Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Iraq War Makes Terrorism Worse, Al Qaeda Strikes Back, Tenet Took the Fall

But Bush will cite his failure in Iraq as reasons the US must stay and be bled. The prestigious Foreign Affairs magazine declares that "rushing into Iraq instead of finishing off the hunt for Osama bin Laden" has made terrorism worse, emboldened Al Qaeda, and taken the focus off the "War on Terrorism". Washington unwittingly helped its enemies, Author Bruce O. Riedel states, adding: "... al Qaeda has more bases, more partners, and more followers today than it did on the eve of 9/11."

Al Qaeda is now setting up networks throughout the Middle East and Africa amid terrorist hopes that it will succeed in duping Bush into committing US troops to a war in Iran.
Al Qaeda is a more dangerous enemy today than it has ever been before. It has suffered some setbacks since September 11, 2001: losing its state within a state in Afghanistan, having several of its top operatives killed, failing in its attempts to overthrow the governments of Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia. But thanks largely to Washington's eagerness to go into Iraq rather than concentrate on hunting down al Qaeda's leaders, the organization now has a solid base of operations in the badlands of Pakistan and an effective franchise in western Iraq.
Its reach has spread throughout the Muslim world, where it has developed a large cadre of operatives, and in Europe, where it can claim the support of some disenfranchised Muslim locals and members of the Arab and Asian diasporas. Osama bin Laden has mounted a successful propaganda campaign to make himself and his movement the primary symbols of Islamic resistance worldwide. His ideas now attract more followers than ever.
--Al Qaeda Strikes Back, Bruce Riedel, Forreign Affairs 
Riedel is verifiably correct. His paper echoes and expands an earlier US intel assessment that the Iraq war increases the threat of terrorism.
The classified assessment of the war's impact on terrorism came in a National Intelligence Estimate that represents a consensus view of the 16 disparate spy services inside government, an intelligence official said Sunday. The official, confirming accounts first published in Sunday's New York Times and Washington Post, spoke on condition of anonymity because the report is classified.
The report found that the war has helped create a new generation of Islamic radicalism and that the overall terrorist threat has grown since the Sept. 11 attacks.
--Intel: War Has Worsened Terror Threat  
The implications are astounding: Bush has been duped. His invasion and occupation of Iraq played into Bin Laden's hands. Bin Laden's goals are simple: "bait" the US into a "bleeding war[s]". His strategy is equally simple - "provoke and bait". Tragically, Bush eagerly took the bait while Iraqi civilians and US troops do the bleeding.

The findings are damning. Bush is clearly seen to be the fool, the idiot who committed his nation to a war that is better compared to the Soviet conflict with Afghanistan in the 1980s than with the US quagmire in Viet Nam. Bin Laden himself is said to have made the analogy.

Despite Bush's obvious and tragic failure, he and his NEOCON supporters will nevertheless cite both the Intel report and the Foreign Policy assessment as reasons the US must stay in Iraq - perhaps forever. Bush will claim that leaving Iraq, demoralized will "embolden" al Qaeda and allow it to focus on nearby enemies - Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Earlier the BBC had stated: "al-Qaeda is far more fluid and effective than the West's conventional response has suggested." Never an army, al Qaeda has been turned into a movement in reaction. The US occupation of Iraq is not merely the lightening rod, it is the perpetual al Qaeda poster boy. Bush has done Bin Laden a favor. Al Qaeda could not boast an Iraqi presence until the US attacked and invaded.

Earlier, it was clear: the GOP and Democrats would separate from the ink blot different "figures". The GOP will see reasons to stay put. The Democrats will see in the Bush failure compelling reasons to change course:
"Either we are going to be fighting this battle, this war overseas, or it's going to be right here in this country," Frist said on ABC's "This Week," echoing an argument that President Bush frequently makes.

Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., said in a statement that the assessment "should put the final nail in the coffin for President Bush's phony argument about the Iraq war."
--ABC News: Intel: War Has Worsened Terror Threat
But Bush partisans will seize upon the following passage from Foreign Affairs to justiy compounding the crime, repeating the failed strategy:
Decisively defeating al Qaeda will be more difficult now than it would have been a few years ago. But it can still be done, if Washington and its partners implement a comprehensive strategy over several years, one focused on both attacking al Qaeda's leaders and ideas and altering the local conditions that allow them to thrive. Otherwise, it will only be a matter of time before al Qaeda strikes the US homeland again.
At this point, the American people will have to ask themselves: are Bush's dimming hopes of defeating a phantom menace worth risking the Soviet-style collapse of the US? Having repeatedly put good money on bad bets, are the American people ready to pony up yet again?

Despite having a majority in both houses, it is the Democrats who have the greater challenge. Bush is a lame duck. Unless he suspends the elections upon another terrorist attack, his utterly failed administration is history and good riddance.

There is some good news. Bill Moyers is back.

May the US find the will and moral strength to rise above the stench Bush and his crooked ilk will have left behind. Bush can merely wash his hands of the entire affair and, if he were a real cowboy, he could merely ride off into the West Texas sunset. It is left to Harry Reid to conduct real statesmanship for a welcome change. From Reid's recent statement:
Yet I also believe there is a way forward that gives us our best chance to end the war responsibly while protecting our strategic interests, strengthening our security, and better positioning us to provide the long-term assistance Iraq will need for years to come.

This way forward is consistent with our military leaders are telling us, including General Petraeus -- who repeated again yesterday that this war can only be won politically, not militarily. Our path has five key components:
  1. First, immediately transition the US mission away from policing a civil war -- to training and equipping Iraqi security forces, protecting US forces and conducting targeted counter-terror operations.
  2. Second, begin the phased redeployment of our troops no later than October 1, 2007 with a goal of removing all combat forces by April 1, 2008, except for those carrying out the limited missions I just mentioned.
  3. Third, impose tangible, measurable and achievable benchmarks on the Iraqi government so that they will be held accountable for making progress on security, political reconciliation, and improving the lives of ordinary Iraqis who have suffered so much.
  4. Fourth, launch the kind of diplomatic, economic and political offensive that the president's strategy lacks, starting with a regional conference working toward a long-term framework for stability in the region.
  5. Fifth, rebuild our overburdened military, ensure that only battle ready troops are sent into battle, and give them the manpower and support they need to face the daunting challenges that lie ahead. Congressman Murtha pointed out last night that we are currently paying 126,000 independent contractors to supplement the work of our soldiers. Contractors that aren't held to the same standards or accountability our troops are, yet many earn more than our Secretary of Defense. This is unacceptable. 
                   --Sen. Majority Leader, Harry Reid

The history of the US with regard to the Middle East is one of blunder, tragedy and reverberations left over from the "cold war". Terrorism fed on US policy failures too numerous to count, most prominently its support of dictatorial states and puppet regimes, its proclivity to rule illegitimately by proxy.

Years later, then US National Security Adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski would boast:
"The secret operation was an excellent idea. Its effect was to draw the Russians into the Afghan trap." What was more important in the world view of history? The Taliban or the fall of the Soviet Empire?"

The history is consistent with recent charges by former CIA Director George Tenet who claims he took the fall for the Bushies:

Friday, April 27, 2007

How Bush Breached the 'Wall of Separation'

by Len Hart, The Existentialist Cowboy

When the US House passed the "Defense of the Ten Commandments" amendment to the juvenile justice bill, zealots of the Religious Right chanted the mantra: the USA is a Christian Nation! A press conference was attended by Gary Bauer and Rep. Robert Aderholt (R, Alabama), the sponsor of the amendment. Aderhold said: "The Ten Commandments represent the very cornerstone of the values this nation was built upon, and the basis of our legal system here in America".

Nonsense! On various message boards, a chant, a mantra was taken up:
The legal foundation of this nation is the Ten Commandments
That, of course, is pure nonsense and recent nonsense at that. It is indicative of just how effective fundamentalist propaganda has been that such absurd ideas have just recently become the subject of public debate. In fact, the "framers" intended to create in this nation a government strictly neutral with regard to religion. Put another way, the US was not founded upon the principles of the Christian religion, nor any religion. This nation did not pattern laws after the Ten Commandants. The Constitution does not derive its authority from God. Bush is not on a mission from God.

I suggest radical fundamentalists read the Constitution, count the number of times the word "God" is used! As E.L. Doctorow so accurately pointed out in his essay, Jack London, Hemingway and the Constitution, the word God is not used once. Nor are the names of any deities used. There is, in fact, no reference to any deity of any religion, no reference to a source of supernatural power, no reference to a transcendent being, a primordial force, a first cause, an elan vital, a non-temporal, non-spatial Platonic ideal, an unmoved mover. The framers were having none of that. This is not merely significant from a legal standpoint. Bluntly, with Faith-Based initiatives, Bush has robbed you and he has done so in the name of God.
Opposition to Bush's faith-based initiatives has come from organizations including the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Both organizations have stated that the initiative represents an unconstitutional merging of church and state.

-- Bush's Faith-Based Initiatives Launched
In constitutional terms, charitable choice boils down to this: religious organizations can receive government money to provide public services without sacrificing their religious character provided (1) the funding scheme does not somehow give bonus points to organizations simply because they are religious, and (2) individual users of the services have meaningful choices among providers and are only exposed to religious providers voluntarily. It’s an approach to First Amendment interpretation that over the last two decades has been gaining ground at the Supreme Court, evidenced most dramatically by this summer’s landmark decision blessing the use of education vouchers at religious schools.
--Dennis R. Hoover, Faith Based Administration
It is doubtful that any of Bush's "faith based initiatives" money has gone to Jewish, Islamic, or, indeed, any organization but Evangelical Christian organizations!
"Bush's faith-based initiative also privileges Christianity above all other religions. After sifting through every grant announcement I could get my hands on from Bush's faith-based offices, I couldn't find a single grant issued to a religious charity that wasn't Christian -- no Jewish charities, no Muslim charities, nothing. And when I spoke with Jim Towey, director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives, he confirmed that no direct federal grants from his program had gone to a non-Christian religious group. This kind of religious favoritism is exactly what the Constitution's establishment clause was put in place to prevent."
--Esther Kaplan, Journalist and community activist
This is highway robbery. Unless you are a bible thumping evangelical you have been robbed.
"We will rid the world of evil doers"

--George W. Bush
Bush might have started with himself! Much good could have been done.

The Bush administration represents an insidious, dangerous sea change in how this nation views its own history. Right wing attempts to rewrite our history are insidious and Orwellian. The US, it must be repeated, is not a theocracy. The founders have cited no other authority for their work but the people themselves. God does not get even a footnote.

The US Constitution is not a "Ten Commandants" believed handed down by God. The US Constitution is the work of men, a convention of elected delegates to Philadelphia in 1787. If the Constitution should prove faulty, unworkable, or, in any other way, impractical, the people themselves bear the responsibility.

It is no use blaming God. The US Constitution is an existentialist document, a matter of deliberate choice by a people facing up to the facts of their founding, a people willing to take responsibility for the future they believed they could create. If God is to be summoned, it is done by individuals acting alone and within the dictates of their consciences. It is not done by a theocracy; it is not done by an act of Congress; it is not done by a single article or phrase in the new charter.

What the US Constitution does not do is significant. It does not cite a transcendent being as its source of authority. It does not cite or reference the works of theologians, saints, or prophets. It does not anoint a "King" who, in turn, cites a "divine right" to rule. It does not endorse the Christian religion. Nor "Muslim", nor "Buddhist", "nor "Hindu". It does not mandate worship. It does not mandate a liturgy. It does not mandate a day of worship. The names of deities, religions or sects are not mentioned. It does not use the word "Christian".

The word "myth" is too kind for latter day ideologues who persist in re-writing our nation's history. Assertions that our legal system is founded on the Christian Bible is more than a "myth; it is a deliberate lie manufactured and perpetrated by American fundamentalists like Pat Robertson.
Neither a State nor the Federal Government can pass laws which aid one religion, aid all religions, or prefer one religion over another. Neither a State nor the Federal Government, openly or secretly, can participate in the affairs of any religious organization and vice versa. "In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect `a wall of separation between church and State.' " Everson, 330 U. S., at 16, quoting Reynolds v. United States, 98 U.S. 145, 164 (1879). The dissenters agreed: "The Amendment's purpose . . . was to create a complete and permanent separation of the spheres of religious activity and civil authority by comprehensively forbidding every form of public aid or support for religion." 330 U.S., at 31-32 (Rutledge, J., dissenting, joined by Frankfurter, Jackson, and Burton, JJ.).
Following is the quote by Jefferson, referenced by the Justices, in which Jefferson referred to the "wall of separation" between church and state:
"Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God; that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship; that the legislative powers of the government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should `make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between church and State."
--Thomas Jefferson's Letter to the Danbury Baptists, January 1, 1802
The justices have simply buttoned it all up. There is no ambiguity in the decision itself. There is most certainly none in Jefferson's phrase "wall of separation."

We may, however, dispense with some of the persistent myths about our "Christian" founders. For a start, few of them were Christian. Many were deists. Others were atheists.
Deism is a religious philosophy and movement that became prominent in England, France, and the United States in the 17th and 18th centuries. Deists typically reject supernatural events (prophecy, miracles) and divine revelation prominent in organized religion, along with holy books and revealed religions that assert the existence of such things. Instead, deists hold that religious beliefs must be founded on human reason and observed features of the natural world, and that these sources reveal the existence of one God or supreme being
--Wikipedia entry for "Deism"
Thomas Paine did say:
"I believe in one God, and no more; and I hope for happiness beyond this life.
But Thomas Paine was not a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia. He was not a founder however great his treatise: Common Sense.

Then, of course, there is the opinion of the man who was and is called the Father of his Country, George Washington:
"The United States is in no sense founded upon the Christian doctrine."

George Washington
This sentiment would be echoed in the Treaty of Tripoli of 1797:
Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Mussulmen; and, as the said States never entered into any war, or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties, that no pretext arising from religious opinions, shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
--1797 Treaty of Tripoli
About that, Tom Peters writes:
Does the 1797 Treaty of Tripoli say that "The Government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion?" YES!...

More generally, we can't imagine how the absence of Article 11 in the Arabic version effects [sic] the separationist argument. It was the English version of the treaty that was approved by President Adams and Secretary Pickering, and this version unquestionably contained Article 11. Similarly, when the Senate ratified the treaty, they did so knowing full well that the English version declared that the United States was not a Christian nation. The separationist implications of the treaty can't be escaped by arguing that the Arabic version may not have contained Article 11; the President, Secretary of State, and Senate thought it did, but approved the treaty anyway. ...
--Tom Peters, 1797 Treaty with Tripoli
I grow weary of this debate that is no debate. Should a fundamentalist stumble upon my blog by accident, let me say this: read my lips. This debate is over. The case is closed. The separation of church and state is complete. That is the law.
To bolster their case, accommodationists have produced reams of quotations from famous early Americans to the effect that religion is important to public life, or that the founders themselves were religious men. As we demonstrate elsewhere, some of these quotes are either fabricated or taken out of context. Others (as we suggest in this section) are taken from people who were either opponents of the Constitution (eg., Patrick Henry), or who played no role in the framing of the Constitution or other important American documents (eg., Daniel Webster). Finally, we argue that the overwhelming majority of these quotations are irrelevant to what's at issue in the separation debate: one can be religious, and even believe that religion is important for public life, without believing that the state should have the power to aid religion, either preferentially or non-preferentially.
--Separation of Church and State Homepage
Fundamentalists have lately tried a different tact, arguing that the wall is "one way". In other words, government may not prohibit or, in any way, interfere with religion but that religion may interfere with the functions of government. But which religion, I wonder. Islam? The late Steve Kangas asserts that that is an impossibility. By definition, religious control i.e, "interference" with the "state" infringes upon the rights of other sects, atheists, deists, or agnostics. The best refutation, however, is found in a decision of the US Supreme Court
Neither a state nor the Federal Government can, openly or secretly, participate in the affairs of any religious organizations or groups and vice versa. In the words of Jefferson, the clause against establishment of religion by law was intended to erect 'a wall of separation between Church and State."

The Religous Right will often cite certain isolated professions of faith. In themselves, the quotes fall far short of proving that the founders had in mind founding the nation upon the Christian religion, indeed, creating a Christian theocracy.

Jefferson, moreover, backed up with deeds his belief that there should be a "wall of separation" between church and state. When Patrick Henry proposed to tax the citizens of Virginia in order to support "some form of Christian worship", Jefferson opposed it. He designed a bill for Religious Freedom which completely separated religion from government in Virginia. His bill passed while none of Henry's "theocratic" ideas were even introduced in either Virginia or US government.

The right will cite other aspects of American history, the Pledge of Allegiance, for example. It must be pointed out, however, that the original pledge, authored by Francis Bellamy in 1892, did not contain the words "under God". I remember well when those were words introduced. Moreover, it was not until after the Civil War that US currency had printed on it the words: "In God We Trust".

Nor can fundamentalists find a principle of law in a SCOTUS decision of 1892. In the case of Holy Trinity Church vs. United States, Justice David Brewer wrote that "this is a Christian nation." But Brewer wrote this in dicta i.e., a personal opinion. It does not establish case law. It is not a legal pronouncement. It does not have the force of law. Feeling obliged to explain, Brewer himself stated:
But in what sense can [the United States] be called a Christian nation? Not in the sense that Christianity is the established religion or the people are compelled in any manner to support it. On the contrary, the Constitution specifically provides that 'Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.' Neither is it Christian in the sense that all its citizens are either in fact or in name Christians. On the contrary, all religions have free scope within its borders. Numbers of our people profess other religions, and many reject all.
It may be left to the scrappy John Adams to close the book on the absurd assertions of religious folk.
"The United States of America have exhibited, perhaps, the first example of governments erected on the simple principles of nature; and if men are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice, imposture, hypocrisy, and superstition, they will consider this event as an era in their history. Although the detail of the formation of the American governments is at present little known or regarded either in Europe or in America, it may hereafter become an object of curiosity. It will never be pretended that any persons employed in that service had interviews with the gods, or were in any degree under the influence of Heaven, more than those at work upon ships or houses, or laboring in merchandise or agriculture; it will forever be acknowledged that these governments were contrived merely by the use of reason and the senses.
--John Adams, "A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America" [1787-1788],
Though he had hopes that " are now sufficiently enlightened to disabuse themselves of artifice", he foresaw the present debate. In doing so, he gave us the best ammunition against them. Reason! I love his line " will never be pretended that any persons ... had interviews with the gods ..." Isn't it interesting that the 21st Century is in danger of slipping into a new dark age. It is equally interesting that the antidote is found in the lucid minds of 18th Century statesmen - Jefferson, Washington, Adams et al. It is time to put aside the campaign of lies by the Religious Right!

Mixing governance with religion is a bad and discredited idea as evidenced by those who espouse it.
"The national government ... will maintain and defend the foundations on which the power of our nation rests. It will offer strong protection to Christianity as the very basis of our collective morality."

--Adolf Hitler
That might well have been said by Falwell, Robertson, Ashcroft, or George W. Bush and the American Taliban of John Ashcroft, Pat Robertson, and Gary Bauer! At last, I refer interested readers to Joseph Storey's Commentaries on the Constitution - especially the significance he attributes to the Preamble which states:
"We the People of the United States, ... do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Significantly, the Preamble does not state that God ordained it, nor, any lawgiver but the people themselves. Nor is the Constitution based - as Gary Bauer had said - on the Ten Commandments. The "Ten Commandants" are not cited in the Constitution. Though it has the tone and voice of "Sacred Text" [See E.L Doctorow previously cited], the only authority cited by the Constitution is that of the people themselves.

According to Joseph Story, a preamble may not enlarge or confer power that is not found in the body of the document:
§ 459. The importance of examining the preamble, for the purpose of expounding the language of a statute, has been long felt, and universally conceded in all juridical discussions. It is an admitted maxim in the ordinary course of the administration of justice, that the preamble of a statute is a key to open the mind of the makers, as to the mischiefs, which are to be remedied, and the objects, which are to be accomplished by the provisions of the statute.
§ 462. And, here, we must guard ourselves against an error, which is too often allowed to creep into the discussions upon this subject. The preamble never can be resorted to, to enlarge the powers confided to the general government, or any of its departments. It cannot confer any power per se; it can never amount, by implication, to an enlargement of any power expressly given. It can never be the legitimate source of any implied power, when otherwise withdrawn from the constitution. Its true office is to expound the nature, and extent, and application of the powers actually conferred by the constitution, and not substantively to create them.
--Joseph Story, Commentaries on the Constitution, 1833
But until he is impeached, removed, tried, convicted and imprisoned, Bush conducts daily "interviews" with God. He has always implied a special relations between him and a deity of his imagining. It is the basis of his dictatorship! It means that you are always wrong, Bush is always right. He's on a mission from God. He's not just a run of the mill, banana republic, tin horn dictator. He is infallible. He is the Pope!

Before George W. Bush was the Pope, Bertrand Russell was.
Bertrand Russell, in a lecture on logic, mentioned that in the sense of material implication, a false proposition implies any proposition. A student raised his hand and said "In that case, given that 1 = 0, prove that you are the Pope". Russell immediately replied, "Add 1 to both sides of the equation: then we have 2 = 1. The set containing just me and the Pope has 2 members. But 2 = 1, so it has only 1 member; therefore, I am the Pope."

-- A List of Fallacious Arguments
To close, President John F. Kennedy is certainly among those patriots who understood how absolutely necessary it is to a free state that religion and state be maintained separately.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

How Right Wing Ideology Threatens Western Civilization

by Len Hart, the Exisentialist Cowboy

When did “humanism” become a dirty word? When did the recently coined phrase “secular humanism” become a code word with which fundamentalists would attack the separation of church and state, democracy, and the rule of law?
Have you heard that "secular humanists are molesting your children"? According to one pamphlet they are. Have you been told secular humanism is a conspiracy by the filthy rich to pervert American life? That's what some religious leaders claim. They portray secular humanism as an insidious cancer eating away at everything good and decent. Think this "secular humanism" sounds too bad to be true? You're right.

-Matt Cherry & Molleen Matsumura, Myths About Secular Humanism

My education was hardly elitist. Nevertheless, I grew up respecting the "separation of church and state" and considered the issue settled. To borrow a phrase from Churchill, "I got it into my bones" that religious ideology was a matter of personal conviction. I was taught to consider “learning” to be a good thing and often revered positions and convictions with which I differed. I learned to identify “humanism” with the “rebirth of learning” often referred to as the Renaissance.

Given a choice between religion and science, I would have chosen science while respecting the rights of those who chose religion. But with the ascension of Ronald Reagan, a sea change in public attitudes was a fait accompli. My position toward those who would not extend to me the same right or respect hardened considerably. What was behind this seismic shift in public morality? But during the Reagan administration, the religious right deliberately hijacked the term "secular humanism" and made of it a right wing code word.

Strictly speaking, "humanism" is a term most often associated with the Italian Renaissance, specifically, the Plato Academy supported and encouraged by Lorenzo di Medici. It was a revival of the Platonic tradition concurrent with the discovery of new antiquities in Rome, notably the Laocoön, a lasting influence on a young Michelangelo.

I might have been willing to concede certain ambiguities associated with the term "humanism". Humanism was not, after all, a specific dogma like dialectical materialism. Rather, humanism properly denotes a spirit of renewed learning. Amid Medieval Scholasticism, it was a breath of fresh air, a willingness to let free enquiry take us where it will. The opposite of inflexible dogma, it still appeals to the sense of adventure, the sheer delight in the act of learning itself.

Humanism was the dynamic clash of giant egos, intellects, and other larger than life personalities: Leonardo da Vinci, Cosimo di Medici, Michelangelo, Marsilio Ficino, Lorenzo di Medici, Machievelli, Pope Julius, Cristoforo Landino, and Ficino's own student, Giovanni Pico della Mirandola. So varied are those outlooks, so contradictory, that attempts by the American right wing to pigeon-hole Humanism ring hollow, pathetic and uninformed.

The members of this revived Plato Academy were Michelangelo’s tutors and mentors. Had it not been for these liberal scholars, modern Christianity might be devoid of its many “Platonic” aspects, specifically that there exist abstract and wholly non-spatial, non-temporal objects. God? Or is God simply a specific manisfestation of a pre-existing, "Platonic" ideal?

In a related development, a cache of books have been found in Lancashire. The books date to the time of the Florentine Academy of Lorenzo di Medici. Authors to be found include Ovid and Marsilio Ficino, among others. In a book of verses by Ovid are margin notes believed by some scholars to have been made by a young William Shakespeare. The notes are said to be in a "...Shakespearean hand". If that is true, they date to a time after Shakespeare left Stratford but before registering his first play in London. The margin notes, then, might have been made during Shakespeare's "lost ten years".

Platonism had not gone away during the dark and middle ages. Rather, the scholars of the academy in Florence were inspired by the Plato Academy and took its name. It is fair to conclude that the scholars who gathered around Lorenzo di Medici became central to a renewed interest in learning, literally, a Renaissance. Until the heirs of the inquisition recently raised the specter of theocracy in America, one might have hoped that a combination of science and tolerance might usher in a new golden age.

The Renaissance scholars did not call themselves humanists. The term "humanism" is a relatively new invention, coined in 1808 by a German educator, F. J. Niethammer. Because it denoted programs of study not involving science or engineering, it lead inexorably to those studies that are now called “the humanities” -music, art, literature, journalism, philosophy.

More to the point, “humanism" had never opposed religion especially in its Renaissance birthplace, Italy! Characterized by openess and enquiry, it was never insidious or covert. Unlike cults -religious and otherwise -humanism is so broad, so open, so encompassing as to be very nearly meaningless. Among humanists throughout history are to be found both churchmen, scientists, atheists, and monks. Why, then, has this term, coined but recently, become such a cause celebre among the right wing? What’s the beef?

In the fifteenth century, the term "umanista," or "humanist," was current and described a professional group of teachers whose subject matter consisted of those areas that were called studia humanitatis. The studia humanitatis originated in the mddle ages and were all those educational disciplines outside of theology and natural science. Humanism was not opposed to logic, as is commonly held, but opposed to the particular brand of logic known as Scholasticism. In point of fact, the humanists actively revised the science of logic.

Humanism, then, really begins during the middle ages in Europe; while the humanist scholars of the Renaissance made great strides and discoveries in this field, humanistic studies were really a product of middle ages. Not only that, the "rediscovery" of the classical world which was the hallmark of Renaissance humanism in reality began much earlier in the middle ages; as Europeans began to see themselves as a single ethnic group with a common origin in the middle ages, the recovery of classical literature, both Latin and Greek, became a concern for all the medieval centers of learning.

--Humanism, Early Modern, Italian Renaissance

A prominent member of Lorenzo's Plato Academy was Pico della Mirandola who claimed to have read every book in Italy. Mirandola, himself, wrote some 900 theses in which he tried to cover “all knowledge”; he offered to debate anyone on those points. Admittedly, the church in Rome considered some of the theses heretical and Pico was imprisoned for his beliefs.

It must be remembered, however, that his work in general has not been considered politically controversial since that time. Moreover, those criticizing “secular humanism” today are primarily the progenitors of “Protestantism” -not the church from which the Protestant movement eventually separated. At last, modern Protestants opposed to “secular humanism” have apparently failed to raise specific objections to specific points, only to the vague idea of “secular humanism” itself. It is, therefore, an extremely vague position unfairly demonizng the very act of investigation and knowledge seeking.

Modern reactionaries often try to equate “secular humanism” with atheism. The charge has the smell of moldy strawman about it. Of course, it is untrue. Wikipedia entries describing an atheistic "secular humanist" movement are suspicious. I doubt such a movement exists. Who are the leaders? Where are the headquarters? Where is the membership, the meeting hall? The very notion of a top down, cult-like "movement" seems at odds with the very spirit of humanism i.e., free enquiry, open mindedness, enlightenment. Humanists are unlikely to go underground, or to wear white sheets and light bon fires. They are unlikely to scurry through alley ways to attend surreptitious meetings. They are not Illuminati. They do not wear robes and pointy hats. They do not chant. It is simply not in their nature to conspire. Conspiracies are best left to the CIA, the Mafia, the Ku Klux Klan, Dick Cheney's Energy Task Force, the Religious Right.

How does one make of freedom a cult? More precisely, how does one make of freedom a cult unless with fascist means and aims? And what of charges that "humanism" is of necessity and definition atheistic? The founders of Lorenzo's Plato Academy most certainly were not as if anyone in Florence at the time had been!

At its inception, “humanists” were not merely scholars, they were by and large good Catholics. A perfect example is Michelangelo himself, a devout Catholic to the very end of his life and, likewise, a “humanist”. In fact, the very icon of humanism is his statue of David now in the Academia in Florence.

Significantly, David is not a pagan Greek god. Rather, David is an Old Testament hero who figures prominently in Judeo-Christian traditions including those of Protestants, the very Protestants who now rail against “humanism”. Other humanists were Churchmen who remained loyal Catholics; others became Protestant during the reformation.

The excesses of Pope Leo (the Medici Pope), following as they did the scandals of Pope Alexander and the militarism of Pope Julius, provoked a reaction from Martin Luther. But Martin Luther, himself, was a "humanist". Both the "Reformation" and the eventual Protestant split are accurately described as "humanist".

Humanists of many persuasions thus found themselves at odds with the church. Though most humanists were church people, even those eager to break with Rome. But the controversies leading to the break with Rome were not about "humanism" unless Luther's opposition to Pope Leo's sale of indulgences is to be considered "humanist". It is only modern extremists who have irrationally demonized "humanism”. It seems odd given recent right wing rhetoric that Protestantism, itself a "humanist" movement, seems to be at the forefront of the contemporary controversy. During the Reformation, humanists and non-humanists alike were burned at the stake. Humanism had little to do with it; indeed, the word was not even in use at the time. If "humanists" did not exist, the American right wing would find it necessary to invent them.

Of course "humanists" were found among the new practitioners of new, emerging empirical sciences. Science was often opposed by both religious establishments: Catholic and Protestant. Science was likewise opposed by the state, though it was the city-state of Florence that offered Galileo a measure of protection until it became untenable. The early pioneers included Copernicus, Bacon, Montaigne, Descartes, Bruno. Most of these men were not anti-church, though the Catholic Church was intent upon disciplining them. Likewise, most modern "humanists" are not communists though fundamentalist are intent upon equating them with it. The most tragic examples are Galileo -forced to recant, and Bruno -burned at the stake. And, recently, Bill Clinton, often called Satan by Republicans.

Now here is a fact that must surely be unsettling to members of the right wing who recently summoned a Catholic Saint with which to punish a President. The saint was Sir Thomas More, canonized by Pope Pius XI in 1935.

Saint Thomas More was trotted out by then Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Henry Hyde, Chief Council to the United States House of Representatives David Schippers, and Special Prosecutor Kenneth Starr. I will wager that Hyde didn't know that More was not merely a (gasp) liberal, he was a socialist.

The object of such right wing attention was More as he had been depicted in Robert Bolt's great screenplay: A Man for All Seasons. Significantly, none of them quoted him correctly. Moreover, they did not really quote More himself, but rather More as he was depicted in the movie cited above. Even then they got it wrong.

Safe to say that not one of them knew that More was, perhaps, the most prominent “secular humanist” in England at the time. What makes more a “humanist”, like his friend Erasmus, is his dedication to the idea of the perfectibility of humankind. What makes More a “secularist” was his insistence, unto his own death, in the separation of “God’s law” and “man’s law”, a principle that we refer to as the separation of Church and State. Lest we forget, More died at the hand of an all poweful "state". Though it was not Henry VIII who said l'etat, c'est moi he might as well have done.

Here's an example of how Kenneth Starr mangled More and, in the process, proved himself a mediocre intellect. The following excerpt from Starr's interview with Diane Sawyer:

Kenneth Starr:
Well, I love the letter and the spirit of the law, but it`s the letter of the law that protects us all. And, you know, St. Thomas Moore, Sir Thomas Moore put it so elegantly, you know, in A Man For All Seasons. He took the law very seriously and said, `That`s what protects us. It`s not the will of a human being. It`s not Henry VIII`s will. Henry VIII is under the law. We are all equal under the law.`
Sorry, Mr. Starr, no where in the play A Man For All Seasons did the character of Sir Thomas More say anything resembling that.

In fact, More defended the obedience to "`s law, not God`s" [that makes More a secular humanist] and never made reference to either Henry VIII's law by name or description. The actual exchange that both David Schippers and Starr are both so fond of misquoting is as follows:

Roper: So now you`d give the Devil benefit of law!

More: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get at the Devil?

Roper: I`d cut down every law in England to do that.

More: Oh! (advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you --where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? (He leaves him) This country’s planted thick with laws --man's laws, not God's [emphasis mine]--and if you cut them down --and you’re just the man to do it --d`you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I`d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety`s sake.
And, in yet another memorable exchange:
Margaret More: Father, that man's bad.

Sir Thomas More: There's no law against that.

William Roper: There is: God's law.

Sir Thomas More: Then God can arrest him.
Of course, the dialogue above was written by Robert Bolt. But if you want to read the original More you will find comments equally biting, equally witty, comments that will most certainly curl the hair of modern right wing reactionaries and intellectual gnomes! More, they will charge, is a socialist for his comments having to do with the business class: God help me, I can perceive nothing but a certain conspiracy of rich men procuring their own commodities under the name and title of the commonwealth. They invent and devise all means and crafts, first how to keep safely, without fear of losing, that they have unjustly gathered together, and next how to hire and abuse the work and labour of the poor for as little money as may be.

-Of the Religions in Utopia, St. Thomas More

Clearly, none of the Republicans attacking Bill Clinton had understood the movie. None of them had bothered to learn anything about their “hero” other than what they had seen in a movie. Indeed, this film is among the best movies ever made. Sadly, the real meaning of the film was lost on Kenneth Starr. He came away from it having learned all the wrong lessons and that may be worse than having learned nothing at all.

The likes of Kenneth Starr, Henry Hyde et al might have stayed home for the good it did them. The lessons of Saint Thomas More (the real one) is likewise wasted. The crux of A Man for All Season is existentialist at its very core. It is about what it means to be a human being. It's about the disintegration of one's very identity. It is about redemption. It is about nothing less than man's search for meaning.

Religious folk will see in this a parable about "Faustian" bargains. I don't have a problem with that. Secular folk, on the other hand, will take away from it an Existentialist message non-unlike that of Jean-Paul Sartre in Existentialism and Human Emotions. They are both right!

Sir Robert Bolt`s A Man for All Seasons, the motion picture which won 6 Academy Awards in 1966, including Best Picture, Best Screenplay [Bolt], Best Actor [Paul Scofield], and Best Director [Fred Zinneman], is a familiar story to English history aficionados, but Bolt’s telling of it is just as fresh now as it was in 1966, a time when US troops were mired in Viet Nam. Today’s headlines, likewise, spotlight an interminable war, government corrution, and egregious establishment attacks on "the rule of law." Here's a resource that right wingers, overly massaged about the strawman, humanism, should check out:

A dignified biography [of St. Thomas More] by Peter Ackroyd, The Life of Thomas More, offers a picture of More which is a combination of Catholic admiration and modern scholarly determinism.
It was Kant, I believe, who wrote of a moral imperative to be intelligent, a dictim largely ignored by the religious right today. Many speak of the acceptance of "Christ" as "one's personal savior"and in the next breath denounce "humanism". It is a dead giveaway that he/she is parroting a demagogue.

The very act of accepting "Christ" is a choice and as such must be made freely, if not rationally. By definition, free choices may not be compelled; compelled choice is an oxymoron. [See Kierkegaard] If the acceptance of Christ is the price of salvation, it cannot "take" in a theocracy where such decisions are compelled by the state.

Personal choices cannot, therefore, be imposed by any state or by any established church. The idea of "conscience" is a humanist idea. By attacking "humanism", the American religious right intends to rob you of what it means to be a human being. They intend to deny you personhood just as Hitler sought to dehumanize his Holocaust victims. His first theft of them was their right to choose. That is what America's religious right will take from you. If you let them. [See Victor Frankl]. Free will is a humanistic idea.

Without free will there is no freedom, no republic, no United States as conceived by our founders. Without free will there is neither religion nor atheism. Without free will, there is no Western Civilizaion.

Some updates:

Premised upon their misconceptions and misrepresentations of humanism, the right wing continues to wage war on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in particular. It is the First Amendment which guarantees both Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion that the right wing finds most odious.

O'Reilly ignored First Amendment, misrepresented Jefferson's position

In his December 14 nationally syndicated column, " 'Tis the Season,"
Bill O'Reilly wrote that the "separation of church and state argument" is "bogus" because it "does not appear anywhere in the Constitution." O'Reilly continued, baselessly asserting that "[i]f Thomas Jefferson were alive today, he would mock these secular fools and then retire to his Virginia estate for Christmas dinner." In fact, Jefferson wrote a famous letter in 1802 in which he declared his support for "a wall of eternal separation between Church & State" and expressed his "reverence" for the First Amendment to the Constitution, which mandates that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof."

Additionally, Jefferson made numerous other statements of support for the principle of the separation of church and state.
21st Century Kierkegaard
It is by design that the American right wing, typified by the likes of Bill O'Reilly deal in lies, labels, and lapses of logic, learning, and love. It is by design that the American right wing kicks up as much West Texas dust as it can. It hides their dishonest souls. I'll leave you today with this brilliant nugget by the 19th century thinker Kierkegaard:
If you label me, you negate me.

Bush Betrayed the Christian Coalition

It was not so long ago, the year 2000, that George W. Bush and John McCain slugged it our for the support of the Christian Coalition and other "religious right" groups. John McCain learned early that he could not outflank GWB on the religious right. Bush, meanwhile, proved himself willing to say and do anything.

When McCain attacked Pat Robertson on Robertson's home turf, taking on the religious right, it was clear that neither was there room for McCain to the left of Bush. Those votes would eventually go to the Democratic party from whom Bush would steal an election in what even prominent goppers called a coup d'etat in Florida.

Ultimately the crown would go to Bush but unlike Caesar who refused it thrice, Bush was too eager, boasting "This would be a whole lot easier if this was a dictatorship...just as long as I'm the dictator." Given that it was Bush who gave to the Christian Coalition the role of kingmaker, one wondered: just what kind of dictatorship did Bush have in mind. The right most certainly hoped it would be a theocratic one.

Where did it go wrong? Why are religious conservatives deserting the sinking ship? The simplest answer is usually the best:
We were told: Just wait till the second term. Then, the president, freed of concern over reelection and backed by a Republican Congress, would take off the gloves and fight for the conservative agenda. Just wait.

We're still waiting.
-Richard A. Viguerie, Washington Post
Nowadays Bush's numbers are in danger of slipping below 30 percent amid allegations that his courtship of the RR was disingenuous. That's polite talk for "he lied to us". I can't wait to see the Jerry Springer version.

Rising feelings of betrayal - a fundamental rift between the theocratic-minded and the so-called country club set - may last awhile. Country Club Republicans saw him as another George H.W. Bush. Wishful-thinking ideologues saw in him another Ronald Reagan. For awhile all was well in the suburbs and in the churches. Hoping to ride into the White House astride a paint, he called himself a "compassionate conservative", a label that meant whatever one wanted it to mean.

Meanwhile, experts from across the party's spectrum were flown to Austin to debrief Bush. All of them reported back: "He's one of us." Bush had mastered the art of being a political chameleon.
How did it come to this? Why is the fundamentalist set so disillusioned? Flash back to the GOP National Convention of 1992 when Pat Buchanan fired a first volley in what became known as the culture war:
No way, my friends. The American people are not going to buy back into the failed liberalism of the 1960s and '70s--no matter how slick the package in 1992.
Out of Jimmy Carter's days of malaise, Ronald Reagan crafted the longest peacetime recovery in US history--3 million new businesses created, and 20 million new jobs.
Under the Reagan Doctrine, one by one, the communist dominos began to fall. First, Grenada was liberated, by US troops. Then, the Red Army was run out of Afghanistan, by US weapons. In Nicaragua, the Marxist regime was forced to hold free elections--by Ronald Reagan's contra army--and the communists were thrown out of power.
- Patrick J. Buchanan, 1992 Republican National Convention Speech, Houston, Texas, August 17, 1992
The statement that still chafes, however, insinuated itself into the GOP consciousness:
Most of all, Ronald Reagan made us proud to be Americans again. We never felt better about our country; and we never stood taller in the eyes of the world.
- Patrick J. Buchanan, 1992 Republican National Convention Speech, Houston, Texas, August 17, 1992
Ronald Reagan made Americans feel good about themselves when, perhaps, they ought not have. Ronald Reagan made them feel good about themselves as millions of Americans were put out of work. Only a massive tome will do those subjects justice. Until that book is written, read: Ronald Reagan's War on Labor.

Here's what Pat didn't tell you: the liberalism of the 60s and 70s were, by any sane standard, rousing successes. Those policies failed only when measured against the distorted values of what was even then an extremist organization: the GOP. The 60s and 70s were characterized by economic expansion, relative egalitarianism, and the creation of jobs right here in the US.

Those gains would be lost as Reagan's "trickle down" economics precipitated a sixteen month long recession, the worst in American history since Herbert Hoover's Great Depression. The Jimmy Carter regime turned out to have been the last time that any American group outside the upper 20 percent would make economic gains. In the apres Carter world of Reagan Republicanism, everyone else would lose ground and would continue to do so until Bill Clinton's second term. Those are facts. Secondly, Ronald Reagan had nothing whatsoever to do with the fall of the Soviet Union. He had nothing whatsoever to do with the fact that "commies" may or may not have been thrown out of Eastern European regimes. The "Russians" were not frightened by "Star Wars", an idiot's scheme then, an idiot's scheme now.

Most egregious is the undeniable fact that Ronald Reagan blew the century's last chance to survive outside the oppressive, omnipresent threat of nuclear war. It was at Reykjavik that Mikhail Gorbachev put nuclear disarmament on the table. Intimidated by his radical, right wing base, Ronald Reagan blinked. Better, I suppose, to maintain the terror for political ends than to end the threat of Mutually Assured Destruction - MAD.

Moreover, Ronald Reagan's role in the Iran/Contra scandal was criminal, possibly high treason. That Ronald Reagan was not indicted is pure politics. Special prosecutor Lawrence Walsh believed that Reagan was culpable and made his conclusion clear in his published conclusion:
The underlying facts of Iran/contra are that, regardless of criminality, President Reagan, the secretary of state, the secretary of defense, and the director of central intelligence and their necessary assistants committed themselves, however reluctantly, to two programs contrary to congressional policy and contrary to national policy. They skirted the law, some of them broke the law, and almost all of them tried to cover up the President's willful activities.
- Concluding Observations, Final Report of the Independent Counsel for Iran/Contra Matters
Today, the religious right is dissapointed that GWB did not create a theocracy in America. Like the NRA, an organization dedicated to spreading lies about the Second Amendment, the Religious Right simply ignores the First Amendment which, as it guarantees all Americans the right of free speech, denies a "theocratic" foundation for our republic:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
--First Amendment, US Constitution
My how things have changed. These days religious conservatives, otherwise called the "religious right", are reconsidering their committment to GWB. Not worth the downside. It may come as a surprise to some to learn that, however unlikely it may have seemed just a few years ago when he had been reviled by "the right", John McCain has now emerged as the new ideological hero of the religious right.
Our model was Theodore Roosevelt, the original Bull Moose, who did not flinch from taking on the special interests at home while aggressively promoting American interests abroad. The modern champion of conservatives for national greatness is Sen. John McCain.
--Moose on the Loose
Back to Basics, Christian Soldiers

Perhaps signaling yet more discord in the ranks of Christian conservatives disillusioned by the war, a series of Republican scandals and a perception that the GOP had taken Christian support in the midterm elections for granted, the president-elect of the Christian Coalition of America turned down the job last week.
The Rev. Joel C. Hunter, the senior pastor at Northland Church in Longwood, Fla., was supposed to take the baton in January from current president Roberta Combs. But he said the board of directors would not commit to expanding the coalition’s agenda beyond gay marriage bans and anti-abortion platforms to include poverty and environmental issues.
- Tom Zeller Jr.
Meantime, a reminder from the Decider, if you don't stand for something, you don't stand for anything.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bush becomes the world's number one impediment to peace, sparks a new cold war, inspires terrorists to resist

The US Constitution left to the House of Representatives the power to impeach "Presidents" for " high crimes and misdemeanors". There is much at stake -the rule of law in the midst of a perpetual war against the people of Iraq. The US cannot afford not to impeach.

There is no real debate about whether or not Bush is impeachable. The issue is whether or not Congress and the people have the will to remove from the White House the most incompetent, the most ideological, the most criminally inclined "President" in US history.

Bush would be impeachable if he did nothing but preside over Iraq's descent into chaos, a descent of his creation and evil design. But that's not the worst of it. One is inclined to believe that Bush would have thumbed his nose at the ISG whatever its recommendations. Bush seems morbidly obsessed with the exercise of raw power.

There is, therefore, no light at the end of the tunnel. There is no "winding down". There is not even the "limited goal" of mere stability. There is no chance of peace as long as Bush remains in the Oval Office. There is not even a mirage in Bush's desert.

It is typical of Bush that he will leave the mess for a Democratic regime to clean up. Surely, the next president must disengage but must do so without triggering a region-wide catastrophe. History will not be on the side of whatever regime gets the thankless task of cleaning up behind Bush. It may help to try Bush for war crimes. Airing it all out in public might be the douche this country needs if it is ever to regain its lost self-respect.

At this point, a Kafkaesque question demands an answer: how did we get here? George W. Bush committed US troops to a war of aggression in Iraq though none of the reasons for war have turned out to have been true. Of the many ex post facto cover stories none have a basis in fact. It was said that Saddam was involved in the events of 911 though it was Bin Laden, not Saddam, who had been blamed. Saddam's alleged WMD were never found but not before the Bush administration, in the person of Colin Powell, presented to the United Nations a case for war that consisted of deliberate fabrications, hoaxes, bogus evidence, old photos, and an infamously plagiarized student paper. Powell has since apologized but too late to save a life in Iraq.

The war in Iraq is characterized by ever escalating violence and threatens to spread to the surrounding nations as Syria, in particular, bears the brunt of an influx of Iraqi refugees. Other nations threatened by Bush aggression include Iran, Somalia, and the Sudan.

Bush's so-called “surge” is a fraud. Not because it hasn't worked. Indeed, Bush's numerous lies had the desired effect: they led this nation into aggressive war. Against rational and moral standards, of course, the war is an utter failure. Violent deaths have increased, the parliament building itself has been "hit", bomb incidents are more deadly than ever. On this issue, Bush ignores his new General in charge of surge, General David Petraeus. Petraeus, in his first news conference upon returning to Iraq in February, stated the futility of the US mission in Iraq:
Any student of history recognizes there is no military solution to a problem like that in Iraq, to the insurgency in Iraq."

"Military action is necessary to help improve security. . .but it is not sufficient. A political resolution of various differences … of various senses that people do not have a stake in the successes of Iraq and so forth that is crucial. That is what will determine, in the long run, the success of this effort.

- ABC News

I don't like the misleading term "insurgent". It implies an illegitimate, criminal resistance to a legitimate authority. It is, rather, the American occupation of Iraq that is not merely illegitimate, it is criminal. The Iraqi people have a right to resist a foreign invaders with arms, if necessary.
I know that the conquest of English America is an impossibility. You can not, I venture to say it, you can not conquer America. Your armies last war effected every thing that could be effected; and what was it? It cost a numerous army, under the command of a most able general [Lord Amherst], now a noble Lord in this House, a long and laborious campaign, to expel five thousand Frenchmen from French America. My Lords, you can not conquer America.


If I were an American, as I am an Englishman, while a foreign troop was landed in my country I never would lay down my arms,—never! never! never!

- William Pitt, Earl of Chatham. (1708–1778), Speech to Parliament, Nov. 18, 1777.

Who cannot make that analogy? Britain, exhausted by wars of empire, found itself in an American quagmire. Pitt was correct. Washington, of whom it is said that he lost every battle but Trenton, had only not to lose, in order to win. At last, the French surrounded the British at Yorktown. One wonders, where the last American "insurgent" will be when Baghdad is forever lost because of Bush's arrogance and incompetence. We must hold the Bush Administration accountable now for its crimes, or endure the consequences for years.

Unless he is impeached and removed from office, George W. Bush will escalate US military spending and military force. Already US spending outstrips that of all other nations. US spending in Iraq had reached Viet Nam levels as early as March of 2003. At that time, the Bush administration was spending nearly $5 billion per month in Iraq and Afghanistan. By April, 2006, annual war expenditures in Iraq had doubled since the US invasion. Most certainly, the $61 billion a year that the US is blowing up in Iraq will easily outstrip what has been spent waging aggressive war in Viet Nam. [See: Unforeseen Spending on Materiel Pumps Up Iraq War Bill, Washington Post, ]

Count on George W. Bush to make the world a more dangerous place. He may have already sparked a nuclear arms race inside a new cold war. Russian officials believe the new cold war has already begun and date it to Dick Cheney's speech to the 2006 Vilnius Conference in Lithuania. [See: Cheney attacks Russia's human rights record] About two months later, President Vladimir Putin shot back, calling Cheney's criticisms of Russia "an unsuccessful hunting shot".

When Bush threatens Iran, he plays into Ahmandinejad's hands. Ahmandinejad may want to make of Iran a nuclear power. In Bush, he has all the pretext he will ever need. Such a script reads both ways. Qui bono? As Iran seems on course to join the club, Bush need only point to Iran to ensure the US program stays on its belligerant course. Bush will have a pretext to do what he's always wanted to do. He will abrogate US obligations under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, scapegoat Iran, and install a Star Wars nuclear shield in Poland, the Czech Republic and eastern Turkey. All are close to the Russian border. Welcome to a new cold war in Bush's brave new world. Bush doesn't want you to feel safe.

Bush's War on Terror is now Orwell's perpetual war. It doesn't matter that Bush has failed to bring a single bona fide terrorist to justice. If Al Qaeda had not existed before it was demonized by Bush, it most certainly does now. There is nothing to stop Bush's growing legion of Middle Eastern opponents from appropriating the name whenever it suits them.

Bush has all but won his insistence upon using torture and, until he is impeached and removed, he will maintain US torture facilities at Guantanamo Bay. It will not matter that he is violating international conventions and US laws. By his reckoning, he is above those obligations as surely as he placed himself above the rule of law in America. It does not matter to Bush that he has violated US Codes; Section 2441, a capital crime. Bush dares the world to stop him.

Under the misrule of George W. Bush, the people have been forced to tolerate egregious violations of the US Constitution and US Codes. The "treason" case of I. Louis Libby is illustrative of an administration more concerned with not getting caught committing high treason than with upholding the rule of law and due process. Libby, indicted for perjury, was but a part of a larger cover up. Libby would "take the fall" rather than reveal the name of the Bush administration official who, in fact, leaked the name of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame. She had been outed, in an act of treason, by the Bush administration. Given Bush's venal record, Bush himself is suspect. The leak was a venal act of revenge by a criminal, outlaw administration because Plame's husband, US Ambassador Joe Wilson, had dared to expose the truth about just one of Bush's multitudinous and treasonous lies to the American people. This one involved allegations that Saddam Hussein had tried to buy yellow cake in Niger, part of his alleged nuclear enrichment program. In another century this kind of conduct would get you hanged! We live in a permissive age in which prohibitions against torture are called "quaint".

In what has been called Attorneygate, Bush has since "caused and condoned" the removal of 8 US Attorneys from office. At least eight US Attorneys have been wrongfully dismissed for political reasons. It is not known how many of the other 84 US Attorneys retained their offices by illegally submitting to political pressure to protect interests of friends of the Bush Administration corrupting the rule of law.

What is most disturbing about this short essay is the simple fact that were it long, it still would be insufficient to merely enumerate Bush's crimes, let alone detail them. I often thought myself a hard-bitten newsman. I have to tell you: there has been nothing comparable in this nation's history. To borrow Condi Rice's favorite dodge: who could have foreseen that an idiot could have effected an unlikely coup d'tat about which GOP types openly boast. Who could have foreseen that he would boast about how much easier it would be had this been a dictatorship? Who could have foreseen that it would all come true for him, that he would dare the world to stop him, that he would wage war on the world and and win?