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Posts Tagged ‘GEORGE W. BUSH’

SALUTING THE AMERICANS WHO GAVE US 9/11

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 13, 2021 at 12:07 am

On October 16, 2015, then-Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump told a brutal truth to take down his opponent, Jeb Bush, former governor of Florida.

Interviewed on Bloomberg TV, Trump said what—to Republicans—had been the unsayable about former President George W. Bush: “I mean, say what you want, the World Trade Center came down during his time.”

“Hold on,” said correspondent Stephanie Ruhle, “you can’t blame George Bush for that.”

“He was President, okay? Blame him or don’t blame him, but he was President,” Trump said. “The World Trade Center came down during his reign.”

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Donald Trump

Immediately after Trump’s remarks, Jeb Bush rushed to his brother’s defense on Twitter: “How pathetic for @realdonaldtrump to criticize the president for 9/11. We were attacked & my brother kept us safe.”  

Of course, “my brother” didn’t keep safe those 3,000 Americans who died on 9/11

Nor did Jeb mention that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, “my brother” was on vacation 42% of the time.

But holding Bush accountable for the September 11, 2001 terror attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center is taboo for Right-wing Republicans.

Conversely, Republicans spent four years blaming President Barack Obama for the deaths of four Americans killed in an American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Fortunately, British historian Nigel Hamilton has brutally laid bare the facts of this needless tragedy.

Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

His book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush, appeared in 2010.

It was inspired by a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius. 

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first 12 Caesars of Imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy—who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

These included:

  • Paul Wolfowitz, the deputy Secretary of Defense: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.” 
  • National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice: Initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting in April, 2001.
  • Vice President Dick Cheney: Focused his attention on fomenting a war against Iraq.
  • Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: Repeatedly ignored American Intelligence warnings that Al-Qaeda was planning a major attack on the American mainland.

The only major administration official who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council. But Clarke’s position didn’t give him Cabinet-level rank.

Richard Clarke

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Rice.

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Condoleeza Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Apparently, that moment never came for Rice—or any other Bush officials.

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz ever apologized for their negligence. Nor has any of them ever been held accountable.

After 9/11, they wrapped themselves in the flag and posed as America’s saviors.

  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

WHY REPUBLICANS ACTUALLY WANT TO GUT “OBAMACARE”

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on September 1, 2021 at 8:43 pm

On June 17, CNN ran a headlined story on its website: “Here’s Why Fighting the Affordable Care Act Means So Much to Republicans.”  

The story opened: “For the third time in the last nine years — and this time by a convincing 7-2 vote — the Supreme Court knocked out a Republican effort to invalidate” the Act.

The Justices said that the challengers of the law did not have legal “standing” to bring the case.

Opponents of the law were not harmed by the provisions they were challenging, the Justices ruled. The reason: Congressional Republicans had eliminated the penalty for failing to buy health insurance.

Republicans believed that eliminating the penalty would allow them to attack the entire law. They assumed that without the mandate—a pillar of the law when it was passed—the rest of the Act should fall, too.

Thus, the irony: Through their latest effort to destroy the Act by de-funding it, Republicans had unintentionally saved it before the Supreme Court.

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The Supreme Court

The law is now providing access to healthcare for a record 31 million Americans, who would not otherwise be able to afford coverage.

In addition, the Act continues to:

  • Eliminate the “pre-existing condition” excuse insurance companies had used to deny coverage to those who most needed it;
  • Provide a range of no-cost preventive services;
  • Allows children to stay on their parents’ insurance up to age 26;
  • Expand the Medicaid program that insures lower-income people access to health insurance markets offering subsidized plans.

“With millions of people relying on the Affordable Care Act for coverage, it remains, as ever, a BFD. And it’s here to stay,” President Joe Biden tweeted that same day.

“BFD” referred to his remark, caught on a hot mic when he told then-President Barack Obama in 2010 the law is a “a big fucking deal.”

Why have Republicans pursued its demise so relentlessly? J.P. Morgan once said: “A man generally has two reasons for doing a thing. One that sounds good, and a real one.”

The story outlines the reasons that sound good: 

“For the GOP base, the ACA is about a view of the country that the government is the answer to all of our problems.

“It’s also tied into their lingering distaste for former President Barack Obama, whose name is literally melded with the law.

“And a belief that the media treated Obama’s ‘if you like your plan, you can keep your plan’ lie and the disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website allowing people to sign up for a plan with kid gloves because, well, bias.”

Let’s take a quick look at each of these points.

  • Millions of Right-wingers hate the Federal Government and openly call for its overthrow. This they vividly demonstrated on January 6 when they tried to illegally retain Donald Trump as President. They hoped to prevent the selection of Joe Biden as the legitimately-elected President of the United States by storming the Capitol Building.
  • Racism forms a major component of the GOP’s appeal to older, white, Right-wing voters. So having the name of the first black President unofficially stamped on the law (“Obamacare”) serves as a constant spur to their hatred.

Obama standing with his arms folded and smiling.

Barack Obama

  • Obama’s promise that “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan”: The promise backfired because the law stated that those who already had medical insurance could keep their plans—so long as those plans met the requirements of the new healthcare law. If their plans didn’t meet those requirements, they would have to obtain coverage that did
  • The “disastrous rollout (and repeated crashes) of the website”: That happened immediately after the law became effective on March 23, 2010. The sheer rush of uninsured people hoping to finally gain access to medical care proved too much for the website. But over time those bugs got ironed out.

Now for the real reason Republicans have furiously tried to destroy the Act—one that the writer did not mention. It is also one that no Republican dares admit.

And like so much else in the Republican agenda, it is rooted in the methods employed by the Third Reich.

On June 22, 1941, German Fuhrer Adolf Hitler sent three million soldiers smashing into the Soviet Union. During the first six months—June to December, 1941—German armies lured huge Soviet forces into gigantic “cauldron battles,” surrounding and exterminating them. 

An estimated 5.7 million prisoners of war fell into German hands. The Germans found themselves surprised and overwhelmed by the sheer numbers of them. But their mandate demanded that they keep marching ever forward.

So they simply imprisoned their captives behind barbed wire and wasted no food or medical care on them. Between starvation, illness and the brutal Russian cold, at least 3.5 million POWs died in custody.

Soviet prisoners of war behind barbed wire at Falstad Camp May 8th 1945. The picture is probably taken after the Norwegian prisoners left the camp. (Photographer: Unknown / The Falstad Centre)

Soviet POW’s

Republicans have learned a valuable lesson from this: If you simply deprive those you detest of food, clothing, shelter—and medical care—you don’t need gas chambers or firing squads. Or rigged vote-counts.

Most Americans—ignorant of history—cannot accept that their politicians can be as evil as those in other nations. For those needing access to affordable healthcare, voting Republican could turn out to be a fatal mistake.

WARNING! DOING BUSINESS WITH MERCENARIES CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 30, 2021 at 12:05 am

The United States had been fighting in Afghanistan for almost 16 years—and between 2001 and 2017 had spent an estimated $714 billion.

Still, there was no end in sight.

Then Erik Prince suggested a remedy: Mercenaries—via his private company, Academi.

For $3.5 billion in taxpayer monies, he claimed that he could vin a victory that had eluded the United States Air Force, Army (including Green Berets) and Navy SEALs.  

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Erik Prince

By Miller Center [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997, Prince created Blackwater, a private security company providing support to military and police agencies.

In August, 2003, Blackwater got the first of a series of Federal contracts to deploy its forces in Iraq. For $21 million, it safeguarded Paul Bremer, America’s proconsul running the occupation. 

Ultimately, Blackwater got $1 billion to provide security for American officials and soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

According to human rights organizations, Blackwater abused Iraqis and engaged in torture to obtain information.

In September, 2007, Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians and injured 20 more in a Baghdad traffic circle.

Five guards were charged with murder. Three were convicted in October, 2014, of 14 manslaughter charges and in April 2015 sentenced to 30 years in prison. These sentences were deemed unfair upon appeal and await re-sentencing. 

Owing to its highly controversial activities in Iraq, Prince renamed the company Xe Services in 2009 and then Academi in 2011.

By 2018, against opposition by the Pentagon, Prince lobbied President Donald Trump to let Academi privatize the war in Afghanistan.

Ultimately, his company did not become the sole American military force in Afghanistan—despite his sister, Betsy Devos, being the Secretary of Education.

Since the end of the Cold War, the American military and Intelligence communities have grown increasingly dependent on private contractors.

In his 2007 bestseller, Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA, Tim Weiner writes:

“Patriotism for profit became a $50-billion-a-year business….The [CIA] began contracting out thousands of jobs to fill the perceived void by the budget cuts that began in 1992. 

“A CIA officer could file his retirement papers, turn in his blue identification badge, go to work for a much better salary at a military contractor such as Lockheed Martin or Booz Allen Hamilton, then return to the CIA the next day, wearing a green badge….” 

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Much of the CIA became totally dependent on mercenaries. They appeared to work for the agency, but their loyalty was actually to their private–and higher-paying—companies.

Writes Weiner: “Legions of CIA veterans quit their posts to sell their services to the agency by writing analyses, creating cover for overseas officers, setting up communications networks, and running clandestine operations.”

One such company was Total Intelligence Solutions, founded in 2007 by Cofer Black, who had been the chief of the CIA’s counter-terrorism center on 9/11. His partners were Robert Richer, formerly the associate deputy director of operations at the CIA, and Enrique Prado, who had been Black’s chief of counter-terror operations at the agency.

Future CIA hires followed suit: Serve for five years, win that prized CIA “credential” and sign up with a private security company to enrich yourself.  

This situation met with full support from Right-wing “pro-business” members of Congress and President George W. Bush.

They had long championed the private sector as inherently superior to the public one. And they saw no danger that a man dedicated to enriching himself might put greed ahead of safeguarding his country.

But there are dangers to hiring men whose first love is profit. Recent examples include:

  • Edward Snowden deliberately joined Booz Allen Hamilton to secure a job as a computer systems administrator at the National Security Agency (NSA). This gave him access to thousands of highly classified documents—which, in 2013, he began publicly leaking to a wide range of news organizations. 
  • His motive, he claimed, was to warn Americans of the privacy-invading dangers posed by their own Intelligence agencies.
  • On March 7, 2017, WikiLeaks published a “data dump” of 8,761 documents codenamed “Vault 7.”
  • The documents exposed that the CIA had found security flaws in software operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, Android and Apple iOS. These allowed an intruder—such as the CIA—to seize control of a computer or smartphone. The owner could then be photographed through his iPhone camera and have his text messages intercepted.
  • According to anonymous U.S. Intelligence and law enforcement sources, the culprits were CIA contract employees. 

But there are others who have offered a timely warning against the use of mercenaries. One of these is Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman of the Renaissance. 

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Niccolo Machiavelli

In The Prince, Machiavelli writes:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure. For they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal. They are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to man, and destruction is deferred only as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. 

“The cause of this is that they have no love or other motive to keep them in the field beyond a trifling wage, which is not enough to make them ready to die for you.”

Centuries after Machiavelli’s warning, Americans are realizing the bitter truth of it firsthand.

AMERICAN DECLINE STARTS WITH IRAQ: PART THREE (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 27, 2021 at 12:05 am

On September 12, 2001, President George W. Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

Secretary of State Colin Powell then pointed out there was absolutely no evidence that Iraq had had anything to do with 9/11 or Al-Qaeda. And he added: “The American people want us to do something about Al-Qaeda”—not Iraq.

On November 21, 2001, only 10 weeks after 9/11, Bush told Rumsfeld: It’s time to turn to Iraq.

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Condoleeza Rice

Bush and his war-hungry Cabinet officials knew that Americans demanded vengeance on AlQaeda’s mastermind, Osama bin Laden, and not Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. So they repeatedly fabricated “links” between the two:

  • Saddam had worked hand-in-glove with Bin Laden to plan 9/11.
  • Saddam was harboring and supporting Al-Qaeda throughout Iraq.
  • Saddam, with help from Al-Qaeda, was scheming to build a nuclear bomb.

Yet as early as September 22, 2001, Bush had received a classified President’s Daily Brief intelligence report, which stated that there was no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11.

The report added that there was scant credible evidence that Iraq had any significant collaborative ties with Al-Qaeda.

Even more important: Saddam had tried to monitor Al Qaeda through his intelligence service—because he saw Al-Qaeda and other theocratic radical Islamist organizations as a potential threat to his secular regime.

Official portrait of vice president Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney

Bush administration officials repeatedly claimed that Iraq possessed huge quantities of chemical and biological weapons, in violation of UN resolutions. And they further claimed that US intelligence agencies had determined:

  • the precise locations where these weapons were stored;
  • the identities of those involved in their production; and
  • the military orders issued by Saddam Hussein for their use in the event of war.

Among other lies stated as fact by members of the Bush administration:

  • Iraq had sought uranium from Niger, in west Africa.
  • Thousands of aluminum tubes imported by Iraq could be used in centrifuges to create enriched uranium.
  • Iraq had up to 20 long-range Scud missiles, prohibited under UN sanctions.
  • Iraq had massive stockpiles of chemical and biological agents, including nerve gas, anthrax and botulinum toxin.
  • Saddam Hussein had issued chemical weapons to front-line troops who would use them when US forces crossed into Iraq.

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Donald Rumsfeld

Consider the following:

August 26, 2002: Cheney told the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us.”

September 8, 2002: National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice said on CNN: ”There is certainly evidence that Al-Qaeda people have been in Iraq. There is certainly evidence that Saddam Hussein cavorts with terrorists.”

September 18, 2002: Rumsfeld told the House Armed Services Committee, “We do know that the Iraqi regime has chemical and biological weapons. His regime has amassed large, clandestine stockpiles of chemical weapons—including VX, sarin, cyclosarin and mustard gas.”

October 7, 2002: Bush declared in a nationally televised speech in Cincinnati that Iraq “possesses and produces chemical and biological weapons. It is seeking nuclear weapons.”

March 16, 2003: Cheney declared on NBC’s “Meet the Press”: “We believe [Saddam Hussein] has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons.”

Bush never regretted his decision to invade Iraq—on March 20, 2003.

Even as American occupying forces repeatedly failed to turn up any evidence of “weapons of mass destruction” (WMDs), Bush and his minions claimed the invasion a good thing.

In fact, Bush—who hid out the Vietnam war in the Texas Air National Guard—even joked publicly about the absence of WMDs.

He did so at a White House Correspondents dinner on March 24, 2004—one year after he had started the war.

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George W. Bush at the 2004 White House Correspondents’ dinner

To Bush, the non-existent WMDs were nothing more than the butt of a joke that night. While an overhead projector displayed photos of a puzzled-looking Bush searching around the Oval Office, Bush recited a comedy routine.

“Those weapons of mass destruction have gotta be somewhere,” Bush laughed, while a photo showed him poking around the corners in the Oval Office.

“Nope—no weapons over there! Maybe they’re under here,” he said, as a photo showed him looking under a desk.

Meanwhile, an assembly of wealthy, pampered men and women—-the elite of America’s media and political classes—laughed heartily during Bush’s performance.

It was a scene worthy of the court of the ancient Caesars, complete with royal flunkies: “Hey! The country we just destroyed wasn’t a threat to us after all!  Isn’t that a gas?”

The war that Bush had deliberately provoked:

  • Took the lives of 4,484 Americans.
  • Cost the United States Treasury at least $2 trillion.
  • Created a Middle East power vacumn.
  • Allowed Iran—Iraq’s arch enemy—to eagerly fill it.
  • Frightened and repelled even America’s closest allies.
  • Killed at least 655,000 Iraqis. 
  • Bush retired from office with a lavish pension and full Secret Service protection.
  • He wrote his memoirs and was paid $7 million for the first 1.5 million copies.
  • Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice retired to private business, wrote their own memoirs, and lived in comfort as respected elder statesmen.

AMERICAN DECLINE STARTS WITH IRAQ: PART TWO (OF THREE)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 26, 2021 at 12:14 am

September 11, 2018, will mark the 20th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.  Inevitably, this is a time to remember all those whose lives were so cruelly snuffed out.

But it is also a time to remember those Americans who made this atrocity—and the Iraq war that followed—inevitable.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has chronicled their arrogance and indifference in his 2010 biography: American Caesars: Lives of the Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

Hamilton noted that Richard Clarke, the national security advisor on terrorism, was certain that Osama bin Laden had arranged the USS Cole bombing in Aden on October 12, 2000.

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States—either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

Rice initially refused to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the subject. Then she “insisted the matter be handled only by a more junior Deputy Principals meeting” in April, 2001, writes Hamilton.

Wolfowitz, the number-two man at the Department of Defense, said: “I don’t understand why we are beginning by talking about this one man, bin Laden.”

Even after Clarke outlined the threat posed by Al-Qaeda, Wolfowitz—whose real target was Saddam Hussein—said: “You give bin Laden too much credit.”

Wolfowitz insisted that bin Laden couldn’t carry out his terrorist acts without the aid of a state sponsor—namely, Iraq.

Wolfowitz, in fact, blamed Iraq for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Clarke was stunned, since there was absolutely no evidence of Iraqi involvement in this.

“Al-Qaeda plans major acts of terrorism against the United States,” Clarke warned his colleagues. He pointed out that, like Adolf Hitler, bin Laden had actually published his plans for future destruction.

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Osama bin Laden

And he added: “Sometimes, as with Hitler in Mein Kampf, you have to believe that these people will actually do what they say they will do.”

Wolfowitz heatedly traded on his Jewish heritage to bring Clarke’s unwelcome arguments to a halt: “I resent any comparison between the Holocaust and this little terrorist in Afghanistan.”

Writing in outraged fury, Hamilton sums up Clarke’s agonizing frustrations:

  • Bush’s senior advisors treated their colleagues who had served in the Clinton administration with contempt.
  • President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz seemed content to ignore the danger signals of an impending al-Qaeda attack.
  • This left only Secretary of State Colin Powell, his deputy Richard Armitage, Richard Clarke and a skeptical Treasury Secretary, Paul O’Neill, to wage “a lonely battle to waken a seemingly deranged new administration.”

Richard Clarke

Clarke alerted Federal Intelligence agencies that “Al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us.” He asked the FBI and CIA to report to his office all they could learn about suspicious persons or activities at home and abroad.

Finally, at a meeting with Rice on September 4, 2001, Clarke challenged her to “picture yourself at a moment when in the very near future Al-Qaeda has killed hundreds of Americans, and imagine asking yourself what you wish then that you had already done.”

Seven days later, Al-Qaeda struck, and 3,000 Americans died horrifically—and needlessly.

Neither Bush, Cheney, Rice, Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz ever admitted their negligence. Nor would any of them be brought to account.

Disgustingly, these were the same officials who, afterward, posed as the Nation’s saviors—and branded anyone who disagreed with them as a traitor, practices the Right continues to exploit to this day.

Only Richard Clarke—who had vainly argued for stepped-up security precautions and taking the fight to Al-Qaeda—gave that apology.

On March 24, 2004, Clarke testified at the public 9/11 Commission hearings. Addressing relatives of victims in the audience, he said: “Your government failed you, those entrusted with protecting you failed you, and I failed you.”

Yet even worse was to come.

On the evening after the September 11 attacks, Bush took Clarke aside during a meeting in the White House Situation Room:

“I want you, as soon as you can, to go back over everything, everything. See if Saddam [Hussein, the dictator of Iraq] did this. See if he’s linked in any way.”

Clarke was stunned: “But, Mr. President, Al-Qaeda did this.”

“I know, I know,” said Bush. “But see if Saddam was involved. I want to know.”

Hussein had not plotted the attack–and there was no evidence proving that he did. But the attack gave “W” the excuse he wanted to remove the man he blamed for the 1992 defeat of his father, President George H.W. Bush.

Bush believed that his father would have been re-elected if he had “gone all the way” into Baghdad during the 1991 Gulf War.

He would finish the job that his father had started but failed to compete.

On September 12, 2001, Bush attended a meeting of the National Security Council.

“Why shouldn’t we go against Iraq, not just Al-Qaeda?” demanded Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense.

Vice President Dick Cheney enthusiastically agreed.

AMERICAN DECLINE STARTS WITH IRAQ: PART ONE (OF THREE)

In History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 25, 2021 at 12:05 am

“Many of the people who work in American foreign policy today were shaped by the experience of the 1990s, when the United States was ascendant. The Berlin Wall came down. Democracy was spreading across Europe, Latin America and East Asia. 

“Russia was on its back foot, and China had not yet risen. We really could shape events in much of the world. NATO could expand into the former Soviet Union without fear that Russia would invade one of those countries. We could bring together the whole world to kick Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait.” 

So wrote Ben Rhodes, author of The World As It Is: A Memoir of the Obama White House (2018). 

For eight years, Rhodes saw Barack Obama up close as few others did. He served as, first, a speechwriter, then deputy national security adviser, and finally as all-around aide and diplomat-without-portfolio.

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Rhodes noted that Obama sometimes warned that America’s post-Cold War moment in the sun wouldn’t last: “Shock and awe. Regime change. A trillion dollars later, we couldn’t keep the electricity running in Baghdad. 

“The Iraq war disturbed other countries—including U.S. allies—in its illogic and destruction, and accelerated a realignment of power and influence that was further advanced by the global financial crisis.

“By the time Obama took office, a global correction had already taken place. Russia was resisting American influence. China was throwing its weight around. Europeans were untangling a crisis in the Euro-zone.”

To begin at the beginning: 

Even as the rubble was being cleared at the Pentagon and World Trade Center following the September 11, 2001 attacks,  President George W. Bush was preparing to use the attacks as an excuse to topple Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.

World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

Hussein had not plotted 9/11, and there was no evidence that he did. But that didn’t matter to Bush and those planning the invasion and conquest of Iraq.

British historian Nigel Hamilton has dared to lay bare the facts of this disgrace. Hamilton is the author of several acclaimed political biographies, including JFK: Reckless Youth and Bill Clinton: Mastering the Presidency.

In 2007, he began research on his latest book: American Caesars: The Lives of the Presidents From Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.

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Nigel Hamilton

By Nigel Hamilton (Nigel Hamilton picture)

The inspiration for this came from a classic work of ancient biography: The Twelve Caesars, by Gaius Suetonius Tranquillus—known as Suetonius.

Suetonius, a Roman citizen and historian, had chronicled the lives of the first twelve Caesars of imperial Rome: Julius Caesar, Augustus, Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, Nero, Galba, Otho, Vitellius, Vespasian, Titus and Domitian.

Hamilton wanted to examine post-World War II United States history as Suetonius had examined that of ancient Rome: Through the lives of the 12 “emperors” who had held the power of life and death over their fellow citizens—and those of other nations.

For Hamilton, the “greatest of American emperors, the Caesar Augustus of his time,” was Franklin D. Roosevelt, who led his country through the Great Depression and World War II.

His “”great successors” were Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower and John F. Kennedy—who, in turn, contained the Soviet Union abroad and presided over sustained economic prosperity at home.

By contrast, “arguably the worst of all the American Caesars” was “George W. Bush, and his deputy, Dick Cheney, who willfully and recklessly destroyed so much of the moral basis of American leadership in the modern world.”

Among the most lethal of Bush’s offenses: The appointing of officials who refused to take seriously the threat posed by Al-Qaeda.

And this arrogance and indifference continued—right up to September 11, 2001, when the World Trade Center and Pentagon became targets for destruction.

Among the few administration officials who did take Al-Qaeda seriously was Richard Clarke, the chief counter-terrorism adviser on the National Security Council.

Clarke had been thus appointed in 1998 by President Bill Clinton. He continued in the same role under President Bush—but the position was no longer given cabinet-level access.

This put him at a severe disadvantage when dealing with other, higher-ranking Bush officials—such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

These turned out to be the very officials who refused to believe that Al-Qaeda posed a lethal threat to the United States.

“Indeed,” writes Hamilton, “in the entire first eight months of the Bush Presidency, Clarke was not permitted to brief President Bush a single time, despite mounting evidence of plans for a new al-Qaeda outrage.”  [Italics added]

Nor did it help that, during his first eight months in office before September 11, Bush was on vacation, according to the Washington Post, 42% of the time. 

For months, Clarke tried to convince others in the Bush Administration that Bin Laden was plotting another attack against the United States–either abroad or at home.

But Clarke could not prevail against the know-it-all arrogance of such higher-ranking Bush officials as Vice President Dick Cheney; Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; Rumsfeld’s deputy, Paul Wolfowitz; and National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice.

GUEST EDITORIAL: PLAYING THE BLAME GAME

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 23, 2021 at 12:09 am
Want to play the blame game?  Let’s see who we can blame for Afghanistan:

(1)  The Bush administration: They got us into this mess with no exit strategy and then dropped the ball, failing to get Bin Laden and starting another war in Iraq.  I hope the war profiteers’ profits were worth all the American (and other) lives lost. The war in Afghanistan was a rushed response to the events of 9/11.  Everyone in Congress supported it except for one Representative.  Barbra Lee of California voted ‘no’ because she believed we should have been cautious.  She was right.

The USA ignored what happened previously to the Russians.  And the irony is that we helped the resistance fighters (the Mujahideen) with arms and training which were later used against us.  The Mujahideen became the Taliban. 

Pin on ufghaan

Afghanistan 

(2)  The Obama administration: Obama got Bin Laden, but shortly thereafter we lost Seal Team 6 in a helicopter that was shot down by the Taliban.  After that, Obama was pretty much hands off.  He wanted to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, nut he got burned when he pulled us out of Iraq and the Iraqi army collapsed under pressure from ISIS.  He did not want to make the same mistake.  But that decision left us in limbo land.  We weren’t winning, but at least we weren’t losing.  The plan continued to be propping up the ineffective Afghan government and training their army. 

(3)  The Trump administration: Trump came into office and increased the number of troops to 14,000. But he planned to reduce the number of troops back to the level he inherited from Obama and eventually pull out entirely. They made a deal with the Taliban that did not include the Afghan government and signaled that a pullout was coming. Whatever happened to “We don’t deal with terrorists”? 

No telling how the pullout would have worked under Trump, but if the Afghans folded like they did, the result would have probably been the same.  Interestingly, the GOP pulled down a webpage that lauded Trump’s “Historic peace agreement with the Taliban”. 

Archived version of RNC page touting Trump's Taliban deal

 

And let’s not forget that Trump negotiated the release of Abdul Ghani Baradar (one of the founders of the Taliban) from a Pakistani prison.  And he’s the one who signed the peace agreement.   That peace agreement was supposed to have led to discussions between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but that never happened. 

(4) The Biden administration: They went along with the Trump agreement, basically giving the green light to the Taliban.  The Taliban would have waited us out for a hundred years if necessary. Joe gets the blame for what happens under his watch, but he should get credit for ending an occupation that should have ended many years ago. 

(5)  Pakistan:  They let Bin Laden and the Taliban hide.  We got Bin Laden, but we couldn’t get the Taliban without starting a war with Pakistan.  And they have nuclear weapons.

(6)  The Afghan people: Who let the Taliban take over in the first place? They did. Who counted on the USA and others to keep them safe? They did.  Who took advantage of our training and weapons, only to fold like a cheap suit against the Taliban when they were on their own?  They did. 

I do feel sorry for those who did what they could, but overall, there was no way they could ever defend themselves.

So, there’s plenty of blame to go around. 

Biden is getting heat from both sides.  The pullout is a mess, largely because of underestimating the speed at which the Taliban would take over and the collapse of both the Afghan government and Afghan army.  There is fear that many of the Afghans who helped the US are in danger and they may not get out. Some people have already died trying to cling to a jet as it took off. Biden is sending more troops to cover the evacuation. 

Joe Biden presidential portrait.jpg

President Joseph Biden

But Biden gave an honest speech.  He admitted that there were failures.  He took responsibility and defended his decision instead of trying to deflect.  It’s hard to imagine Trump doing the same.

Time will tell if the decision to pull out at this time was the right move. There is no denying that we have been mired in this quagmire for too long. We have wasted too many lives and too many resources. 

The spin will continue. Liz Cheney hilariously blamed Obama and Trump while conveniently forgetting to mention her dad’s involvement (along with Bush and Rumsfeld) in getting us into this mess in the first place. George Bush told a German broadcaster that Biden’s order to pull out was a grave mistake.  That’s like an arsonist blaming the firefighters for not handling the blaze he created. 

Hopefully, we will learn from this fiasco. The moral of the story is that we shouldn’t go around and mess with others’ business when we can’t even get our own shit in order.  And if we should fall into that trap again, we should at least refrain from “nation building”, which is the height of American arrogance.

__________

Ed Muurahainen is a historian, writer, and musician. He resides in Orlando, FL, where he studied psychology, political science and logic at Valencia College and the University of Central Florida. 

BARBARIANS CAN’T BE CIVILIZED

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on August 16, 2021 at 12:07 am

On July 8, President Joseph Biden said that America would withdraw its armed forces from Afghanistan by August 31, thus ending the nearly 20-year war.

“How many more, how many more thousands of American daughters and sons are you willing to risk?” Biden said to those calling for the United States to extend the military operation. 

To put the consequences of this effort into human terms:

On December 21, 2015, a suicide-bomber rammed an explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.  Six American troops and an Afghan were killed.

One of the dead was Joseph Lemm, 45, a detective and 15-year veteran of the New York Police Department. A technical sergeant in the New York Air National Guard, he had been deployed three times—once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

Joseph Lemm - Tunnel to Towers Foundation

Joseph Lemm

Lemm left behind a daughter, Brook, 16, a son, Ryan, four, and his wife, Christine.

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo ordered that flags on all state government buildings be flown at half-staff on December 23 in Lemm’s honor.

“Staff Sergeant Joe Lemm served this nation with the selflessness and bravery that embodies the U.S. Armed Forces and the NYPD,” Cuomo said in a statement. 

Lemm’s death was a double tragedy—that of a dedicated man who should not have died so needlessly. 

A total of 2,312 US military personnel in Afghanistan have died and 20,066 have been wounded since 2001. The cost of military operations is put at $824 billion.

The history of American conflict in Afghanistan began on September 11, 2001.

On that date, 19 Islamic hijackers slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center in New York and one into the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.

A fourth plane, headed for the White House or Capitol Building, failed to reach its target when its passengers rioted—and the hijackers dove it into a Pennsylvania field.

The mastermind of the attacks was Osama bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire then living in Afghanistan, under protection by its ruling thugocracy, the Taliban.

The administration of President George W. Bush demanded his immediate surrender to American justice.

The Taliban refused.

So, on October 7, 2011—less than one month from the 9/11 attacks—American bombers began pounding Taliban positions.

The whole point of the campaign was to pressure the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

But the Taliban refused. Bin Laden holed up in the mountains of Tora Bora, and then ultimately escaped into Pakistan.

After December, 2001, American Intelligence completely lost track of Bin Laden. CIA officials repeatedly said he was likely living in the “no-man’s-land” between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Thus, there was no longer any point in pressuring the Taliban to surrender Bin Laden.

Osama bin Laden

Still, the United States continued to commit forces to Afghanistan—to turn a primitive, warlord-ruled country into a modern-day democracy.

There was, admittedly, a great deal to detest about the Taliban:

  • When the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, they turned soccer stadiums into execution plazas for mass beheadings or shootings.
  • Taliban “fighters” have proven their “courage” by throwing acid into the faces of women who dared to attend school.

Taliban religious police beating a woman

  • On August 8, 1989, the Taliban attacked Mazar-i-Sharif. Talibanists began shooting people in the street, then moved on to mass rapes of women. Thousands of people were locked in containers and left to suffocate.
  • The Taliban forbade women to leave their homes unless accompanied by a male relative and wearing the burqa—a traditional dress covering the entire body. Those who disobeyed were publicly beaten.

Yet, as horrific as such atrocities were, these did not obligate the United States to spend eternity trying to bring civilization to this barbaric country.

And, in pursuing that goal, both the Bush and Obama administrations repeatedly overlooked the following realities:

  • Hamid Karzai, the “president” of Afghanistan (2001-2014) didn’t believe in democracy—despite American claims to support his efforts to bring this to Afghanistan.
  • His authority didn’t extend beyond Kabul, and he was viewed by most Afghans as an illegitimate ruler, imposed by America.
  • The same can be said for his successor, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani.
  • American soldiers in Afghanistan felt surrounded by enemies and hamstrung by unrealistic orders to win “hearts and minds” at the risk of their own lives.
  • The Taliban poses no threat to the security of the United States.
  • Afghan “insurgents” are fighting American forces because (1) they are in a civil war; and (2) they believe their country has once again been occupied by foreigners.
  • Counterinsurgency was preached as the key to defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan—where it hasn’t worked.
  • Americans entered Afghanistan without an exit strategy.

All these truths applied just as firmly to America’s failed misadventure in Vietnam.

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

Dr. Dennis Greenbaum, a former army medic, summed up how Americans had really felt about their supposed South Vietnamese allies.

“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. The only thing below them was the civilians,” said Greenbaum.

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

HANDLING CRISES: JFK VS. TRUMP

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary on August 6, 2021 at 12:10 am

On March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump addressed a subject he clearly resented being asked about: His gutting of an early-warning medical system set up to confront pandemics.

In 2014, following the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Barack Obama created the White House Pandemic Office, run by the White House’s National Security Council (NSC).

Heading it was Rear Admiral Tim Ziemer. Under President George W. Bush, he had successfully fought malaria overseas. His topflight team of infectious disease and public health experts was creating a national bio-defense strategy.  Their goal: Coordinate agencies to make the United States more resilient to the threat of epidemics and biological warfare.

In May, 2018, Trump ordered the NSC’s global health security unit shut down. The reason: Trump’s pathological jealousy of and hatred for Obama.

On March 13, at a White House press conference, Yamiche Alcindor, the PBS Newshour’s White House Correspondent, dared to ask Trump: “My first question is: You said that you don’t take responsibility, but you did disband the White House Pandemic Office and the officials that were working in that office left this administration abruptly. So, what responsibility do you take to that?

Yamiche Alcindor 1.jpg

Yamiche Alcindor

“And the officials that worked in that office said that you—that the White House lost valuable time because that office was disbanded. What do you make of that?”

Then followed this exchange:

TRUMP: Well, I just think it’s a nasty question, because what we’ve done is—and Tony had said numerous times that we saved thousands of lives because of the quick closing. And when you say me, I didn’t do it. We have a group of people.

ALCINDOR: It’s your administration.

TRUMP: I could ask, perhaps—my administration, but I could perhaps ask Tony about that, because I don’t know anything about it. I mean, you say we did that. I don’t know anything about it.

ALCINDOR: You don’t know about the—

TRUMP: We’re spending—

ALCINDOR: — About the reorganization that happened in the National Security Council?

TRUMP: No, I don’t know. It’s the—it’s the administration, perhaps they do that. You know, people let people go. You know, you used to be with a different newspaper than you are now. You know, things like that happen.

Trump’s refusal to accept responsibility for the greatest crisis of his tenure as President flagrantly contrasts with how President John F. Kennedy responded to a similar crisis.

Jeffrey Guterman on Twitter: "Press conference by U.S. president ...

John F. Kennedy press conference

On April 17, 1961, the U.S. Navy landed 1,400 CIA-trained Cuban exiles on Cuba to overthrow the Communist government of Fidel Castro. Landing at the Bay of Pigs, they were supposed to head into the mountains—as Castro himself had done against the dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista in 1956—and raise the cry of revolution.

When the invaders surged onto the beaches, they found Castro’s army waiting for them. Many of the invaders were killed on the spot. Others were captured.

It was a major public relations setback for the newly-installed Kennedy administration, which had raised hopes for a change in American-Soviet relations.

Kennedy, trying to abort widespread criticism, publicly took the blame for the setback: “There’s an old saying that victory has a hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan….I’m the responsible officer of the Government.”

Ironically, the crisis—and his taking responsibility for it—hugely increased Kennedy’s popularity. The national Gallup Poll reported that 83 percent of Americans approved of the job he was doing as President.

To a White House aide, Kennedy half-joked: “It’s just like Eisenhower—the worse I do, the more popular I get.”

By contrast, Trump’s “handling” of the Coronavirus plague brought him the worst reviews of his Presidency.

Conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks attacked Trump in terms usually reserved for serial killers. On the March 13 edition of The PBS Newshour, he said:

“This is what happens when you elect a sociopath as president, who doesn’t care, who has treated this whole thing for the past month as if it’s about him. ‘How do people like me?’ Minimizing the risks. ‘Does the stock market reflect well on me?’ And he hasn’t done the things a normal human being would do, which was to, let’s take precautions….

“And he’s incapable of that. And he’s even created an information distortion field around him.” 

And Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for The Washington Post, said: “He likes having powerful people around him to praise what he’s done. He tried to get them all up to the podium to talk about how great of a response he has provided, and I think that’s—trying to get that co-signed from CEOs and powerful people is a key part of his presidency.”

Kimberly Atkins, senior Washington news correspondent for WBUR, Boston’s NPR News Station: “We have seen the president not only be all over the place but his instinct was to try to downplay it [Coronavirus] because he saw it as a political threat—to say that people would get better….

“Even today he’s saying, ‘We have everything under control. We have this website that people can go to and find out where they can get tested.’ The website isn’t even done yet.”

FOUR MAPS TO INFAMY: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Medical, Politics, Social commentary, Uncategorized on July 29, 2021 at 12:05 am

Whites comprised the overwhelming majority of the audiences at Donald Trump’s 2016 Presidential campaign rallies. Not all were racists, but many of those who were advertised it on T-shirts: “MAKE AMERICA WHITE AGAIN.”

And the vast majority of the white votes Trump got were in the South.

The 2008 election of Barack Obama as the first black President had shocked whites. His 2012 re-election had deprived them of the hope that 2008 had been an accident.

Then came 2016—and the possibility that a black President might actually be followed by a woman: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. 

And for macho, largely uneducated, anti-black Southern males, the idea of a woman dictating to men was simply too much to bear.

Thus, the third map of infamy: Southerners’ election of Donald Trump.

When Trump declared his candidacy:

  • The country was essentially at peace.
  • Thanks to government loans from President Obama, American capitalism had been saved from its own excesses during the George W. Bush administration.
  • Employment was up. CEOs were doing extremely well.
  • Unlike the administration of Ronald Reagan, there had been no corruption scandals during the Obama Presidency.
  • Nor had there been any large-scale terrorist attacks on American soil—like 9/11 under President George W. Bush.

Above all, the news was filled with reputable reports—later confirmed—that Trump’s campaign was backed by Russian oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB and now President of Russia.

In short: Southerners—who had long portrayed themselves as America’s most dedicated patriots—flocked to the banner of a man who publicly called on “Russia” to interfere in an American Presidential election. 

Red States voted for Donald Trump – 2016

BobWyatt07, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Now for the South’s fourth map of infamy.

Donald Trump’s four-year Presidency produced a legacy of unprecedented racism, criminality, abuse of power and treason. 

But the crime for which he will be longest-remembered—and which finally brought him down—was his unwillingness to protect Americans from the deadly COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 catastrophe slammed into the United States in January, 2020. It was the inevitable result of a natural disaster colliding with an evil and incompetent administration.

Trump’s “cures” for COVID-19 included denial, lies, Republican subservience, chaos, extortion, propaganda as news, quackery as medicine, demands to “re-open the country,” Ignoring the danger and—finally—resignation (“Learn to live with the virus”). 

Early on, Trump made the virus a referendum on himself. If you supported him, you didn’t wear a mask when you ventured out in public. This despite the fact that, throughout 2020, there was no vaccine available and hospitals were rapidly overwhelmed by debilitated and dying casualties of the virus.

“I think, once Donald Trump and other Republicans made it a manhood issue, or a freedom issue, or whatever kind of issue they made it, it’s hard to walk back that culture war signal,” said conservative New York Times columnist David Brooks on the PBS Newshour on July 23.

Washington Post Columnist Jonathan Capehart echoed him: “I think, if we had had a president of the United States who took this seriously when this first came on the scene, if we had a Republican party that took this seriously enough to warn everyone, their constituents saying, wash your hands, then put on a mask, then go get the vaccine, we wouldn’t be where we are right now.”

PBS NewsHour | Brooks and Capehart on voting and gun violence legislation | Season 2021 | PBS

Jonathan Capehart

But neither Trump nor the Republican party urged Americans to “wash your hands, put on a mask, then go get the vaccine.” 

By March, 2021, three vaccines—by Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—became available. A total of 90.4 million doses of these vaccines had been given. And 30.7 million Americans had been fully vaccinated against the virus. 

But after a triumphant beginning, the pace of vaccinations slowed, then halted. By late July, 2021, only 49.6% of Americans had been fully vaccinated.

Covid-19 Vaccination Map of USA.png

COVID-19 vaccination map – July 21, 2021

George Karabassis, CC BY 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0&gt;, via Wikimedia Commons

Many of those who had gotten one shot of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines refused to get the necessary second one. These must be given almost a month apart.

(The Johnson & Johnson vaccine requires only one shot.)

What had happened?

“The people I know personally who are not getting the vaccine, for them, it was like, ‘They rushed this thing,'” theorized David Brooks. “‘Who knows what’s going to happen to all these people who get the shots in 10 years or 20 years?’ So, why should I take the risk?’

“And that’s not completely crazy, but it’s not—it’s based on some sense of general distrust for the establishment, including the medical establishment. And that establishment—that distrust is the core of this thing.”

Shields and Brooks on Trump's COVID-19 diagnosis and the debate | PBS NewsHour

David Brooks

And leading the way to this catastrophe of self-destruction were the states of the South and Midwest: Mississippi (47.1%,), Alabama (50.5%), Arkansas (53.2%), and Tennessee (52.9%) with the lowest rates of residents who have gotten at least one shot.

By late July, three states—Florida, Texas and Missouri—with lower vaccination rates accounted for 40 percent of all cases nationwide.

And colliding head-on with the refusals of millions to get vaccinated is the newer—and deadlier—Delta variant of COVID-19.

Just as the South unleashed the Civil War on America, it has now ignited a new wave of COVID-19 on America.

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