Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Looking for a new party

Both the old ones have sold out to the corporations and/or The Project for a New American Century (PNAC). I don't like what my country has become and neither of the present parties are going to change it. I have just read Dirty Wars by Jeremy Scahill and am still in a state of shock. I am not surprised at what Bush did.  He not only admitted it, he boasted of it - both before and after the murders. I would expect it from his team, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, Gates, McRaven, McChrystal, Patraeus, et. al., but I was dismayed to learn that Obama, except for the invasions, has adopted the same murderous policies and, for the most part, the same perpetrators.

Political assassinations started long ago, at the beginning of the cold war.  The CIA has bloody hands and a history of incompetence.  Read Legacy of Ashes by Tim Weiner.  In those days, an out of control CIA was at least limited in scope and in the shadows.  Today, we have declared the the entire war a battlefield and have adopted terrorist techniques that puts Bin Ladin to shame.

After 9/11, Rumsfeld put the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) under the White House. This hasn't changed under Obama. Personally I feel betrayed by Obama.  He campaigned on a promise to end the wars.  What he really meant was to end the wars in their existing, if war can ever be called civilized, civilized way - with rules. Make no mistake about it, the concept of killing people because they might someday attack us - even if their is only a 1% chance of that happening - began with Cheney, Rumsfeld and the Israel first minded Neocons.  His plan was much more grandiose and impractical.  He would invade the offending countries and/or reduce them to rubble. After the fiasco in Iraq, it was refined by Rumsfeld and Bush, replacing invasion with, kidnappings, renditions, torture and assassinations. Sometimes with the JSOC and later (after Rumfeld's resignation) by attacks by the CIA.

These are things, we liberals expect from the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and PNAC, but we have been totally ambushed by Obama who has established a new paradigm for assassination at the same time he has lowered the bar nearly to ground level for identification of targets.  Every Tuesday, Obama meets with the leader of the JSOC, reviews the hit list, decides on the final list and gives his approval. The lists are compiled by what may be the worst intelligence agency in the world and includes de facto complimentary killings for the war lord or tribal chieftain in Somalia or Yemen in exchange for their fighting Al Quaeda. Of course Al Quada had no significant presence in the Arabian Peninsula or the African Horn until mindless policy in Iraq and Afghanistan created a recruitment field of victims.  Now Al Quaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) is a thriving organization. The Somalian Al Quaeda is less populous but healthy enough to provide a means for the nominal leader in Somalia to extort Billions of dollars every year in exchange of their suppression efforts.

Our policies are self defeating. Every drone killing or secret JSOC operation kills more innocent bystanders than actual terrorists - sometimes, in fact, there are no terrorists killed, just innocent people. Each operation leaves a pool of Al Quaeda recruits. Our hit list is growing mathematically while our enemies are growing exponentially.  We can't win. At least the American people can't win.  The war industry, munitions manufacturers and mercenaries like Blackwater are doing very well - and our oil supply lines are well protected by our military. Anwar Al Alawaki is an example of an American Muslim who was transformed into a traitor. He was a Republican had voted for Bush because he "admired his family values" and his sermons initially decried the 9/11 attackers as enemies of true Islam. He morphed into a Muslim who supported the actions of Al Quaeda. Alawaki was changed not just because of policies in Iraq and Afghanistan but by FBI harassment and probable attempts, early on,  to enlist his aid as a spy by setting him up on a prostitution solicitation arrest; activity that was totally inconsistent with his life and for which he was never tried.

Scahill's book chronicles a shameful litany of mistakes we've made since 9/11 in our "Global War On Terror
(GWOT) and our declaration that "he whole world was a battlefield." Since becoming the neighborhood cop, or bully as some would say, we have violated the sovereignty of Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia in killing suspected terrorists or people who we suspected were terrorists or who might someday become terrorists. These killings typically were covered by the national leaders, whoever they might have been at the time, by saying their military did it in the fight against Al Quaeda who they saw as a threat to their leadership. In exchange for the cover, we would literally shower them with money for their continued fight against Al Quaeda.

Samir Khan
One of the more grievous attacks was in Gardez, Afghanistan in February, 2010, ordered by Stanley McChrystal, where three women were killed and the shameful cover-up involving the removal of the bullets from the victims' bodies to disguise the wounds as stabbings. The killings of Anwar Alawaki and Samir Khan, both Americans, has opened up the Obama administration for criticism, not nearly enough in the opinion of many liberals, of killing Americans without trial. Critics say these were nothing short of murder and while these were done in foreign countries, how long before our government will be doing it on American soil?  Although Alawaki and the young American, Samir, Sammy, Khan
from North Carolina, could well have been convicted as traitors, our government could have captured them and tried them.  The presumption of innocence,  vital to a free country, has been dangerously compromised.
Abdul Alawaki - age 16

A sadder note in the Anwar Al Alawaki killing was the killing of his teenage son. This can be described as no less than murder. He was a boy who hadn't seen his father in the eight years since his father had gone into hiding. He was a boy who knew his father was on an American kill list and who sneaked out of his family's home in Yemen in the early morning hours of September 4, 2011, to try to find him. He was a boy who was still searching for his father when his father was killed, and who, on the night he himself was killed, was saying goodbye to the cousins, with whom he had lived while on his search, and the friends he'd made in Sana'a. He was a boy among boys who were eating dinner by an open fire along the side of a road when an American drone came out of the sky and fired the missiles that killed them all. 

Trayvon Martin body
When they first learned of his death, Obama, Hillary Clinton, Harry Reid and Joe Biden described him as a 21 year-old combatant. After the truth was known, Robert Gibbs, in ignorance of the details blamed his father for becoming a terrorist.  Abdul was born in New Mexico and was a typical American teenager. It is ironic that Obama made such an emotional and appropriate speech regarding the senseless killing of Trayvon Martin, a 16 year old like Abdul and his own daughter, after he had given his approval of the drone attack in Yemen that mistakenly killed Abdul.

Another shameful killing of innocent people took place in Lahore, Pakistan. Raymond Davis a CIA contractor, a former Special Forces member, and a former employee of Blackwater,  killed two Pakistani men who he claimed were threatening him with a gun.  Investigations showed that he had fired at the two men, both members of the Pakistan  intelligence agency, Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) through his windshield when they were sitting on a motor cycle.  Both were shot in the back. Davis claimed they brandished a gun at them.  ISI was not on favorable terms with the CIA.  Our government claimed diplomatic immunity and the Pakistani government refused to recognize it. He was being tried when a judge decided to try it under Sharia law which allows the family of a victim to forgive the killer in exchange for what they call "blood money."  The families were forced by the government to accept money and forgive Davis.  A wife of one of the victims killed herself by taking rat poison.  Further aggravating the situation was a hit and run fatality when a car driven on the wrong side of the street by agents en-route to back up Davis hit a motorcycle, killing the rider.  The occupants of the car were never named and were quickly flown out of Pakistan.  The United States was anxious to resolve the issue because they were making plans for the killing of Bin Ladin - without authorization from the Pakistani government. No one is lamenting the death of Bin Ladin who openly admitted planning the attack on 9/11 and boasted about planning more, but the facts are that he could have been taken alive and a woman in his house was killed unnecessarily.  And this was in a foreign sovereign state.

I am dismayed at what has happened to my country. The drone killings are popular. We like to call ourselves a nation under God.  Conservatives like to call ourselves a Christian nation.  I recognize that there are millions of Americans who are not Christian but I am a Christian and I wonder what Jesus would say about the practice of killing people who we think may harm us in the future and about the accepted deaths of innocent bystanders who we dismiss as collateral damage.  I recognize the fact that in conventional war, there are always non-combatants killed.  I also understand that the Allies and Axis both bombed civilian targets in what were nothing less than acts of terrorism.  In that war, however, we were actually, and for the first and only time, fighting for our freedom.  Our freedom has not been threatened by terrorism.  Someone was roasted by the press for saying that they were more of a nuisance than a threat.  IMO, he was right when put in perspective of traffic fatalities, murders and natural disasters. The Patriot Act has impinged on our liberty and way of life more than terrorism or communism. In a sense, the terrorist have won if they hate us because of our freedom and way of life.  Our government has adopted terrorism, worldwide and insidious terrorism, as our modus operandi in our declared global war. As in Viet Nam, we cannot win this war.

I was born in 1929 and have a very good recollection of events since 1935. In retrospect and on reflection, I don't like what I have seen in recent years and particularly what I am seeing now. I lived through the Great Depression.  I can remember government and a  president who supported the people and opposed the greed and political power of banking and overgrown corporations; and the accumulation of wealth at the top. I lived through poverty and WWII.  I was in the army during the Korean War.  I never served in Korea but I asked for deployment there. The Korean War was a foolish war but an honorable one.  It cost the lives of 34,000 American soldiers and changed nothing, geopolitically.  The Viet Nam war was a stupid war and was based on faulty intelligence and a totally erroneous premise - that of world communism and the domino theory. It cost us 58,000 American soldiers. Again, nothing changed. The collapse of the Soviet Union proved that there never was a military threat to the United States and any realistic economist knew that a centrally controlled economy wouldn't work. The Cold War was all about American corporations fearing that capitalism could not compete with socialism.  It is still their worst nightmare. Ironically, the biggest threat to capitalism is and always has been unbridled greed and self emasculation.

The so called Global War on Terror is another war to protect our corporations, now globalized and internationally owned.  They don't care about America, they only care about profits. All the wars in the oil countries and the current new approach, GWOT were and are to protect the oil business; it has nothing to do with freedom.

President Obama sounded to me like another FDR.  I was wrong. When FDR was faced with a banking crisis, he drew a line in the sand and took them on - and won. Obama, faced with a banking crisis, turned to the people who caused it for his solutions.  Is there any surprise that there has been no solution and we are headed down that same road to ruin?  I applaud his stimulus package which stopped the hemorrhaging brought on by the Bush administration.  Were it not watered down by opposition from the GOP, our economy would be humming, our infrastructure would be getting the needed attention and we would not be seeing the critical reduction in vital locally provided public services such as we are seeing in Trenton, New Jersey

Obama promised he was going to end the war in Iraq and place our focus in Afghanistan where the real problem was. All he did was pull the troops out and turn the problem over to Milo Minderbinder's private warriors. In blustering through Afghanistan, all he managed to do was increase the strength and popularity of Al Quaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and the African Horn - particularly Somalia. I like what he is saying about energy independence but talk is easy; and I like his announced plans for the economy but he has surrendered to the group of 51 Teabaggers and the filibuster. He is weak. Even if he were strong in those areas, even if he had supported the public option in Obamacare, he would still be killing innocent people and increasing our enemies for nothing more that keeping the oil lines flowing.

The annual spending budget for the Department of Defense it $500,000,000,000.00.  In layman's terms, that is half a trillion bucks a year. One of our only friends in the House, Allan Grayson has called for the following amendments:

  • A ban on torture;
  • More money for suicide prevention for American troops;
  • An end to NSA spying on Americans;
  • A ban on the funding of video games by the Pentagon;
  • A ban on the Defense Department naming people killed in a drone strike as "enemy combatants" unless we know for sure they are enemy combatants;
  • An end to the Pentagon censoring the internet on its internal networks to stop troops from accessing news media sites;
  • A ban on fees for military families enrolling in military health care;
  • More money to find a cure for "Gulf War Illness";
  • A prohibition on the U.S. using the military to pilfer any possible oil resources in Afghanistan;
  • No defense contracts to companies that are convicted of fraud or bribery;
  • No defense contracts to companies that lie about their products being made in America; and
  • No more no-bid defense contracts to foreign corporations

 Where is FDR now that he is needed? Alan Grayson, perhaps?

Recommended reading:

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ode to Mo! 1953 - 2013

60 years ago today, I snuck out of Downey, California, with my future wife hidden under my superman cloak. Maureen Muir, running for Miss Downey at the time had agreed to be my wife. I had known her for several years - even before my hitch in the army and my older brother was married to her mother's sister. We dated for two weeks while her mother and step father were on vacation and she was staying with my brother. I asked her to marry me and she said yes.  She was 17 and I was 24. Her parents returning from vacation was a major roadblock. They didn't like me. This was exacerbated by the fact that I didn't like her stepfather even more. 

Our plan was for her to ask her parents for permission to date me and to have an engagement and a proper marriage. Our fall back position, if they said no, and I knew (and hoped) they would,  was to elope immediately. I consulted an attorney regarding marriage laws. He told me Arizona was the easiest and a legal marriage in any state was legal in the rest of the country. The only potential flaw was that a parent’s permission was required, not for the marriage to be legal but for the JP to perform the ceremony. Her parents returned home on Sunday, July 12, and told her she couldn't date me. I called her on Monday and we agreed to do it on Thursday, July 16. Both her parents worked so I was able to talk to her on the phone every day.  She arranged to have her best friend, Pat Duncan, stand by on Thursday to answer the phone and tell the JP that she was Maureen’s mother and her marriage was approved.

I never told anyone but my mother. Maureen never told anyone but Pat so there were only four people on the earth that knew about it. Wednesday night I was worried; about being caught on our way, about the JP seeing through our scheme and about getting married in general. I talked to Mom about it and she told me, “That young woman is expecting you to pick her up Thursday and marry her and you need to do it.” She lectured me about young single men getting wild and drinking, etc. I wasn't seriously considering backing out but I welcomed the advice from Mom. Thursday, I picked her up right after her parents were both at work.

I can’t express how I was feeling when she came out and got in the car. She was wearing cut off Levi shorts and a blue gray shirt with a collar. It was not buttoned all the way to the top. She had a tan and her natural hair was light brown with some sun bleaching.  I didn't want to drive to Quartzite, I wanted to be in Quartzite. I was in love. Through the years, I realized that it was Maureen’s physical beauty that attracted me but it wasn't why I loved her. I love her because of her unselfishness and inner beauty. I had dated other pretty girls (none as pretty as Maureen) but they lacked Maureen’s inner qualities. Inner qualities that made her a good wife and mother. Everyone else always came first with Maureen. That’s why, when I look at her today at 77 years, I still see the 17 year old beauty that I picked up on Samoline St., in Downey on July 16, 1953, and drove to Quartzite to marry.

There was no freeway then of course. We drove on the state highway that was two lanes for the most part and not crowded…at least not on a Thursday. The route is for the most part the same as I-10 today. We went through Redlands, Yucaipa, Beaumont, Banning and Blythe. It was a hot day and we drove with the windows down. I don’t believe I had air conditioning.  But there was nothing that day that could have made me feel uncomfortable. Well, almost nothing. Maureen sitting very close to me with her left arm behind my neck and her hand out the window with her right hand resting innocently on my thigh wasn't uncomfortable at all, but it nearly made me wild. I’m sure she had no idea what she was doing to me.

In Banning, we stopped at a Safeway market to get some soft drinks and some fresh fruit (cherries) and I kiddingly suggested we find a shady spot and park for a while; well, kind of kiddingly,  more of an overture.  She smiled at me and said, “Quartzite, driver.” Quartzite it was. I’m not sure what time it was when we reached Quartzite but it was mid day. We found a JP and went in and told him that we wanted to get married. He asked how old Maureen was and she told him and added that her mother knew where she was and what she was doing. She gave him the number if he wanted to talk to her to make sure. He did and Pat came through like a champion. Maureen had left a note for her mother telling her that she had left to get married. She forgot to tell her to whom; probably a good thing; one shock at a time.

The ceremony took about five minutes and cost, I think, $5. It was an unusual wedding to say the least. The JP told us that he had just returned from the desert where they were looking for some illegal immigrants that were in trouble. They found them, all three of them were dead. We drove back to Blythe, the closest thing to civilization in the area, had a quick dinner and got a motel. The temperature that day, they told us, got up to 120 degrees and the motel had no air conditioning except for open windows. There was a pool and we spent quite a bit of time in the pool but most of our time in our room. The heat didn't bother us. Maureen’s bathing suit was a couple years old and she had outgrown it a little. I had words with some dirty old men at pool side who were ogling her and making what I knew were lascivious remarks to each other but I didn't want to get into a fight on my wedding day and I didn't want Maureen to see the dark side of me…at least not yet. The first order of business the next morning was for her to buy a new bathing suit.

Maureen and I had planned on taking a week off and spending some time in the mountains. I had withdrawn my life’s savings, $350 and she had $45, but Friday morning I started feeling guilty about abandoning my softball (fast pitch) team in the playoffs. I was also anxious to present my new wife to family and friends. Maureen, as usual, was agreeable and we drove home later that afternoon. Mom had moved back in with my oldest brother, Spiers, and his wife, Catherine, for a while to give the newly weds some privacy. I think, for a while, she moved back and forth between the three of us, Me, Spiers and Jack, and eventually moved into a trailer behind my Uncle Ashley and Aunt Pearlie’s house in Fontana. She stayed there for a long time and became known to her grandkids as Grandma Trailer.

We won our game on Saturday. We went to church Sunday for the first time as husband and wife and Monday I went back to work. My life as a married man had began. The next order of business was to make a family. 

I don't have any pictures of her just before we were married but here is on two years before when she was 15 and in the Downey marching band:

Here is one taken just a little over a year after we were married with our brand new baby, Brooks, just home from the hospital. 

Ages 41and 34, circa 1970 in Sacramento:
Over chicked with Maureen and Coe in Downey in 1974.  Ages 45, 38 and 18

Family reunion circa 1996 in Vernal, Utah.  Ages 67 and 60.

Circa 2007, in Rancho Cucamonga, with Kobe.

Last year in front of our home in Rancho Cucamonga

I love her more than ever and she still looks the same to me as she did in 1953.