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INSULTING THE HEROES OF 9/11

In Bureaucracy, History, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on November 12, 2015 at 11:20 am

On November 5, 2015, Marci Simms became a casualty of 9/11.

Early in her life, Simms decided she wanted to be a policewoman.  And after graduating from John Jay College of Criminal Justice, she joined the New York Police Department in 1998. She worked in Manhattan and Brooklyn before joining the 107th Precinct in Queens in 2013.

Eventually she reached the rank of lieutenant–a major achievement in a department that’s still largely a macho man’s club.

Simms was still a rookie when Al Qaeda terrorists slammed two jetliners into the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

The World Trade Center on September 11, 2001

For the next four months, she joined thousands of other responders at Ground Zero, searching for survivors and human remains and removing tons of hazardous waste produced when the Twin Towers burned and crashed.

Most of those responders didn’t wear respirators or even face masks as protection against the toxic dust they breathed every day.  Meanwhile, the Federal Government assured them that the air was safe.

Firefighters rescuing victims at the World Trade Center

During a 2014 interview, she spoke of the conditions she had faced: “It was smoky. You felt like it was just burning your throat.

“I had a back ache. I thought I did something wrong working around the house. But I noticed a lump on my stomach. Even my doctor thought it was nothing but a cyst.”

That cyst turned out to be stage four lung cancer.  Just 16 months later, on November 5, 2015, Marci Simms died.  She was only 51.

The only positive aspect of her illness: Her medical costs were covered by the Federal Government.

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.

Previously, the responders had been forced to bear the massive costs of healthcare for diseases like cancer and pulmonary fibrosis.

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.

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 lied the nation into a $1 trillion war against Iraq in 2003.

For Republicans, the heroes of 9/11 had become “welfare-seeking bums.”

Slandering the Act as an “entitlement program” like Medicare, they demanded that the responders return to Congress every year to make their case–allegedly to prevent fraud and waste.

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.

Specifically, responders seeking help were told that the following would be reported to the FBI to prove they were not terrorists:

  • Name
  • Birthplace
  • Address
  • Government ID number
  • and other personal data.

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 known terrorist has been found 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?”

Unable to prevent the heroes of 9/11 from receiving medical care for their ailments, Congressional Republicans waited for their chance to strike.

In October, they refused to renew the Act, which is set to expire in October, 2015.

Meanwhile, 2,500 Ground Zero workers–so far–have been stricken with cancer.

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–continue to stand in judgment over those who did.

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).

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.

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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