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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Blah, Blah, Blah

Rhetoric abounds as President practices his very own language of Bush-Speak. Someone must have told him to "Get out there and, at least, LOOK Presidential. Oh, and by the way, don't forget to mention a couple of Republicans while you're at it, just to show 'em a little lovin'." That would explain this statement, which GW spoke while admiring the fire-devastated lands of Georgia:

"And so we'll take back the recommendations to Washington. Secretary Chertoff will look very carefully at the recommendations, and then work closely with Senator Chambliss and Senator Martinez about what we can do to help the good people down here."
-President Bush

It is important for the President of the United States to be out front in times of disaster, even if it is his policies that are, in part, helping those disasters along. Thousands - yes, thousands - of climatologists - those are REAL scientists for those of you keeping score - had warned this administration that there was a real need to do something about Global Warming and Global Climate Change. Of course, there are maybe one or two scientists out there who say differently, and, of course, those are the one or two that this administration and their polluting "base" of "haves and have mores" they rely upon for "study" purposes. The other group, which include Dr. James Hansen, the main guy at the NASA's Goddard Institute say that we are effecting the global climate and we need to do something.

The people that this administration didn't' listen to predicted drier weather which would cause more wildfires. Maybe it's just coincidence, but think not.

"we strongly support the efforts being done here to fight these fires, and we wish the people all the best. "
-President Bush

Sounds like the people of Georgia and Florida are going to get Katrina-like relief from Bush' FEMA and the Department of Homeland Security. But, fear not, President Bush has an answer:

"But the best solution, of course, would be if the weather provided a change."

The President has hope for y'all... Start prayin'! If Jerry Falwell was still alive, he probably would have blamed this all on the gays.

And while we're at it, let's add to the Bush rhetoric. After six-plus years of us on the left screaming about the goings-on in the Darfur region of Sudan, and then being joined in by the religious right's indignation about the lack of US response, the President was finally informed about the persistent problems there.\\It seems like it was only yesterday. Perhaps it was.

The Darfur region of Sudan occupies about one third of the nation's area, all of it land-locked and in the west. Hundreds of thousands of the Black citizens are being killed, raped, tortured and all of those other things which we don't like to be reminded of, and all in the name of ethnic cleansing (whether they call it that or not). Today, apparently, President Bush decided it was time to get involved.

More blah, blah, blah. I wonder if he could even find the Darfur area of Sudan on a map.

"For too long, the people of Darfur have suffered at the hands of a government that is complicit in the bombing, murder, and rape of innocent civilians. My administration has called these actions by their rightful name: genocide. The world has a responsibility to help put an end to it."

Why, yes, it is too long. It was too long last year and it was too long two, three and four years ago as well. Imagine, if we weren't in an endless occupation in Iraq what we might have been able to do to help those people who really need, and want, our help.

"President Bashir had to do something to end the suffering. "

He is doing something: He's making sure that those who are suffering die. Sure this guy promises to help end the violence, but like President Bush, it's all rhetoric.

Remember, this is the administration of Diminished Responsibility. Rhetoric is all they have to offer if there's no profit.

Months ago it was reported that Bashir's air force was disguising their planes to look like UN relief aircraft. Instead of food parachuting down from the skies, it was bombs. The President must have woken up today and heard the news.

Someone want to tell this guy that Lucky Lindy landed? He probably missed that issue of the newspaper as well.

Someone in the White House (Karl Rove?) must have said "we need more distractions, Mr. President."

Bomb something, will ya' George? We're all waiting.

-Noah Greenberg

by Victoria A. Brownworth
copyright c 2007 Journal-Register Newspapers, Inc.

Please note: This article slipped through the cracks and was supposed to be printed prior to Memorial Day Weekend. Please enjoy it a couple of days late. -NG

This weekend our neighborhoods will be filled with the smell of barbeques and the sounds of block parties. There will be sales everywhere, featuring red, white and blue bunting. There will be parades in small town Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware and elsewhere around the country. President Bush will lay a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Everywhere we will hear about patriotism and our troops serving abroad.

It will be Memorial Day, as usual.

Except it’s *not* a usual Memorial Day. We are now well into the fourth year of the war on Iraq, six years into the war on Afghanistan and we also have covert “conflicts” going on in Somalia and Lebanon. On May 23rd, nine U.S. naval carriers surrounded the Iran coastline.

This is far from a Memorial Day during peace time. This is Memorial Day in wartime.

So where are our sacrifices?

I am fortunate. I have no loved ones in this war. I was in high school during the Vietnam War and I saw the older brothers of my friends go off to war, many of them not returning. But just because I don’t have someone “over there,” doesn’t mean I don’t feel for those who do.

At press time, nearly 3,500 Americans had been killed during the Iraq War. The Pentagon acknowledges at least 25,478 U.S. troops have been wounded in action and another several thousand injured in non-combat related incidents. Two-thirds of injured soldiers and Marines are permanently disabled from amputations, burns and TBI (traumatic brain injury).

Memorial Day should be a day when we honor our military–regardless of whether we are pacifists or pro-war. On Memorial Day we reflect on those who have given or risked their lives in service to our country.

I see a lot of stickers with the logo “Support Our Troops” on the backs of cars and SUVs. I don’t see much evidence of that support, however, either from our government or from the nation as a whole.

Do we care about American servicemen and women in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere? It seems not. In fact, it seems that we–the Bush Administration and the American people–have treated the men and women serving today far worse even than we treated soldiers who fought in Vietnam.

Consider some of the recent scandals, such as the discovery that Walter Reed Medical Center, the country’s premiere hospital for the severely wounded returning from Iraq, was infested with rats and roaches. Wounded soldiers were being kept in rooms with mold and peeling paint, as well as vermin. This, with severe injuries and infections.

Then there is the current scandal at Fort Carson, Colorado. The military base is under investigation due to allegations that Fort Carson soldiers who sought help for mental health problems after returning from Iraq received inadequate treatment or were punished and even given dishonorable discharges for seeking care.

Last month the Associated Press quoted Army Surgeon General Lt. Gen. Kevin Kiley: “One of the Defense Department's biggest challenges for an Army that values mental and physical toughness is to de-stigmatize the concept of seeking help for mental health problems.”

The AP reported that allegations of inadequate treatment or punishment at Fort Carson "were made by soldiers who said their superiors refused to allow them to seek treatment for mental health problems. One was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)."

Several Senators, including Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Barack Obama (D-IL), Hillary Clinton (D-NY) and Kit Bond (R-MO) said the allegations raised “grave concern.”

In another investigation done by National Public Radio (NPR), two sergeants said they often refused to allow soldiers under their command to attend mental health treatment sessions. These are not the first allegations to have surfaced regarding mental health issues. Given that the majority of men and women serving in Iraq are on their third, fourth and even fifth deployments, it is not surprising that they are suffering from various mental illnesses, from PTSD to depression. What *is* disturbing is that so little is being done to help these men and women. Veterans groups estimate that one in three returning soldiers suffers from some war-related mental illness. Yet few receive treatment, either because it is not available to them or because they are bullied into withdrawing their claims for health care.

Throughout the war, various scandals have surfaced. For the majority of the war, troops have been without essential armor, weapons or other necessities. Vehicles have not been appropriately armored, making assaults by IEDs and RPGs all the more deadly. In addition, soldiers have written home to request that their families send basics like sheets and toiletries.

Yet despite these scandal, in early May the Department of Defense issued yet another directive to the troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan: no more internet use.

In the current conflicts, unlike previous wars, the internet has provided a lifeline for soldiers to their families and friends back home. Websites like MySpace have given soldiers an avenue for reaching their spouses, children, parents and friends with just one posting. It has also made it possible for soldiers to post photos and video to show exactly how they are faring in the war.

But the Pentagon has decided that this practice is just too costly–in terms of both money and public relations. Even as the Pentagon has begun showing videos on YouTube to promote the (mis)perception that the war is going well with videos of fire fights and soldiers helping Iraqi civilians, they have banned soldiers from using these same outlets. As of June 1st, 13 websites have been declared off-limits on Department of Defense computer systems, including the vital MySpace forum.

The official reason being proffered for this restriction is that too much “military bandwidth” is being used by troops for their online messages. Major Bruce Mumford, a communications officer in Iraq, explained the restrictions to BBC. "The U.S. Army's not going to pay the bill for you to get on MySpace and YouTube." Yet it was acknowledged by military sources that such restrictions would definitely damage morale for troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan under increasingly dreadful conditions.

One Washington source told me that there is concern among the Pentagon hierarchy that raw video footage and uncensored commentary from troops might alter public opinion, skewing it against the war. ( Sixty-five percent of Americans are already against the war.) An increasingly large number of soldiers and Marines have been uploading raw video footage of their war experiences onto their MySpace pages and other online forums. In addition, soldiers have been using these forums and other message boards to voice their increasing frustration with the war and the concurrent deployments. MySpace has become a vehicle for soldiers to voice their protests at the poor treatment they are receiving as well as verbalizing their frustration with the unchanging landscape of the war itself.

It is estimated that the same 100,000 troops are being rotated in and out of Iraq every six months. (During World War II and Vietnam, no in-country stay lasted longer than six months nor did soldiers serve more than two tours of duty involuntarily. Yet during the war on Iraq, in-country duty has been extended to 18-month tours and frequent re-deployments.)

Re-deployments of the same people increases the probability of injury and death. These frequent deployments–and extended periods of deployment–also exponentially raise the percentage of men and women returning from Iraq with severe mental illness brought on by their experiences in the war.

As one recovering soldier at Walter Reed told me recently, his voice breaking over the telephone, “The only people who get what we’ve been through are the guys who have been through it too. But they can’t help me feel better. I don’t think I’ll ever feel better.”

The war is taking its toll, but the military system is taking just as great a toll. Soldiers who have served in Iraq are comparable to rape victims–assaulted once by the war, then assaulted again by the very system that is supposed to aid in their recovery.

In recent months, video footage shot by imbedded journalists and aired on network news uncensored–that is, without expletives and other language excised–has been criticized. In March, concomitant with the troop surge, military commanders in Iraq ordered that no more video footage be shown of car bombings or other carnage in around the Green Zone and ordered Iraqi police to enforce the restriction. The new effort to limit coverage of the devastating explosions that occur hourly in and outside of Baghdad is aimed at controlling information about how unsuccessful the troop surge has been.

However, the numbers tell the truth: more American soldiers were killed in April 2007 than in any other month since April 2003–when the war was at its peak.

Where, then, one has to ask, is the concern for the troops in Iraq and elsewhere? In recent weeks I have heard far more people complaining about the increased price of gas than about the war. The war has become less and less of a topic as summer approaches. What sacrifices are Americans making while young men and women continue to fight and die in the war? What sacrifices has our President made?

My feelings about the war have been clear since before the war began in March 2003. I was against the invasion of Iraq before it happened and I am as adamantly against the war today–if not more so–than I was then.

That said, I still have concerns about the men and women conscripted for this war. In 2007, we are able to save many more lives from combat than even in the first Gulf War in 1991. In the past three wars, one in three soldiers died from combat injuries. In the current war it is only one in seven.

That means, however, far more soldiers with devastating injuries, many of which–like amputations and blindness–are permanent.

President Bush started this war against extensive international and national reproach. Yet he has done nothing to support the troops he has so overused and overextended. In fact, last week as the House prepared its fiscal 2008 defense authorization bill, the President urged Congress to reconsider personnel initiatives added by the Armed Services Committee that included cost-of-living pay raises for the troops.

Is support for the troops anything more than a slogan in the U.S.? Certainly it has been proven time and again that it’s merely a slogan for this Administration and the 27 percent of the population still supporting it and the war. Because in reality, the troops have gotten the rawest end of the deal from both the Administration that waged the war and the military system that is supposed to support and protect the troops as they fight it.

Why won’t the Bush Administration and military system care for these men and women? Why hasn’t the President demanded that all soldiers be given adequate health care and services? Is allowing soldiers access to MySpace while they are deployed really so costly, given the sacrifices these men and women are making? Is granting returning veterans appropriate and necessary health care and benefits (veterans groups estimate that hundreds of Iraq veterans are now homeless) really that costly when these men and women have risked their lives for the nation?

This Memorial Day as you go to your department store sales, as you prepare your barbeques and block parties, think about the troops fighting this unwinnable and egregious war. Think about them unable to contact their spouses, children, family, friends on this holiday or any other day. Think about the $158 billion awarded to Halliburton in the past two years to provide for troops in Iraq–more than $50 billion unaccounted for.

It’s time to bring the troops home from Iraq. But in the interim, it’s time to afford them the basic necessities we gave our soldiers in previous wars. They deserve that much, if not so much more.

In response to Sitcom Candidates and Alter Egos, Rhian writes:

Ron Paul wants the same three things I feel are necessary first steps for the survival of the US: Secured borders - deportation of illegals; complete and instant end to Bush's war in Iraq; and a complete and instant end to the federal reserve.

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-Noah Greenberg