Barack Obama recently disagreed with Jeremiah Wright’s statements equating America’s wartime efforts with terrorism. Wright had cited biblical passages wherein God condemns (damns) anyone who deliberately kills innocents, whether at Hiroshima or at Ground Zero (9/11).
Although I support Obama’s candidacy wholeheartedly, I disagree with him here, preferring Reverend Wright’s logic. With Wright, I see no moral difference between a weak, fallible organization (or individual) setting off a suicide bomb in a marketplace, and a big, powerful, fallible nation dropping an atomic bomb on a civilian population—except, of course, that powerful nations have more options. Both warriors and terrorists say they’re fighting for survival, and both often choose strategies which collaterally harm innocents over diplomacy and other alternatives because they think such violence a quicker, surer way to attain their goals.
Both soldiers and terrorists justify deliberately killing innocents by the rightness of their causes—the only difference being, of course, that powerful nations have access to huge armies and limitless lethal technologies, while less-powerful groups have weak armies, few weapons and little money. That’s why terrorists, hoping to maximize their impact, focus international media attention on their unaddressed grievances (and harass their oppressors) by strapping on cheap explosives.
Soldiers and terrorists alike feel they are forced into doing the bad things they do to prevent further injustices. Yet this argument for “just war”—that sometimes violence is necessary to prevent greater injustices and harm—is also a perfectly reasonable argument for terrorism.
Mind you, I don’t buy either argument. Positive, peaceful alternatives often work, if one only accepts that compromises, though disappointing, are never final and are changeable later, regardless of the unsavory present trade-offs necessary to prevent further catastrophes.
War doesn’t prevent injustices. War itself is always a grievous injustice to all involved in it. Most soldiers and their families are catastrophically exploited by war. 90% of the victims of war are civilians. Unfortunately, when citizens manipulated into vindictive indignation over present and past injustices march into wars, they rarely consider all the many future injustices which that war will inevitably inflict on both sides.
Whether or not we act violently, injustices occur. Whether we fight wars or rise up together in peaceful protest, some people will suffer unjustly, some will die. The Jews died in the Holocaust despite the war effort and perhaps also because of it. Europe is now united; tyrants come and go. No matter whether we choose peace, terrorism, or war, we cannot prevent all injustices. But we can avoid adding to their sum by accepting compromises, listening to all sides, and steadfastly rejecting the gravest injustice of all—war itself.
I’m not a pacifist. I would defend my family and neighbors from bad guys climbing in our windows and knocking down our doors—a scenario far less likely to happen if my government maintains strong local militias and promotes international good will by working for international justice and against war. I certainly would not travel to another country and throw my weight around, except as part of a globally-mandated UN peacekeeping force.
Violent solutions to conflicts, whether war or terrorism, always make problems more intractable in the long run. Violence sometimes seems appealing in the short-term, but not when both sides of the story are heard. Over time, just as in families, violent solutions stoke anger, resentment and vengefulness, and prevent and postpone just and lasting resolutions and peace.
Although there are always two sides to every conflict, loyal combatants often resist hearing out the ‘other’ side. Powerful greedy nations that initiate wars of conquest against weaker forces often refuse to negotiate with their enemies. Why negotiate when you can get what you want through attrition, slaughter and unconditional surrender?
When wars end, war-weary citizens on both sides, hearing the stories of the victims who bore the tragic consequences of the stubbornness, greed, ignorance, intolerance, hubris, vengefulness, anger and megalomania behind all wars and terrorism, finally realize that it was never the courageous, idealistic grandchildren they sent out to kill each other who were most to blame, but rather the safe, rich, hard-headed old leaders on both sides who failed to keep the peace.
Too often, we prefer being “right” to living and letting others live in peace. We think we have to be right about so many things—about who’s the bad guy, who started it, who’s at fault, what happened, who meant well and who didn’t, who did what to whom, whose ideology or form of government is superior, whose religion is true, who is weird and strange and cultish and backward and disgusting, who gets to be in control, who gets to be the one with the gold who makes all the rules….
The truth is that nobody yet has a clear picture of what human life is all about, what we’re doing here, and how best to look upon the world, ourselves, and one another. Even the leading scholars agree that the more they know, the more they know they don’t know. In every conflict, humility, acceptance and mutual respect are the wisest guides.
When we insist on being ‘right’ rather than making the compromises necessary to live together in peace, we are making the choice of terrorism/war over freedom. What is freedom, if not the freedom to live one’s life and pursue one’s dreams in peace?
Someday, they will give a war and no one will come. This will happen when we stop worrying about being right and in total control (both are foolish illusions in this nuclear age) and instead, hold ourselves accountable to the highest universal standards of treating all others as we would like to be treated, respecting and supporting human life everywhere. When this happens, we will enter a more peaceful, harmonious age.
We will, that is, if some of us are still here. The work of global peaceful transformation is so urgent. As 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.”
Since we can no longer completely control nuclear weapons, we must work now to transform ourselves and our own violent cultures into cultures of peace. Amish, Quaker and Buddhist families alike learn and teach gentleness successfully; they all enjoy unselfish, peaceful cultures. Why shouldn’t the rest of us learn, too?
Cultures change whenever individuals learn peaceful ways of dealing with their own personal conflicts, and then optimize their cultural institutions to educate others about harmonious relations, diplomacy, and global justice. Institutions such as public media (the airwaves and the internet) as well as private media, educational systems, charitable foundations, political and service organizations, private corporations, public agencies, and international cooperatives can all be exploited to promote peace.
People are realizing that war and terrorism are mirrors of each other. They are merely two forms of culturally-acceptable (in certain circles) violence we inflict on one another. Until more cultural leaders make the paradigm shift away from both war and terrorism—and the rest follow—we and all our children everywhere will be increasingly at risk for more injustices, more wars, more terrorism, more Holocausts, more Hiroshimas….
Someday, Barack too will see that this is true.
I was greatly distressed to watch CNN’s coverage of the Pennsylvania Democratic primary election returns. I tuned in when the polls closed, and listened until nearly 11 p.m. when I got disgusted and turned the TV off.
Not a single commentator mentioned the most glaringly obvious outcome, that Barack Obama, a virtual unknown a year ago, had used his time in Pennsylvania to gain from ten to fifteen percentage points on well-known local girl and party-insider Hillary Clinton, an eight-year first lady to a popular president—and thus added to his chances of winning the presidency. As in every other state Obama has campaigned in, people who get to know him, like him, vote for him, and go on to campaign for him. Not a soul on CNN’s political panel mentioned how, truly, in the general election in November, only the math will count.
No one brought up the important point that Hillary has played every card the Republicans will use against Obama later—except the overt hate-and-fear-of-black-people racist card—while principled Obama hasn’t even begun to untie the huge and readily-available bag of old Clinton family footage, quotes, votes, indiscretions, innuendo, mistakes, and general nastiness (think Kenneth Starr’s report, for starters) which anonymously-funded demagogues have no doubt already begun pawing through and honing, with anticipatory glee, to disgusting effect. Bill Clinton survived his campaigns because he was wildly appealing and charismatic. Hillary is neither, and her negative campaigning against her widely-liked and respected opponent only makes her seem smaller, meaner, scareder. Why didn’t CNN’s commentators point out how Barack has survived Hillary’s worst, while she hasn’t even begun to reckon with the evil that will come at her when the Republicans strike up their band?
Several other astonishingly clueless comments were voiced by the CNN bobbleheads-of-the-night. One callous voice commented in passing that, if super-delegates coldly overrule the will of the American people in November, “Sure, the Black people will be disappointed, but…”
“The Black people?” “Disappointed?” If representative government itself, the most sacred and fundamental premise of democracy, the promise of one-person-one-vote, is arbitrarily overturned…?
And only black people? What about Barack’s white multitudes? His youthful supporters? His devoted older ones? Rich and poor, women and men, party regulars and otherwise, Obama’s passionate followers are rapidly increasing in number, putting aside their long-held political cynicism and warming themselves at his bonfire of hope, a hope grounded in cherished American ideals and in trust in his character, vision and leadership.
CNN’s team did somehow manage to mention Hillary’s promise to “obliterate Iran” if Iran attacks Israel with a nuclear weapon. That’s just great; now two of three presidential candidates have casually threatened instant global thermonuclear war (see McCain’s earlier “bomb bomb bomb Iran”) in the Middle East. Not a single mouse-like CNN voice squeaked a word of protest. No one pointed out that Iran (unlike Israel) has no nuclear weapons, or that such an action would automatically condemn millions of innocent men, women and children to instant death, or how Hillary’s knee-jerk reactions automatically elevated Israel’s interests over America’s.
Hillary later would expound on her plan to return to the long-discredited cold war era. But why not bomb Iran all the way back to the stone age right now, as Rush Limbaugh has already argued? Obama’s thoughtful comment was, “One of the things that we've seen over the last several years is a bunch of talk using words like 'obliterate…. It doesn't actually produce good results. And so I'm not interested in saber rattling.”
Hillary’s appalling threats demonstrate only that she shares George Bush’s cowboy approaches to diplomacy, and we've seen where that will take us. Such foolishness has become increasingly evident in her other equally-rash and polarizing comments, such as her offhand public description of President Putin, Russia’s popular leader, as, “a KGB agent—by definition he doesn’t have a soul,” which offended Russians everywhere while certainly dashing any hopes Hillary might have harbored of successfully negotiating with Putin during any future presidency.
Hillary also thoughtlessly insulted China recently by advising President Bush to break his promise to China’s premiere to not boycott the Beijing Olympics. In these few careless words, Hillary Clinton managed to alienate one-fifth of the world’s people along with all their leaders, by cruelly dismissing the single project dearest to their hearts. She also displayed an astonishing lack of integrity, shocking in a Senator and inconceivable in a presidential candidate. This is the person we want representing us and running our country?
Marilyn Ferguson (The Aquarian Conspiracy) convinced me years ago that when a nation's cultural and intellectual leaders take hold of an idea (as American leaders have embraced Obama's hopeful message) then soon enough, the rest of the people will follow. Barack may be in a tough race against time, but it is clearly on his side.
Today's Democratic race can be characterized as a long-overdue contest between Obama’s mission to change the destructive game of American politics—a goal we can all only benefit from—and Hillary’s unprincipled insistence upon playing that old same old cynical game oh-so-cleverly. Hillary is in it to win it, and if she does—which is the most she can hope for at such an unprincipled price—then for the American people, her winning may well mean losing—our ideals, our hopes, our freedoms and maybe even our way of life. CNN could have at least hinted at these baneful implications of her supercilious campaign.
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I only know what I read in the papers, and I’m nervous about speaking up for someone who is, for the moment at least, being demonized by the Bush administration, especially someone who is currently shooting back at American forces, albeit in self-defense. But I must raise the question of whether Moqtada al-Sadr might not be one of the “good guys,” a strong, spiritual leader whom world opinion should now be ecumenically supporting.
Al-Sadr is apparently a wildly popular leader of the Shiite poor, who, time and again, has demonstrated his commitment to peacefully resisting the overwhelmingly-superior military forces bent upon murdering him. Aside from his courageous refusal to relinquish the ancient homelands of his followers to invaders who would steal and exploit them, and his stubborn unwillingness to be assassinated, what has he done to deserve universal media condemnation and abandonment in the west?
Because al-Sadr’s charismatic leadership is seen by the west’s most powerful leaders as a major barrier to their hegemony in the Middle East, few journalists seem willing to raise this question. Yet several times throughout this conflict, when it has seemed temporarily expedient for the U.S. to leave al-Sadr in peace, he has urged patience and forbearance among his followers even as the wide-scale destruction of his country by foreign occupiers has continued.
Currently, American forces are attacking al-Sadr’s Mahdi army in oil-rich Basra, which is right across the border from Iran. Perhaps Mr. Cheney hopes to provoke just enough Iranian retaliation for this particular aggression to finally justify his own longed-for invasion of Iran’s oil fields? Patriots in Basra and Iran share far more in common with one another than with their American attackers; surely the Iranian government cannot be expected to indefinitely contain the passions of their red-blooded youth, currently standing passively by, watching while their brother-Shiites in Basra are being slaughtered.
Isn’t it time we reconsidered the unquestioned place we have given al-Sadr in our western pantheon of demonized enemies? He is a leader to whom the majority of Shiites in Iraq currently pledge their allegiance, one who has often turned the other cheek even while his beloved followers were being killed. Despite being repeatedly stalked, discredited, attacked, betrayed, and occasionally befriended by President Bush, his millions of followers trust him unreservedly to make their decisions for them. Shouldn’t journalists be speaking out loudly and clearly against the attacks upon him? Who are the bad guys here, and who are the good guys?
How can we expect al-Sadr’s forces to passively turn in their guns when our own country feels free to unilaterally initiate pre-emptive wars, invade, occupy and shoot up foreign country sides and villages and cities, interfere with sovereign nations’ internal affairs, drop nuclear and conventional bombs on civilian populations, disrupt livelihoods and lives, kill innocents, and stockpile armaments enough to end life on earth many times over? Al-Sadr has not invaded America. The reverse has happened.
The Bible does not say “the lamb shall lie down with the lion,” but “the lion shall lie down with the lamb.” In other words, powerful countries must first let their weaker neighbors live in peace. Our own interests, even as citizens of the mega-powerful United States, are served only when our leaders humble themselves to offer good will to all other nations, and treat all our neighbors as we would wish to be treated. It is the traditional moral duty of the military to protect the weak from those who would hurt them, not to push the weak around in order to get whatever a highly unpopular, unresponsive and unrepresentative administration wants when they want it.
The willingness to turn to violence to resolve conflicts, whether through state (military) terrorism or through civilian terrorism, turns out to be the problem itself, and not, as many have tried to persuade us, any particular ideology, ethnicity or religion. The burning question too often overlooked in every conflict is: which side is committed to accommodation, compromise and non-violent resolution of this conflict, and which side isn’t?
In the past, partisans loyally embraced only their own leaders as the “good guys,” regardless of their personal records of using violence or keeping the peace–whether Bush or bin Laden, Saddam or Arafat, Hirohito or Mao or Stalin or Cheney or Eisenhower or Hitler. In the future, we will realize that the “good guys” are those real leaders, found in homes, businesses, communities, nations, and throughout the world, who are committed to resolving difficult conflicts—which are perfectly natural and human—harmoniously and peacefully. On the other hand, those violent soldiers and suicide bombers representing belligerent aggressors and extremist zealots will in the future clearly be identified as “the bad guys” of our time.
All-out war makes sense to me only when people are cornered in their own homes, fighting for survival against overwhelming odds, as al-Sadr’s followers currently seem to be.
More and more people today are recognizing man’s inhumanity to man—whether seen in bulldozed homes, in the shattered bodies of innocent children, or in the maimed and traumatized minds and bodies of young soldiers from every land—exactly for what it is, regardless of context, and despite all the attractive ideological, ethnic, religious, and national colors and flavors violence always comes wrapped in.
Around the world, journalists, activists and average citizens are turning away from the angry diatribes of opportunistic demagogues and ideologues bent upon stirring their fellow-citizens to torture and murder, and instead, embracing the world’s highest universal values: the oneness of all mankind and the sanctity of human life.
Shouldn't we all be supporting those who are upholding these important values, and resisting the use violent solutions in the present conflict in Iraq?
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Both Barack and Hillary say they can lead America through sweeping legislative changes, yet only Barack has a convincing plan for getting it done.
Hillary's plan is to do what she always has, that is, to work as hard as she can, and care a lot—a strategy which has resulted in creditable incremental changes, but which promises only more-of-the-same.
Barack’s plan for getting it done is daring, plausible, and perfectly aligned with his uniquely charismatic and inclusive leadership style.
He will begin by bringing in so many enthusiastic new voters during the general election that he will sweep a solid majority of Democrats, like-minded Independents, and Republicans amenable to his agenda into office along with him.
After he’s elected President, he’ll use his remarkable consensus-building abilities to transparently bridge divisions and identify workable solutions to pressing common problems.
Then he’ll eloquently sell his legislative package to a devoted American public, who by that time will know and trust him far more than they’ll trust opposing politicians or special interest lobbies, no matter how much money is spent on media campaigns to the contrary.
Finally, Barack will ask his devoted followers to hound their Members of Congress, and if necessary, turn out in the streets to protest, to get his legislation passed. And they will. And he will.
Hillary is wonderful, but her leadership style just doesn't get it done. During fifteen years of unlimited opportunities, connections, and insider information at the center of power—eight years as First Lady and seven years as a U.S. Senator—Hillary diligently chipped away at the edges of big problems, making praiseworthy differences in many lives, all good stuff, but hardly the leadership America needs now.
We need a widely popular President who can articulate, orchestrate, and legislate the urgent changes mandated by a solid majority of newly-mobilized followers—a President who gets it done.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a similarly-populist President who led the country through sweeping legislative changes cherished by the American working class, told the activists who sought his support, “You've convinced me. Now go out and make me do it.” They turned out to protest, and his legislation passed.
All through FDR’s Presidential campaign, detractors had complained loudly that he would prove a flash in the pan, “only” a great communicator, a man of “mere” words. All such complaints ended abruptly, however, on Day One, a day which, after all, turned out to be far less significant than the many other truly transformative days that followed.
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Many of my women friends want to see Hillary Clinton elected President so much that they refuse to seriously consider Barack Obama at all. They’re curious about him, to be sure–no one could overlook all the campaign excitement or miss seeing at least a few of his ads. But they would never be so disloyal as to actually listen to one of his speeches or read his campaign literature for more details. They tell me quite frankly, they’ve got a nominee, one who looks a lot like them, so would I please just leave it alone?
I've always admired Hillary’s dignity, and of course, her many achievements. She's a survivor in what many women have experienced as a rough-and-tumble man’s world. We identify with her tragic husband-troubles, and respect her commitment to her marriage. We celebrate her moxie when men have dismissed her contributions and disrespected her ambitions. We’ve waited breathlessly our whole lives for this chance to elect a smart, capable woman President of the <?xml:namespace prefix = u1 />United States, and we know what a strong woman-Presidency could mean to our daughters and granddaughters. As years have passed, as she's won battles for women and children, we’ve smiled with Hillary because we know what she knows, that doing well is the best revenge.
What we are not doing is asking the question that we as patriots, citizens, and voters should ask, are duty-bound, even, to ask: Which candidate would make the best President?
However generously we acknowledge Hillary’s abilities and achievements, we should thoughtfully consider Barack’s as well, if only because our long experience informs us that the next President must be armed with an unusually fine and rare combination of strengths and abilities to successfully navigate the dangerous shoals ahead.
Of course Hillary and Barack are both well-informed about the state of the world. But Barack is truly gifted in human relations—in people skills, diplomacy, and communication. He empathizes uniquely with difference and diversity—with those having different agendas, cultures, perspectives, memories, and understandings than his own. Our next President must be brilliant, but also extraordinarily able to relate to disparate viewpoints and interests in order to arrive at the inclusive solutions which alone can resolve complex global problems.
Of course Hillary and Barack are both experienced public servants. Hillary’s seven years, and Barack’s eleven, of public accountability in elected office are just the beginning. Hillary’s many years as an attorney and as first lady gave her just as much opportunity for growth as did Barack’s years of community organizing, his work as a civil rights attorney, and his professorship in Constitutional Law at the University of Chicago Law School.
Hillary’s whole life has prepared her to be a tough political in-fighter, capable of ramming through incremental changes in the face of almost insurmountable opposition. Barack, on the other hand, disarms both potential and perceived adversaries through his non-polarizing approaches to problem-solving. He seeks, finds, and articulates common ground and mutual goals, disagrees amiably, and steadily builds both consensus and grassroots support through his hard work and clear, eloquent, impassioned communications.
Of course both Hillary and Barack have achieved great things, or they wouldn’t be where they are today. But Obama’s years of greatest productivity and achievement are arguably still ahead of him, while Hillary seems thrilled with her chance to put the finishing touches on her once-aggressive 60’s-era agenda. She has earned her recognition and vindication, but while she’s enjoying it, Barack and his generation, and the next one too, have rocketed past her into a tomorrow Hillary can’t visit even in her dreams.
Both Hillary and Barack are tested and tenacious campaigners and fearless competitors. Hillary has fifteen years of Washington experience on Barack, whose present stature derives mostly from his work ethic, brilliant planning and organizing, and charismatic leadership born of strong character, values, empathy, wisdom, and hope. Barack has risen to every challenge on his path, and he has always emerged ever-closer to a national mandate for leadership.
In their very differently-conducted campaigns, Hillary and Barack have given us new insight into their personalities and character. But Barack has also given those who’ve followed his trajectory a tantalizing taste of what it would be like to have a strong, candid, universally-respected, and visionary President on whom we could rely for trustworthy, respectful leadership, for inspiration, and example.
Hillary is burdened with our nation's collective memory of past nasty campaigns and embarrassing setbacks. Unfortunately, she is a somewhat polarizing figure, distrusted and disliked still by too many voters. Barack, too, has fought difficult campaigns—beginning in Illinois, a state famous for its tough political climate—and has emerged squeaky-clean, greatly loved, and consistently elected in landslides by a constituency mirroring the wide range of backgrounds, interests, ages, genders and ethnicities found across America.
Ever since a skinny guy with a funny name no one could remember took on Hillary’s formidably-organized, well-heeled and internationally-recognized campaign, Americans who have read his books and listened to him speak about his plans for America have begun to write their own hopes and dreams upon the fresh new slate which is Barack Obama.
If nothing else, we’ve learned from our beloved civil rights and feminist leaders of the past that we cannot make good decisions about the best person for any job by considering the color of their skin, their race, or their gender. We must instead carefully weigh the content of their character, and thoughtfully consider their suitability for the job at hand. I think Hillary well-suited to be a Secretary of Health and Human Services, and her husband would be a formidable Supreme Court Justice. Consider, ladies, that a unifying Obama Presidency may be just what we need to help us find our way through today's troubles, toward a future we’ll be proud to leave our grandchildren.
(Nancy Pace blogs on breaking news at the intersection of politics, peace, culture, and spirituality at www.epharmony.com.)
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Hillary can’t wait to put the finishing touches on her wonderfully aggressive 60’s agenda, while Barack is at home in a tomorrow Hillary can’t visit even in her dreams.
Hillary is thrilled with the chance to add more contributions to her amazing lifetime list, while Barack is thrilled with America’s chances for real change when he is President.
Hillary is amazed at where she’s been and what she’s been able to accomplish, looking forward to recognition and vindication for her life’s work, while Barack envisions efficiently accomplishing today’s most pressing American policy goals and then moving forward to heal the world’s common global challenges.
Hillary loves herself-in-power ruling over her former enemies, while Barack loves the-power-in-himself leading a unified America and world into a hopeful 21st century.
Shall generations await coronation of Jeb Bush into an inevitable succession of Clinton and Bush kings (and queen) reigning in hubris over a 20th century past? Or will we charge our servant Barack Obama to lead us into an American future of unimaginable possibilities?
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Hillary and Barack both have wonderful abilities and qualities.
However, pick only the one candidate whom you feel is the BEST qualified:
Whose campaign runs like the country should run?
Who believes in a transparent government?
Who will tell the truth if they do something wrong?
Who trusts the public to be able to handle the truth?
Who values advisors who disagree?
Who respects and welcomes opposing points of view?
Who won’t hurry into war?
Who will resist the pressures of special interests and big money?
Whose family will be a credit to (and a delight in) the White House?
Whose tenure will reflect most positively upon America?
Who is liked and respected by all members of Congress and the Supreme Court?
Who can explain confusing issues to the American public?
Who can we believe when we hear conflicting stories?
Who is the least partisan candidate?
Who has the most global perspectives?
Who has an audacious vision of where to go, and a detailed plan for how to get there?
Who has the leadership and executive skills to solve even our biggest problems?
Whose example inspires us all to make personal sacrifices for the common good?
Who will guide us thoughtfully through national emergencies, tragedies, and catastrophes?
Who inspires our youth to greater effort, contribution, and productivity?
Who are national and world leaders eager to work with?
Who is it impossible not to like and admire?
Who do we most want to see succeed?
Who can heal our many divisions?
Who holds to moral principles under pressure?
Who has sound judgment under pressure?
Who reaches out in friendship to all foreign leaders and ordinary citizens?
Who will bind up the nation’s wounds?
Who can be counted on to defend us wisely from those who would do us harm?
Whose leadership inspires all the world’s peoples?
Who will move citizens of all ages and backgrounds toward greater civic involvement?
Who is the most intellectually broad-banded?
Who has the best “people skills”?
Who understands minority perspectives?
Who can offer global leadership toward solutions to common problems?
Who can sell tough solutions to the American public?
Who do Republicans not mind losing to?
Who inspires the confidence of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents alike?
Who do I look forward to listening to, weekly or more often, for the next eight years?
Who has the potential to become America’s greatest President, in her time of greatest need?
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Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee are unique among the Presidential candidates in relishing honest opportunities to think on their feet. They are visibly energized by being publicly asked to consider hard, original questions on-the-spot, answering them directly and freshly.
From the other candidates, we mostly get their rehashed and rehearsed campaign rhetoric, no matter the questions. Despite their varying perspectives and strengths, no other candidates have that star-quality ability to rise to the challenge of thinking and speaking and leading under pressure, on-the-fly, extemporaneously, critically, creatively, and even charmingly, which Huckabee and Obama share.
I'm unnerved at the prospect of listening for another four years to more canned nonsense, pre-masticated gobbledygook, and predictable ideology from some partisan political hack speaking on behalf of the corporate and political power elites.
Obama and Huckabee could not possibly be more different in their thinking and perspectives, and, to be honest, I have little confidence in the breadth and robustness of Huckabee's world view, while I have great confidence in Obama's inclusive, visionary one. But at least both are honest and self-consistent. A few of the other candidates are also trustworthy, but either they are unelectable, or they're too polarizing, too contentious, too partisan, too 20th-century / old-world, too boring, too opportunistic, too old, too out-of-touch, too fringey, too militaristic, or too unprincipled to earn the necessary universal respect and trust required by the mass of American citizens who are frantic to move forward on change.
If what we need is a President with the fine mind, listening skills, and good judgment necessary to consider and evaluate and act confidently upon a blurringly-fast array of hugely complex and pressing problems almost instantaneously, while offering continuous, passionate, vigorous leadership, then we would be wise not to entrust our future into the hands of someone who responds to difficult questions by nervously squeezing out yet another familiar, practiced, safe, distantly-related soundbite-of-choice.
Make no mistake, only a President embodying a combination of trustworthiness, charisma, confidence, and instantaneous brilliant articulation of principled policies can lead everyday Americans into pressing Congress for sweeping policy reforms in a multitude of urgent issue-areas. A trustworthy, kick-ass leader unafraid to lead will cut through the crap and point us toward truth and away from hucksterism, using his reputation for straight-shooting to aggressively and successfully pursue policy changes.
Consider that, if a (theoretically) beloved and trusted President Obama pushing for health care reform informed us on television that “Harry and Louise are lying,” ordinary citizens with faith in his judgment and good heart would inundate Congress with supportive phone calls. The primary reason our citizenry is currently apathetic is our universal paralysis arising from fear and confusion from too-much conflicting “information”; we're so overwhelmed we don't know who or what to believe. Only a universally-trusted President can lead us confidently toward real change.
Relatively few Americans share Mr. Huckabee's doctrinal and theological beliefs and assumptions. Nevertheless, I would (almost) rather see Huckabee become President than endure another four years of listening to yet another political hack, another timid pawn owned by today's national political and corporate power elites, mouthing appropriately soothing platitudes and selling a self-interested agenda.
We need a President committed to change, one who is brilliant, knowledgeable, a non-polarizing problem-solver who loves grappling with complex issues, who easily, persuasively, and usefully reframes and explains issues and solutions, who will use the bully pulpit to convincingly build the citizen consensus and power-base so necessary to moving forward to solve today's global pressing problems.
And only one candidate meets that description.
Peaceful political arrangements in the Middle East are a good place to start, but real and lasting peace will come only when, one-by-one, we in the United States and Iran and Iraq and China and Israel and Palestine and everywhere else, we Christians and Jews and Muslims and Buddhists and atheists alike, first humbly strive to embrace peace in our own hearts, endure injustices without adding to their sum, renounce violent resolution of conflicts, and offer to all others in this and every nation that same forgiveness, acceptance, and love we so long for ourselves (the universal “Golden Rule.”)
The Expansion of Biowarfare Research
Laboratories at USAMRIID, Fort Detrick:
A Call to attend a Public Forum before the Frederick Board of
County Commissioners (BOCC)
Monday, November 19 at 7 pm, 1st Floor Meeting Room,
Winchester Hall 12 East Church Street Frederick
This is the time, the only public opportunity to persuade our Commissioners
that we want them to obtain a Court Review of the USAMRIID Environmental Impact
Statement. A court review will hold the Federal Government accountable for complying with
NEPA- the National Environmental Policy Act, which is designed to protect communities
from development harmful to health and safety.
The Commissioners are holding this public forum to hear from us about the public health,
safety and environmental concerns associated with the expansion of biological research
laboratories at Fort Detrick. USAMRIID is planned to be the cornerstone of a massive
expansion of such laboratories, involving at least 6 different Federal agencies on what would
be named the National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC). NIBC would occupy 200
acres at Fort Detrick. This would be by far the largest biowarfare research complex in the
What can you do?
1. Come to the forum, whether or not you plan to speak. We need to fill the room! You
will learn a lot about the issue, and your presence is very important.
2. Learn more (resources and contacts below), and consider speaking. This meeting is
about the need for a court review, because health, safety and environmental impacts are NOT
properly addressed in the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). NEPA requires, and the
USAMRIID EIS does not:
• Evaluate alternate, less densely populated locations for these labs.
• Provide a comprehensive evaluation of the cumulative impacts of the entire National
Interagency Biodefense Campus.
• Address the many burdens upon our community’s public health, safety, growth, taxes and
Use your own unique background to talk about your concerns in your own words. Comments
will be limited to five (5) minutes per speaker and ten (10) minutes for recognized organizations.
3. Persuade everyone you know to come to the forum! Pass this on, BUT– talking
to people is much more effective!
4. E-mail the commissioners and tell them what you think. If you can’t come, tell
them you would be there if you could…..Jan Gardner: email@example.com David Gray:
firstname.lastname@example.org Kai Hagen: email@example.com Charles Jenkins: firstname.lastname@example.org Lenny
Thompson: email@example.com. Send letters to the editor: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn More: Informational meeting, open to all: Viewing of recent PBS
documentary “The Living Weapon”, followed by discussion of the current situation. 7 pm Monday
11/12 in the Notre Dame Room, Parish Center of St. John the Evangelist Church, 118 East 2nd St
Frederick. The parish center is two buildings to the right of the church. Sponsored by St John’s Peace
and Justice Committee.
STATEMENT BY FREDERICK COUNTY COMMISSIONER DAVID GRAY: August 24, 2007
“It has been pointed out to me, by those that have read it thoroughly, that the Environmental Impact
Statement (EIS) for the USAMRIID expansion does not adequately examine the following very
Why has an alternate location for the new BSL 3 and BSL 4 labs not been thoroughly examined? This
would be an ideal time to move these labs. They have been a source of concern in this county for
years. They will house the most dangerous pathogens known to man (ie Ebola, Marburg, etc).
Presently they are planned to be again located in the high population area where Fort Detrick is now
located. Public safety fears would be greatly alleviated if they were moved to a more remote and safe
I understand that the EIS is now subject to a court review if requested. I am willing to call for such a
court review before construction commences. I have also been informed that such a review by the
courts was requested when BSL 4 labs were planned to be installed at Boston University which is in a
similar high population area. In that case, in 2006, both the Massachusetts state court as well as the
U.S. District Court ordered that the labs not be operated until alternate (less populated sites) are
properly considered, and simulation of real-world disease transmission is properly analyzed. (This risk
analysis is expected to address in detail the potential threats to the community arising from the use of
several BSL 4 agents that are planned to be studied in the Boston labs. This risk analysis will examine
the effects of a laboratory-acquired infection of a laboratory worker with Ebola; the transportation of a
vector-borne agent, such as tick-borne encephalitis; an aerosol event involving a hemorrhagic fever;
and the use of rDNA in monkey pox.) Our situation in Frederick County seems very similar.
In October 2001 there was an anthrax attack on postal workers, members of congress and the media,
resulting in 5 deaths. This was the first known biological attack on US citizens. It is widely believed
that the source of that anthrax (the Ames strain) was Ft Detrick.
Last December I and four other County Commissioner were sworn into office and we took an oath to
“Preserve and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Frederick County”. I am
committed to that oath.”
Much more information is available about this issue. Contact: Beth Willis:
email@example.com Barry Kissin: firstname.lastname@example.org. The BOCC obtaining a Court Review has been
endorsed by: Citizens for Quality of Life, Friends of Frederick County, St. John the Evangelist Peace and Justice
Committee, Sierra Club Catoctin Group, the Fort Detrick Watchdog Group, Women in Black Frederick, the Frederick
Peace Resource Center, FredPac, and many many citizens like you.
Breach of trust
Originally published November 07, 2007
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By Katherine Heerbrandt
A week before Sen. Barbara Mikulski visited Frederick County extolling the economic promise of Fort Detrick's expansion, Keith Rhodes, chief technologist for the Government Accountability Office, told members of Congress that the proliferation of high-level biolabs raises serious questions about public safety.
“The more BSL-4 labs there are, the more opportunity for mistakes and the more opportunities for release,” Rhodes told the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations on Oct. 4.
Since 9/11 the number of labs researching the most virulent pathogens — those with no cure — grew from two to 15. With no central oversight of the growing number of labs, and disincentives inherent in reporting safety breaches, the security and operations of BSL-3 and BSL-4 labs are in question.
The oversight of these labs is “fragmented and relies on self-policing. High-risk labs have health risks for individual lab workers as well as the surrounding community. The risks due to accidental exposure or release can never be completely eliminated, and even labs within sophisticated biological research programs, including those most extensively regulated, have had and will continue to have safety failures,” Rhodes said.
Burning to spend the billions unleashed for biodefense research, the feds rushed to act with little consideration of the consequences. A sadly familiar refrain.
The U.S. Army War College's 2005 “Assessing Biological Weapons and Bioterrorism Threat” concludes money was spent with no analysis of the bioterrorism threat, which it called “systematically and deliberately exaggerated” by this administration.
More probable than a bioterrorist attack is that we infect ourselves by theft, design or mishap. With every new lab opened, every square foot added, the risk increases, according to the GAO.
The Associated Press produced an interactive map that reveals biolab breaches in the U.S. (http://hosted.ap.org/specials/interactives/wdc/biohazards/)
As recently as June, anthrax bacteria was found on a freezer handle, light switch and shoes in a changing room at USAMRIID.
With stories of accidents, breaches of protocol and incompetence from biolabs emerging with disturbing regularity, Detrick's refusal to participate in a public meeting isn't surprising.
Why subject itself to more national attention when biolabs are under assault?
The request came from County Commissioner David Gray, who issued a statement in August saying that federal officials ignored policy in their Environmental Impact Statement by not seeking alternate sites for the labs.
Detrick agreed to meet, then backed out, offering a private meeting with county commissioners. Gray wanted to bring community members and the press. Detrick declined that offer, too.
Detrick has already done its duty, says spokesperson Eileen Mitchell, providing ample opportunity for public comment and complying with federal regulations.
Maybe they weren't counting on anyone actually reading the EIS, but local attorney Barry Kissin and Beth Willis have made a thorough study of it, culminating in a 17-page statement including tough questions for Detrick officials. At best, the EIS is a cursory attempt to comply with federal guidelines. At worst, it ignores documented breaches and blithely concludes that any danger is “negligible.”
The lack of serious effort in such a critical report is yet another example of the arrogance characterizing the federal government's tactics in the name of keeping America safe from terrorists.
Wave the flag and our brains shut down?
Undeterred by Detrick's refusal, Gray will have his forum at 7 p.m. on Nov. 19 at Winchester Hall. But it will take more than the usual 20 to 25 regulars to convince a majority of commissioners that the EIS is severely flawed and deserves a court review.
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Why a Court Review on the USAMRIID Expansion?
What would it do, and why support it?
The people and government of Frederick County need a court review of the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) for the USAMRIID expansion, because the FEIS does not comply with The National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA). A court review would provide an independent, binding assessment and judgment about the specific ways the FEIS does not meet NEPA requirements in assessing whether Frederick is an appropriate location for these laboratories, and for adequately evaluating the health and safety issues these laboratories would bring to the community.
The purpose and spirit of NEPA requirements assume that a full and thorough environmental assessment is needed to properly make fundamental decisions about site location and risk mitigation. A complete and thorough analysis of alternative sites is required in order to compare those alternative sites, leading to:
¨ information adequate enough for local elected officials to develop a full and informed understanding of impacts, risks and issues
¨ information adequate enough for citizens of the county and other affected parties to do the same
¨ a sound decision on the proper site, based on legally specified health, safety, environmental and economic factors
The current FEIS does not provide the information needed for decision-makers to determine if these programs should be located in Frederick County. It does not provide the information needed for officials and citizens to be adequately informed about the risks and impacts, as intended by NEPA.
A court review would, at a minimum, address the following NEPA-related FEIS defects:
¨ the failure during the FEIS process to squarely address fundamental issues raised repeatedly, verbally and in writing by residents of the community.
¨ the failure to properly identify alternatives sites, including one in a less populated area.
¨ the failure to provide credible and serious evaluations and comparisons of such alternatives.
¨ the failure to analyze the cumulative environmental impacts of the entire National Interagency Biodefense Campus (NIBC). Facilities for NIH, DHS, USDA, CDC, BRAC (Naval and Army Bio-Labs), as well as USAMRIID are planned to be located on NIBC. NEPA clearly requires a “Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement” (PEIS) with respect to the NIBC, which has never been done. Rather, there have been only cursory references to the full program in the USAMRIID EIS.
¨ the failure to adequately analyze the environmental impact of BSL-3 and BSL-4 pathogens escaping from containment.
¨ the failure to evaluate potential environmental impacts of genetic engineering of BSL-3 and BSL- 4 pathogens. The Army’s own regulations specifically refer to genetic engineering as an action that demands evaluation for potential impacts.
¨ the failure to explain in specific detail how the cumulative program would satisfy its water requirements, which would at least double the current water requirements of the Fort.
¨ the failure to analyze potential scenarios related to transport of bio-agents to and from facility and failure to include a threat and vulnerability analysis for a terrorist attack or infiltration.
Tell our County Commissioners:
You want them to obtain a Court Review
of the latest Fort Detrick Biocontainment laboratory expansion Environmental Impact Statement.
Women In Black, Frederick commends Commissioner David Gray for his statement questioning the thoroughness of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed USAMRIID expansion, especially as it pertains to site location, and calling for a court review of the EIS before construction commences.
The function of the planned Biosafety Level 4 labs scheduled for construction as part of the expansion is to house experiments on infectious pathogens for which there is neither vaccine nor cure. Activities planned at some of the new Fort Detrick labs include the acquisition, growth, modification, storage and packaging of those pathogens most adaptable to being used as bioweapons.
One does not need to read voluminous documents to question the wisdom of locating such a facility in a highly populated area of robust growth such as Frederick County, especially in light of the previous record of failed safety procedures and accidents. This is a rational and logical question and one the citizens of Frederick County cannot afford to take lightly. Once built, this facility will be a permanent part of our community environment. Do we really want to risk the health and safety of our families? Many accidents at such labs have recently been in the news. Congress is now holding hearings investigating safety failures in the nation’s 400+ biowarfare laboratory system, for which Frederick will be Headquarters.
We thank Commissioner Gray for his integrity and commitment to his oath of office, “to preserve and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Frederick County.” We urge all our elected officials to meet this same standard, and we urge all Frederick County residents to hold them to that standard.
Please contact ALL of our County Commissioners now, and tell them you want them to protect our health and safety by calling for a legally binding, impartial Court Review of the Army’s USAMRIID expansion Environmental Impact Statement. Tell them you want them to act on our behalf, and hold the Federal Government accountable for complying with the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act, which is designed to protect communities from development that is harmful to health and safety.
Call: : (301) 600-9000 Email:
Jan Gardner: firstname.lastname@example.org
David Gray: email@example.com
Kai Hagen: firstname.lastname@example.org
Charles Jenkins: email@example.com
Lenny Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org