Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Addicted to Mediocrity

As I was flipping radio channels on my way to work I paused on one of the "dude" oriented morning talk shows. You know the ones, the mildly offensive, proud to be a moron, we're just everyday men kind of shows. It seems like they are everywhere. Now, these guys are not ideologues, we're not talking Fox News talking points here --but nonetheless, something about the Fox agenda became very clear to me this morning. I always wondered about the logic behind Fox's embrace of right wing ideologies on one hand and their simultaneous embrace of trashy, anti-social, dumbed down television on the other. These morning idiots may have given me the answer.

Shortly after ridiculing an African American caller for, unbeknownst to them, being stupid enough to correctly answer one of their spontaneous trivia questions (Dude, my wife just had a C-section, it was gnarly! What does the 'C' stand for anyway? ... Caesar? No way, dude. Like Julius Caesar? Dude, I think the brother is stretching his vocabulary a bit! ) our everyday idiots moved on to more serious fare. Somewhere between the football analysis and the discussion on the relative merits of snorting coke off a stripper's tits they wandered into a discussion of whether or not the Israelis kicked major ass in Lebanon. Their thoughtful roundtable discussion was broken up when one of the dudes protested something like this: Okay, STOP! this has nothing to do with OUR LIVES! This is not news! Whether they kill each other or not is irrelevant! Let's talk about what's going to affect MY LIFE! Give me the weather. If it rains, I miss my tee time so I want to know if it's gonna rain. THAT'S NEWS! All that other crap is a waste of our time! NEXT TOPIC!

With that inspired outburst from Idiot #3 I realized that the dumbing down of America is the Fox agenda. Like P2 before them they understand that uninspired, uninformed, uninterested, jaded and sarcastic Americans won't get involved. They don't ask questions, they don't debate and as long as it doesn't affect their tee time, they don't care. How these dudes could not count terrorism, or the deaths of over 3,000 men and women on 9-11 as affecting their lives is incredible to me. Yet we have more proof everyday that 1) the numbing of the American spirit is epidemic, and 2) the wolves are quick to the sheep.

5 years after 9-11, and three years after the invasion of Iraq 50 percent of Americans polled believe that Saddam Hussein ordered the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Obviously this is no accident, this Administration and it's enablers care not if their sloppy logic leads people to connect the dots to a pattern that does not exist. This is an Administration that has asked nothing of it's citizenry but silence and compliance in return for security and the freedom to not give a shit. It's a social contract and it seems this is a citizenry that is eager to accept whatever is offered. In a recent article retired Marine Col. Thomas X. Hammes (who served in Iraq in 2004) said it better than I. "Hammes said removing the regime of former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein 'introduced major instability not just in Iraq, but in the greater Middle East.' And while the Bush administration has repeatedly said the war in Iraq is critical to U.S. security, 'it has asked nothing of the majority of U.S. citizens...while asking major sacrifices, to include the ultimate sacrifice, from those Americans who are serving in Iraq, we are not even asking our fellow citizens to pay for the war ... Instead we are charging it to our children and grandchildren.' "

We now have outraged generals, outraged widows, outraged intelligence officers, diplomats, allies, civil libertarians, human rights organizations, ex-POWs, relief workers and peace activists.

As for our everyday idiots?

Call me when it affects my tee time.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

My Life as a Believer ...betrayed

This is an exercise in betrayal. I am not a believer. I do not believe a word that comes from this administration nor do I believe that government in this day and age works for the better good of the people it is supposed to represent. However in order to communicate ideas and values that will resonate beyond my own doorstep I try to find and and amplify the values that believers and non believers can share.

I believe the honest people who support the war on terror are the ones most betrayed by this Administration.

I believe the men and women of the military have been betrayed in their efforts to defend our country.

I write this piece from the point of view of a believer but the ending is the same.

I watched the towers fall. I saw the fighters circling the skies and my pounding heart told me that we were at war. I held hands with my neighbor and for the first time in my life I raised a flag above my house. I watched the British Parliament sing OUR national anthem as one nation after another simply put aside whatever differences they may have had with America or American policy to mourn for our country and our countrymen.

I joined the military to fight terrorism. To defend my county from another 9-11 and to avenge the slaughter of so many good and innocent people. I believed that Al Quaeda and their state sponsors, the Taliban, had to go and I believed that I fought with the support of my president, my countrymen and most of the free world. So I went to Afghanistan.

Within weeks the Taliban was on the run, Kabul fell first and then Kandahar. Within months The Taliban's unquestioned grip over the Afghani people was released and Al Quaeda camps were disbanded, abandoned or destroyed. For the first time in a decade it was Al Quaeda on the run, looking to the skies in terror. As the Taliban and Al Quaeda beat a quick path to the mountains I watched as normal Afghanis came slowly out of their shells, terrified and suspicious, but hopeful. I imagined with great pride the true "shock and awe" they would soon experience as armies of civil engineers, aid workers and business leaders flooded into their country to stabilize their economy, rebuild their cities, villages and infrastructure and reshape their lives. After all, I believe this was the promise of America, to secure the peace after the war --- to create a new Marshall Plan that would offer a true alternative to the desperation that feeds terrorism. And our commanders and the President made me a believer, repeatedly assured the world that indeed this would be so -- they would never again abandon Afghanistan to the wolves and warlords after a fleeting military victory.

But it never happened.

9 months after the fall of the Kabal, with Bin Laden still at large and the Taliban regrouping in the mountains, American military, civil and political resources were already leaving Afghanistan in droves. I later learned that while the headlines at home were loudly trumpeting our victories these resources were quietly being refocused and redistributed in preparation for an invasion of Iraq that was still more than a year away.

With a skeletal American presence in Afghanistan the new Afghani government has fallen prey to extreme corruption and the whims of local warlords. On the local level fear is now split equally between the new local governors (who are often the old local warlords) and the Taliban as citizens are victimized by corrupt local officials at one turn and resurgent factions of Taliban militias on the other. With no real security the mass amounts of international aid money has gone largely unspent as international workers are unable or unwilling to venture into the countryside to administer the funds. Meanwhile there is an open border with Pakistan where the Taliban is not only openly tolerated but openly supported and sheltered by the Pakistani government, our nominal Allies. Tales of difficult border crossings over treacherous mountain ranges are simply overstated as Taliban fighters are waived through traditional armed border crossings at will.

What is clear to many of us now is that while we believed we fought and died to rid the world of the terrorists who murdered our countrymen on 9-11, this Administration never believed this conflict was anything more than a detour on the road to Bagdad. In the days following 9-11 Administration officials are quoted referring to Afghanistan as an unimpressive and thus unworthy military target. In order to send the preferred message to the world they would need to make an example of a REAL government and not just rearrange a pile a rocks in the middle of the desert. Iraq was a perfect candidate; it's leader was hostile, cruel and a thorn in the side of the United States and the UN. Never mind that Hussein presided over a secular state with no tolerance whatsoever for Islamic Jihadists or terrorists of any kind. Meanwhile here we are. We continue to fight and die in Afghanistan with no plan to secure the victory or the peace -- a beard for some geopolitical nonsense that is clearly not working out on either end. The only thing I can believe now is that we believers have been betrayed.

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