Archive for December, 2008

The Hypocrisy of American Exceptionalism

Posted in politics on December 31, 2008 by countryjim13

newdojsealBy now the story is all over the news. On Monday the Associated Press reported on a case in which the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is asking a Miami judge to issue a sentence of 147 years in prison to a man who has been found guilty of a crime. The irony that begs too many questions to count is that this sentence is being requested for a man who has been convicted of torture. This man’s name is Charles McArthur Emmanuel and he is the son of former Liberian president Charles Taylor. Apparently the son was the head of a paramilitary group while his father was President and as head of this group the son was found to be responsible for the torture of people in Liberia. Apparently there was a law passed in the U.S. in 1994 that says that we can try people for torture committed in other countries (source).

Let’s assume that this is all fine and well. Charles McArthur Emmanuel has been convicted of torture, he has done horrible things, and he should get a heavy sentence, right? I have no problem with that. I will assume he did commit egregious crimes that should carry a heavy punishment. What I do have a problem with is the hypocrisy that flows like a powerful, raging torrent through the heart of this request from the DOJ.

The DOJ is part of the executivebranch of the federal government. The job of the executive branch, as laid out by the U.S. Constitution, is to enforce the laws that are passed by the legislative branch of the federal government. The U.S. Department of Justice is one of the many departments (others include the DHS, the FBI, the EPA, etc) within the executive branch that have been created to help facilitate the carrying out of this Constitutional task. So we could easily say that the DOJ is doing in job in making such a request.

The hypocrisy lies in the fact while the DOJ is seeking such a harsh penalty for a non-American citizen convicted in an American court for crimes committed in another country, Americans who have been convicted torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq, under U.S. jurisdiction have been given nothing more than slaps on the wrist. Where were the calls from the DOJ for heavy sentencing for Private First Class Lynndie England? She was only sentenced to three years in prison. What about Specialist Charles Graner? He received the heaviest sentence of any of those accused for torturing and abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib. He was given a hefty 10 year sentence at Ft. Leavenworth military prison. Have there been any trials related to the use of water boarding by the U.S. military?

Not a new method, this photo shows American soldiers using waterboarding during the Vietnam War.

Not a new method, this photo shows American soldiers using waterboarding during the Vietnam War.

Recently the Senate Armed Services Committee, which includes 12 Republicans, issued a report from their investigation into instances of torture on the part of U.S. military personnel. In their report they accuse top ranking officials from the Bush Administration, including former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, of being responsible for the “abuse of prisoners” that has occurred at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba (source). Of course “prisoner abuse” is our slanted way of saying torture so we can still feel good about ourselves and our place of moral superiority in the world. Not only did top administration officials encourage the use of torture but they are trying to redefine American law in such a way that allows them to argue that they have done nothing wrong or illegal.

In an interview with Jonathan Karl, Dick Cheney himself says the U.S. openly uses torture and that top level administrators, including himself, were aware of the torture programs. He just doesn’t use the word torture. He admits to the use of tactics such as water boarding to elicit information from prisoners such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. However, he justifies such tactics on the basis that the Bush

Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney

Administration sought legal opinions from the DOJ on the matter of interrogation techniques and were given the go ahead (source). So basically, “Our own legal team said it was okay to torture and so we do. Since our lawyers said we could, it is legal and since it is legal it is not torture.” Does that about sum it up Cheney?

Token sentence were given to U.S. military personnel convicted of war crimes and “prisoner abuse.” The DOJ has sanctioned water boarding of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay and Bush Administration officials at least as high up as the Vice President were aware of and at least complicit with the use of the tactic. We’ve heard nothing from the DOJ about prosecuting Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney or anyone else in the Bush Administration. It seems that even President-elect Barak Obama may be balking at the idea of trying Bush Administration officials on war crimes charges. Meanwhile the DOJ is requesting a sentence of 147 years in prison for a crime committed by non-American citizen in another country.

American Exceptionalism

American Exceptionalism

Does this not speak the worst of the American fantasy of exceptionalism? We’ve gone from the dream of being a city on a hill to the reality of being the world’s bully in the name of our shiny pillar of democracy. It is not enough that we invade other nations upon our own whims and fabricate evidence to support those actions. It is not enough that we violently dispose of foreign leaders who don’t tow our political line. We go even further. We punish people who aren’t Americans for crimes they commit in other countries. We are applying our laws to people in other places, people who are not even bound by our national laws and at the same time we are unwilling to prosecute, let alone sentence our own citizens, those in our government who are accused and most likely guilty of committing the same crimes. We are America, we are special, and we can do whatever we want. We don’t have to follow the same laws, rules, or codes of conduct as the rest of the world because we are better than the rest of the world. We are the superpower. We are the shining example of democracy and freedom. Everything we touch turns to gold and our excrement smells of a fresh spring bouquet.

It is a crock. However, this is the worldview of the Bush Administration, many others within the Federal government, and of a great many of this country’s citizens. It is a dangerous worldview that has helped throw the world into chaos over the last decade, but which reaches much farther back into history in its role as a global destabilizer. This same sense of American perfection, rightness, and exceptionalism runs through the history of the Cold War and our battle against the “evils” of communism. It even runs as far back as our quest to dominate the western frontier, a war with Mexico and the genocidal path that was cut through Native America in order to achieve that aim. American exceptionalism is nothing new and it runs as strongly through the themes of today’s “war on terror” as it has at any other point in our short history as a nation. It is a worldview that will continue to wreak havoc on the world until we the people ourselves realize that we need to work in equitable cooperation with the rest of the world if we are all to live in a free and peaceful world.

We need to come to the realization that forcing others to follow our lead is no way to lead. It is no way to create a better world for Americans or for anyone else. We need to drop our sense of entitlement, our sense of being better and superior to the other people’s of the world. This sense that we are right and everyone else is wrong, a belief suckled and matured in the arms of the nation’s churches, must go. This idea is virtually bred into our children as they are taught that Christianity is right and all other religions are wrong.  How easily that sense of superiority has been transferred onto patriotism and blind obedience to a flag.  If this worldview is not rejected, who knows to what dark place America will next take the world. The particular hypocrisy in the incident of the requested sentencing for Charles McArthur Emmanuel is only a small manifestation, the latest example of this problem of American exceptionalism that stands at the doorway to many of the worlds geopolitical problems.


Checking Up On “Facts” Part II: The War On Christmas

Posted in politics, public notices, religion, society and culture on December 24, 2008 by countryjim13

Here is a link to a great article by Michelle Goldberg on about the extreme right’s attempt to actually create a liberal, secular, humanist war on Christmas as a way of acting like they are playing defense in America’s culture war when in reality they are on the offensive against seperation of church and state, pluralism, humanism, and cultural diversity and tolerance in general.  I highly recommend reading the article as means of fact checking this supposed “war on Christmas” that we’ve become all too familiar with thanks to conservative pundits such Bill O’Riley and a gang of preachers using their pulpit in this culture war as means of salvaging a small vestige of whatever political power the church may still have in the face of an increasingly liberal minded nation and the decreasingly weakened voting power of the religious right.  These preachers and pundits are using their made up war on Christmas to rally their troops in a culture war that is becoming increasingly heated  as it is more and more full of issues which the right <span style=”font-size:x-small;font-family:Verdana
sees it has very little chances of winning and so fights to win all the more ferociously.  If your power to influence real issues is continually on the wane, make up an issue to try and revitalize and energize your base!

Bailouts, Bridge-Loans and Blue Collar Workers

Posted in economics, politics with tags , , , , on December 12, 2008 by mightyfag

Let’s face it, folks. We are in the Second Great Depression – or at least at the start of it. The last Great Depression was fueled by highly irresponsible lending, irresponsible playing with the stock market and large central banks calling in loans and then draining massive amounts of capital out of the system. This Great Bush Depression was fueled by almost identical forces, only this time our economy is more dependent upon credit than last time, and the potential is for massive collapse of our entire economic system.

The neo-conservatives who have been dismantling our economy since the era of Reganomics, deregulating financial systems, destroying any government agencies that were put in place during the last Great Depression to prevent economic collapse, and systematically vilifying and disempowering unionized labor have come to the end of a 30 year reign where trickle-down economics have proven once again to be less about economics and more about being “trickled on”. When their “free market” system ran amok and they ended up losing billions of dollars, what did they do? They attempted to nationalize the debt of failed irresponsible corporations, but privatize the profits thereof. (Can we say national-socialism, a.k.a. corporatism, a.k.a. FASCISM!?!)

Bailouts for Buddies

The biggest bailout (i.e. chunk of federal tax-payer money thrown at an industry with no accountability on how it is spent) went to the investment banks and debt insurance companies – the largest being AIG. The Federal Government gave AIG (a bank that insures other banks’ loans and lines of credit) $85 BILLION dollars for a 79.9% equity stake in the form of warrants called equity participation notes. The two year loan carries an interest rate of the London interbank offered rate +8.5%. (source) Effectively, if AIG does well, the taxpayers will regain what was given to AIG and more. Seeing how the housing market is continuing to collapse and foreclosures are still growing around the nation, AIG will have to payout on the loans they promised to back – many of which were highly unethical subprime mortgages with variable interest rates that homeowners are finding themselves unable to keep up with as their home values plummet and the economy worstens. Instead of forcing banks to restructure mortgage loans for consumers, or offering direct support for homeowners (helping Main Street as well as Wall Street – as President Elect Obama likes to say) these Neo-Cons who are in bed with these large bankers and investment corporations padded their buddies’ accounts and managed to further monopolize the banking industry by letting other large banks (like Leighman Brothers) collapse or be bought up by pennies on the dollar (Washington Mutual being bought by Chase – one of the original architects of the first Great Depression).

The infuriating thing about the bank bailouts is that they continue to go on with little to no oversight, no prerequisites, and essentially put the burden of financial liability on the backs of taxpayers, but don’t really put any profits in our pockets in the end – or rather, promises us profits at the end of a very bad gamble that’s highly in favor of the house. You can see a graph of what financial institutions received federal bailout money on the New York Times site here. These companies do not create any tangible products. They don’t keep their business in this country – often financing foreign countries’ debts or backing them in the case of debt insurer. And they received carte blanche bailouts from the goverment.

Bridge-Loans for Auto Manufacturers

In light of the economic depression, the big three auto manufacturers in the U.S. came to Washington in order to seek economic assistance to survive. In contrast to the above mentioned financial executives and their begging for money, these executives and their companies have been receiving extraordinary criticism, negative press and mocking from the media in general. This time around, the auto manufacturers wanted a loan to bridge the bad financial times. These loans were a fraction of the $700 billion that congress has given the green light to give to financial institutions without oversight, but suddenly, they are being held to a different standard. Congress is insisting that they make fundamental changes to the way they do business. They are being forced to retool their plants, dedicate their efforts to making fuel efficient and low-emission vehicles, or to give up executive wages, etc. The image of the “big three” executives coming to Washington on private jets was the culmination of their apparent lack of financial prudence; flushing money down the toilet while asking for more. (No one mentioned that the investment bank executives probably took private jets to Washington as well.)

Now, don’t get me wrong. I think American car manufacturers are way behind in the times, they are out of touch with what consumers want, and they are VERY hesitant to innovate or change. At the same time, they are one of the largest employers in the country and their work force is unionized, guaranteeing living wages and a pension for the dedication of their workers – one of the oldest parts of the “American Dream.”

Most recently, these loans were approved by the House of Representatives, but they failed in the Senate (source) mainly due to Republicans from the South who are hellbent on two things. 1) Destroying organized labor – something Republicans have been trying to do ever since it came about and 2) Destroying competition for the foreign automobile plants that have been built in their home states that run with non-unionized labor (source) and were subsidized with tax incentives at a per-capita burden higher than the current proposed auto bridge-loans for U.S. Manufacturers. Basically they are covering their more expensive investments to bring business to their states at the expense of the greater U.S. economic well-being.

Another force being vilified in this fray is unionized labor. The Republican talking-point distribution network of radio talk shows and televised opinion shows have already begun to spout the propaganda that the reason the U.S. auto manufacturers are failing is due to the United Auto Workers and their high demands in terms of wages and benefits. (source) Senate Republicans are demanding that the U.A.W. make concessions and cut back on their wages and benefits to fall in line with foreign auto manufacturers. Union workers are not the cause of these companies having problems. U.A.W. workers have a two-tier pay structure (something normally unheard of in unions) where longer-time employees receive (as of 2006) $32.32 per hour for straight-time labor, where newer employees would receive $27.81 per hour of straight-time labor. These are good paying jobs – not extraordinarily over-paid positions. Additionally, the labor costs per vehicle come out to approximately 8.5% the price of a vehicle. (source) This is not a bank-breaking operation, and U.A.W. workers are already making concessions (like reducing health coverage as part of their contract, etc.) as they don’t want the auto manufacturers to go out of business either.

When I hear every-day Americans blaming the unions for bad business or in other ways vilifying unions, I always remind them that they aught not complain about someone having a better wage than they do, when they too could unionize and fight for a fair wage for the work they do. And let us not forget that the unions were what helped build up the Middle Class in the 50’s, one of the most prosperous times in our nation’s history. The more that organized labor gets beat down or disempowered the more of a decay of the middle class this country experiences, and the separation between the richest and the poorest grows wider and wider.

Additionally, there’s one thing these Republicans never mention: foreign auto manufacturers are intimately tied to their own governments and are seen as a nationalized or partially nationalized industry, and their workers have benefits given to them (like nationlized health care) that American workers are not, thus driving up the costs of labor in the “Free American Market”. Make no mistake about it, where Hyundai goes, South Korea goes, likewise, Toyota and Honda are intimately intertwined with the Japanese government and receive subsidies, tax breaks and more to assist in their success – these are things the U.S. car manufacturers don’t get. And the huge burden of health care, should it be nationlized like ever other social democracy in the modern world, would be a big economic boon to business in the states.

What to do?

Where I stand on this issue is that I think the bridge loans should be approved for the auto industry, but with caps on executive pay and with a requirement for worker positions and wages to be protected and maintained. Additionally I support the requirement for them to invest a certain percentage of the money into fuel efficiency and alternatives. But in doing so, I think we should nationalize the auto companies and use them as a way of revitalizing our economy. Reinvent the car, build plants across the nation wherever the unemployment figures are worst, and drive up demand for these newly engineered vehicles. By nationalizing the industry, we can better support organized labor, steer progress in automobile ingenuinty and also make real and effective change in vehicle emissions, carbon dioxide emissions and tie the industry into effective environmental reform as well. If you’re going to nationalize the liability, then nationlize the profit as well.

Lost in the Shuffle : Native Americans and the Availability of Education

Posted in economics, just sayin', society and culture on December 10, 2008 by barbelith923

American history is filled with accomplishments, wars fought and triumphed, adversity overcome, an end to racial indifference, and rights put in place towards self expression without fear of reprise. Yet there is also the record of failures and injustices as well. It is true that our forefathers made mistakes in the name of progress. And in some cases, the word mistake is far too mild for such terrible deeds.  One example would be the attempts by the American government to destroy entire cultures through so-called education.  In as little as 100 years ago, Native American children were abducted from their families and forced into re-education schools to become, what the American government considered to be, civilized individuals. Sadly, rather than providing an education, children weren’t allowed to speak their native languages, practice their customs, or live life as they had been taught by their parents and elders. In many instances, these institutions dealt the final blow to some already struggling cultures. It could be argued that formalized education was originally one of the worst curses enforced upon America’s indigenous population.

These days however, an education may be one of the few things geared towards the survival of American natives. It could be said that a college degree may be the key towards not just the well being of the individual, but also to the community as well. In the last fifty years, many things have changed for the betterment of Native Americans. Yet it is not nearly enough. Still mired in poverty, resources are relatively few. And one of these missing resources is access to formalized and decent education. Out of almost all recognized minorities, Native Americans find themselves on the bottom rung of the ladder where access to education is concerned. In this small article, I will attempt to show the reasons why this is so. The subjects to be touched upon will be general issues that many minority students face, such as poverty, the availability of educational resources, and the ultimate goal of attaining a degree. We will then examine how they apply to Native American students. In addition, through the gathering of this information, I have been surprised to find one more additional issue which doesn’t seem to be mentioned in many reports on minority students. And that is the issue of culture as it applies to societal norms, and the general behavior of students and faculty on school campuses. From what I’ve observed, the issue of culture is a very large problem when it comes to Native students and learning institutions. We will examine these problems and hopefully be able to shed some light on the road towards possible solutions.

Purging The Culture Away

When discussing Native Americans and education, we must take a brief look at the history concerning these subjects. It does shed some light upon current issues. In the conquest of America, the Natives were considered a problem by those attempting to colonize the continent. Before 1870, the Natives were initially forced to reside on reservations. Yet new ideas began to surface with the concept of assimilating the Natives rather than segregating them. This led to the legal abduction of Native children, forcing them into schools with the distinct purpose of re-educating them. The goal was to make them civilized or “white”. The only other option was to become trained as a domestic servant. Yet, to hang onto their own unique cultures was strictly forbidden. We can see this in the methods used to transform these children. They were punished severely for speaking in their indigenous tongues. The same thing applied when practicing their tribal customs as well. Their hair was forcibly shorn and they were forced to wear westernized clothing. The goal itself was the loss of cultural identity while creating new and acceptable one, at least according to what white society considered to be acceptable. And as terrible as this may sound, it may be even more shocking to understand that this practice continued until the 1960’s. With the understanding of all of this, we can deduce that a bias probably exists due to the fact that these crimes against Native culture occurred up until only a few generations ago. Yet as negative as learning institutions may be viewed by members of the Native population, we cannot deny the importance of an education in America today.

Along with formalized education comes the promise of the idealized American dream. The idea is that anyone in America can make it to the top and fulfill the goal of attaining an upper class lifestyle through hard work and dedication. The puritan work ethic is still alive and well. Unfortunately, current statistics say otherwise. In fact, with the contemporary stratification of the lower classes, we may actually be watching history repeat itself in that the drastic income inequalities of this day and age have not been felt since the 19th century. However, a solution was devised in the past which changed a great deal of the situation. The answer was education. Not only were large amounts of money invested in education but ladders were created so that bright young students from all walks of life could receive a purposeful and useful education to better themselves. Stratification began to occur again however among the educated as they married and produced children who were born into an elevated status. Today, only 1 in 30 of lower class children will be selected for elite universities. What we can conclude, in this brief examination of the past, is that college graduates have received better opportunities and improved access to decent paying jobs. In addition, education may be the answer to income equalities. Yet what is the situation of stratified children today?

Social and Economic Stratification

When making an examination of those who fall under the classification of stratified individuals, we can divide them into two groups; minorities and the poverty stricken. Let me make it clear however that a good portion of the stratified belong to both groups. And since this article revolves around the Native Americans, who are considered to be a minority, let us take a look at the situation minorities face in general when it comes to elite learning institutions. Even in our modern times, racial tension can still be felt in many of these schools. We can also claim that the transformation of white genteel schools into pre-eminent universities has been slow. To put it bluntly, the numbers don’t lie. Let’s take the University of Virginia for example, who only began to promote changes in the 70’s. Taking a look at just a few years ago, it may be a bit surprising to discover that out of a student population of 13,000 that there were only 1,594 black students. In general, the number of white graduates when compared to minority graduates are just as one-sided. For example, 83% of white students graduate high school, while only 55% of Native students do the same. The numbers are just as staggering when looking at college graduates. Where 23% of whites graduate college, only 6% of Native students achieve the same goal. One more time, we can see an obvious leaning in the numbers. Yet why does this situation exist? Does the problem exist within the student population? The numbers seem to paint a different picture. Instead, we can probably conclude that a problem exists with the colleges and universities instead. In fact, we could probably go so far as to say that when it comes to Native American students, these institutions outright fail. And since we have examined the stratified, focusing in the issue of minority, it is now time to examine the issue of poverty.

It quickly becomes clear that the privileged or children of wealth have better opportunities when it comes to access to quality education. Granted, good financial means could make the purchase of an education easier. However, when it comes to the selection of students, an obvious bias exists. As before, quite simply the numbers don’t lie. In recent times, 60% of students at elite universities came from wealthy or alumni parents, with children of alumni constituting 40%. Upon further examination we can find even more bias leaning towards advantages for the wealthy. It has been shown that the children of very high donors are helped at a substantial rate. Another example is what is called the “Z list”. This is a deferment list for students to catch up when they have fallen behind. Overwhelmingly, this list is dominated by children of the wealthy. Unfortunately, the situation doesn’t seem to be improving for children who come from poor families. As of today, they have only a 40% chance of becoming students at these same universities. Upon examining statistics, we can see that the situation may be getting worse. From 1980 and 1982, the number of poor children in universities and colleges dropped 1%. However, the number of wealthy children rose from 55% to 60%. As we can see, inequalities do exist from the poor to the wealthy, with the wealthy having more advantages, while the poor are left to feed on scraps from a very rich table. Now having examined stratification from both a means of race and wealth, let us now turn to Native Americans, of whom a great portion fall into both classifications.

Hitting One Bird with Two Stones

The majority of Native Americans have it pretty rough, especially when it comes to life on the reservation. It can be said that life on the reservations can be nothing short of squalor, with very few opportunities to construct a life outside of it. Generations of Natives have been trapped in this environment without the financial means of escaping it. In this, it would seem that the segregation of the Native Americans continues to exist. Most are mired in poverty and it could be argued that Native Americans on reservations are of the most stratified. For example, the Pine ridge reservation of South Dakota has been compared to the poorest of third world countries. There are some houses with no electricity, no running water, nor any sewer system. The unemployment rate is staggering measuring at 85%. And yet, this is the third largest reservation in America. In general, life on the reservation is of the poorest quality. A great deal of the populace do not even possess a high school education. Yet, as we have seen, education, could quite possible be the road to freedom, not just serving the individual, but also the community as well. Upon taking a look at the Red Lake reservation in Minnesota, we can see that this condition exists outside of South Dakota as well. 40% live below the poverty line. Crime runs rampant at Red Lake, mainly drug and violence related. As we can see, the brutal living conditions do not apply to just one reservation but many. In examining the condition of most Natives, and reviewing the bias of universities towards whites and the wealthy, there seems to be very few opportunities to get a decent education. However, out of most minorities in the United States, Native Americans rank the lowest as far as receiving an education goes. Knowing that other minorities also suffer from poverty as well and yet are able to achieve more, might there be another factor other than ones previously discussed? As we shall see, the answer may be cultural.

When taking a closer look, we find that one aspect may have been overlooked in the majority of studies pertaining to Native Americans and education. Upon examining the culture of Native Americans and their history, we find more answers. We have already discussed a possible bias towards “white” learning institutions due to the history with Natives and forced re-education. Another aspect of the cultural problem may be in the hands of instructors at most colleges and universities. Most of these instructors experienced college life in a sort of homogeneous environment rather than one based solely on one cultural perspective. A good portion of Natives only get the experience of one culture due to the inability of being able to escape from it. In essence, they instead become dependent upon this culture to sustain them. Since most instructors, come from a more unified cultural experience, they may not have the ability to understand both the importance and impact of this cultural experience as it applies to Natives. This would possibly create a divide between the instructor and the student, which may ultimately lead to feelings of alienation in a very foreign environment. However, it can also be argued that school counselors can help in this capacity and ultimately enhance the development of a Native student. It is essential that awareness of culture, and the traditions surrounding it, be understood. This awareness could bridge this gap. Yet awareness is not enough without this information being placed in the context of the school at large. Colleges and universities may become places where the Native student is made to feel welcome rather than alienated from. And yet, as much sense as these ideas may make, with the exception of very few instances, these policies are currently not in place. It can be argued that accomplishments in school are the responsibility of the student. Yet it would be foolish to state that none of the responsibility falls on the shoulder of the staff and faculty of the university as well. In some ways, these institutions cater to the student to help them excel. However, we must ask if these same institutions have the willingness to cater to the Native student. Unfortunately, I must conclude that the answer is no. Yet where is the proof for my claim?

Tribal Colleges

The answer can be found in Tribal colleges. In 1978, Congress passed the Tribally Community College Assistance Act. It was created to ensure that there were opportunities in place and the expansion of these opportunities for American Indian students. Because these institutions are tribally controlled, students can find the cultural experience that they may be missing in other institutions. Not only are their cultural needs met, there is an understanding of aspects of the stratified life that most Natives are forced to live. Things like family and home life are understood, financial problems are catered to, and with unemployment being so staggering a factor, when a student does have a job, these colleges attempt to work with the student to help them stay employed. Therefore, I think that it is fairly easy to claim that tribal colleges do meet the unique needs of their students. Some have actually made claims that the creation of tribal colleges may be the most significant development for Native Americans in history.  This is not to say that these institutions do not have problems of their own, which in themselves are almost reflections of problems with reservation life. These institutions are horribly underfunded and their facilities are very inadequate. In addition, they are also increasingly understaffed as well. Yet having knowledge of these problems, this lends more credence to my point of culture being a large factor. It is obvious that the funding, facilities, and staff are probably of better quality at larger and more recognized institutions. Yet as we have seen, the number of Native students is incredibly low at these elite schools. However, upon examining the problems with tribal schools, it is surprising to discover that most Native students are completely satisfied with the education they received from tribal colleges rather than the education they received from other institutions. It could be argued that it may possibly be the familiarity of poor conditions in school to poor conditions in life that may create a means of comfort. However, offer an individual a choice between five dollars or fifty. I think it’s fairly logical which one would be taken. One more time, the obvious solution is the understanding of Native culture and it being implemented into the larger context of the school itself. Therefore, we can conclude that if other learning institutions were to attempt to satisfy the cultural needs of the Native student, the attendance of these institutions would probably improve. And not only would attendance improve, I think it’s quite possible that they would excel.

In examining the issue of Native American students and the lack of education among these individuals, I hope that I have been able to convey a few reasons as to why it may be occurring. In taking a look at the larger scope of the stratified, we see that there is an obvious bias towards those that are both white and from wealthy backgrounds. And therefore, since Native Americans are burdened by stratification, we can see problems occurring when Natives attempt to receive a quality education. Yet there is another factor which may add to the reluctance of these same individuals to attend universities of quality education, even if it was available to all. In asking the question as to why Natives are satisfied with an education from a substandard yet tribally influenced school rather than that of a well received and quality school, one conclusion that we can reach is the importance of a culturally influenced experience in education. Yet this is not intended to deny the burden of being a member of a minority or being financially stratified. These are obvious and troubling factors as well. Yet I cannot stress enough that more attention needs to be placed on the cultural aspects as well as the financial and minority aspects as well. The cultural solution may be one of many. We have examined other aspects as well. But there may be more. I argue that only through research will we find these missing pieces of information.

Our indigenous cultures deserve more than the paltry sum of attention they have received. Realize that these people are the descendants of the First Americans. After all the atrocities committed to them, from attempted extermination to the death of cultures through re-education, wouldn’t it seem reasonable to meet them halfway? Wouldn’t it seem reasonable to recognize the possible special needs and circumstances that they now find themselves in? Wouldn’t it also seem reasonable to do whatever possible to allow these folks to improve their condition and lives as they see fit? As we have seen, one of the key ways to improve our lives is through the attainment of an adequate education. From what I can see, we have no other course of action but to do what we can to bring this to fruition. Granted we may not have had a hand in the crimes committed by our forefathers. Yet as their descendants, the responsibility falls on our shoulders to heal what may still be some open wounds. Remember that crimes were still being committed in what could have been just one previous page in history books. These words cannot be erased. Yet, the future has not been written yet. Hopefully, we can write a book worth reading.

The Meaning of Words II: Terrorist

Posted in politics with tags , on December 5, 2008 by countryjim13

terrorist1Terrorist! The word is meant to strike fear into your very soul. In fact its root word is terror, which is defined as “intense, sharp, overmastering fear” (source). The suffix –ist refers to “One that performs a specified action” or “An adherent or advocate of a specified doctrine” (source). Therefore, based on this breakdown and analysis of the word, we can define a terrorist as one that performs an action that causes people to feel intense fear. We could also define a terrorist as one who adheres to or advocates a doctrine of fear or one who uses fear as a political tool.

These definitions leave the observer a lot of wiggle room. They are quite broad. There is any number of people that I could claim to be terrorists and based on these somewhat loose, but clearly accurate definitions I may have a sound argument. Many of these people would not be ones who would automatically jump to mind when considering the evolution of the term over the last decade or two. When we think of a terrorist we are most likely thinking of a political or religious terrorist. We are thinking a person who straps bombs to their chest and blows themselves up in the middle of a crowded market. We think of bombs being planted on buses and inside of federal buildings. We think of attacking civilians and innocent bystanders. We think of people who are rogues, not associated with any nation or legitimate military, using illegal methods of war to attack rightfully established governments and societies. Usually, although not always and even if we should not, we think of Arabs or Islam.

What we do not usually think of is a murderer or serial killer, a rapist, an abusive family member, or a school bully who so scares a poor child that they are afraid to walk to school. However, based on the definition presented above all of these, perhaps even our own President and military can be deemed terrorist. The point of this article though is not to declare George W. Bush or the U.S. military as terrorist, although compelling arguments have been made by others. Rather, the purpose is to show how the word terrorist is a political term used throughout the 20th and 21st centuries to justify wars and constantly shifting alliances. As we will see, if you are our friend or ally you are called a freedom fighter. If you are our enemy, with no change other than a shift in that simple friend versus enemy dichotomy, you become a terrorist.


Osama bin Laden

One of the most relevant examples of this is the relationship between the U.S. and Al-Qaeda and its leaders such as Osama bin Laden. In the mid-1980s Osama bin Laden went to Afghanistan to join the mujahideen, the Afghan resistance movement against the occupying Soviet military force (source). The Soviet Union had invaded in 1979 and the war would last until the Soviet withdraw in 1989. Throughout the Soviet-Afghan war the U.S. provided extensive and covert support by way of weapons, money, and training for the resistance, of which Osama bin Laden was a part. By the end of the war we had given the mujahideen some $2 billion dollars and a host of lethal weapons including heavy machine guns, mortars, anti-tank grenade launchers, and rocket launchers with a range of eight kilometers (source). But it was okay. They were fighting against the Evil Empire, the Soviet Union. These mujahideen were freedom fighters, they were our allies. Who would question our assistance to them?

Of course, we are well aware of how the rest of this story goes, at least up until the present day. The mujahideen will eventually morph into groups like Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In 1991 the U.S. invaded Kuwait by way of Saudi Arabia, Osama bin Laden’s place of birth and the birth place of Islam as well. Osama bin Laden saw the U.S. stationing troops this most holy of Islamic nations, as well as U.S. support for Israel, as an abomination. By the next year, 1992, bin Laden was claiming responsibility for attacks on U.S. soldiers abroad and would claim responsibility for a number of attacks on U.S. soldiers, ships, and embassies over the next decade and a half leading up to 9/11. Over that time period Osama bin Laden, former friend and ally of the world’s most powerful nation, would become known as a terrorist as he made the shift from ally to enemy. Libya was the first nation to issue a warrant for his arrest through Interpol in March of 1998 and a few months later the U.S. would indict him for seven deaths in a 1995 truck bombing that took place in Riyadh at a U.S. run Saudi Arabian National Guard training center. The following year bin Laden was placed on the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list and in October of 2001 bin Laden appeared on the U.S.’s first Most Wanted Terrorists list (source), though it would not be until the next month that he would be pushed to the top of that list as result of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Osama bin Laden was and is now a household name in the inimical sense. He has made the shift from freedom fighter to terrorist, not because he changed his tactics or his overall outlook on the world, rather because he chose to be our enemy.


Saddam Hussein

Another example that is relevant to current events is Saddam Hussein. Like Osama bin Laden, it was during the 1980s that the U.S. befriended Saddam Hussein, who had recently become the leader of Iraq in July of 1979 and was engaged it what would be a decades long war with neighboring Iran. Our alliance with Iran had run its course and that country’s new revolutionary, Islamic government, also taking power in 1979, had declared the Shah’s puppet master (The U.S. government) to be the Great Satan. The U.S. government, looking for new ally against anti-American, Islamic government in Iran, was more than happy to supply Saddam’s regime with weapons, including biological and chemical weapons. These weapons were then used by Saddam Hussein not only against Iran, but against his own citizens (source). These were the Kurds living in north who, in conjunction with Kurdish citizens of southern Turkey, were seeking to break away from these two nations to the form a new and independent Kurdistan. Saddam Hussein was officially a friend and ally, one whom the U.S. government would prop up and help stay in power amidst his own people’s growing hunger and dissatisfaction (source).

Today, the end of this tale is well known. In 1990 Iraq invaded Kuwait and the U.S., feeling its oil supplies potentially threatened, began Operation Desert Shield in Saudi Arabia which was a build up of troops near the Saudi border with Kuwait. In January of 1991 the air raids, followed by a U.S. ground invasion of Kuwait began. As we have seen, This was followed by a decade of economic sanctions in Iraq which, when added to death toll of the Gulf War, aided in the death of over 1 million Iraqis and estimates place the number of child deaths as high as 500,000 (source). Once George W. Bush was in office and 9/11 was very recent history, accusations began flying against Saddam Hussein.

Suddenly he was a terrorist. He supported terrorism, trained terrorists, supplied them with WMDs, and probably even help plan 9/11 We know now that these claims were not only false, but were lies (see my article “The Liar or The Denier: How Will History Judge President George W. Bush?” for proof that these claims were not only false, but that the Bush administration knew they were false and still presented the claims as factual evidence to the American people in making the case for a new war with Iraq). However, the nation was on the move and before long Saddam Hussein was behind bars and Iraq was thrown into chaos with the occupying U.S. military at the helm.

Saddam Hussein after being captured in 2003

Saddam Hussein after being captured in 2003

As with Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein was our friend and ally so long as he cooperated with us and towed the American line. Once that cooperation ended the U.S. government decided he was a threat to our national security (read oil supply) and over the ensuing decade the shift in which he went from being labeled ally to enemy and terrorist was made. Again, during that decade Saddam Hussein did not become a different person. He was a ruthless dictator during the 1980s when he was our ally and he continued to be so during the 1990s and early 2000s while the shift to terrorist was taking place. As with bin Laden, the only thing that changed was Saddam’s standing via that same friend versus enemy dichotomy. As he was now our enemy, it was clearly only a matter of time before it would impossible to see his name without the title Terrorist following right behind.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin

Former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin

The final example I wish to present of this use of the term terrorist as a political tool is the example of various leaders of Israel including Menachem Begin, Benjamin Netanyahu, and perhaps even David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s founding leader. Surely they are not terrorists. Israel is our friend, our ally, a stalwart democracy in the midst of a sea of Middle Eastern dictatorship and Islamic terrorism and these men are the founding leaders of that nation! That is the point. Once friendly to the west they were just that, a friend and ally aiding in the fight against despotism and Islamic extremism. However, this was not always the case.

In the 1940s Begin was commander of an underground military organization called Irgun Tzva’i Leumi (ETZEL). Benjamin Netanyahu, who would also be a future Israeli Prime Minister and western ally, was also a member. This military organization, with Begin at its head, declared war on the British Empire, which at the time occupied Palestine, and carried out attacks against the British in the land that Zionists hoped to make their home once again after some 2000 years of living in the Diaspora. The British, in response to this guerrilla war being waged against them, declared Begin and others like him terrorists and a reward of £10,000 for Begins capture, dead or alive, was announced (source). There are even accusations that David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister and the man who publicly declared Israel an independent nation in 1948, was involved with Irgun terrorism in the 1940s. The accusation is that as head of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion personally approved of the Irgun bombing of the King David Hotel in 1946. The attack killed 92 Britons, Arabs, and Jews (source) and was only one of many attacks carried out by the organization.

Mug shot of Menachem Begin, 1940

Mug shot of Menachem Begin, 1940

Whether or not this particular accusation against Ben-Gurion is correct, the point is clear. Various future leaders of Israel, men who would be deemed staunch western friends and allies in war on terrorism, were at one point in their own history considered terrorists. Why? Because they were enemies of powerful western nations, in this case Great Britain. Just like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein when their friendships with the United States turned cold, these Jewish leaders found themselves labeled as terrorists when opposed to powerful western nations, and they found themselves labeled as allies and freedom fighters when they towed the line of western political civilization.

Clearly the term terrorist is not a word with a clean and static definition. Who will be declared a terrorist is not dependent upon whether or not a particular individual fits some dictionary definition of the term. One is deemed a friend or an enemy, a freedom fighter or a terrorist not based on particular tactics, doctrines, or definitions, but rather based on the nature of their relationship to those nations whose military might places them at the top of the global political and military food chain. Play nice with us and we’ll make you a friend and patronize your leadership regardless of whether you are kind or ruthless. Posture against us or turn your back on us and you will be vilified and eventually forced into war, arrest, and perhaps even execution as Saddam Hussein so poignantly learned.

The War of Words: How Neo-Conservatives Change our Language

Posted in economics, politics with tags , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by mightyfag

One consistent thing we’ve seen over the last 20+ years of neo-conservative rule in the United States is the powerful way in which politicians use or distort language in order to change history, steer political opinion, or defame their opponents. In the past 8 years of George W. Bush’s administration we’ve had new words bushdoyadded to our lexicon including:

  • terrorism
  • islamo-fascism
  • islamic fundamentalists
  • domestic surveilance
  • economic stimulus
  • enhanced interrogation

and many other saying, all used as ways of buffering the impact of certain words, or over-enhancing the impact of others. Other times, conservative talk show hosts or pundits would receive talking points directly from the White House to further its agenda of propaganda. (TV Analysts, Pentagon’s Hidden Hand – source: NY Times, Bush Shows No Reporse for Fake Newscasts – source: Inter Press Service, Secrets of Talk Radio – source: Milwaukee Magazine) What President Bush saught to do was change history, cover up that which had been recorded, and propagandize the news. For 8 years he succeeded, until the media finally took matters back into its own hands and started reporting the news instead of sensationalized propaganda.

And yet, the damage had been done. For years, conservative talk show hosts used the time-honored term “Liberal” as if it was profanity. They spat the word out as an accusation of someone’s disloyalty to America, and in doing so, liberalism – the majority opinion on politics in this country – was vilified, and thus the conservative take over was firmly on its way in this country. Liberals were so affected by this shift in semantics that they adopted the new term “Progressive” to better capture the nature of their stance on politics and social issues. Personally, I’ve always called myself a Progressive Populist, but most folks don’t truly understand what that means.

Other times, historically toxic terms like “fascist” and “communist” or “socialist” are thrown at political opponents to paint them in a negative light. Semantics have always been one of my areas of unhealthy interest, so I’ve decided to channel my own mania into a lesson on words to defuse these linguisic bombs that the right is so keen on tossing.


The first and best example of Fascism can be seen in Mussolini’s dictatorship during WWII. Let’s take a look at how Mussolini defines Fascism. Essentially, Fascist ideology requires a combination of militarist expansion of a nation’s power and influence through authoritarian rule, a fusing of corporations with the state and an inherent disdain for and repression of democracy, universal sufferage or socialist values. Essentially, you don’t have civil liberties because the nation’s interests come first and foremost and everyone should work working to advance the power and influence of the nation.

For these reasons, the term “fascist” has been used in the pejorative to generally describe anyone who wants to take away someone else’s fun. But this is often misused. For example, democrats calling for gun control laws to keep assault rifles off of the streets are often called fascists. From the above description we can see that this is clearly not the case.

American Neo-Conservatism, (which is neither new, nor conservative) is in many ways the American version of Fascism. In the past 8 years in the Bush administration we’ve seen militarist expansion of American influence in the world, unilateral talks with threat of (and often use of) force against other countries, authoritarian rule with the elimination of habeus corpus, military tribunals instead of trials, the use of torture, voter suppression through the use of faulty voting machines, or through the stopping of vote counts to have a puppet Supreme Court elect the president instead, privatization of the military, no-bid contracts for military war profiteers, domestic spying and wiretapping without warrants, supression of free speech on television through spreading of propaganda, and the list goes on and on.


According to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, Socialism is:

A social and economic doctrine that calls for public rather than private ownership or control of property and natural resources. According to the socialist view, individuals do not live or work in isolation but live in cooperation with one another. Furthermore, everything that people produce is in some sense a social product, and everyone who contributes to the production of a good is entitled to a share in it. Society as a whole, therefore, should own or at least control property for the benefit of all its members.

Socialism was theorized by several philosophers, most notably Engels and Marx as a natural outgrowth of the struggle between the working class and the wealthy elite. The later 1800’s and the 20th century saw the rapid growth of socialist nations, organizations and doctrines and often the fall of these structures as well.

The important thing to note here is that Socialism is primarily an economic doctrine. It nationalizes the ownership of industries to varying levels with the intent of sharing wealth throughout the society for the betterment of all.

Socialism has become a dirty word in the United States primarily after the McCarthyist era between the 1940’s and 1950’s. The accusation of “Communist” or “Socialist” was lobbed against anyone deemed the slightest bit liberal (including those who were true patriots, but just had a big mouth) and resulted in many people losing their jobs, careers being ruined and a general “big red scare” throughout society where everyone was suscipcious of others’ political beliefs or activities.

The irony of this whole era is that the United States has some Socialism built into its political system. America is essentially a Social Democracy (or Republic technically). But we’ll address that momentarily.

Many governments in the 20th century sought to create utopian socialist nations through force. They used military force to overthrow existing monarchies, democracies, corrupt oligarchies, dictators, etc. and through revolution instituted communist governments. Communism will be discussed separately below, as it’s implementation reaches beyond that of Socialism, yet the two are often mixed up or described as one and the same.


Communism as described by wikipedia (yeah, I know – but it’s a good definition) is described:

As an ideology, Communism is usually considered to be a branch of socialism, a broad group of social and political philosophies, which draws on the various political and intellectual movements with origins in the work of theorists of the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution. Communism attempts to offer an alternative to the problems believed to be inherent with capitalist economies and the legacy of imperialism and nationalism. Communism states that the only way to solve these problems is for the working class, or proletariat, to replace the wealthy bourgeoisie, which is currently the ruling class, in order to establish a peaceful, free society, without classes, or government.

Sounds lovely doesn’t it… except that it wasn’t. Lenin modified Marx’s original theories that theorized a natural uprising of the working class in response to oppresive conditions to establish a socialist economy with his idea that the downtrodden would never do this on their own and that a separate revolutionary force would have to come in to overthrow the bourgeoise using military force. Communist nations were established across the globe at gun point, executing the wealthy class or driving them out as political refugees, forcefully overtaking privately owned business and industries, nationalizing their ownership and establishing totalitarian or dictatorial governments to enforce the communist economy.

Because of the fusing of socialism with communism in the American lexicon of semantics, most Americans equate the two and think that any socialist policy will result in the slaughters and violence that were historically seen with communist revolutions.

It is interesting to note that Fascists considered themselves diametrically opposed to Communists, yet their tatics were remarkedly similar. Both were highly militaristic systems. Both were deeply authoritarian in their implementation. Both repressed individual liberties for the “greater good” as dictated by the government. The main difference between the two is that Fascist governments implemented rabid Corporatist economic policies, where Communist governments implemented far-reaching Socialist economic policies.

Social Democracy

Described as the “Third Way”, Social Democracies exist all over the planet right now and account for the most successful, prosperous and advanced nations in the world.

In general, contemporary social democrats support: (source:

  • A mixed economy consisting mainly of private enterprise, but with government owned or subsidized programs of education, healthcare, child care and related services for all citizens.
  • Government bodies that regulate private enterprise in the interests of workers, consumers and fair competition.
  • Advocacy of fair trade over free trade.
  • An extensive system of social security (although usually not to the extent advocated by democratic socialists or other socialist groups), with the stated goal of counteracting the effects of poverty and insuring the citizens against loss of income following illness, unemployment or retirement.
  • Moderate to high levels of taxation (through a value-added and/or progressive taxation system) to fund government expenditure.

This reflects the social/political systems of Europe, Canada and the United States, Australia, India and many other democracies. Essentially, it attempts to take the best of Socialism and the best of Capitalism and find a balance between them and support this economic system through a democractically elected government.

In the United States, we have a Social Democracy. We have an economy fueled by private enterprise, corporations, small businesses and capitalist investors that is USUALLY regulated by government oversight and laws to make sure the free market economy doesn’t go nuts and tank itself (as with the Great Depression, the Savings and Loan Crisis of the 80’s or the most recent George W. Bush Recession). Additionally, the government collects taxes to support programs intended to build up society’s overall value, to raise more effective workers and educated citizens that will advance the nation’s growth.

The next time you think we aren’t a socialist country as yourself if you’ve benefited from any of the following social programs:

  • Social Security
  • Free Primary and Secondary Education
  • Free Fire Departments
  • Free Police Departments
  • Subsidized Postal System
  • Free Public Roads
  • Free Airwaves for Television and Radio
  • Unemployment Benefits
  • Medicare
  • Disability
  • Veterans Affairs
  • G.I. Bill
  • Free Health Clinics
  • Labor Laws like a 40 hour work week and overtime laws
  • and the list goes on

These are programs that have helped support society as a whole, preventing the harsh conditions we saw as a result of the Industrial Revolution. Whether you like it or not, we are a social democracy and we’ve all benefitted from that fact in the United States.

So the next time you hear some neo-conservative pundit talking on Fox News about Obama being a socialist or Fascists trying to take away someone’s right to own a gun, look into the real meanings of these words and correct them in your mind. Don’t fall into the trap of sensationalized propaganda being dealt out as if it were news. Take back the English language and start insisiting that others use these terms properly as well.

After 8 years of corporatist, fascist government running an out-of-control laisez-faire economy leading to complete economic meltdown and a loss of global respect and status, I for one welcome our new socialist democratic president!

The Liar or The Denier: How Will History Judge President George W. Bush?

Posted in just sayin', politics with tags on December 4, 2008 by countryjim13

The Lame Duck President and First Lady were interviewed earlier this week by Charlie Gibson. After watching the footage of the of part two of the interview on December 2, 2008 there were some things that, as one who is interested in fighting disinformation, as the title of this blog blatantly suggests, stood out to me. These assertions made by the President provide excellent examples of why George W. Bush has been, and why others like him would be, very dangerous people to have leading our country and our military forces.

Gibson asks Bush what he thinks people in the country feel about him as he prepares to leave office. After a very folksy sounding, “I dunno” he goes on to say that he hopes people feel that he is “a guy that came didn’t sell his soul for politics.” (sic) and proceeds to say that he hopes people know that he is a principled guy who didn’t sell out his principles for politics. Laura Bush then cuts in to say that people feel safer because he was President, that people tell her that all the time (I wonder who these people are).

I find it disconcerting when people use the lack of a terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 as proof that George W. Bush has been a good President, or that if nothing else, that he has made America a safer place. I only have one simple question to ask. How many terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda or other non-Americans took place on American soil before 9/11? Can you think of any? Okay then, perhaps the question should not be whether we are safer now because there have been no other attacks. Perhaps the question should be, why did the attack on 9/11 happen during Bush’s watch? This is not necessarily meant to suggest a conspiracy theory in which the Bush Administration allowed and even colluded in these attacks, but rather to simply look at the past. Clinton, Bush Sr., Regan, Carter, etc. Show me the attack on American soil. You want to say we are safer because George W. Bush? Well then what about 9/11? What about two wars and thousands of dead, tens of thousands of wounded American soldiers? What about increased terrorist attacks around the world since the beginning of this “war on terror”?

Bush then goes on, at Gibson’s request, to give an example of a choice placed before the President that would have went against his principles had he actually made the choice. Bush’s immediate answer was pulling the troops out of Iraq. He said that to do so would have been against his principles. And what are those principles? “…that when you put kids into harms way you go in to win.” This echoes John McCain’s plan for Iraq which he laid out for the American people during the recent election campaign. McCain said over and over again that he would not pull troops out of Iraq until we win so that our troops can “come home with honor and victory and not in defeat” (source).

Victory and honor, no defeat, win at all costs. This idea, shared by Bush and McCain and perhaps much of conservative America, is one of the most dangerous ideas we face in this “war on terror.” In fact, I would argue that this idea is dangerous regardless of the particular conflict or war. The idea that we must keep fighting until we have won is reckless and childish. It is a part of the us versus them, good versus evil, we are always right and they are always wrong, all or nothing philosophy that has guided the executive branch of our government for the last eight years. What if we don’t win? Will we just keep fighting this war indefinitely, allowing bodies to pile up over the decades, or over the centuries as McCain suggested (source)? Rather than always having to be right, rather than the philosophy of victory at all cost maybe we should be more focused on cooperation, on justice, and on peace. Should we not be more concerned with solving the problem, resolving the conflict, and bringing about peace than winning, being victorious, and being able to claim some medieval notion of honor?

Gibson moves the interview along by asking Bush if he has any regrets from his eight years in office. Bush answers that his biggest regret is the intelligence failure in Iraq. He suggests that the intelligence on Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction was wrong and he says, “I wish the intelligence had been different, I guess.” This statement, perhaps more than any other made, will ensure that President Bush goes down in history as either a liar, or as an incompetent President in denial until the very end. I will briefly discuss how the intelligence was not wrong. In fact, the intelligence was correct and was either ignored, falsified, or deliberately omitted by the Bush administration in their call for Congress to authorize the use of force in Iraq.


1. On September 21, 2001, only 10 days after 9/11, the president’s daily brief given by the CIA informed the president that the U.S. intelligence community had no evidence linking Saddam Hussein to the 9/11 attacks. “Coincidentally,” this was left out of the information the Bush administration provided to Congress when making its case for war in Iraq (source).

2. The Bush administration used testimony by a top Al-Qaeda prisoner named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi as proof that Iraq was training Al-Qaeda to use biological and chemical weapons. In November of 2005 the New York Times reported that a then recently declassified Defense Intelligence Agency document from February 2002 stated that this information was unreliable and that in fact, al-Libi intentionally mislead those who had debriefed him. The Bush administration failed to provide this assessment of the intelligence information when making the case for war and unfortunately, the truth did not come out until it was almost four years too late (source).

3. There was a lot of talk about aluminum tubes prior to the invasion of Iraq. Saddam Hussein had received a large shipment of aluminum tubes that could supposedly be used to enrich uranium, part of the process in making a nuclear weapon. There was a lot of debate within the intelligence community over the validity of this claim. Ultimately, nuclear experts within the U.S. Energy Department concluded that the tubes could not be used to enrich uranium and were most likely meant for use in developing artillery rockets. This piece of information, however, was consistently left out by the Bush administration as they touted this piece of “evidence” before the nation and the world as proof of Saddam Hussein’s attempt to develop nuclear weapons and use them on the world (source).

4. We also heard a lot about Saddam Hussein’s attempts to purchase uranium in the African nation of Niger so that he could produce nuclear weapons. After all, you can’t use your aluminum tubes to enrich uranium unless you have lots, and lots of uranium. The documents, which were in British hands, were turned over to the CIA and in February of 2002 it was reported that the documents were forgeries. In March of 2002 The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported that they had come to the same conclusion as the CIA. Furthermore, the IAEA also reported that there was no evidence at all that Iraq was attempting to develop nuclear weapons. Even though this information regarding the attempt to purchase uranium was known to be false, the Bush administration still chose to use this false evidence to make their case for war. In fact, in January 2003, Bush used both the uranium and the aluminum tube examples as fact in his State of the Union Address before Congress and the rest of the nation (source).


There is more, yes I cold go on, but I am not going to. This is old news. All of this is information that has been reported and has been readily available for years to anyone with even the slightest inclination toward searching for the truth. I simply find it appalling that in the face of all of this long standing evidence proving that intelligence showed there were no weapons programs, President Bush is still insisting that intelligence suggested that Saddam Hussein had and was developing WMDs. I suppose that leaving out the part about the evidence being proven false is ethical and removes Bush from all blame and ill-intent. It is clear that this evidence was false, it is clear that this was a lie. American and UN inspectors found nothing before or after the invasion and virtually all of the evidence used by the Bush administration to make its case for war was intelligence that had been refuted, and that refutation had been presented to Bush and his administration before the case for war was made to Congress and the American people.

Decider? Maybe. Liar? It seems so. Denier? Definitely. Hopefully in 47 days we will begin to see the change we have been promised over the course of the last year. I do not have particularly high hopes that an Obama presidency will bring truly significant change to this country. However, at the very least, perhaps enough change that Americans and the rest of the world can start to have even a bit of faith, trust, and hope in this country and its government once again. Please, at least change in the sense that our leaders will be able to admit when they have made mistakes and will be willing to try new approaches to solving our nation’s problems when old approaches have been found to be misguided, rather than simply living in denial and continuing the same failed policies year in and year out. Let us at least be able to stand and say once again that we truly do stand for truth and justice in this country.