Saturday, November 19, 2005

Contemptible Legislation

In an effort to ensnare Democrats in the House, the Republicans chose late Friday to introduce legislation purportedly following the wishes of Representative John Murtha of Pennsylvania (12th district - Dem.).

Here is the speech that Rep. Murtha delivered on November 17th and a brief excerpt:
I believe before the Iraqi elections, scheduled for mid December, the Iraqi people and the emerging government must be put on notice that the United States will immediately redeploy. All of Iraq must know that Iraq is free. Free from United States occupation. I believe this will send a signal to the Sunnis to join the political process for the good of a “free” Iraq.

My plan calls:

To immediately redeploy U.S. troops consistent with the safety of U.S. forces.
To create a quick reaction force in the region.
To create an over- the- horizon presence of Marines.
To diplomatically pursue security and stability in Iraq

This war needs to be personalized. As I said before I have visited with the severely wounded of this war. They are suffering.

Because we in Congress are charged with sending our sons and daughters into battle, it is our responsibility, our OBLIGATION to speak out for them. That’s why I am speaking out.

Our military has done everything that has been asked of them, the U.S. can not accomplish anything further in Iraq militarily. IT IS TIME TO BRING THEM HOME.

Now is as good a time as any to block such dissent. With this possible goal in mind, the House had Rep. Duncan Hunter of California introduce this resolution:
' Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately.

1 Resolved, That it is the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq be terminated immediately. '

This to be quickly followed by calls of "Look at the Democrats, they are surrendering/cutting and running/acting like cowards," and the like.

Maybe there should have been a follow-up resolution by the Democrats that followed the same petty, political maneuvering. Something akin to:

' Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the deployment of United States forces in Iraq is going just fine.

1 Resolved, That those soldiers and marines who have died to date is not enough, and whose honor dictates that more lives be lost on their behalf, the United States shall continue operations in Iraq until a number not exceeding 10,000 is reached.

2 Resolved, At said number, the honor shall be sufficient for full withdrawal and victory so declared. '

Such is the environment that this Administration has birthed.

More Americans will turn against this war and the brains that created it in the coming months.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

What It Means To Form A Government

Over the past several months this web log has focused on current events and in particular, the war in Iraq and its harrowing consequences to the American public. The original intent though was to add a bit more perspective within the political sphere through a historical lens.

A day late and a dollar short, but here goes the first back-to-basics post. Personally, I have been reading several political philosophy books in order to learn a bit more on the subject, and to add depth to my own reactions and understandings in current events.

Almost finished is the book, Political Thought: From Plato to the Present, by M. Judd Harmon (1964). In it the author traces some of the more important philosophical figures within the political realm. Many of the names are quite familiar, but it has been quite some time since a connection between their political philosophies and the times in which they were developed crossed before my eyes. I will try to pick up similar books in the future that offer different perspectives yet the read has been quite a good one so far.

What has struck me so far is the progress made in the 16th through 18th centuries for the advancement of democracy. While no one form of government arrived out of whole cloth from the mind of any single person, you can see a shift occur as one era passes to the next. With the connection of organized religion to nation states and the requisite power-sharing, to the eventual independent and powerful monarchical systems of Europe, and the current climate of sovereign peoples electing a representative form of government, the transition is astounding.

It reminds me that questioning the status quo is precisely the trait that has continually served mankind for the better. Where would civilization be without that need to know right from wrong, what is good and what is not; it makes the species evolve politically speaking.

Secondary to this is the extreme difficulty of getting to the point of self-rule. It has never been that a people have cleverly united and divided lands into states, and agreed on which style of confederation they liked best. It is the slowness of the process that allows the individuals to coalesce into a whole, to choose the next best path forward, and stand by the agreement. It can be no small task to match customs, cultures, and belief systems to achieve harmony, let alone prosperity and unity.

It reinforces my own personal belief that a people must want the form of government they have. Whether that be a dictatorship, a monarch, or a republic. No one form is guaranteed to work for all societies and each has its own form of penalties and risks.

And finally, a passing thought tied to a contemporary issue. Within the United States there is an ongoing controversy regarding the display of religious artifacts, most notably the Ten Commandments. When a father leans over to a child and tells the little son or daughter that the commandments are the basis for our own government, they should be immediately pointed to a library and given Book XI of Montesquieu's "The Spirit of the Laws". They may be surprised to find many more similarities between Motesquieu's writings and our own Constitution than exist in commandments about idols and neighbors.

More to come.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Honoring The Fallen By Attacking The Critics

Veteran's Day comes and the President chooses to fight back at those who would suggest the reasons for a preventative war were in error. Using the celebration and remembrance of those that have fought in wars from this nation's founding until the present as a calling to recommit to this conflagration in Iraq might be acceptable, but this is not where his speech stopped. It was an event to fire back. A place to stand up and say before the public that the attack was justified, if only for a couple of inconclusive intelligence reports this whole affair is justified.

President Bush's speech seems to be a way of saying to Democrats in Congress and across the country that he will not be raked over the coals any longer.

He will actually fight back.

Regrettably for him though, his speech writers have not located anything new that will aid him in his effort to quash the rebellion to his policy.

Some Democrats and anti-war critics are now claiming we manipulated the intelligence and misled the American people about why we went to war.

These critics are fully aware that a bipartisan Senate investigation found no evidence of political pressure to change the intelligence community's judgments related to Iraq's weapons programs.

They also know that intelligence agencies from around the world agreed with our assessment of Saddam Hussein.

They know the United Nations passed more than a dozen resolutions, citing his development and possession of weapons of mass destruction.

Oh where, oh where to begin.

There are many sources which point to an Adminstration that was truly "after" the government of Iraq and its dictator, but a good amalgam was presented by Juan Cole. In addition, Karen Kwiatkowski offered up her version of events quite some time ago in regards to the Office of Special Planning.

Beyond the points of dispute, what can be seen is a stark example of where the priorities are in regards to the use and safety of the United States military. On a day honoring the past dead (where in Iraq the average daily mortality rate hovers around 2.3), President Bush chose to return the volley back at Democrats who have protested practically everything about this current quagmire. Idealogically, citizens are to presume that being against the war must somehow be against the men and women who fight and die each day over there. To launch a preventative war is alright, to worry about the standing of our forces and reputation around the world is cowardly.

One should worry about the republic if half of the population finds this an appealing argument. Those days of 50% or higher job approval ratings must seem fleeting though as the President's standing in the public's eye shows no signs of abatement. The public no longer marches right along behind the rhetoric (however fallacious it was from the start) of the "war on terror," and most of the credit for this shift in opinion stems from the opposition bringing the issues to the fore.

Was the intelligence that propped up the logic for the need of immediate war influenced in any way by the intelligence and defense bureacracies? Was Congress fed information that would promote war, and starved for information which would have cast doubt for the cause?

It will be quite interesting to review the results of the Senate committee tasked with reviewing the impetus for intelligence mistakes. One should not hold their breath for anything earth-shattering, but rather be watchful for what information is being reviewed and how much the White House will release regarding sensitive materials.

Beyond the intelligence manipulation, it might behoove Congress to review the logic behind the Adminsitration's stance with regards to torture. The argument, "the U.S. does not use torture, so therefore we don't do anything illegal," comes out as flimsy as a rationale for heading to war in the Middle East. This should continue to be investigated and those accountable for instituting this policy punished.

America's servicemen and servicewomen deserve that much respect.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Not A Landslide, But...

Two governor's races that were apparently close with a week remaining have apparently gone to the Democratic contenders. Both states were held by Democratic Governors already, so it is not as though the citizens of each state had had enough of, or tied their votes directly to a general dissatisfaction with the President and national Republicans.

Apparently the New Jersey race was more notable for the rot that appeared under the guise of political advertising in the state.

All in all, it doesn't appear quite like a landslide for the President. However, judging how they handle problems, a puddle and some mud can give this administration its what-for in short order.

In other election news the Azerbaijanis held their national elections over the weekend. While it is not front-page news, it is still fascinating to understand how other people and cultures use politics and democracy. An extra bit of background on the country:

It is in a rough neighbourhood: to the north are the anarchic Russian regions of Dagestan and Chechnya; to the south, Iran. Azerbaijan fought a war with neighbouring Armenia in the 1990s, in which it lost the Nagorno-Karabakh region, and the two sides may yet fight another. Above all, it has oil and gas: new pipelines will soon carry both from the Caspian to the Mediterranean.