all they've participated in, with their peacetime ethical, spiritual and religious beliefs about what it means to be humane, caring, good—all the many understandings parents and teachers carefully taught them about what makes relationships work, and what make life worth living. Many returning war veterans basically go insane for years. Others are unstable or crazy for the rest of their lives.


Everyone insists that training and fighting animals—cocks, dogs, bulls—is an outrage. We wouldn't, they say, we couldn’t, we shouldn’t do this to a dog! So why do we keep doing it to people?


Every soldier I have known, at one time entered the military with selfless ideals and the best intentions. Sadly, military training and war often work subtly against soldiers’ best interests, leaving them confused about what power and leadership really mean, as well as poorly-prepared for the peaceful, productive civilian relationships they spend years dreaming of forging, at war’s end.


Unfortunately, the many sad, lingering side-effects of military training and war include a heightened tendency to polarize even small conflicts into black-and-white situations requiring a quick, habitual adversarial or violent response to conflict—habits which later work insidiously against both the soldiers and their loved ones. Quickness to violence—while perhaps an asset in effective soldiering—is a terrible emotional burden in civilian life. Recent public-safety statistics indicate that too many soldiers attempting to re-enter civilian life—having spent their impressionable youth on high alert, in kill-or-be-killed situations—have become habituated to violent, lawless behavior, and continue to pay huge, never-ending psychic prices for their previous military involvements after their return to “civilization.”


The number and types of military resources America should maintain may be a matter of reasonable debate, but what is not arguable is our need to develop more thoughtful and deliberate processes for deciding when and why to send our soldiers into war.


The great writers and filmmakers who have told their stories of past wars have consistently described war as “insane.” Insanity is also the only word that most reasonably describes any future war, since humanity has the knowledge and the means now—if only we develop the will—to resolve conflicts peacefully and prevent the holocausts which the law of unintended consequences, along with our ghastly weaponry, inevitably spiral us into.


Ethical soldiers like my father relive the remembered insanity of war for the rest of their lives, alternating between waves of the deepest humane compassion, pride and camaraderie, to long periods of dark, impenetrable, self-protective anger, fear and cynicism.


The cruelly gruesome extremes of war sometimes contaminate and twist even the highest traditional military values into thuggery. Professionalism can be turned, at times, into barbarism. Selflessness can be turned into greed. Idealism can become cynicism. Courage can become savagery. Strength can become dominance. Love of country can turn to jingoism and chauvinism. Obedience, leadership and respect for authority can be warped by exigency into a numbed conscience and momentary group-think. Loyalty can become a destructive “us/them” mentality. Integrity can become a morally confusing paralysis, while duty can be pushed into rote obedience.


However admirably motivated, however morally unambiguous in the midst of a firefight, violent military actions still have the look and feel of chaotic lawlessness. No matter how patriotic or mentally-prepared soldiers may be, the act of killing complete strangers goes queasily against soldiers’ moral teachings about how to treat other people.


The ideal of freedom itself—the dream comprising healthy, productive human lives spent in peaceful pursuit of individual dreams—can feel, during war, quite unrelated to the specifics of what soldiers are often asked to do, because serving the freedom of one group often entails dominating and killing another, something which feels less noble in practice than what most soldiers hope for, particularly when their personal boots-on-the-ground experience has already offered clear evidence that many—perhaps most—of war’s victims are as innocent as the soldiers who kill them. Soldiers don’t sign up to defend moral ambiguities. And yet the first victim of war is truth, followed closely by moral clarity, and, too often, by despair.


However high-minded the justifications given during a soldier’s training, the actual waging of war—the killing, the maiming, the brutalizing—feels more “against” than “for” humans. Unless “the enemy” has successfully been completely dehumanized in the minds of soldiers by war propaganda, military fighting too often seems rather more against than for human value and worth, human liberty; love, individuality, uniqueness; against the highest religious and moral traditions, against human ideals, values, beliefs, against the teachings of history’s great moral teachers, against humanity itself.


Soldiers schooled in war fortify their emotions against moral confusion by coldly dehumanizing and demonizing their enemies, but such temporary moral adjustments don’t serve nearly as well at war’s end, when all the former “non-humans”—the Vietnamese, Germans, Irish, British, Russians, the terrorists, whomever—experience a miraculous rebirth, having been rediscovered somehow to be human beings after all. Soldiers who wisely shut down their feelings against tragically ambiguous memories unfortunately also become emotionally unavailable to their children, parents, and spouses. This happened in my family.


Soldiers who have followed orders to loose destruction and death upon “combatants” and “noncombatants” alike in someone else’s country, often become cynical later even about their own country, about the human capacity for goodness, and the worth of people in general.


“Human” values which specifically exclude certain portions of humanity—Muslims, for instance, or Christians, or certain races or ethnicities —ultimately prove uncomfortingly weak and useless. Nations claiming a constitutional and traditional embrace of “human ideals” and “human rights”—who then insist upon them only for their own citizens and at the expense of citizens of other countries—rapidly lose not only their allies, but also the loyalty and pride of their own citizens; while patriotism which rests shakily upon chauvinism and exceptionalism breaks down quickly into partisan bickering, and too-easily collapsing into division, bigotry, political hatred and violence, and even civil war.


Wars’ costs go far beyond blood and treasure.


All the war books and movies I’ve “enjoyed” shared similar conclusions about their experiences of war. Over and over, each artist expressed the point of view that their war had been insane, cruel, hard, sad, misguided and stupid, and created more problems than were resolved. The grisly killings aspects of war were consistently experienced as pointless, chaotic, numbing, unreasonable, inhumane, confusing, wrong—and sometimes thrilling, in that the pointy end of the sword went into the other guy, and not them. Soldiers throughout history have been urged by their leaders to keep such stories to themselves, or share them only with other soldiers who were there, so as to avoid bringing harm or shame to a unit, or turning the next generation against war itself. 


In nearly every war book and movie, bleak, terrified, mutilated children emphasize the meaninglessness and human tragedy of war, while fear for oneself and one’s friends drives soldiers to acts of cruelty and immorality unimaginable during peacetime.


War never turns out to be at all what anyone expects when they join up, and not much like what they train for either. When at war, every soldier longed for home, and when finally back home, they missed having friends they could talk to, buddies who understood them and their experiences.


All these artists told how their necessary training in hate and fear had carved a black chasms into their psyche, changing them (and their families) forever in ways inexpressible to anyone who hadn’t shared such experience—so mixed are war’s memories with guilt, pride, and loyalty.

Should the U.S. Fear, Antagonize, Denigrate, Irritate or Embrace China?

This anonymous post about anti-China perceptions in the West is viral on the internet. I found it fascinating and thought-provoking. I think you will too…. 

What Do You Really Want From Us?

When we were the sick man of Asia,

We were called the yellow peril.

When we are billed as the next superpower, we are called “the threat.”

When we closed our doors, you launched the Opium War to open our markets.

When we embraced free trade, you blamed us for stealing your jobs.

When we were falling apart, you marched in your troops and demanded your fair share.

When we tried to put the broken pieces back together again, Free Tibet, you screamed. It was an invasion!

When we tried communism, you hated us for being communist.

When we embraced capitalism, you hated us for being capitalist.

When we had a billion people, you said we were destroying the planet.

When we tried limiting our numbers, you said we abused human rights.

When we were poor, you thought we were dogs.

When we lend you cash, you blame us for your national debts.

When we build our industries, you call us polluters.

When we sell you goods, you blame us for global warming.

When we buy oil, you call it exploitation and genocide.

When you go to war for oil, you call it liberation.

When we were lost in chaos, you demanded the rule of law.

When we uphold law and order against violence, you call it a violation of human rights.

When we were silent, you said you wanted us to have free speech.

When we are silent no more, you say we are brainwashed xenophobes.

Why do you hate us so much? we asked.

No, you answered, we don't hate you.

We don't hate you either,

But do you understand us?

Of course we do, you said,

We have AFP, CNN and BBC….

What do you really want from us?

Think hard first, then answer…

Because you only get so many chances.

Enough is enough, enough hypocrisy for this one world.

We want one world, one dream, and peace on earth.

This big blue earth is big enough for all of us.


Please send your comments to Thank you! 🙂


Biological Arms Races, Biocontainment Labs, Hazards and Assessments

No one wants peace more than a soldier who’s been to war. Military men were my first heroes, my first saints. My darling Dad earned a Silver Star, two Purple Hearts, and a chest-full of campaign ribbons and medals. My childhood “hometowns” were Army posts scattered around the U.S., and Japan and Germany.  I went to twelve different schools before college. A civilian now, I’ve listened nostalgically for twenty years to the bugled sounds of Taps floating in my bedroom window near Ft. Detrick.


My husband and good friends working at Ft. Detrick convinced me long ago that the technicians and scientists there have the best intentions, the highest skills, admirable goals, and very conscientious safety precautions.


Unfortunately, they’ve not been able to convince me that the planned Level 3 and 4 labs will be safe in Frederick. The record shows that research lab workers, even those with the highest security clearances and the best available training, are still fallible human beings who can and do become victims of blackmail, fall in love unwisely, get into desperate financial situations, hide growing prescription and other drug problems, and develop volatile feelings about co-workers. Lab workers sometimes become blind to their own religious and political biases and bigotry, and are thus susceptible to involvement in illicit covert operations, conspiracies and cover-ups.


Sometimes they get in a hurry and make professionally embarrassing mistakes and bad decisions. Sometimes they hide evidence, fudge records and fake procedures in order to save their jobs and livelihoods, and then rationalize the risks they’re taking—escalating and exponentially complicating situations already perilous.


Also sadly, no one yet has been able to explain to me why it wouldn’t be easy, temptingly easy, to kamikaze an airplane flown from the Frederick Airport into a targeted Ft. Detrick building, or lob a well-placed rocket over the Ft. Detrick fence. Either of these unpreventable actions would very legitimately throw chaos and panic into the post, city and metropolitan area, creating unforeseen, complicated, dangerous situations.


Scientists in these labs will be genetically-engineering (from diseases with no cures), completely new, highly lethal and contagious life forms, life, life so new that no one yet understands how it works. What if a newly-mutated strain somehow finds a way to attach itself to a lab worker in some unpredictable way, some way that defeats the protections put on it, so that the lab workers carry it outside unknowingly? I plead for humility in the face of nature’s chaotic, awesome genetic power.


Furthermore, if we build the facility, we’ll scare other countries into creating their own labs, creating something like an arms race with ourselves, and increasing the threat. I can’t think why Detrick’s scientists, or the Post Commander, would welcome such dangerous projects, which only complicate, compromise and jeopardize all the other crucially important and valuable research currently being done at USAMRIID and elsewhere on post.


I know we can’t avoid all risks in today’s angry and violent world, but we can avoid adding recklessly to their sum. We can choose not to consolidate, in a metropolitan area, an unpredictable mix of risky components with an infinite potential for dangerous permutations.


I was almost raped as a young mother. A very caring policeman later sternly warned me, “Don’t be so stupid as to leave your window-shade up! You’re attracting every pervert in the county. Eventually, they’ll all make a beeline to your window!”


These labs leave the window-shades in Frederick up. Their very existence in Frederick asks, perhaps begs, for trouble, and that trouble will make its dangerous beeline straight to our area.


Before we expose huge populations to catastrophic risks with BSL 3 & 4 labs, we need to ask why. If someone does attack the U.S. with biologicals, what is the likelihood that we’ll have the right vaccine, in enough quantities, available when it is needed? Wouldn’t we have to vaccinate people before the threat reaches them? Perhaps an antidote, not a vaccine, will be needed. And how much vaccine, and when, would be considered a good solution? And who would be vaccinated? Only the government? The military? The medical community?  Who might our solution actually save?


And finally, has anyone examined the probability that these risky efforts can even be successful? We’re considering exposing huge populations to catastrophic risks. For what? If someone does attack the U.S. with biologicals, what is the likelihood that we’ll have the right vaccine, in enough quantities, available when it’s needed?


None of my concerns are even mentioned in the current USAMRIID hazard assessment, much less addressed.


What is needed is a mature, high-quality thought process developing an informed equation comparing the risks and costs of the potential biowarfare threat itself with the risks and costs of attempting to address the threat. At what point are they equal?


Merely by building such facilities, aren’t we unreasonably augmenting the threat? Aren’t we creating/driving a biological arms race with ourselves, since other threatened countries will feel it necessary to build their own labs, requiring us to expand ours again in an expensive, pointless, dangerous, ineffective, wasteful and infinite cycle?


Here is what a credible, predictive and useful BSL 3 & 4 hazard assessment might look like:


1. Estimate the cost of the planned response to perceived Biological Warfare (BW) threats

   –  List the possible negative events which inspired the proposed solution.

   –  Estimate the probability of each negative event occurring.

   –  Estimate the impact of each negative event, if it occurred.

   –  Estimate the risk (the probability of occurrence times impact) of each negative event.

   –  Estimate the expected cost associated with these possible negative events (some sort of group probability—a statistician would be required.)

   –  Estimate the actual costs of responding to perceived BW threats (labs, people, security, maintenance, upgrades, social, political, other costs…)

   –  Add actual and expected costs.


2. Estimate the benefits of the suggested solution (which is essentially a list of the costs of the negative events that would happen to the U.S. as a result of the perceived BW activities of other countries, assuming that the U.S. does nothing to ward off such possibilities.)


3. List the additional possible negative events that could happen to the U.S. as a result of other countries’ feeling threatened by our new labs and then building similar BW efforts, including the costs of expanding the U.S. response to these rising threats.


4. Using the list produced in step #3, proceed with the steps described in #1 above to determine the benefits of the planned solution.


5. After completing steps #3 and #4 above, we would have an informed decision-makers’ estimate of the costs and benefits of the planned response to the perceived BW threats.


6.  Evaluate the assumption that the planned solution to the perceived BW threats would actually be effective, (i.e., what is the likelihood of the US having an appropriate and effective vaccine or antidote ready when it was actually needed during a BW event? Etc.)


7. As a final step, do a sensitivity analysis.  Determine how much the result of the cost/benefit analysis above would change as a result of changes in the assumptions used to create it.


8. At what point does the risk of the threat itself equal the risk of trying to address the threat?


Essentially, we need to develop an equation, a model, which will allow decision-makers to make a practical and informed comparison weighing and comparing the risks and costs of the BW threat itself to the risks and costs of addressing the threat. A mature, high-quality thought process comparing the risks with the solution would allow for decision-makers’ discussions, and even some disagreement about the assumptions and decisions, but at least all involved would be assured that all issues were addressed in a systematic way.


Sometimes the “costs” in the above equation would be expressed in terms of dollars, sometimes in terms of human life, sometimes in terms of political costs, i.e., international opinion, good faith, trust, health, environmental costs, social costs, risks of increased anger, terrorism, war, etc. A complete list of costs and risks would of course also include the cost of the additional threats which will inevitably emerge as a result of the U.S. building such a facility to address the perceived threats. The list of expected monetary costs should thus include the costs of building the facilities, securing them, running them, maintaining them, and upgrading them again and again as response-threats spiral. Do we really want to start this death-spiral?





A Very Good Save-the-World Software Development Idea. Please Help Yourself! :-)

Will some brilliant programmer please step up and design a google-type software program that can linguistically analyze and determine a speaker/writer’s cooperative tone and intent?


Your new program could identify and distinguish among those writers/speakers whose communications promote a sense of division, partisanship, negativity, polarization, blame, attack, incivility, rudeness, destructiveness, unfriendly competition, bickering and hate—and those promoting a sense of positivity, creativity, life-affirmation, support, harmony, acceptance, forgiveness, productivity, civility, courtesy, equality of opportunity, caring, cooperation and unity.


Your software could have endless useful and profitable applications. For immediate profitability, please consider using your product for security purposes, to helpfully ward off unfriendly attacks and attackers (of whatever kind) upon individuals and enterprises (of whatever kind.)


Imagine leaders young and old in every field vying for their communications to be screened and certified via your software. Why not simultaneously award a “Truth-bearer” (or some other such logo) “gold seal of approval” identifying individuals and organizations as positive communicators, healers, light-bearers?


Your prestigious and desirable software “accreditation” could motivate many people to investigate and understand the important distinctions between peaceful and contentious communication purposes, and to recognize and encourage humanity-unifying goals as non-threatening and potentially beneficial to all earthlings, while discouraging communications with adversarial, hostile ends. Your software would also surely stoke national dialogue, while heightening awareness about the many distinct (although often confusingly-disguised) differences between helpful and harmful human communications. Your software would take care not to exclude any gentle, friendly, cooperative practitioner of any ideology, religion, political party, nation, organization, affiliation, etc.


One important goal of your software would be to educate. Hopefully, everyone would eventually become enlightened enough to merit universal inclusivity (by acting as good, positive communicators) according to your accrediting software, which might also be developed Wikipedically, or perhaps Amazon-style—i.e., open-sourced, by inviting motivated reviewers and voters opportunities not only to build your site, but also to offer feedback opportunities and provide needed talent to shape and debug upgrades and develop next-generation software.


Recipients of your approving nods (such as Nobel prize winners and mild-mannered third-graders) could proudly display and announce their cherished new affiliation and certification on their websites, on Facebook, business cards, in TV commercials and advertising, on coffee cups, tee-shirts, shopping bags….


Additionally, your software could assist web surfers to more-judiciously select helpfully-screened websites, products and opinions as the very ones they will most benefit from investigating. Perhaps your software could also eventually include a function which would recognize and refute inappropriate co-opters of your symbol of acceptance and stamp of approval—an iterative process that would call out abusers while encouraging more awareness and discussion.


Your software will stimulate lively dialogue; increase the impact and number of creative, thought-provoking, and controversial-but-civil exchanges; reduce (by virtue of indifference and neglect) the quantity and influence of divisive communications arising anywhere in the world; universally improve facility in verbal and mental processing of complexities, innuendo and nuances; and inspire us all to pull together cooperatively to resolve our common personal, local and global problems.


While you're programming, please give extra points for humor?


And if you're not a programmer, but merely a earthlinged, godlinged promosapient like me, please pass this idea on to any similarly-inclined programming/software folk or foundations, or to whomever might be interested!


Thank you…. 🙂


Nancy Pace




















































































Dialogue and Discernment

President Obama’s recent disclosure of secret memos has stirred up national debate on torture, just as his previous openness to honest dialogue inspired widespread discussion—and enlightenment—on such prickly subjects as racism, patriotism, hope, secrecy, enemies, extremism, power, culture, diplomacy, and faith.


Obama’s courageous commitment to transparent government, and the inevitable media discussions that ensue, will only deepen our national appreciation of the intricacies and nuances of crucial, complicated subjects too often seen in simplistic, black-and-white terms.


For instance, thanks to our current civic dialogue on torture, we now realize that the decision to torture, like the decision to go to war, only seems “simple” when we see “others” as “not-us,” “different,” and in terms of “us/them;” the decision to torture is infinitely more complicated when we view all people as valuable, “us,” “ours,” one community. We’ve also learned that torture undermines founding American principles of respect and support for human life, is often counterproductive, ineffective, unreliable, and misleading, endangers our own imprisoned soldiers, weakens our alliances, and creates endless new enemies.


Future Obama revelations and their associated public conversations may again leave us chastened, but newfound humility is a small price to pay for a priceless understanding of complexity, values, and peace.



I sent this letter-to-the-editor to the Frederick News-Post a few weeks back but it was not printed…. 🙂

Dumb Play

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Regarding the op-ed Obama’s China Card of 4/8/09:  John Wohlstetter’s sinful offer to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 />China of a poisoned diplomatic apple would serve only to heighten geostrategic tensions. Why aggravate our banker China, our most influential ally in negotiating with North Korea, when China could well be the very country most-motivated to partner with Obama’s smart-power, win-win efforts to find peaceful and mutually-advantageous solutions to the global problems shared-in-common by China and her trading partners, neighbors and debtors? Immense U.S. profits already accrued from China’s WTO membership will only grow during China’s historic rise—if unresolved energy shortages, climate change, nuclear proliferation, war, terrorism, trade wars, worldwide crime and disease and other such global conundrums don’t make future international trade moot. Increased enmity with China could even lead to war, which never prevents catastrophe, being itself a catastrophe. Our closest allies have with impunity violated far more UN Security Council resolutions than has North Korea. Let’s retire our lingering sentimental attachments to obsolescent strategies like sword-rattling and stick-shaking, along with defunct foreign policies that bully, threaten, and subsidize massive war-profiteering, approaches which have only moved our tiny blue planet steadily closer to nuclear nightmare.


This was a letter-to-the-editor I sent to the Washington Times on 4/9/09 which was considered but not published. I meant to post it long ago–sorry….   🙂

Wake Up, Rush Limbaugh, and Do Something For America With All Those Smarts

I originally titled this piece, “Rush Limbaugh is a Dangerous Destructive Simplistic Fear-Based Hateful Ignorant Terrifying Lying Demagogic Blowhard.”  But I like Rush Limbaugh, if not what he says, so I changed the title.


Some of the things I like best about Rush Limbaugh are:  his work ethic, his perseverence, his vulnerability, his gentleness, his good mind and his facility with words and ideas, his patriotism, and his loving spirit. Despite overwhelming evidence that his narrow worldview is way too confining for his large heart and fine intelligence, he seems fiercely determined so far to force unruly facts into his too-small mental paradigms, in order that he may continue to be safely “right” about whatever he's said up until now.


Rush Limbaugh is afraid (as are we all) of being “wrong,” and also of not-knowing, when the truth is, the more one knows, the more one knows one doesn't know. What I do know about Rush is that he means well, and that he wants very much to believe that what he's doing will work for him and for America and Americans. Certainly his past approaches have made him rich. They've also left him feeling very much alone in an angry, frightened, adoring, clueless crowd.


Like many Americans, I recognize and share many of Rush Limbaugh's values, frustrations, concerns and goals. However, unlike his largely blue-collar and sincerely patriotic audience, I know that Limbaugh's anger, like all anger, is just an attempt to make someone else feel guilty. We all want someone to blame for our troubles. Unfortunately, Rush Limbaugh has no clue of how America got where we are, who got us here, and how we can go about resolving our problems.


Rush Limbaugh has not run for office because his worldview is unsophisticated and black-and-white, and thus, quite indefensible. He thinks that understanding history, governance and current events ought to be simple and straightforward, something anyone can do. Unfortunately for him, his famously-pronounced perspectives do not hold up to confontation or questioning or facts-that-don't-fit (most of them), which is why he avoids debate, interviews, or news conferences, and why he pretends to be proudly above such conflicts, covering up his insecurities with bluster and bombast. Conservative leaders who are fearful of repudiating Limbaugh at least hope to profit from the destructive, hate-filled, fear-based, uninformed, frightening, distorted, polarized, demagogic polemics Limbaugh offers his audiences.


Because Limbaugh effectively isolates himself from dialogue and discussion, he gets away with handing out thousands of blatant distortions to millions of unsophisticated, gullible, poorly-informed citizens who share his frustrations and anger and patriotic values, and so take in his opinions like mother’s milk, embracing without question his assumptions and conclusions as their own. Millions trust Limbaugh–an uneducated, unpolished man they identify as “like themselves”–to explain politics and current events to them. Having little experience or understanding to question what Limbaugh says, and being unwilling to take the time to seek balance by exposing themselves to the many varied and alternative viewpoints they would hear, say, on C-Span, Limbaugh's audiences find it more convenient to “take” their political opinions straight from Limbaugh, especially since he can spin complicated issues into simple-sounding, clever, funny one-liners easy to remember and repeat, making them feel instantly knowledgeable, at least until someone who actually knows what they're talking about challenges them.


What Limbaugh “sells” are memorable, simplistic untruths and distortions. Thus, he is the most dangerous man in America today. He proudly believes that he's a danger to liberals and liberals ideas, but sadly, quite without realizing it, Limbaugh is undermining American rights, freedoms and his own deepest American values. Every day, Limbaugh takes the breaking news of the day and, using innuendo and ambiguity, frightens and indoctrinates millions of Americans into violent, angry, bigoted responses to those changing events. Rush Limbaugh would be broken-hearted to realize that he himself is a (non-violent) terrorist, who crudely uses his own cleverness, quick mind, dramatic abilities and appealing voice to incite conflict, fear, division and hatred, and to relentlessly urge his fellow Americans to do what he himself doesn't dare to do–that is, act out his feelings of helplessness, rage and frustration.


I am hoping Rush Limbaugh will soon wake up and realize the harm he's doing to his country and to his fellow Americans, not to mention brothers and sisters around the world. I'm also hoping that someone will find a way to, democratically and constitutionally curb Limbaugh's destructive influence. Our country's problems are too great to allow such a flagrantly divisive influence to go unanswered.


Others like Limbaugh will be far less damaging when we all decide to support uniform, nationally- and internationally-comparable education standards here. A significant part of the “Limbaugh problem” in America is our very poorly educated and often unskilled citizenry. You may have noticed that in Canada, with its superior, more-uniform education system, demagogic radio blowhards have considerably less influence.


C'mon, Rush. Take a risk. Be as big and brave and smart as you've convinced yourself, and others, and even me, into believing that you really are–but so far, with little good and considerable harm to show for it. Take a leap into the real world, and see what opportunities await you here. You'll be among real friends, smart friends, like you, but also knowledgeable and fearless and openly loving friends, like the “you” that you haven't yet let come out to play. You're rich as Croesus, Rush. It's time to be brave. C'mon over, Rush. I promise you, you'll like it here.

U.S. Right-Wing Extremists Say “Bring It On” To Terrorists

From the looks of the many recent letters to newspapers, U.S. right-wing extremists plan to win back the presidency in 2012 by politiely offering voters a false dichotomy: we citizens will “be forced” to choose between safety and good government—i.e., “Since Bush protected us from terrorist attacks, if there is an attack on Obama’s watch, it will be Obama’s fault, so we'll have to fire him—regardless of his achievements for the people.”


The truth is, terrorist attacks are quite likely nowadays, being relatively cheap, easy to carry out, and hard to prevent; examples of such atrocities are 9/11 (which occurred on Bush’s watch), the London train bombings, and the Mumbai attacks.


Obama will defend our borders, go after terrorists, and work with all nations to confront and ameliorate the conditions which produce terrorism—lawlessness, violent cultures, lack of opportunity, political oppression and repression, poverty, inequality, easily-available weapons, and ongoing conflicts. But Obama’s job has not been made easier by Bush's disastrous economic legacy, nor by his ill-advised Iraq war, Guantanamo, and his record of torture, all of which have left Obama with an Al Qaeda far bigger, stronger, richer, and more dedicated than Bush ever inherited from Clinton.


None of these facts matter, however, to faithless demagogues like Rush Limbaugh, who trust in lies, fear—and a timely terrorist attack—to rescue themselves and their ilk from present ignominy.         




I welcome your comments! Please send them to . Thank you! Nancy Pace 🙂         


Ps. I am working on a memoir of my years as the military brat daughter of a highly-decorated war hero (and career officer)–about the implications of those experiences for me, my family, other military families, my country and the world in general, and about my difficult transition to peace activism.


I will return to full-time blogging as soon as ever I can, and until then, I know I will keep blogging sporadically because sometimes I simply cannot not write about reactions I have to things I read in the newspaper, like the above commentary….


I love blogging, and will post again soon…. Thank you for your patience to all my readers! 🙂

Lincoln Gathered INTELLECTUAL Rivals in his Cabinet: Can Hillary Match Up for Obama?

Not that Hillary Rodham Clinton isn’t smart as a whip. Indeed, she emerged from college a cultural visionary. But is she, right now, really one of our country’s great intellectual visionaries, who can offer sound prescriptions for America’s future within a fast-changing world? Is she today one of our great leading political and social global thinkers?


Or is Clinton more a powerful partisan wonk, a good DO-er (and do-gooder) on behalf of her constituents, as well as her own political ambitions and legacy ? Because, if she is 'merely' a powerful, well-connected political operative, then an Obama decision to bring her into his cabinet at Secretary of State will be greatly at odds with, and indeed, will work against accomplishing what Doris Kearns Goodwin, in Team of Rivals, said that Lincoln himself achieved by gathering his own “team of rivals”–help in thinking through, in advance, the implications of his weightiest decisions.


During those pre-Civil War days, politicians gained national political stature through public speaking—that is: by composing speeches and then publishing them in the nation’s newspapers. These thoughtfully-wrought, persuasive intellectual arguments concerning the issues of the day included valuable original personal perspectives and prescriptions for appropriate responses to breaking conflicts and topics. Barack Obama himself has certainly fulfilled all such requirement for visionary intellectual leadership, having personally written two best-selling books during his relative youth, and having personally planned and executed an unparalleled national campaign that bent and shaped the ideas of the world through the sheer force of his intellect.


Unfortunately, Clinton’s previous particular strengths have not been in this department—with the exception of her global work for women and children.


Clinton has proved herself a very successful, bright, capable political fighter. Her greatest abilities have been in adversarial relations and political in-fighting. With Hillary as political strategist-in-chief, Bill could always outmaneuver his opponents. She has also done interesting work on her own political behalf, as well.


Admittedly, Clinton has evolved to becoming a global fighter for women and children on the world stage. Certainly she has met with many foreign leaders. But her global background and perspectives, and frankly, her previous interests in foreign relations have mostly been limited to improving life for her favorite two-thirds of the world’s population—women and children—along, of course, with their husbands, sons, fathers, brothers, grandfathers and male friends.


Hmmmm. Come to think of it, if Clinton will serve Obama wholeheartedly and loyally from this pro-family global perspective—and that’s a big if—maybe she’ll turn out to be a good choice for State after all, past ghostwriters be damned.


Clinton’s very loving heart could be wonderfully put to use in the very important role of new Senate Lion during the Obama era. Congress needs her many talents to negotiate the details and fight for passage of the coming torrent of new legislation so necessary to bring real change to America.


But Secretary of State? We definitely do not need a parochial street fighter in that role. What we need is a global visionary who will approach the world non-adversarially—not as a defensive women up against a world of men, not as an advocate of the interests of the United States 'against' the interests of 'the rest,' but as one with all others.


If Clinton has indeed evolved enough to work patiently with (and not against) all comers; if she can bring the world together to cooperatively solve our many common global problems; if she is ready to make the necessary evolutionary jump away from adversarial relationships toward cooperative ones; if she can come from her caring rather than her fears; then she could indeed be the right kind of rival for Obama’s cabinet team, and the right kind of U.S. Secretary of State to the world.


Actually, I had Al Gore in mind for Obama's Secretary of State, because of his green, global, cooperative vision and personality, and his demonstrated intellectual leadership through speaking, writing, and other political venues. But if Obama does offer State to Clinton, then I hope she will consider his offer with real humility concerning her motives and abilities perhaps gained from her recent hubris. And if she accepts, I hope she now comes from that so-necessary intellectual bandwidth which alone will determine whether both their decisions will look good to posterity.

An End to Holocausts, Hiroshimas and 9/11s?

Two survivors of the Hiroshima atomic bomb recently came to my fair city to share their stories and plead for an end to nuclear weapons. I now am more persuaded than ever that powerful leaders who order the bombing of civilian populations are as misguided and ineffective in furthering their causes as are terrorists who set off suicide bombs in crowded marketplaces.


In the past, I believed that bombing civilian targets was sometimes necessary to end war and save lives, but now I see that Americans would never accept such a double standard if nuclear bombs were dropped on our cities.


We only ever have two choices in any personal or global conflict: We can choose never to give up trying to find positive solutions, or we can claim to have no choice but to accept negative ones. We can opt for unity, or we can retreat into defensive separateness. We can bravely reach out to come together as one—one couple, one family, one organization, one polity, one world—or we can retreat from the hard work of reaching agreement.


Proponents of “just wars” assure us that violence sometimes offers quicker, surer ways to prevent injustices and insure the survival of the “right” side. Yet this same moral argument is proffered equally fervently by terrorists, who also believe in the “rightness” of their causes. To both of these, I contend that to be “right,” whether individually or nationally, is to be in continuously valiant struggle to live up to the highest, most positive, peaceful, loving universal humanitarian ideals and values.


Sadly, many of us excuse our double standards and immoral choices, both at home and abroad, because “we’re right.”  But we’re not “right,” regardless of our politics, religion, or history, unless we, our families, friends, organizations and nation resolve our conflicts generously, cooperatively, and non-violently. If our solutions to human conflict are violent, harmful and hurtful, we are no longer “right.”


Our justly historically proud and idealistic nation now controls most of the world’s nuclear weapons (making us by far the greatest weapons proliferator and threat to others around the world) yet we see no problem with that, because, after all, “we’re ‘right’.” We even justify a nuclear attack upon Iran, fearing that they may develop, use or proliferate such weapons—because we’re “right.” As the Bruce Ivins / anthrax case and the Air Force’s case of “misplaced” nuclear warheads have taught us, even well-intentioned weapons research and maintenance can be too easily sabotaged. Deadly bioweapons and nuclear devices quickly fall prey not only to human greed and guile, but also to weakness, illness, error, and confusion about the politically “right” thing to do. All this, while fueling ever more danger, fear, more arms races, and more likelihood of proliferation.


During the twentieth century, every peaceful, diplomatic effort that has ever received anything like the openhanded financial and political backing which war receives has been successful. Such political compromises, however frustrating and dissatisfying they may feel at the time, always seem presciently wise and politically courageous in retrospect.


Wars cannot prevent catastrophes; war itself is a catastrophe, as attested by all those whose lives are touched by war. Soldiers and soldiers’ families are always catastrophically exploited by war. Ninety percent of the victims of war are civilians. We who so proudly march into war have no idea what future injustices those wars will inevitably loose upon innocents on all sides.


The belief that war can prevent injustices is a powerful, well-funded myth. War may prevent a few specific, immediate injustices, but it always creates many more unpredicted and terrible ones. Tragically, we let every generation forget that, whether or fight or not, some great injustices inevitably are suffered, and some people die. Millions of Jews and other innocents died in WWII despite gargantuan war efforts on all sides, and many more died because of them. In wartime as in peacetime, countries come together and apart, tyrants rise and fall. The price of liberty—and its best guarantor—is never war, but eternal, active, courageous, peaceful vigilance. For what does freedom mean, if not the freedom to live and let others livein peace? Our God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness—a right shared by all peoples everywhere—rests inevitably upon others’ good will.


War cannot keep us safe. War cannot prevent human injustices. Even under the best of circumstances, human nature being what is it and human conflicts being inevitable, life will always be fragile, difficult, and uncertain. In today’s (and tomorrow’s) fast-shrinking, intricately intertwined, and insanely violent world, life on earth itself is at risk.


The only moral choice about nuclear weapons that any nation has in today’s increasingly complex and violent world is to take the courageous lead in disarming. Such a decision is no different than any of the other difficult moral decisions we make every day. They all come down to one of two choices: whether to live positively or negatively, hopefully or cynically, bravely or fearfully, in faith or in despair.


Regardless of the size and nature of the conflict, whether personal or political, local or global, we can always choose cooperation over competition, unity over division, hope over cynicism, brotherhood over partisanship, and forgiveness over vengeance.


We can always choose faith, hope and love over fear, defensiveness, and retribution. We can choose whether to add to the sum of injustices by fearfully arming ourselves enough to destroy our beautiful blue planet many times over, mistreating our neighbors as they mistreat us, or we can support only peaceful leaders everywhere, seek compromises, listen to all viewpoints, and steadfastly reject that greatest injustice and attack upon freedom, which is war itself.


I’m not brave enough to be a total pacifist; I would defend my family, friends and neighbors from bad guys climbing in our windows and knocking down our doors, and maybe I’m wrong in this. But such scenarios are far less likely if we elect peaceful leaders who maintain strong local militias, and then spend the rest of our so-called “defense” budget redressing local, national and international injustices, and supporting great projects dear to the hearts of our so-called “enemies.” Everyone knows that the best way to get rid of an enemy is to make him a friend.


Albert Einstein famously warned us that no nation on earth can simultaneously prevent and prepare for war. Certainly, maintaining the mightiest military force in the history of the world has not prevented us from being continually embroiled in wars.


We are all conditioned to believe that being “right” about ourselves, our politics, traditions and religions, is more important than living and letting others live in peace. We have to be “right” about so many things—about who the bad guys are, who started it, who was at fault, what happened, who meant well and who didn’t, who did what to whom, whose ideology or form of government or religion is superior….


The truth is, in this confusing world, it’s difficult to find agreement even amongst our best friends and those most “like” us, about what life is all about—what we’re doing here, and how best to look upon the world, ourselves, and one another. Even the greatest scholars realize that the more they know, the more they know they don’t know. This is why, in every conflict, humility, acceptance, mutual respect, support, and yes, forgiveness, are the wisest guides to being “right.”


Some day, they will give a war and no one will come. Each of us will either continue to insist upon being “right” and in control (both illusions in this multicultural nuclear age) or hold ourselves to that highest universal standard, the Golden Rule, which treats all others kindly as we would wish to be treated. When more and more of us make this shift to respect and support for human life everywhere, we will enter a more harmonious age.


In this age of climate change and peak oil, the great work of peaceful global transformation is urgent. Wars over oil already rage in Iraq, Darfur, and Georgia, and other global scarcities such as water threaten increasing conflict. Our mother Earth is sick and reaching crisis. Einstein famously predicted, “I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.”


Fortunately, researchers have learned a lot about how to resolve human conflicts peacefully. Amish and Quaker Christians and other historically peaceful communities have shown us that peaceful cultures are possible, and now, across the globe, great moral leaders demonstrate the proven arts and skills of peaceful conflict resolution. It’s time we learned what they know, and time to spread that knowledge around.


Hatred begets more hatred; this is immutable law. Until we lead the global paradigm shift away from division and toward brotherhood, exploiting the potential of our great institutions and media in the service of peace and justice, we and our progeny will increasingly be at risk for more crime, more injustices, wars and terrorism, more Holocausts, 9/11s, Hiroshimas and Nagasakis. Neither love nor fear are simple, obvious or guaranteed approaches to resolving human conflict, but at this late date, only one has any chance of succeeding.


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