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Archive for the ‘Bush’ Category

There are very few “it moments” in life. The moments where you view your life in terms of before “it” and after “it”. “Before I got married”. “After Dad died”.

Six years ago today was one of those days on a global scale. For people around the world now view their lives through the prism of “before 9/11” and “after 9/11”.

Save for nineteen, neither the passengers nor crew on those four planes that cool Tuesday morning had any idea that as they walked towards their planes, death walked among them, elbowing its way through the crowd like some obnoxious tourist.

Nor did any of us have any idea that six years later, their murders and the murders of the thousands inside the World Trade Center and Pentagon would be largely unavenged, their president using their lives and deaths as leverage to bargain for the war he wanted rather than the war that began that day.

Freedom is but a flickering candle in the gale force wind created by an administration that saw 9/11 as opportunity rather than tragedy. As the flaming remains of the World Trade Center leapt into the New York skies, spreading the residue of burning jet fuel and the ashes of the fallen into the lungs of the brave souls who dug through the rubble searching in vain for survivors, the White House planned an assault on two fronts.

One seemed a logical counter response to the administration’s claims that “they hate us for our freedom” by eliminating that which it claimed they hated. A set of laws that only Stalin could have loved wound its way through the corridors of Washington DC, voted on by a Congress full of enablers and “opposition” that were too timid to risk being seen as “un-American” by the very people that did their level best to destroy all that America was supposed to stand for. The USA PATRIOT Act, Orwellian in both name and scope, ushered in the era of “sneak and peek” warrantless searches and national security letters, closely followed by a warrantless wiretapping program that the founders of this nation would have horsewhipped anyone for suggesting.

The second front was a war not against those who attacked us, but against those that this administration prioritized out of sheer dislike. Certainly, our armed forces made a brief pit stop in Afghanistan— But there was never any doubt that all roads led to Baghdad. Before he even addressed the nation over the World Trade Center attacks, George W. Bush was bellowing “Saddam! Iraq! Iraq! Saddam!” to his cabinet.

The administration used strategy in Iraq that would have to be improved upon before it could even be called “dismal”. It waged a proxy war against those who attacked us and the government who harbored them not because it was strategically sound, but because doing it right would have meant that the American people were weary of war long before George W. Bush got the conflict he wanted. Al Qaeda pumped millions of dollars per year into a nation where the average annual income for a family of four was under $25. The militias that fought on our side in Afghanistan cared nothing for the murders of our people in Washington DC, New York City, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania— They cared about taking their country back from another violent militia that left them out of the loop. We liberated the Afghan people from a government of murderers and delivered them into the hands of people that think murdering a former president and dragging him through the street is an honorable means of transferring power.

And for what? So we could spend our “six days, six weeks, I doubt six months” taking down Saddam Hussein, he of the terrible Weapons of Mass Destruction Program, he who cavorts with Osama bin Laden, dancing on the graves of New Yorkers in drag in the pale moonlight.

Of course, all that we were told in the buildup to the war with Iraq that had any resemblance to reality is that yes, there is a nation called Iraq, and its capital is Baghdad.

Saddam was scum. Whether you opposed the war or thought of it as a nifty idea (Presumably while sending someone else’s kids off to bleed the desert red), he was indeed scum.

But “He’s scum” isn’t a proper justification for warfare. So the American people were fed a steady diet of fiction with a thick layer of “9/11” spread across the top like icing.

2,998 people were murdered by a madman that twisted and distorted the Koran into a justification for murder. And the legacy of those 2,998 people has in turn been twisted by a madman into a war which, while it might wear noble trappings, feels just as murderous to the innocents caught in its crossfire.

Just as the people in the Towers and the Pentagon needed rescue while the president impotently read a children’s book for seven long minutes, the legacy of all those murdered on September 11, 2001 must be rescued. For every injustice committed by our government in the days since has been committed in their name.

We “need” to let the federal government listen in on phone calls— It’s the only way to prevent another 9/11. We “need” to go to Iraq because Big Bad Saddam with his “nookyaler” missiles might bring down another 9/11 on us. And now, we “need” to stay there because fighting them over there means we don’t have to fight them over here.

Our government shows just how much they believe in that notion every day of our lives— If fighting them over here was what it took, why would we need to dispense with civil liberties here?

The soldier that dies in Iraq today does not do so because the White House wants to avenge two-year-old Christine Hanson, whose trip on United Flight 175 was her first and last, or its own Solicitor General’s wife, conservative pundit Susan Olsen, or Todd Beemer, the man that uttered the “Let’s roll!” sentiment that has been misappropriated by men far less courageous than he was, or even Betty Ong, the flight attendant on American Airlines Flight 11 who was the first to alert anyone that there was even a problem. The soldier on the battlefield may well have had any and all of the four or the 2,994 other souls that perished with them when he agreed to trust the commander-in-chief to expend his life wisely rather than recklessly. But this White House has no such concerns.

It now invokes 9/11 only as a shield to deflect criticism of its disregard for the basic liberties guaranteed by the Constitution or in telling us why we have to fight a nation that had nothing to do with the attack.

Today, we will all take a moment today and pause, thinking of the horrors of that day, saying a prayer either silent or aloud that their souls have found peace.

And then pray that we become better at guarding their legacy so that the dimming, flickering candle of freedom is not extinguished by this or any other administration.

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Once when I was about seven years old, I told my best friend that I was in training to become a Jedi. It wasn’t a childhood delusional thing— I wasn’t trying to actually get over with the lie— I was just seeing how long it takes people to catch on to the fact that whatever I’m saying is pretty preposterous.

Anyway, that day, at age seven, I told Danny how the Jedi thought I was too little for holding a lightsaber at that point, but that if I got a little taller the next year, they’d teach me to fly X-Wings. Just enough detail and even humility to make the ridiculous story seem a little more grounded, but a hell of a long way from making it believable.

What does this have to do with anything? Not much— Directly.

It’s just that when I look at those sad, twisted souls with the once ubiquitous “W” stickers still adorning those cars, I think of Danny— For just like him, there seems to be no limit to what these people will believe as long as it’s a friendly face telling them the story.

It would be easy to look at them and say “These people are dumber than an Elvis movie”. And that certainly may be true of some of them. They have, after all, been fooled twice by a man who claims to live by the words of Gomer Pyle, yet is stymied by any attempt to repeat them.

But it’s not stupidity, or anything even closely resembling it. It’s a lethal mixture of wishful thinking and good old-fashioned gullibility.

The time has come for these people to come in from the cold. I certainly recognize that reality isn’t as attractive as the utopian world built upon the fertile ground of the Republican imagination, where fallen American soldiers exist only as an abstract, deficits truly don’t matter, and congressional oversight exists in name only. In fact, to borrow the title of perhaps the most overrated film in living memory, reality bites.

But it has one advantage over Iraqi WMDs and ties between Iraq and al Qaeda— It exists.

The time has come for even the most staunch of Republicans to admit that the war in Iraq is a failure beyond what even the makers of “Waterworld” and the taste engineers behind New Coke could imagine— For their failures, grand though they may have been, were not accompanied by a high and steadily rising body count.

The question is this. How many more American lives are we to throw away on an ill-planned, misbegotten misadventure that has proven to be a failure on every level? And exactly what is it that you hope to accomplish by sending more Americans to their deaths?

And now, the White House is cranking up Ye Olde PR Machine for an invasion of Iran. Because, you know, things are going so swimmingly in our other war zones. Last month set a new record for civilian deaths in Iraq, and John McCain, a member of the party that complains any time we talk to the UN, has just complained that NATO isn’t doing enough in Afghanistan to avenge an attack on our soil. Because, you know, it’s their responsibility to pick up the slack pursuing the people that attacked us so we could move personnel and equipment into a nation that had nothing to do with it.

Attacking Iraq as a response to the 9/11 attacks makes every bit as much sense as if FDR had attacked Pago Pago in response to Pearl Harbor. The only question is how many lives we’re willing to throw away simply to avoid admitting that this nation made a mistake that cost the first 3,113 their lives.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been told that if I save the cheerleader, I can save the world. I really must figure out what that means.

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Russert: Howie Kurtz, I want to ask you about the Scooter Libby trial. William Powers in the National Journal has an interesting column where he thinks that the fact that journalists have to testify is good because it will open up, in terms of the public being able to see how reporters cultivate relationships to get information. You have a different view of that.

Kurtz: Yeah, I certainly don’t think it’s a good thing at all and I think the reputation of journalists in this Libby trial have taken a hit. I was in the courtroom when you testified Tim, and you looked uncomfortable during five hours of cross examination, cautious, hesitant, as anybody would be. No journalist likes to be on the witness stand, when, in this case, Libby’s lawyer was trying to take small statements you had made and find discrepancies and ask you why, on the one hand, you were willing to talk to the FBI about your conversation with Scooter Libby but you resisted a subpoena. You said that it was because you didn’t want to get into a prosecutorial fishing expedition.

The problem for us, as a profession, is this: When journalists get up there and testify, leaving aside the First Amendment question, it looks to people like, out there, like we have become too cozy with Senior Bush Administration officials, not so we can ferret out information about national security, not so we can find out about corruption, but in this particular case, in some cases, acting as a conduit for White House efforts to put out negative information about Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame’s husband, a big critic of the prewar intelligence. And I think that the people out there who don’t follow this all too closely think that we have become part of the club, too much the insiders, and that is a problem for journalism.

Meet the Press, 2/11/07

Gee… How could the American public get so mistaken a notion? Whatever would give them the idea that the media is in bed with the Bush Administration?

Could it be that Vice President Cheney’s office saw “Meet the Press” as a friendly venue where Cheney could “control the message”? That’s hardly a surprise to anyone that pays attention. Most people I know already refer to the last half of the show as “Russert’s Republican Roundtable”.

Could it also be that Judith Miller’s slavishly taking dictation from the vice president’s staff and Ahmad Chalabi led her and the New York Times to publish the only pieces they’ve ever run that were more fictional than a Jayson Blair piece? Couldn’t be that, could it?

Don’t be absurd. Despite Howie’s assertions, the Libby trial does nothing to undermine the credibility of journalists. Journalists did that to themselves.

You see, the problem is not that Judith Miller talked to Darth Halliburton’s office on WMD— It’s that she never bothered to look any further. A guy that’s been exiled from Iraq for forty long years claims to know the inner workings of its weapons programs?

Not that she was the only one— Far from it. I’m not sure anyone in the press as a whole bothered to question the WMD Scavenger Hunt until six months after the invasion, when we still hadn’t found any WMD.

And one thing that has remained constant throughout— The White House has always known that a lapdog media was only a phone call away. Whether it’s passing along Valerie Plame’s name or trying to control the message on any given issue, they’ve never had any difficulty finding a willing accomplice in the media.

We would be talking about President Kerry right now had the New York Times, the epicenter of what conservatives whine about as a “liberal media”, had disclosed what they knew of the illegal wiretapping program when they first learned about it in mid-2004. So the idea that this trial somehow creates the impression that the media is in bed with the White House is more than a little bit of wishful thinking on the part of Howard Kurtz, David Broder, and the rest of the roundtable on Meet the Press last Sunday.

We need journalists. Not stenographers.

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I did not have political relations with that man, that Jack Abramoff…

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