The Real Face of War - Bush's folly

The Real News Network dares to broadcast what the corporate media won't. Americans are being propagandized about the Iraq War. Here is a 3 minute segment on the Iraq Veterans Against The War hearings which failed to be covered by the news networks. The testimonies are called The Winter Soldier stories. These are the soldiers of conscience.

The images are graphic and the truth is hard to look at. This is what is being done in our name by George W. Bush and his administration of neo-cons.

American Exceptionalism and Survivor's Guilt

Scott_tayler_2 Scott Tayler, a Co-Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY, gave a very interesting sermon on February, 3, 2008, entitled "The Healing Power of 'We Can't'".

Reverned Tayler talks about his Mennonite roots of nonviolence and his attempt to square this with American Exceptionalism which is the American belief that we are divinely ordained to save the world. This hubris leads to an unconscious belief that we are God. To what extent does our nationalism become idolotry?  Rev. Tayler then goes on to express a concern about America's survivor guilt, our sense of compassion of being responsible for the negative consequences of what we have set in motion.

I become quite impressed with the quality of Unitarian Universalist preaching about issues that affect our lives. I highly recommend Scott's sermon to you. It lasts about 20 minutes and you can listen on line or download the sermon to an MP3 player by going to the Digg site by clinking on the link below.

Link: Digg - The Healing Power of "We Can't" (February 3 2008) (Sermons from the First Unitarian Church of Rochester NY).

Nader is only candidate to want a reduction of record setting military spending and a reordering of our national priorities

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Click on picture above for a better view and to read the quote.

While military spending has escalated in recent years and Dwight D. Eisenhower warned Americans in the 50s about the danger of the military/industrial complex, none of the candidates are seriously discussing this issue and all of them except Ralph Nader seem to favor military spending at record levels according to an article published on 02/21/08 on the Foreign Policy in Focus web site. Here is a snippet from that article:

One issue that will not be discussed in tonight's presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama is our nation's burgeoning military budget. Earlier this month, the Bush administration announced a proposed military budget of $614 billion, not counting the full cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This represents the highest level of spending since World War II, even though our most dangerous adversary is a dispersed terrorist network measured in the tens of thousands, not a nuclear-armed Soviet Union whose armed forces were measured in the millions. If Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Michael Mullen have their way, these massive levels of spending will continue even after the end of the war in Iraq, with a "floor" on military spending of 4% of our Gross Domestic Product. Not only have the major presidential candidates been largely silent on these record expenditures, but they want to increase them. Barack Obama has said we will probably need to "bump up" the military budget in a new administration, and both he and Hillary Clinton have committed themselves to increasing the size of the armed forces by tens of thousands of troops. On the Republican side of the aisle, John McCain and Mike Huckabee are looking to spend even more than their Democratic counterparts.

To watch a 5 minute YouTube clip on Ralph Nader's position on the military budget click here. Ralph says that the military budget is not driven by defense considerations as much as by the corporate needs for profits obtained from selling weaponry to the U.S. government.

The Unitarian Universalist Association passed a resolution in 1979 encouraging congress to reduce our defense spending and reorder our national priorities.

The resolution says in part:

BE IT RESOLVED: That the 1979 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association urges its members, churches and societies actively and persistently to work for change in federal spending priorities; that such efforts include, but not be limited to:

  1. Establishment of workshops, seminars, and forums to bring to public attention the disastrous consequences of ever-increasing defense spending;
  2. Organization of petition drives, letter-writing campaigns, etc., to the appropriate officials in the U.S. Congress and the administration; and
  3. Where appropriate, direct non-violent political action; and
  4. Our call upon the citizens of all nations to work for a similar reordering of their national priorities.

Link: Foreign Policy In Focus | Dems: What about the Military Budget?.

Army suicides up as much as 20 percent

Soldiers_suicide The Associated Press reported today, 01/31/08, that the number of suicides in the military has continued to climb and is up 20% from last year.

As many as 121 Army soldiers committed suicide in 2007, a jump of some 20 percent over the year before, officials said Thursday.

The rise comes despite numerous efforts to improve the mental health of a force stressed by a longer-than-expected war in Iraq and the most deadly year yet in the now six-year-old conflict in Afghanistan.

Internal briefing papers prepared by the Army's psychiatry consultant early this month show there were 89 confirmed suicides last year and 32 deaths that are suspected suicides and still under investigation.

More than a quarter of those — about 34 — happened during deployments in Iraq, an increase from 27 in Iraq the previous year, according to the preliminary figures.

The report also shows an increase in the number of attempted suicides and self-injuries — some 2,100 in 2007 compared to less than 1,500 the previous year and less than 500 in 2002.

The total of 121 suicides last year, if all are confirmed, would be more than double the 52 reported in 2001, before the Sept. 11 attacks prompted the Bush administration to launch its counter-terror war. The toll was 87 by 2005 and 102 in 2006.

Officials said the rate of suicides per 100,000 active duty soldiers has not yet been calculated for 2007. But in a half million-person active duty Army, the 2006 toll of 102 translated to a rate of 17.5 per 100,000, the highest since the Army started counting in 1980, officials said. The rate has fluctuated over those years, with the low being 9.1 per 100,000 in 2001.

I have my own hypothesis which is that Americans are not able, in good conscience, to kill in hand to hand combat as the military has demanded in Iraq and Afghanistan in an immoral war perpetrated under deceitful rationale by their commander in chief. Guilty consciences on top of other psychosocial stressors is a deadly combination.

I am distressed as I run into young people who are considering joining the military wondering if they understand how their moral conscience may be compromised when they are asked to kill for immoral reasons.

It is interesting how the moral conflicts engendered by the activities of killing fellow human beings is never mentioned in our national policy discussions, let alone the toll it takes on the mental health of the people who are asked to kill for us in our name.

As Americans we are not only responsible for the killing done in our name, but for the mental health of the killers who kill at our behest. Apparently, an increasing number of them cannot live with themselves and hate their lives enough to end them, and not only is the blood of those they have killed for us on our hands, but now their blood is on our hands as well.

What America needs is a period of repentence as we atone for what we have done to our brothers and sisters in other countries, and what we have done to our own.

Link: Army suicides up as much as 20 percent - Yahoo! News.

60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Udhr While President Bush and his administration disingenuously tell the American people that the terrorists hate Americans for their freedoms, very few Americans know about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was agreed to and promulgated by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948.

This year is the 60th anniversary celebration of this declaration.

There are many web sites devoted to the Declaration and a good place to start is the article on Wikipedia.

It seems hypocritical for the Bush administration to be talking about freedom when this administration has engaged in war crimes perpetrating a pre-emptive and immoral war on false pretenses, engaged in torture against the principles of the Geneva Convention, thrown out Habeas Corpus, engaged in illegal surveillance activities on its own citizens, utilized extraordinary rendition, refused to participate in the International Court, the Kyoto treaty, and the list goes on.

It would be a positive step forward if the next President and his or her administration fully supported Universal Human Rights. Do you know where your favored candidate stands on this topic?

Link: UDHR - 60th Anniversary of Universal Declaration of Human Rights - Home.

N.J. bans death penalty

Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes us both blind." The state killing people to teach them that killing other people is wrong never made any sense to me. Finally, the great people from the state of New Jersey are leading the way of sanity and reason in the United States abolishing the death penalty.

Yahoo News reported on 12/17/07 an article distributed by the Associated Press. Here's what it says in part.

Gov. Jon S. Corzine signed into law Monday a measure that abolishes the death penalty, making New Jersey the first state in more than four decades to reject capital punishment.

The bill, approved last week by the state's Assembly and Senate, replaces the death sentence with life in prison without parole.

"This is a day of progress for us and for the millions of people across our nation and around the globe who reject the death penalty as a moral or practical response to the grievous, even heinous, crime of murder," Corzine said.

The measure spares eight men on the state's death row. On Sunday, Corzine signed orders commuting the sentences of those eight to life in prison without parole.

The article reports that some family members of people killed are angry that justice isn't being done. While my heart goes out to them for their loss and suffering, furthering the killing of human beings does nothing to bring about long term justice. I can say this having had two children killed by a  3 time drunk driver in 1993. Seeing my children's killer killed does not honor the memory of my children.

I salute the people of New Jersey and I hope that my state, New York, follows suit. This should be a campaign issue for 2008 at the state level and the Federal level. Where do the presidential candidates stand on capital punishment? The United States is the only first world country that has retained it. We like to think of ourselves as progressive, fighting for freedom and democracy around the world, and the moral leader of the free world, but if you are knowledgable about our social policies and practices, the United States is a pretty backward nation as compared to other first world countries. Our view of ourselves is actually often inaccurate and when it comes to the death penalty we are out of step with the more civilized world.

Link: N.J. bans death penalty - Yahoo! News.

Panties for peace

Who said that activism and protest can't be fun? The Guardian Unlimited ran an article on October 19, 2007 about women sending their panties to Burmese officals to protest their crack down on protesters demonstrating for democracy.

Activists exasperated at the failure of diplomacy to apply pressure on Burma's military regime are resorting to a new means of protest against the regime's recent crackdown: sending female underwear to Burmese embassies.

Embassies in the UK, Thailand, Australia and Singapore have all been targeted by the "Panties for Peace" campaign, co-ordinated by an activist group based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

The manoeuvre is a calculated insult to the junta and its leader, General Than Shwe. Superstitious junta members believe that any contact with female undergarments - clean or dirty - will sap them of their power, said Jackie Pollack, a member of the Lanna Action for Burma Committee.

"Not only are they brutal, but they are also very superstitious. They believe that touching a woman's pants or sarong will make them lose their strength," Ms Pollack told Guardian Unlimited.

So far, hundreds of pairs of pants have been posted, according to another campaigner, Liz Hilton. "One group sent 140 pairs to the Burmese embassy in Geneva," she said.

The campaign was a serious attempt to allow ordinary women to express their outrage at the regime's response to democracy demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, Ms Pollack said.

"Condemnation by the United Nations and governments around the world have had no impact on the Burmese regime. This is a way of trying to reach them where they will feel it," she said.

"The junta is famous for its abuse of women: it is well documented that they use rape as a weapon of war against ethnic minorities. This is a way for women around the world to express their outrage."

Link: Activists send female underwear to Burmese embassies | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited.

An Honorable Exit from Iraq - An ethical plan based on justice

In the Fall, 2007 issue of YES magazine, Poka Laenui describes the most rational, ethical, and probably effective exit strategy from Iraq. Basically, his plan says that the U.S. must apologize for its illegal and immoral war. The United States should not attempt "to win" in its war against Iraq because there is no victory to be had. It should change its strategy to being just.

Poka writes in part:

The United States should not win in its war against Iraq. It should change its strategy to being just.

The United States was wrong to attack Iraq. Possession of weapons of mass destruction is not a justification, moreover Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Toppling Saddam Hussein is no justification; the imposition by a stronger nation of its political preference for the running of another nation’s government has never been a legitimate basis for attack.

Every justification for the attack by the United States against Iraq leads to the same conclusion: the United States acted as an international delinquent, a violator of Iraqi sovereignty, and an international threat to peace.

So how could one even entertain the notion of winning a war for which there is no justification?

He then lays out a 7 point plan which is worth reading. Click on the link below to go to his article.

Link: Commentary: An Honorable Exit from Iraq by Poka Laenui.