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A BRITISH HISTORY LESSON FOR AMERICA

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on July 22, 2015 at 10:13 am

The siege and fall of the Sudanese city of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

And in it lies an invaluable lesson for American policy-makers today.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamists intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

Gordon’s story may seen antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

It’s a conflict Americans know nothing about–and where they have absolutely nothing to gain.

It’s not only a Syrian civil war but an inner-religious war between Shiite (minority) Muslims and Sunni (majority) Muslims.

The Assad regime is backed by the Iranian-supported terrorist group, Hezbollah (Party of God).  Its enemies include another terrorist group–Al Qaeda.

Hezbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics. A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hezbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion. It considers Shiite Muslims to be “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Al Qaeda has attacked the mosques and gatherings of liberal Muslims, Shias, Sufis and other non-Sunnis.  Examples of these sectarian attacks include the Sadr City bombings, the 2004 Ashoura massacre and the April, 2007 Baghdad bombings.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, divided government and trillions of dollars in debt.

While Islamic nations like Syria and Egypt wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources to launch attacks against the United States.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing themselves off.   Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

NEVER FIRED, ONLY DROPPED ONCE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 26, 2015 at 12:11 am

The relationship between the United States and Iraq has become dangerously similar to the one that existed between America and South Vietnam from 1955 to 1973.

From 1955 to 1963, the United States backed Ngo Dinh Diem as the “president” of South Vietnam.  During those eight years:

  • Diem was a Catholic mandarin who was alienated from an overwhelmingly poor, 95% Buddhist country.
  • The Shiite-dominated government of Iraq refuses to grant political concessions to alienated Sunnis.
  • Diem’s authority didn’t extend far beyond Saigon.
  • The Iraqi government controls little outside of Baghdad.
  • Diem didn’t believe in democracy–despite American claims to support his efforts to bring it to Vietnam.
  • Neither does the government in Baghdad.

Ngo Dinh Diem

  • Diem was widely regarded in Vietnam as an illegitimate leader, imposed by the Americans.
  • Ditto for the leaders of the Iraqi government.
  • American soldiers were sent to Vietnam because America feared Communism.
  • American soldiers have were sent to Iraq because America fears Islamic terrorism.
  • American troops were ordered to train the South Vietnamese army to defend themselves against Communism.
  • American troops were ordered to train the Iraqi army to defend themselves against terrorism.
  • Americans quickly determined that the South Vietnamese army was worthless–and decided to fight the Vietcong in its place.
  • Americans–such as Secretary of Defense Ash Carter–have determined that the Iraqi army is worthless. Yet many Americans on the Right believe the United States should commit American ground troops to fight ISIS in its  place.

American soldiers in Vietnam 

  • The Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army (NVA) fought to unify their country–and posed no threat to the United States.
  • ISIS is warring on Shiite Muslims–and poses no direct threat to the United States.
  • The far Right embraced the Vietnam war to assert American power in Asia.
  • The far Right embraces the Iraqi war to assert American power in the Middle East.
  • Americans entered Vietnam without an exit strategy.
  • Americans entered Iraq without an exit strategy.

American soldiers in Iraq

The United States’ relationship with Diem ended on November 1, 1963.  A coup led by generals of the South Vietnamese army ousted–and murdered–Diem.

But America continued to support successive and incompetent South Vietnamese dictatorships up to the end of the war in 1973.

Americans have been at war with Islamic expansionists since 2001.  But Republicans and their Rightist supporters want more of the same.

Rick Perry, former governor of Texas, has stated: “We face a global struggle against radical Islamic terrorists, and we are in the early stages of this struggle.”

And New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has declared: “No wonder we’re not intimidating our adversaries and they’re running around wild in the world, because they know we’re not investing in our defense anymore.”

As political commentator Mark Shields said on the May 22 edition of The PBS Newshour:

“Rick Perry has said–wants boots on the ground. Other Republicans have said they want boots on the ground, but they don’t necessarily have to be American boots. They should be Arab boots.

“Now, there are 60 nations in this coalition. I haven’t seen people lining up to join this fight. I mean, in a proxy war, you are dependent upon your proxies. And the Iraqis turn out to be not particularly engaged, divided, not unified, not committed the same way….

“[Republicans are saying] Get tough, get tough, swagger; 10,000 troops….

“George Pataki said, put in as many as you need, and kill everybody you can and get out. Now, getting out, I think, was the question and it remains the dilemma to this moment.”

* * * * *

Almost 50 years ago, American “grunts” felt about their South Vietnamese “allies” as American troops now feel about their Iraqi “allies.”

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed it up as follows:

American surgical team in Vietnam

“The highest [priority for medical treatment] was any U.S. person.

“The second highest was a U.S. dog from the canine corps.

“The third was NVA [North Vietnamese Army].

“The fourth was VC [Viet Cong].

“And the fifth was ARVIN [Army of the Republic of South Vietnam], because they had no particular value,” said Greenbaum.

When you despise the “ally” you’re spending lives and treasure to defend, it’s time to pack up.

President Obama should recognize this–and start shipping those troops home.  And he should explain to Americans that a war among Islamics is actually in America’s best interests:

  • While Islamic nations like Syria and Iraq wage war within their own borders, they will lack the resources–and incentive–to attack the United States.
  • Every dead Hezbollah, ISIS and Al-Qaeda member makes the United States that much safer.
  • The peoples of the Middle East have long memories for those who commit brutalities against them.  In their veins, the cult of the blood feud runs deep.
  • This conflict could easily become the Islamic equivalent of “the Hundred Years’ War” that raged from 1337 to 1453 between England and France.

When Adolf Hitler invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, then-Senator Harry Truman said: “I hope the Russians kill lots of Nazis and vice versa.”

That should be America’s view whenever its sworn enemies start killing off each other.  Americans should welcome such self-slaughters, not become entrapped in them.

NEVER FIRED, ONLY DROPPED ONCE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics on May 25, 2015 at 12:54 am

From 1965 until 1973, the United States lent its full military power to aiding the dictatorship of South Vietnam against the dictatorship of North Vietnam.

Despite this, veterans of combat with the North Vietnamese Army showed far more respect for their hard-core enemies than their supposedly staunch South Vietnamese allies.

Consider the following examples, taken from the screenplay of Stanley Kubrick’s classic 1987 film, Full Metal Jacket.

The movie is largely based on Dispatches, the Vietnam memoirs of Michael Herr, a war correspondent for Esquire magazine (1967-1969).

Example 1:

A group of Marines are resting on the plaza of a pagoda.  One of them calls to a photographer for the Marine newspaper, The Sea Tiger: “Hey photographer! You want to take a good picture? Here, man, take this. This is my bro….”

He lifts a hat, which is covering the face of a dead man–and reveals the face, not of an American, but of a North Vietnamese soldier.

“This is my bro…” 

“This is his party. He’s the guest of honor. Today is his birthday.  I will never forget this day. The day I came to Hue City and fought one million N.V.A. [North Vietnamese Army] gooks.

“I love the little Commie bastards, man, I really do. These enemy grunts are as hard as slant-eyed drill instructors. These people we wasted here today are the finest human beings we will ever know.

“After we rotate back to the world [the United States] we’re gonna miss not having anyone around that’s worth shooting.”

Example 2:

A reporter for a TV news crew is interviewing Marines during a lull in the fighting for the city of Hue.

EIGHTBALL: “Personally, I think they don’t really want to be involved in this war. I mean, they sort of took away our freedom and gave it to the gookers, you know. But they don’t want it. They’d rather be alive than free, I guess. Poor dumb bastards.”

COWBOY: “Well, the ones I’m fighting at are some pretty bad boys. I’m not real keen on some of these fellows that are supposed to be on our side. I keep meeting ’em coming the other way.”

DONLON: “I mean, we’re getting killed for these people and they don’t even appreciate it. They think it’s a big joke.”

ANIMAL MOTHER: “Well, if you ask me, uh, we’re shooting the wrong gooks.”

Example 3:

Haggling with a South Vietnamese pimp over the cost of a prostitute’s wares, a Marine recites a joke popular among American forces: “Be glad to trade you some ARVN rifles. Never been fired and only dropped once” [by retreating South Vietnamese forces].

* * * * *

Now, fast-forward from Vietnam in 1968 to Iraq in 2015.

Once again, the United States seems poised to embrace another worthless “ally.”

On May 25, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter bluntly accused the army of Iraq of lacking the will to stand up to its enemies in the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

Secretary of Defense Ash Carter

On May 17, the Iraqi city of Ramadi fell to ISIS after the Iraqi army deserted the citizens counting on its protection.

Appearing on CNN’s Sunday news show, State of the Union, Carter said:

“What apparently happened is that the Iraqi forces showed no will to fight.  They were not outnumbered.  In fact, they vastly outnumbered the opposing force.

“That says to me, and I think to most of us, that we have an issue with the will of the Iraqis to fight [ISIS] and defend themselves.”

On the May 22, edition of the PBS Newshour, political commentator Mark Shields–a former Marine–sized up the situation:

“And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said they were not driven, the Iraqi army was not driven out of Ramadi. They drove out of Ramadi.

“They aren’t a paper tiger. They’re a paper tabby cat….

“But I will say that there are 250,000 Iraqi troops.  There are, by CIA estimates, up to 31,000 ISIS troops.

“And you have full flight.  I mean, they won’t be engaged. They haven’t been engaged.”

In 2010, President Barack Obama announced the withdrawal of American combat troops from Iraq.

Since then, Obama’s strategy for turning Iraq into a bulwark against islamic extemism has rested on two goals:

  1. Rebuilding and retraining the Iraqi army; and
  2. Prodding the Shiite-dominated government in Baghdad to reconcile with the nation’s Sunnis.

The second goal is especially important. The Sunnis, a religious minority in Iraq, ruled the country for centuries until the United States drove Saddam Hussein from power in 2003.

Now the Shiites are in control of Iraq, and they have been unwilling to grant political concessions to the alienated Sunnis. Baghdad has continued to work closely with Shiite militias backed by Iran.

In turn, the Sunnis have become a source of manpower and money for ISIS.

America’s relationship with Iraq has become eerily similar to the one it had with South Vietnam from 1955 to 1973.

And that relationship led the United States into the most divisive war in its history since the Civil War (1861-1865).

PC COMES TO “GENOCIDE”: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 28, 2015 at 12:04 am

Everybody, it seems, hates genocide.  But not everybody owns up to it.

FBI Director James Comey recently found this out firsthand.

On April 16, he published an Opinion piece in the Washington Post: “Why I Require FBI Agents to Visit the Holocaust Museum.”

It was the following paragraphs that touched off an international uproar:

“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil.

“They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.”

On April 19–three days after the editorial appeared–Poland’s Foreign Ministry urgently summoned Stephen Mull, the U.S. Ambassador to Warsaw, to “protest and demand an apology.”

The reason: The FBI director had dared to say that Poles were accomplices in the Holocaust!

Poland’s ambassador to the United States said in a statement the remarks were “unacceptable.”

And he added that he had sent a letter to Comey “protesting the falsification of history, especially…accusing Poles of perpetuating crimes which not only they did not commit, but which they themselves were victims of.”

But at least one Polish citizen was not offended by Comey’s editorial.

Jan Grabowski  50, is a graduate of Warsaw University and is currently a history professor at University of Ottawa.  He is also the son of a Holocaust survivor.

Jan Grabowski

He has suffered death threats, is boycotted in the Canadian Polish community where he lives today, and is not always welcome even in his homeland.

But he will not be intimidated from speaking and writing the truth about those in Poland who enthusiastically collaborated with Nazis to slaughter Jews during World War II.

Over the years, he has published several books on this subject.  And his latest one is certain to outrage many of his countrymen.

His new book, Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland, was published in October, 2014.

“I tried to understand how only very few of those Jews who decided to hide were able to stay alive until 1945,” said Grabowski in an interview with The Times of Israel.

“The purpose of my research was to discover the condition of the Jews who managed to avoid being sent to death camps and chose to live in hiding. My research brought me to the level of individual cases of people who chose to hide.

It took Grabowski more than three years to research and write his book.  He interviewed Holocaust survivors and local residents, primarily in Poland, Israel and Germany.

“It is more complicated than just blaming the Poles for betraying their Jewish neighbors,” Grabowski.

“On the one hand there were extraordinarily brave Poles who risked their lives to save Jews, and on the other hand there was no great love between Poles and Jews before World War II.

“During the war these relationships became even more hostile. A large segment of the Polish population was displeased with their neighbors’ help to the Jews during the war, and for many it seemed even as an unpatriotic step.

“Therefore, some segments of the Polish population took an active part in the hunt for the Jews, and that is what the new book deals with.”

Click here: Hunt for the Jews: Betrayal and Murder in German-Occupied Poland: Jan Grabowski: 9780253010742: Amazon.com: Books

Ironically, even as many Poles aided the Germans in shipping Jews to extermination camps, the Nazis were turning Poland into a graveyard for non-Jewish Poles.

According to the Jewish Virtual Library:

“Of the 11 million people killed during the Holocaust, six million were Polish citizens. Three million were Polish Jews and another three million were Polish Christians.”

Many Poles still refuse to face up to the ugly truth about the collaboration of so many of their countrymen with the perpetrators of the Holocaust.

It’s a role often played by nations that don’t want to acknowledge their past criminality.

During the Nuremberg war crimes trials, Russian judges representing the Soviet Union successfully lobbied to conceal a vital historical truth.

While they readily charged Nazi Germany with aggressively invading Poland on September 1, 1939, they balked at admitting the role the Soviet Union had played in this.

In late August, 1939, Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had negotiated a “non-aggression pact” with Adolf Hitler.

But a secret protocol of that agreement dictated that Germany could conquer only the western half of Poland. The eastern half of that country would be occupied by the Red Army.

Similarly, the Katyn massacre remained–until recently–one of the great mysteries of World War II.

The Nazis announced the discovery of mass graves in the Katyn Forest of Poland in 1943.  The number of victims is estimated at about 22,000.

Of these, about 8,000 were officers taken prisoner after the Soviet invasion.  Another 6,000 were police officers, and the rest were members of the intelligentsia.

NKVD secret police

The USSR blamed the Nazis, and denied responsibility for the massacres until 1990.

The executioners belonged to the NKVD, the Soviet secret police (later renamed the KGB).

Its chief, Lavrenty Beria, urged the execution of all captive members of the Polish Officer Corps.  And Stalin had approved.

As long as politicians’ fragile egos are at stake, genocide will continue to be a matter of state policy–and a disowned one.

PC COMES TO “GENOCIDE”: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on April 27, 2015 at 6:57 am

“Genocide” is defined by the Merriman-Webster Dictionary as “the deliberate killing of people who belong to a particular racial, political, or cultural group.”

And the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as “the deliberate killing of a large group of people, especially those of a particular ethnic group or nation.”

While dictionaries have no trouble agreeing on what “genocide” means, nations do.

Consider these two examples:

Example 1:  Turkey

One hundred years ago, in what’s been called the first genocide of modern times, up to 1.5 million Armenians died at Turkish hands in massacres and deportations.

But don’t tell that to the Turks.

Turkey has long insisted that the wartime killings were not genocide.

According to the Turks, those killed–mostly Christian Armenians and Muslim Turks–were victims of civil war and unrest as the Ottoman Empire collapsed during World War I.

“The Armenian claims on the 1915 events, and especially the numbers put forward, are all baseless and groundless,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. “Our ancestors did not persecute.”

Naturally, Armenians see it differently, viewing Turkey’s denial as an affront to their national identity.

“There is a question of political recognition of the genocide, but ultimately, it’s about the Armenian story and history being incorporated into the collective memory of the countries where we live,” said Nicolas Tavitian, director of the Armenian General Benevolent Union.

Armenians protesting Turkish genocide

The United States has long recognized the genocide of the Holocaust–and even opened a U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.  But its position on the Armenian slaughter remains one of–silence.

As a U.S. senator, Barack Obama pledged to use the term “genocide” to describe the mass killings of Armenians. As president, he’s avoided the word.

Why?

Because Turkey remains a member of NATO–and one of America’s few reliable allies in the Islamic world.

Both the Pentagon and State Department have argued that Turkey plays a vital role in fighting the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.  And the safety of American diplomats and troops in Turkey would be compromised.

Example 2:  Poland

On April 16, the Washington Post published an Opinion piece by James Comey, director of the FBI, entitled: “Why I Require FBI agents to Visit the Holocaust Museum.”

FBI Director James Comey

Click here: Why I require FBI agents to visit the Holocaust Museum – The Washington Post

Comey wants them to see the horrors that result when those who are entrusted with using the law to protect instead turn it into an instrument of evil.

U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum

And he wants agents to “see humanity and what we are capable of.”

“Good people helped murder millions.

“And that’s the most frightening lesson of all–that our very humanity made us capable of, even susceptible to, surrendering our individual moral authority to the group, where it can be hijacked by evil.

“Of being so cowed by those in power. Of convincing ourselves of nearly anything.

“In their minds, the murderers and accomplices of Germany, and Poland, and Hungary, and so many, many other places didn’t do something evil.

“They convinced themselves it was the right thing to do, the thing they had to do. That’s what people do. And that should truly frighten us.”

It was these paragraphs that landed Comey in diplomatic hot water.

On April 19–three days after the editorial appeared–Poland’s Foreign Ministry urgently summoned Stephen Mull, the U.S. Ambassador to Warsaw, to “protest and demand an apology.”

The reason: The FBI director had dared to say that Poles were accomplices in the Holocaust!

Poland’s ambassador to the United States said in a statement the remarks were “unacceptable.”

And he added that he had sent a letter to Comey “protesting the falsification of history, especially … accusing Poles of perpetuating crimes which not only they did not commit, but which they themselves were victims of.”

Shortly after Poland’s announcement, Stephen Mull, the U.S. Ambassador in Warsaw,  told reporters he would contact the FBI about the situation.

“Suggestions that Poland, or any other country apart from the Nazi Germany was responsible for the Holocaust are wrong, harmful and offensive,” he said, speaking in Polish.

And he emphasized that Comey’s remarks didn’t reflect the views of the Obama administration.

In fact, Comey’s remarks were dead-on accurate.  And Mull’s were a craven act of Political Correctness.

But at least one Polish citizen was not offended by Comey’s editorial.

Jan Grabowski  50, is a graduate of Warsaw University and is currently a history professor at University of Ottawa.  He is also the son of a Holocaust survivor.

He has suffered death threats, is boycotted in the Canadian Polish community where he lives today, and is not always welcome even in his homeland.

But he will not be intimidated from speaking and writing the truth about those in Poland who enthusiastically collaborated with Nazis to slaughter Jews during World War II.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 14, 2015 at 12:18 am

Be careful what you ask for–especially if you’re a politician.

On March 29, Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers, of Washington State, told her Facebook readers:

“This week marks the 5th anniversary of #‎Obamacare being signed into law. Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.”

The response was overwhelming–but not in the way she clearly hoped it would be.

The vast majority of her respondents voiced enthusiastic support for the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Even worse for the Congresswoman, many of them furiously attacked the Republican party for its non-stop efforts to repeal healthcare coverage.

Erika Dennis My whole family now has coverage. The ACA is the cause for this, I work in health care, I have seen the increase in covered patients first hand.

The next step is universal coverage, this will truly lower costs and provide the best care.

Cathy, you barely work, spend most of your time catering to special interests so you can be re-elected. All while receiving a large wage and the best health insurance and care.

Stop telling us how it doesn’t work while enjoying your tax payer funded care and life.

President Barack Obama signing the Affordable Care Act into law

Robert Fairfax I work for cancer care northwest. We actually have more patients with insurance and fewer having to choose treatment over bankruptcy.

Cathy, I’m a die hard conservative and I’m asking you to stop just slamming Obamacare. Fix it, change it or come up with a better idea! Thanks.

Jeff Sellen This is nothing more than a talking point framed pathetically as a question. It has become the Republican way, unfortunately: Pay no attention to the evidence.

Let’s introduce a little integrity into the discussion, ok? What are the strengths and weaknesses of Obamacare?

Deanna Bax Why don’t you ask for people to tell their stories instead of just asking for the negatives? If you honestly want to help Americans you need All the stories and weigh what’s best based on the facts not based on what you want to hear.

David Smith I am outraged that a member of the US House of Representatives would have such an unscientific and slanted poll. Her website had better not be publicly funded.

Gary Downing Instead of doing all you can to tear down our Nation why don’t you start working to make it better.. Seems like Republicans have just become the real terrorists of this Nation.

Jane Marshall Whittington You can only beat a dead horse so long., Why not focus as much energy on creating jobs and cutting taxes for the working poor as you republicans have spent on the ACA and Benghazi!

Kyle Tertzag …So tell me Congresswoman, why is it that you think I don’t deserve to be healthy and have affordable health insurance? Why do you want to take that away form me and over 15 million other Americans?

Finally it looks like Governor Palin was right, there is a Death Panel and it is made up of you and people like you in the GOP that want to take health care away from millions of Americans! Shame on you! Why don’t you just go join ISIS as you seem more than happy to help harm and/or kill Americans.

* * * * *

A major reason Republicans opposed “Obamacare” from the get-go was this: They feared that, if passed, it would be forever identified with the Democratic Party–just as Social Security always has.

And like Social Security–enacted under Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt–it would forever be a powerful vote-getter for Democrats.

For Republicans, attaining–and retaining–total power over the lives of their fellow Americans is their foremost goal.

And if millions of their fellow Americans can’t afford healthcare coverage, that’s of small importance compared to depriving Democrats of a potent issue for turning out voters.

Both houses of Congress passed the ACA.  And that the Supreme Court–headed by a Republican Chief Justice–found it entirely Constitutional.

Yet that has not stopped Right-wingers from spreading infamous lies about it–such as the “death panel” charge former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin made on her Facebook page.

Nor has it stopped Republicans from repeatedly voting to repeal the ACA–at last count, no fewer than 56 times.

If the responses Congresswoman Rogers received are any indication, millions of Americans are thrilled to finally have healthcare insurance.

They can’t understand why so many members of Congress–who automatically get gold-plated medical care by virtue of their election–want to deny it to millions of their less-well-off fellow citizens.

And a recent Gallup-Healthways survey found that, because of the ACA, nearly nine out of 10 adults now say they have health insurance.

On at least one point, Republican fears appear to have been vindicated: Once people begin to receive a vital service that was long denied them, they want to preserve it.

It’s a truism that Republicans still hope to reverse.

KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics, Social commentary on April 13, 2015 at 3:02 am

There’s a well-known saying among attorneys: When you’re cross-examining a witness, don’t ask a question you don’t know the answer to.

It’s a truism that was apparently lost on Republican Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers.

Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rogers

On March 23, the Washington State) representative posted the following on her Facebook page:

“This week marks the 5th anniversary of #‎Obamacare being signed into law. Whether it’s turned your tax filing into a nightmare, you’re facing skyrocketing premiums, or your employer has reduced your work hours, I want to hear about it.

“Please share your story with me so that I can better understand the challenges you’re facing:” http://mcmorris.house.gov/your-story/

The Congresswoman’s readers quickly obliged.  But the overwhelming reaction to her request must have caught her by surprise.

It was overwhelmingly negative.

Among the literally hundreds of responses:

Mitchell Wiggs The Republican solution to the Affordable Care Act? Let people drown in debt, clutter our emergency rooms, and die from lack of coverage due to pre-existing conditions. No thanks, “Congresswoman”.

Some of us care more about our fellow Americans than trying to bash the President. Keep trying to scare your followers with phony horror stories, though

Melissa Kelly 5 years of not waking up in the middle of the might panicked that my child won’t ever be able to get health insurance thanks to a brain tumor at the age of 2. Thank God for Obamacare.

Anyone who ever fought an insurance company for pediatric neurosurgery coverage knows there was NEVER a hassle-free system in place and Obamacare is light years better than what we had.

Dylan McGuire My premiums have not increased, my hours have not been reduced and I know a couple of people who were able to get medical care through insurance rather than going to an emergency room. Taxes are no more difficult than they have ever been.

William Francis Condon My story is that I once knew 7 people who couldn’t get health insurance. Now they all have it, thanks to the ACA and President Obama, and their plans are as good as the one my employer provides–and they pay less for them.

Now, that’s not the kind of story you want to hear. You want to hear made-up horror stories. I don’t know anyone with one of those stories.

Jim Reid Hello Congresswoman McMorris Rodgers!

I work as the facilitator of a task force that is overseeing the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Washington State. I have learned that the ACA is helping people who did not previously have health insurance get it.

It is helping bring down medical costs. It is improving the quality of care. It is improving experiences of both patients and their families.

I work with doctors, nurses, hospital and clinic managers, non-profit service providers, citizens-at-large. Each of them can site an improvement they would like to make to the Act.

But whether they are Republican or Democrat, from urban or rural areas, powerful or not, they all say the ACA is working.

Can’t you and your Republican colleagues stop trying to repeal this Act and work to make it even more effective? Please?

Janet Clark My story is this: my husband and I worked to pass Obamacare because we believed all Americans should have access to quality healthcare, like we did through his workplace. We never thought it would affect us.

Then one day I came home and found my strong. apparently healthy husband dead in the backyard. He had experienced cardiac arrest. Within one week I was off his plan.

I purchased COBRA for a year and then looked for a less expensive plan. I applied for Blue Cross and was turned down due to pre-existing conditions: arthritis and bunions.

I was so happy when Obamacare went through and I had access to healthcare. Never thought it would be me who needed it, but it was. Thanks, President Obama!

Bob Wilmot Our son, diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 6, will now have healthcare coverage as an adult, thanks to the ACA. No more denials for a pre-existing condition.

No more $3000 monthly premium, as we faced some 10 years ago when I was without employer coverage for a time. Congresswoman, are you seriously prepared to tell 12million+ Americans they will now lose their coverage under the ACA?

Janice Grounds With the ACA my partner is able to FINALLY get health insurance. She has severe arthitis….you know the kind that the wealthy golfer talks about helping with the magic of humera…only this medication is $$$$. She has lived with, worked with severe pain for years.

Once she got the insurance, an MRI showed a huge tear in her hip….yep, this tear would catch and be so intensely painful she fell several times-twice breaking her wrist (which cost several thousand out of pocket).

She was pulled over by our dog two weeks ago fracturing several ribs, ambulance, er, w nights in trauma ward…..imagining what this would have done without insurance???????

You sit on your high horse talking platitudes and right wing talking points. You and all the other flaming GOP “faith and family” hypocrites make me sick.

If you truly believe this crap, you’re even worse. Thank you President Obama and Democrats for the Affordable Care Act .

REPUBLICANS: SLANDERING THE HEROES OF 9/11

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Politics on February 27, 2015 at 1:53 am

With their newfound majorities in both houses of Congress, Republicans are holding the budget of the Department of Homeland Security–and the safety of their fellow Americans–hostage.

Amidst all this turmoil, it’s easy to forget another Republican outrage that happened five years ago: The slander they cast on the patriotism of the tens of thousands of police, firefighters, construction workers and others who risked their lives to save their fellow Americans on 9/11.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

This “gift” was sponsored by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) and eagerly supported by other Republicans in the House and Senate.

Rep. Cliff Stearns

The responders were informed that their names must be run through the FBI’s database of suspected terrorists. Otherwise, they would be denied treatment for their numerous, worsening ailments.

In 2010–nine years after the worst terrorist attack in American history–Congress passed the Democratically-sponsored James Zadroga 9/11 Health And Compensation Act.

The law was named for a New York City detective who died of a respiratory disease in 2006 after his contact with toxic chemicals at Ground Zero.

The law authorized $1.8 billion to be spent over five years to treat injuries of police, firefighters, emergency workers, construction and cleanup crews caused by exposure to toxic dust and debris at the site.

From the outset, Republicans bitterly opposed the legislation.  They argued that providing healthcare for ailing September 11 heroes would bankrupt the nation.

Of course, they hadn’t voiced such concerns when President George W. Bush needlessly launched the nation into a $1 trillion war against Iraq in 2003.

For Republicans, the heroes of 9/11 had become “welfare-seeking bums.”  If they couldn’t afford their own medical care, so what?

Republicans slandered the proposal as a new “entitlement program,” like Medicare.  They demanded that the responders return to Congress every year to make their case, claiming this would prevent fraud and waste.

“If this issue is so credible based on the results of September 11, we shouldn’t be afraid of going through the (budget) authorization process and fight for the spending bill,” said Rep. John Shimkus (R-Ill.).

Republicans forced Democrats to accept an amendment that deliberately cast a slur on the men and women who answered their country’s call in its supreme moment of agony. Only then was the legislation passed.

The amendment read: “No individual who is on the terrorist watch list maintained by the Department of Homeland Security shall qualify as a screening-eligible WTC survivor or a certified-eligible WTC survivor.

“Before determining any individual to be a screening-eligible WTC survivor…or certifying any individual as a certified eligible survivor….the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall determine whether the individual is on such list.”

The amendment provoked outrage among non-politicians, Democrats and even some Republicans.  Among these:

  • Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY)  whose district encompassed Ground Zero, said it was “absurd” to consider that any of the 9/11 heroes would be terrorists.  He added that the screenings were a “waste of money.”
  • Rep. Peter King (R-NY) called the exercise “shameful” and “a waste of time,” adding: “It put a cloud over extraordinarily good people for no reason.”
  • “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart noted that the federal government didn’t run background checks on any other group of people receiving financial benefits. These included Social Security recipients, Medicare patients and even Wall Street bankers bailed out during the recession.

Dr. John Howard, director of the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, advised doctors and hospital administrators to begin letting patients know before the new program took effect in July, 2011.

Specifically, patients seeking help under 9/11 treatment and monitoring programs were told that their

  • names
  • birthplaces
  • addresses
  • government ID numbers
  • and other personal data

would be provided to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists.

Firefighters rescuing victims at the World Trade Center

Howard’s instructions to medical providers included a sample letter to responders designed to minimize alarm:

“Although neither we nor [the Centers for Disease Control]/NIOSH anticipate the name of any individual in the current Programs will be on the list, CDC/NIOSH is expressly required by law to implement this particular requirement of the Act.

“Thank you for your understanding. We look forward to working with you and ensuring that you continue to receive uninterrupted services under the new WTC Health Program,” it concluded.

By August, 2011, the FBI had screened some 60,000 emergency responders to the attacks on the World Trade Center and had not uncovered any suspected terrorists. To date, no matchups have occurred between known terrorists and those seeking treatment.

Glen Kline, a former NYPD emergency services officer, best summed up the disgrace of these background checks: “This is absurd. It’s silly. It’s stupid. It’s asinine.  I mean, who are we even talking about–the undocumented workers who cleaned the office buildings?

“We know who all the cops, firefighters and construction workers were. They’re all documented.  Is the idea that a terrorist stayed to help clean up? And then stayed all these years to try and get benefits?”

Thus, self-righteous Right-wing legislators–who never lifted a beam from a trapped 9/11 survivor or inhaled toxic fumes that spewed from the crater that was once the World Trade Center–now stood in judgment over those who did.

A WARNING FROM HISTORY–AND FILM

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on January 26, 2015 at 12:37 am

January 26, 2015, marks the 130th anniversary of the fall of Khartoum, the Sudanese city that sits on the banks of the White Nile and the Blue Nile.

The siege and fall of Khartoum is one of the truly epic stories of military history.

Khartoum in the 1800s

From March 18, 1884 to January 26, 1885, the charisma and military genius of one man–British General Charles George Gordon–held at bay an army of thousands of fanatical Islamists intent on slaughtering everyone in the city.

At stake were the lives of Khartoum’s 30,000 residents.

By comparison:The defenders of the Alamo–a far better-known battle, in 1836–numbered no more than 250.  And the siege of the San Antonio mission lasted only 13 days against an army of about 2,000 Mexicans.

The Alamo

Gordon’s story may seen antiquated.  But it bears close inspection as Republicans press the Obama Administration to commit ground forces to “freeing” Syria of its longtime dicator, “President” Bashar al Assad.

The neocons of the George W. Bush administration plunged the United States into an unprovoked war against Iraq in 2003.  After Baghdad quickly fell, Americans cheered, thinking the war was over and the troops would soon return home.

Suddenly, American soldiers found themselves waging a two-front war in the same country: Fighting an Iraqi insurgency to throw them out, while trying to suppress growing sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shia Muslims.

And now, with Syria, Americans are being urged to plunge headfirst into a conflict they know nothing about–and in which they have absolutely no stake.

Consider the combatants:

On the one side, is the Ba’ath regime of Bashir al-Assad, supported by Russia, Iran, Hizbullah, and elements in the Iraqi government. Hizbollah is comprised of Shiite Muslims, who form a minority of Islamics.

A sworn enemy of Israel, it has kidnapped scores of Americans suicidal enough to visit Lebanon and truck-bombed the Marine Barracks in Beirut in 1983, killing 299 Americans.

Flag of Hizbollah

Al-Qaeda, on the other hand, is made up of Sunni Muslims, who form the majority of that religion.

It is intolerent of non-Sunni Muslims and has instigated violence against them.  It denounces them as “takfirs”–heretics–and thus worthy of extermination.

Flag of Al-Qaeda

In short, it’s a Muslim-vs.-Muslim “holy war.”

It’s all very reminiscent of events in the 1966 epic film, “Khartoum,” starring Charlton Heston as British General Charles George Gordon.

Charlton Heston (left); Charles George Gordon (right)

In 1884, the British Government sends Gordon, a real-life hero of the Victorian era, to evacuate the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

Mohammed Achmed, a previously anonymous Sudanese, has proclaimed himself “The Madhi”  (The Expected One) and raised the cry of jihad.

Laurence Oliver (left); Mohammed Achmed (“The Madhi”)

The Madhi (played by Laurence Oliver) intends to drive all foreigners (of which the English are the largest group) out of Sudan, and exterminate all those Muslims who did not practice his “pure” version of Islam.

Movie poster for “Khartoum”

Gordon arrives in Khartoum to find he’s not fighting a rag-tag army of peasants.  Instead, the Madhi is a highly intelligent military strategist.

And Gordon, an evangelical Christian, also underestimates the Madhi’s religious fanaticism: “I seem to have suffered from the delusion that I had a monopoly on God.”

A surprised Gordon finds himself and 30,000 Sudanese trapped in Khartoum when the Madhi’s forces suddenly appear.  He sends off messengers and telegrams to the British Government, begging for a military relief force.

But the British Government wants nothing to do with the Sudan.  It had sent Gordon there as a sop to British public opion that “something” had to be done to quell the Madhist uprising.

The siege continues and tightens.

In Britain, the public hails Gordon as a Christian hero and demands that the Government send a relilef expedition to save him.

Prime Minister William Gladstone finally sends a token force–which arrives in Khartoum two days after the city has fallen to the Madhi’s forces.

Gordon, standing at the top of a staircase and coolly facing down his dervish enemies, is speared to death.

George W. Joy’s famous–and romanticized–painting of “The Death of Gordon”

(Actually, the best historical evidence indicates that Gordon fought to the last with pistol and sword before being overwhelmed by his dervish enemies.)

When the news reaches England, Britons mourn–and then demand vengeance for the death of their hero.

The Government, which had sought to wash its hands of the poor, militarily unimportant Sudan, suddenly has to send an army to avenge Gordon.

As the narrator of “Khartoum” intones at the close of the film:“For 15 years, the British paid the price with shame and war.”

There is a blunt lesson for Americans to learn from this episode–and from the 1966 movie, “Khartoum” itself.

Americans have been fighting in the Middle East since 2001–first in Afghanistan to destroy Al Qaeda, and then in Iraq, to pursue George W. Bush’s vendetta against Saddam Hussein.

The United States faces a crumbling infastructure, record high unemployment and trillions of dollars in debt.

It’s time for Americans to clean up their own house before worrying about the messes in other nations–especially those wholly alien to American values.

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, THE FIRST THUG FAMILIES OF THE UNITED STATES!

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on December 9, 2014 at 12:55 am

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus want President Barack Obama to invite the families of Michael Brown and Eric Garner to his State of the Union address in January, 2015.

Chief among these is Rep. John Lewis (D-Georgia), who said: “I think that would be appropriate and fitting.  It would help educate and sensitize other members and humanize some of the issues that we’re going to confront.”

And Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Georgia) stated: “Those families are symbols of an issue that needs to be urgently addressed in America.”

If Obama does not invite the families, Black Caucus members suggested that they might use their guest tickets to invite them.

But they claimed that no invitations have yet been extended for the President’s speech.

Obama is expected to speak about the Brown and Garner deaths during his speech.

The State of the Union address delivered by the President of the United States to a joint session of Congress every January.

The address not only reports on the condition of the nation but also allows Presidents to outline their legislative agenda and their national priorities.

President Barack Obama giving his State of the Union address

The address fulfills Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution, which requires the President to from time to time give Congress information on the “state of the union.”

For decades, Presidents have invited specific guests to join the First Lady in the gallery of the House of Representatives. These guests enable the Chief Executive to symbolize the policy points he wishes to make.

For his 2002 State of the Union speech, President George W. Bush invited Hamid Karzai, the interim leader of Afghanistan. This underscored the commitment of American troops to ridding that country of its Talibanistic elements.

Inviting members of the Brown and Garner families as Obama’s favored guests would send a message to both Americans and the world beyond.

But it would prove a highly controversial act of symbolism.

In the case of the family of Michael Brown:

Michael Brown (left) roughing up a store owner

Lesley Mcspadden

Louis Head calls for arson in Ferguson

Does the President of the United States really want to link himself to this family of thugdom?

Then there is the family of Eric Garner, who died in a police chokehold on July 17.

While no incriminating evidence has yet come to light concerning his relatives, Garner himself had a lengthy police record.

State of the Union addresses are occasions where the President seeks to rally Congress–and, more importantly, the nation–behind goals that are certain to have widespread support.

Congressional Republicans fiercely oppose Obama’s unilateral decision to shelter up to five million illegal aliens from deportation and enable them to work in the country legally.

They have heatedly debated various ways of opposing him on this–including once again shutting down the government, forbidding him to appear before Congress to give his State of the Union address and cutting off fuel to Air Force One.  Click here: Ground Air Force One? GOP Proposals to Stop Obama on Immigration – Washington Wire – WSJ

Inviting as his guests members of families whose members have a documented history of lawbreaking would prove widely divisive along racial lines.

Overhwleming majorities of whites continue to believe that Obama is “not one of us.” And members of law enforcement of all races would believe that Obama was taking the side of known criminals against them.

With only two more years in office, Obama will need all the unity he can create if he hopes to enact much of his remaining agenda. 

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