Friday, March 31, 2006

Terri Schiavo--a year to think

I can't let March go without commenting on the slow, painful death of Terri Schiavo that played out before us one year ago this month.

Often when I'm giving my dog water or get that last drink of water before bed time (and how wonderful it is to slake that small bit of thirst), I think of Terri Schiavo being deprived of even having her mouth swabbed with a damp cloth. Dying for lack of water--and the whole process being overseen by a bevy of judges and watched by a nation.

Every major handicapped rights organization plead against this. They argued in court against it. To no avail. Handicapped people are not quite real people to those who don't see that the really awful handicap is lack of moral understanding rather than physical or mental disability.

It puts some things in perspective. How could people, good people like Thomas Jefferson and George Washington, not only allow slavery but own slaves? How could people, good people like the Germans, sit back and allow horrible things to happen to fellow citizens in the 1930's and 1940's?

I think we looked at the answer a year ago and turned away.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ya Think?

The Portland Tribune reports that Commissioner Randy Leonard's advice to a fur business asking for police help because it was being harassed by anti-fur demonstrators included closing the business one day a week.

After receiving Benson’s reply, Leonard e-mailed Linda Schumacher back to say he believes she and Gregg are partly to blame for the situation. According to Benson’s e-mail to Leonard, the Schumachers have disregarded police advice to temporarily close their store on Saturday — and have instead argued with the protesters and mocked them with signs posted in their store windows.

“Neither the police bureau nor my office can assist you if you are not willing to accept our advice on a strategy that helps us help you cause the protesters to lose interest in targeting your business,” Leonard wrote.
[emphasis mine]

Ya think if a group of protestors target City Council, we can get them to shut down one day a week? And if they keep it up the Council will close down more and more days until the protesters lose interest. Hmm.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Oregonian on Killing Muslims

The fact is, a farm village full of African Muslims can be destroyed by the Janjaweed militias in the time it takes to read this editorial.
. . .
If America seeks to effect change in the world, as it clearly wishes to in other regions, what higher calling can it hear than the voices of dying Muslims in Darfur?
(America cannot turn away from Darfur, The Oregonian, March 24, 2006)

Will someone please tell The Oregonian that the people killing "African Muslims" in Darfur are African Muslims. The villagers attacked are being killed for political, ethnic, and economic reasons--not because they are Muslims.

Just as The Oregonian seems to misunderstand the underlying causes of the current genocide in Sudan (a previous one involved African Christians and animists), it doesn't understand how to effect a solution.

The White House has drawn a circle around the number of $123 million, considering it a sufficient contribution to peace and stability in Darfur. (The White House has proposed $161 million for peacekeeping in all of Sudan, including the troubled South, far from Darfur.)

This is not enough. The White House has misplaced its priorities.
. . .
The administration has called for the United Nations and for NATO to take a larger role in Darfur, and nobody should argue otherwise. But the United States alone has the immediate means to make a difference in Darfur, saving lives that would almost certainly be lost otherwise.
. . .
It must provide more money for peacekeeping immediately. It would be the logical next step following a House committee's recent passage of the Darfur Peace and Accountability Act, which would enforce an embargo on certain Sudanese trade and visitation, encourage negotiation and support the role of NATO. The Senate has passed a comparable bill.

Words aren't enough for Darfur. The time for action is now.
[emphasis mine]

What action? A bit more money? A mild embargo? Support what role for NATO?

Interestingly enough, Nicholas Kristof gives more credit to President Bush for active concern than "most other world leaders, and more than many Democrats."

The UN has had close to zero impact on this crisis. Same for France, Germany, Russia, China--which are not stretched in other conflicts. They were also non-participants on taking down the guy responsible for murdering tens of thousands of Muslims in Iraq. Some of them even earned big bucks helping Saddam game the Oil-for-food program.

What is needed is actual military intervention. But, the only countries which seem to have any interest in military intervention to stop mass killing of Muslims are those actively participating in the Coalition forces in Iraq.

Where are all the others? On Darfur they are doing the same thing they were doing about mass killings of Muslims in Iraq.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Darfur: Victim of Isolationism

Nicholas Kristof has again written compellingly on the horrors in Darfur in his March 19 column (which, again, was available to Oregonian print readers but not on its web site). The Unknown Candidate reprints the column. Though I agree with the Unknown Candidate on the importance of intervening, I think he doesn't understand that his own rabid anti-Bush position is one of the things making intervention difficult, if not impossible.

But first, to what Kristof says:

Elie Wiesel once said, referring to victims of genocide: "Let us remember: what hurts the victim most is not the cruelty of the oppressor but the silence of the bystander." And it's our own silence that I find inexplicable.

In Darfur, we have even less excuse than in past genocides. We have known about this for more than two years, we have photos and eyewitnesses, our president has even described it as genocide, and yet we're still paralyzed. Part of the problem is that President Bush hasn't made it a top priority, but at least he is now showing signs of stirring — and in fact he's done more than most other world leaders, and more than many Democrats. Our failure in Darfur is utterly bipartisan.
[emphasis mine]

What is important to note here is that Kristof, while portraying the appalling violence and murder going on in Darfur, has had difficulty in calling for other than diplomatic intervention. He has not called for US troops to intervene. The closest he has come to asking for clear military intervention is his suggestion that the US unilaterally "enforce a no-fly zone" for Chad.

One measure we could take would be to enforce a no-fly zone from the air base in Abéché, Chad. The president of Chad says he would be happy to have Americans do this, and it would be easy: instead of keeping airplanes in the air, we would simply wait until a Sudanese plane bombed a village, then strafe that plane on the ground afterward. (The first time, we would just damage the plane; we would destroy any after that.)

Kristof is caught in the wave of isolationism that is dominating US politics. He can barely bring himself to ask for concrete US intervention.

His plan is that we base our planes in Chad. That "would be easy" and the Chadian president is supposedly happy to have this happen. We wait until more people have been killed before acting. and then we merely damage the plane. Only after its second murderous run would we destroy it. No effort would apparently be made to stop it and its pilot from actually killing villagers. It's as though the plane were to be taught a lesson, and only after it refused to learn that lesson would it be destroyed.

What about the militia forces on the ground who murder, pillage and rape? It is not easy to deal with them in the antiseptic appearing plan to only punish equipment. Or what if the Sudanese merely station troops around the plane? Then you would have to kill real people--not just destroy equipment.

Kristof and those practical isolationists who berate President Bush for intervening militarily in Iraq and deposing a dictator responsible for torture, mass murder and purposeful destruction of Kurdish villages have a difficult time making a case for any real intervention in Darfur. We know how successful diplomacy, sanctions and a no-fly zone were to stopping Saddam's atrocities. We also know how hard it was for the UN to act on its resolutions--other than its officials being on the take in the Oil-for-food program. Why should we expect a better result in Darfur?

The closest Kristof can get to suggesting a plan which might slow down the violence and killing in Darfur is to support a "well-equipped U.N. peacekeeping force" and more diplomacy.

Darfur is not hopeless. We need a new peace initiative, focused on the sheiks of the region. We need a well-equipped U.N. peacekeeping force and a no-fly zone. We need a public pledge by France to use its military forces in Chad to stop any invasion from Sudan. And we need Arab leaders to speak up for the Muslim victims of Darfur: where are you, Hosni Mubarak? With those measures, Darfur might again be a place where children play, rather than one in which they are thrown into bonfires.

With the difficulty in getting the U.N. to act on Iraq, and so far to act on Darfur, the chances of an effective U.N. peacekeeping force being formed and activated don't look great.

Besides the prospect of the peacekeeping force and the no-fly zone, there is only talk--the same sort of talk that has done nothing for the last two years. And that has not stopped 50,000+ people from being killed and more than a million refugees.

What is sad here is that Kristof can barely bring himself to call for the use of force to stop the Janjaweed Arab militias (supported by the Sudanese government) from mass killing, looting and raping the non-Arab, black African population in the area. He has a heart to stop the violence, but not a head to figure out how.

That is due to the increasing isolationism of the Left in the U.S. Their continuing uproar has paralyzed the Democratic Party, the press, and is making major inroads on Republicans. When it's difficult to figure out why the U.S. should turn to military action when WMD's and terrorism are possible targets, what are the chances that there would be massive public and political support for any president who committed U.S. forces to merely help victims thousands of miles away--except with "easy", antiseptic solutions?

Kristof points to polls which show that Americans support more intervention. They did on Iraq too. But if there are no "easy" solutions that make political leaders in Sudan and Chad "happy", what will happen then? How likely are the solutions to be easy or make people happy when the problem is based on ethnic and racial divisons? Isn't that the lesson some want us to learn from the possibility of civil war in Iraq? Don't get involved in people's personal disputes. It will only be messy and painful for you.

Europe has learned the same thing. The French have had a small contingent of troops in Chad, since 2004. That hasn't stopped the killings or the invasions. The French have learned lessons driving them to isolationism: major problems (even more than the U.S.) in their military interventions (Viet Nam, Algeria) and their own internal problems, underlined by the recent riots.

Every U.S. intervention that is lost, or that is made difficult by internal protest, makes it that much more difficult to intervene early in any other situation. One of the casualties of the rabid attacks on President Bush over the war in Iraq (Bush lied--People died) is Darfur and its tens of thousands of victims. Why should he, or any future president, subject themselves to that sort of abuse when U.S. security is not a stake?

Even those who are horrified by what is happening, like Nicholas Kristof, are reduced to "baby step" solutions. Cold comfort to the victims Kristof describes who continue to be victimized a second time (as Iraqi victims were for so many years) by the "silence of the bystander" and baby steps like no-fly zones and ineffective diplomacy that merely prolong the agony.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Garrison Keillor: Another Fat Cat Celeb Speaks Out

In a column published March 18th in The Oregonian [Why doesn't The Oregonian have a link like the Chicago Tribune does? But that's an issue for another blog post.], Garrison Keillor joins the band of Fat Cat Celebs who wittily discuss politics. He begins it like he does his monologues on Prairie Home Companion:

Spring arrived in New York last week for previews, a sunny day with chill in the air, but you could smell mud, and with a little imagination you could sort of smell grass. I put on a gray jacket, instead of black, and went to the opera and saw Verdi's "Luisa Miller," a republican opera in which love is crushed by the perfidiousness of government. A helpful lesson for these times. I am referring to the Current Occupant.

What struck me first was his disconnect with most Americans. Most Americans do not have the luxury of putting on a gray jacket, instead of black, and paying, oh, $140 per ticket and casually strolling into The Metropolitan Opera. Even those who like opera.

But, of course, disconnect is not the same as lack of insight. So, let's move on.

Second paragraph:

The Republican Revolution has gone the way of all flesh. It took over Congress and the White House, horns blew, church bells rang, sailors kissed each other and what happened? The Republicans led us into a reckless foreign war and steered the economy toward receivership and wielded power as if there were no rules. . . .

What's interesting is that is a pretty exact summary of criticism of Franklin Roosevelt. He went after Germany when Germany wasn't a real threat to the US--and in 20/20 hindsight Japan wasn't either. Japan didn't want to subjugate the US. It just wanted to control power in Asia--it's sphere of influence.

Balanced budget? Afraid not. How about heavy rationing and turning the economy into a militaristic one?

As to "no rules" wielding of power, not only did FDR intern Japanese Americans (which the Current Occupant has not done), but had every sailor, soldier and airman's mail read and censored, not to mention listening into conversations here and there.

The criticism could also apply to that other "republican opera" president, Abraham Lincoln. Only difference was that Lincoln led the country into a reckless "civil" war instead of a reckless "foreign" war. Economy not so great under Lincoln either. As to wielding "no rules" power, how about suspending the writ of habeas corpus.

Does Keillor know any US history?

And then there are the gratuitous cuts and jabs Keillor makes. Second to the last paragraph:

Harriet Miers was fully qualified one day and gone the next. Social Security was going to be overhauled to give us the Ownership Society, and then the stock market went in the toilet and Republicans got nervous, and suddenly it was Never Mind and on to the next new thing.

Where does one begin?

As to Harriet Miers, this humble blog spoke in her defense a number of times. Funny, I don't remember even a whimper on the issue from Garrison Keillor, let a lone a real defense.

How about Social Security reform or the Ownership Society? Can't remember Keillor beating the drum on those either.

It's interesting (one might say hypocritical) to bash someone for not carrying out a policy or action that you did not support.

As to the stock market going "in the toilet" in 2005, has Keillor ever looked at a chart of historical stock market averages, for , say, 2000 to 2005, let alone a chart of averages that gives a real historical perspective? The Dow average in 2005 was only bested two or three years in the last 70 years. Hardly "in the toilet". Does Keillor do any research before he makes statements?

When you couple Keillor's life disconnect to average Americans with his abysmal ignorance of history and economics, you get the perfect profile of a Fat Cat Celeb who, without doing any research, thinks he has something worthwhile to say just because he's rich and famous.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

The Oregonian Shuffle on the Japanese and Memorials

The Oregonian took on a difficult issue in today's editorial: Gresham blunders in proposing honor for racist mayor.

Unfortunately its editor came out swinging in spite of two major problems.

1. The editorial rails against a small offender while failing to mention the really big offender against Japanese Americans.

2. The editorial condemns former Gresham mayor Herbert Hughes without citing a single fact about his beliefs or actions regarding Japanese Americans--other than that he was part of a group (apparently for less than 6 months) that urged anti-Japanese policies.

Here's how The Oregonian framed the issue:
When 120,000 Japanese Americans were forced to relocate to internment camps during World War II, some lost everything they owned. But then-Mayor Hughes and a dozen other men formed Oregon Anti-Japanese Inc., apparently to ensure they would never get it back. Some in Hughes' group favored expulsion of Japanese Americans, or a constitutional amendment to revoke their citizenship.
Who forced 120,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps? Mayor Hughes? No. It was a leader who is not even mentioned in the editorial: Franklin D. Roosevelt. There's no evidence that Mayor Hughes caused real damage to Japanese Americans. There's a ton of evidence that President Roosevelt did. In fact it was Roosevelt's policy that caused "some" Japanese Americans to lose "everything they owned" (to use The Oregonian's phrasing).
The editorial goes on to say:
In 1993, President Clinton apologized to Japanese Americans for their internment. The nation's actions, he wrote, were rooted in "racial prejudice, wartime hysteria and a lack of political leadership." While Hughes accomplished some good things, he failed a key test of his time and led his community in the wrong direction.
[emphasis mine]
One could say about a lot of people who have memorials erected to them (including FDR) that while accomplishing "some good things", each failed "a key test of his time" and led "his community in the wrong direction".

The Oregonian suggests a fix for how to memorialize someone's good points and yet acknowledge their darker side:
Maybe Gresham should research Hughes' career, unblinkingly, and create an unorthodox memorial, with the full participation of the Japanese American community. While acknowledging Hughes' dark side, it could also pay tribute to those courageous Oregonians who argued on the right side of history.
How easy to call for a memorial acknowledging "Hughes' dark side" when the editor undoubtedly is walking around with a memorial to FDR in his pocket or her purse which indicates nothing about FDR's "dark side". Isn't it rather unfortunate to start on someone who did very little, if any, harm? There are bigger fish to fry that would illuminate the wrong done to Japanese Americans better.

That leads to the second problem with the editorial. There is no clear information about Hughes' actions and beliefs. Here are the concrete "facts" The Oregonian editorial presents:
- "He was also, apparently, a bigot".
- "Still, the virulence of Hughes' hatred towards Japanese Americans stands out even by the standards of his own time. As The Oregonian's Robin Franzen and Eric Mortenson reported Sunday, Hughes helped ignite a hate-mongering campaign that flared briefly in late 1944, aimed at stripping Japanese Americans of everything they had left, which in many cases wasn't much."
- "But then-Mayor Hughes and a dozen other men formed Oregon Anti-Japanese Inc., apparently to ensure they would never get it back."
- "Some in Hughes' group favored expulsion of Japanese Americans, or a constitutional amendment to revoke their citizenship."
- "Did Hughes come to regret his involvement in this group? Some believe he did, but no one has substantiated that claim."
[emphasis mine]
As its basis, the editorial cites an article published in the March 12th edition: Gresham confronts pride and prejudice in recalling its past. But, that article presents no hard facts about Hughes' beliefs or actions. In fact, it clearly says there is no evidence even on Hughes' beliefs about Japanese-Americans, let alone his actions. The March 12th article explains:
The depth of Hughes' involvement at the time is unclear. He does not appear to have been quoted about his feelings about Japanese Americans, leading some to conclude he might have quietly dropped out of the group after deciding it was wrong.
Why does the The Oregonian feel a need to condemn Mayor Hughes before digging up hard evidence on what he did and did not do and believed and did not believe regarding Japanese-Americans? If membership (especially six months or less) in an organization is enough to condemn, Joe McCarthy would be a hero today.

How to present and memorialize leaders who did much good but made grave mistakes in moral and ethical judgment is a tough issue. Instead of presenting clear steps on how to confront this, The Oregonian has elected to do a mere shuffle. It has not advanced thinking on the issue because it took the easy route of ignoring the egregious example (FDR) and focusing on a local leader who is easy to beat up (without solid evidence) because hardly anyone has heard of him, remembers him, and will stick up for him.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

If they can't fight Rumsfeld, no wonder they're having trouble with insurgents

On Sunday's Meet the Press, retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Bernard Trainor maintained that the military was thinking in terms of 385,000 people needed for the "post-victory phase" in Iraq. But, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld "pooh-poohed" those estimates, and our military leaders caved in.

When Tim Russert pressed Gen. Trainor on why military leaders didn't do more to win Rumsfeld over to their position, Trainor's response, if true, is an amazing indictment of the US military (and Marine) leadership.

GEN. TRAINOR: Secretary Rumsfeld is a tough hombre to deal with, and he has a management technique that wears you down. Constantly asks questions and diverts you from the position that you’re trying to establish by attacking you from a different direction. Just wears you down. Having said that, I’d say that the U.S. military did not shine in, in pushing back against Rumsfeld more effectively. They, in effect, gave up and did everything that he pretty, pretty much wanted to do.
[emphasis mine]

Now, here's a tough Marine commander who understands how difficult it is to deal with being verbally attacked from different directions. Not only that, he accepts how a general (or generals) would naturally get worn down from that!

Imagine this coming out of the mouth of Terry Allen, Tony McAuliffe, George Patton, Dwight Eisenhower, Douglas MacArthur. Imagine this coming out of the mouths of the brave men and women on the fighting field in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Hey, it's just too tough when you have verbal attacks coming from different directions."

Sorry, I can't imagine it.

Either current U.S. military leaders are the biggest bunch of wimps in our history or there's a part of the tale that Gen. Trainor is not telling--or doesn't understand.

Given the brilliant military leadership and courage that went into the successes of taking down Saddam and the Taliban in short order, I tend towards thinking that Gen. Trainor is not the person to look to for military analysis.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

American Troops Cheered in Iraq: Good News is No News for the MSM

The New York Post has an enlightening opinion piece that is also a report from the front line in Iraq. Things are going very well, thank you. Not only no civil war, but American soldiers are being cheered and told they are welcome. (Congressman Murtha, call your office!)

The first part of Ralph Peters' piece reads:


March 5, 2006 -- BAGHDAD

I'M trying. I've been trying all week. The other day, I drove another 30 miles or so on the streets and alleys of Baghdad. I'm looking for the civil war that The New York Times declared. And I just can't find it.

Maybe actually being on the ground in Iraq prevents me from seeing it. Perhaps the view's clearer from Manhattan. It could be that my background as an intelligence officer didn't give me the right skills.

And riding around with the U.S. Army, looking at things first-hand, is certainly a technique to which The New York Times wouldn't stoop in such an hour of crisis.

Let me tell you what I saw anyway. Rolling with the "instant Infantry" gunners of the 1st Platoon of Bravo Battery, 4-320 Field Artillery, I saw children and teenagers in a Shia slum jumping up and down and cheering our troops as they drove by. Cheering our troops.

All day - and it was a long day - we drove through Shia and Sunni neighborhoods. Everywhere, the reception was warm. No violence. None.

And no hostility toward our troops. Iraqis went out of their way to tell us we were welcome.

Instead of a civil war, something very different happened because of the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra. The fanatic attempt to stir up Sunni-vs.-Shia strife, and the subsequent spate of violent attacks, caused popular support for the U.S. presence to spike upward.

We were supposed to be facing imminent defeat. Hmm. Guess not.

Funny how good news has such a hard time making it through the MainStream Media. Another reason their integrity rating in the polls is so low.

Hat Tip: The City Troll

Friday, March 03, 2006

A Little Context Goes a Long Way: Rumsfeld on Buckley

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was interviewed by Jerry Agar yesterday. One of Agar's questions regarded Bill Buckley's recent assertion that the cause in Iraq is lost.

Rumsfeld said that it is important to put Iraqi violence in context. He noted that Saddam killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis while he was ruling Iraq. Violence and mass murder are not a new thing to Iraqis. The current violence, though horrible, is small potatoes compared to what Iraqis have been through. In fact, that's one of the reasons they have been able to show such courage in the face of violence that is daunting to us.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: . . . what we're seeing there now is a conscious effort by the terrorists and the insurgents to incite a civil war and sectarian strife. Those same people tried to stop the election last January 15th and they failed. They tried to stop the drafting of a constitution and they failed. They tried to stop the referendum on the constitution last October 15th and they failed. They tried to stop the election December 15th and they failed. Twelve million Iraqis went out and voted notwithstanding the violence, notwithstanding the threats and the intimidation. Now they're trying to stop the formation of a new government. I think they're going to fail again.

To date terrorists and insurgents have had a string of major defeats in their use of violence and threats to derail free government in Iraq. As Secretary Rumsfeld points out:

- they failed to stop the election January 15, 2005
- they failed to stop drafting a constitution
- they failed to stop the referendum on the constitution October 15, 2005
- they failed to stop the election on December 15, 2005

It's a good reminder that the Iraqis have already shown in spades the sort courage and resilience that is at the heart of establishing and sustaining democracy.