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Open Letter to Terry Anderson 

Sunday, February 29, 2004

A few days ago I was thinking long and hard about the World, America, and what’s going on all around us. I’ve been feeling frustrated lately. I’ve been paying as close attention as I can to World politics, and in particular my great country, the United States of America. I have a deep and heart wrenching sadness right now. We’re hurting in America. All of us are. We are probably more divided as a country right now then we’ve been since the end of the civil war some one hundred forty years ago.

Somehow a foreign group attacks our country and we fight bitterly among ourselves over it; all the while using that foreign group as a tool in our rhetorical battle of wits. Naturally, since the line has been drawn in the sand, I’ve chosen a side. I've made everything in my life about promoting that side and feeling great distaste for "the other side." But I’ve done some great soul searching as well. Why are we divided? Will it get worse? If we continue down this dividing path, will we find ourselves in another civil war someday? I know I look around I see everyone arguing, I see terror alerts, I see the World community both afraid of and disliking us. I can only come to one conclusion: the terrorists (or the perceived threat of) are now in control of American culture and the American World image. They are defining our national discourse. We are allowing ourselves to be divided while the rest of the World is quickly uniting in their distaste for us.

The core of all this for us, I believe, is that we’ve yet to begin to heal from the September eleventh attacks. The grieving process has eight stages that go something like this: denial and shock, anger, bargaining, guilt, depression, loneliness, acceptance, and finally hope. Naturally, in reality it’s not so linear. We’ll often fall back into an earlier stage. We may even fall back as far as denial and shock.

I’m not sure, as a collective people, America has moved much past anger. And I’m certain our government (and I mean all parties within it) have not moved past anger. My observation is that we dance between anger and denial with a passion sure to keep us from ever getting to acceptance and hope. Grieving takes time. Certainly at this point it’s too soon for any of us to be firmly in the hope stage. But are we even moving to that end? Should we still be stuck in anger after two years and some odd months?

In writing this piece, I guess I find myself in the bargaining stage. I just want to stop being angry, stop felling like I’m loosing everything, stop felling like we’re loosing America. I can say with 100% certainty that no government official from any party has done much to encourage the American people to properly grieve and thus heal. We’ve not been counseled as a collective. President Bush and members of Congress comforted us in the days following the attacks, and did a very good job at it. They brought our collective out of the denial and shock phase. But then they, perhaps caught up in grief themselves, wrapped themselves in anger (sometimes burying it in our resolve, but it’s anger). So our leadership started us down the path to healing, but left us high and dry in the anger stage.

So I was thinking about this and wondering. Who will help us grieve? Who can climb above the fray with empathy for our plight and lead us into acceptance and hope? Who understands the horrors of terrorism and how it relates to American domestic culture? It is you, Terry Anderson, who has the moral strength, direct experience, and insight to help your nation heal. As a Viet Nam era Marine, you understand war. As a journalist, you understand the media’s role in healing a nation. As a former seven-year hostage at the hands of terrorists, you understand the pain their attacks cause. As a man of God, you understand healing and forgiveness (which is often avoided because it gets confused with permissiveness). And as an American patriot, you understand what we all need in order to move through the grieving process and be once again a nation united in the cause of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

So after all these revelations of late, I set out to find you and request that you step up your public presence and help console this nation and lead it into acceptance and hope. To my surprise, you had just decided to enter into public life in Ohio’s state senate (I really didn’t know that until I tried to find you). Selfishly on my part, I’m disappointed that you’re running for a state level office. I really want you on the national scene. However, public life is public life, and I urge you to consider a more noticeable public presence with words of comfort for a grieving nation that is finding it very hard to get past anger (we’re so caught up in anger right now, all we can do is accuse each other of being more angrier than the other!). It will be difficult for you or anyone to offer any objective comfort. For myself, I know I don’t even want to listen to what a public figure says until I find out her or his political alignment. I know I’m not alone in that feeling. To be honest, when I first sought you out, I didn’t know what your "alignment" was. I didn’t care though. I knew what your perspective was as a survivor of terrorism. And it was a voice of reason and resolve.

Since this is also a public letter, I will point out the great patriotism you have. When you were a hostage, a good many people wanted to do whatever it took to get you out. A good many people were concerned that President Reagan and then President Bush (the first) were not doing anything to get you out. I guess we all also felt that you’d be equally troubled that your government had abandoned you. However, when you were released you sternly told the World (paraphrasing here), "You don’t negotiate with terrorists, and it was completely appropriate for Presidents Reagan and Bush to not offer anything in exchange for my release." Wow. No one in the World would have faulted you for being angry and bitter about your seven years of terrorist captivity, even if they disagreed with it. But being a patriot first, you let the terrorists know that they had lost. As the longest held hostage you were the "last man standing" that virtually ended the practice of hostage taking by terrorists. Not because you endured the captivity, but because in the end you let them know that it didn’t work. You held them responsible and stood proud that no one gave in and bowed to their demands. You understood more than most of us that part of the terrorists’ goal is to divide us. You let them know it didn’t work. And you forgave them.

Because I couldn’t find a direct audience with you, I’ve made this letter an open letter in public. I think this turns out to be a better idea anyway. But in the interest of full disclosure I should let the reading public know that I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. I am, however, a proud liberal with no party affiliation. I don’t want a country that is all liberal or all conservative or all anything. I want a country where there is respectable and peaceful debate on such issues and we cancel out each other's extreme element. The moment that balance tips and debate becomes a contest to belittle and silence the opposing view, rather than discuss it, America will cease to exist. I feel we’re running that risk right now. With the national debate getting more and more ugly at such a rapid pace, we may very well find ourselves engulfed in civil war in the next 10 to 20 years.

Terry, please help us find our way out. You’ve managed to find your way out, and even make peace with yourself. Your experience lead you to a deep relationship with God where no terrorist has the power to run your life or control your anger – and no government has the power to manipulate that anger to promote its political agenda. Let’s be honest, both the Democratic and Republican leadership have gone down the road of exploiting our anger. I forgive them of course, as their own grieving process blinds many of them.


The Success Spin 

Thursday, February 26, 2004

OK, are you ready for this? The latest excuse being pimped upon the public for Bush's loss of public support is -- because he's been such a successful President. Stop laughing, this is actually what they're saying. I've heard this one a couple of times before so I want to hit on it directly because it's wrong and it sends a few wrong hidden messages.

Dick Moris, of the conservative New York Post, answers why the President is diving in the polls, "Not because of his failures, but because of his successes. His victories in the War on Terror have lowered the relevance of this crucial area of his competence."

People don't turn their backs on successful Presidents, they fire failed Presidents. It's that simple. In the above quote, Dick is admitting that the President's usefulness is very narrow and people aren't focused on the area where his usefulness is. This is an unintentional admission by Dick that the President is actually a failed President because he lacks the depth a President needs to lead on all the areas where a President needs to lead.

He has no plan for creating jobs and better paying jobs in the face of tax cuts not working, he has no health care plan for people who can't afford to save money, he has no plan to rescue the failed no child left behind act, etc., etc., etc. He's a narrow minded President who can only focus on looting the treasury, bombing Arabs, and dragging the Constitution through the mud of bigotry. It's not that he's successful -- it's that the one illusory success he's had is ancient history in political years.

Which brings me to this supposed success with the War on Terror. Let's be clear, it is not a success. His strategy is to bomb as many Arabs in foreign lands as possible, harass Arabs that live in the States, and keep American citizens as afraid of Arabs as possible. The World and the United States in particular will suffer the repercussions of Bush's narrow minded simple approach for years to come.

Lowell Jacoby, head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, says, "Support for America has dropped in most of the Muslim world," The Chicago Tribune goes on to say, "Jacoby said in a statement to the committee. Favorable ratings for the U.S. among Moroccans dropped to 27 percent a year ago from 77 percent in 2000, he said. In Jordan, a key partner in the war on terrorism, those rates went to 1 percent last May from an already dismal 25 percent in 2002."

What this means is that the Bush approach has created a much larger pool of potential terrorists than we've ever known. Please understand this, because the American press doesn't report it much, the anti-American feelings throughout the civilized World are growing larger and stronger than they ever have. We are very strong, and have the power to create extreme devastation, and the World sees us acting like a five year old. Our foreign policy needs to grow up.

So I'm not just being a complainer here, I invite you to take a look at John Kerry's homeland security and foreign policy plans.

So what is Dick Morris upset about? Of course, he's upset that terrorism isn't the most important issue on American's minds. And he calls for the President to continue to scare the crap out of people so they'll vote for him. That, my friends, is the biggest threat to the American psyche: these hardline war hawks who long for the glory of death and destruction so they can wave the flag and challenge the patriotism of all who don't line up and take the President's pills without question.

Terrorism is a real problem that our brave men and women of the CIA, Justice Department, Defense Department, State Department, Homeland Security Department, and any other I've forgotten should deal with under the President's leadership. But it does not need to be the top issue on American's minds. Especially since there isn't much we can do about it. We should leave it to the professionals.

I want to make this perfectly clear: no terrorist organization has ever or will ever have the resources or organization to overthrow the United States of America. Yes, there probably will be another attack on our soil. Yes, we should and do mandate our government to do everything it can to prevent it.

As an American I'm much more likely to be the victim of a domestic crime of violence, including but not limited to, death by gun fire. I trust the Men and Women of our police force to do their best to protect me while I go about my daily business. I accept that in spite of their best efforts, 11,000 people a year die from gun shot wounds in America. It's tragic, but America does not crumble under the weight of that tragedy. We're much tougher than that -- and I'll step outside with anyone who disagrees.


The Hidden Agenda 

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

The same sex marriage ban amendment is a new strategy that doesn't have anything to do with same sex marriage. The Bush administration doesn't like the decisions they get out of the courts on these (and many other) issues. So they've code worded their disagreement with judges' decisions as "activist judges" and began a strategy that effectively cuts the courts out of the checks and balances system -- writing laws directly into the Constitution where they escape judicial review. It is their test run of a legal loophole, and exploiting it is the lowest form of anti-American behavior I've ever seen out of public officials. I hope everyone notices that the Republicans have two Constitutional amendments they are actively pushing -- one that takes rights away from Americans and one that allows foreigners to become President. And they're the ones who've been challenging people's patriotism. I must also say that I'll be deeply disappointed in the Democrats if they don't forcefully and directly challenge this push to drag the Constitution through the mud of partisan politics.

If the judges they are referring to are truly "activist judges" then the appeals process will correct it. Checks and Balances are cumbersome by design, it keeps radical changes from taking place before proper scrutiny can filter out the bad ideas.

All Americans must stand against the politicizing of the Constitution and the war on the Judicial Branch (regardless of how they feel about same sex marriage). The Constitution and the Judicial Branch are the sanity checks of our Nation and mucking with them is a "slippery slope" that will eventually unravel the foundation that this great country stands on. One wonders if that is the goal since radical right wing ideology rarely survives judicial or Constitutional review.

I conclude with this quote from The Rev. Barry Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State:


"I do not want to see the legacy of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison revised by President Bush under pressure from Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell."


The Buck Stops Here 

Friday, February 20, 2004

Imagine this scenario for just a moment: Osama bin Laden releases a statement stating that the September eleventh attacks were the idea of an extremist advisor in his organization. The statement goes on to explain that his advisor had perhaps exaggerated the need, and lied about some facts in order to sell the idea to bin Laden. It ends with an assertion that this advisor may be fired and therefore Osama bin Laden is not really responsible for September eleventh.

How many Americans will line up to release him of responsibility? I doubt any would. We all understand that Osama bin Laden, being the leader of his organization, is responsible for all its actions even if some elements may occur under his radar – they still happened with a mandate from bin Laden to kill Americans. And they happened on his watch. The public knowledge of Al Qaida is that it operates with many cells that act independently; yet we all still understand that its leader is still the ultimate bearer of responsibility. We’d never stand for Osama saying he didn’t know that a particular cell was doing a particular act, or that he had no hand in something they had said or did.

So if we can be so clear headed there, why can’t we be so clear headed with our own leader's accountability? I was going to call this article "Accountability 101," but I decided "The Buck Stops Here" was a statement Bush could better identify with, since its an example of tough talk. Bush, in his three years of power, has rarely held himself responsible for any of his administration’s failures. He doesn’t seem to understand the very foundation of leadership: accountability, or "The Buck Stops Here." He began his term blaming Clinton for everything. He still blames him for many things, including the economy. Even though all credible non-partisan analysts agree the recession began on Bush’s watch in March of 2001. Even if Clinton did cause the recession, Bush has had three years to fix it. Clinton undeniably inherited a bad economy in ‘93 – but he took responsibility and fixed it. And when it got good, he didn’t have to tour the Nation to convince us. We knew it was good because there were jobs to be had and those jobs were good paying jobs.

Kennedy understood "the buck stops here" after the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Even though he had been set up by the CIA to be backed into a corner where they believed he’d need to commit American troops, he didn’t cry foul – he took public responsibility for the failed invasion and cleaned house in private (well, I guess you can’t be too private about firing people, but he didn’t do so to escape blame).

Good Presidents understand that they get to take credit for things that go good under their watch, and thus have a moral duty to bear responsibility when things go bad. How many good things has Bush "blamed" on Clinton? When did Bush thank Clinton for that great military he now uses so liberally? By the way, did anyone in the military have to say, "not ready for duty, sir" as Bush claimed would happen during the 2000 campaign? Do you really believe that nine months or even two years is enough time to radically change a military? Of course not, they performed so well because Clinton did a great job keeping the troops prepared. That "shock and awe" would not have been possible if not for Clinton’s focus on building sophisticated and accurate guidance systems that limited collateral damage. And under Clinton there was no mass exodus that threatens the future health of the military because the troops knew he’d never send them in harm’s way without good cause (or without an exit plan).

Bush’s pathology is clear – and its most dangerous example is the Iraq war. No matter how bad the intelligence was, no matter how much the neocons exaggerated the threat to Bush (as if Bush isn’t one of the neocons) – the buck stops at Bush and it all happened on his watch under his leadership. Everything we know to be true about the build up to war is that attacking Iraq was a mandate Bush had delivered to his administration. In spite of the PR spin trying to trick you into believing otherwise, the CIA is part of the Bush administration, not some rogue group who tricked him into a war. They were operating under his command. The effort to cleanse Bush’s role shows just how weak a leader this chickenhawk is. Any failures of the CIA happened under Bush’s leadership and mandates, so he is accountable.

The most ridiculous assertion I’ve heard to date is that regime change was Clinton’s mandate. These guys really do have an inferiority complex when it comes to Clinton. So they rushed to war because Clinton wanted them to? How can anyone not fall on the floor laughing when they try to imagine a Bush cabinet meeting dedicated to fulfilling a Clinton mandate? OK, true enough that regime change had been the official position of the USA since ‘98. But never was a rushed unilateral war ever mandated or supported by Clinton. In fact, in 2002, Clinton often spoke of how careful we need to be in our approach to disarm Saddam so as not to create a whole new pool of terrorist recruits or a forced WMD retaliation. Clinton’s assertion was that Saddam desired to maintain his position, so wouldn’t even think of an attack on the USA unless it seemed like his only and last option to maintain his position. Even Colin Powell originally agreed that containment was working (until his Bush imposed mandate became the opposite).

For all of Bush’s tough talk, for all his efforts to sell the idea that he’s a "strong moral leader," for all his talk of responsibility, why does he at every sign of failure attempt to lay blame somewhere else? Why does he not have the moral clarity to admit mistakes? Americans are forgiving, especially of their Presidents. Americans also know that no one is perfect, in spite of what Rove wants you to think. Bush would probably win in a landslide in November if he’d just come clean and admit a few of his missteps in an accountable way.

When President Clinton finally got it and came clean about his affair, America rewarded him for it. Yes, Clinton resisted at first, and didn’t come clean until he knew there was evidence incriminating him. But Bush denies even in the face of evidence. Just look at the Guard Records he released that prove he barely did anything in his last year. Yet even as he hands you the incriminating evidence, he’s still denying any wrongdoing. Come on. I know the American people will immediately forgive him if he just admitted that he lost interest in the Guard, and his political influence allowed him to get away with it. We all know we’d have done the same and we all know that’s what happened. The only reason that it’s still talked about is because he keeps denying what his own released documents are proving. The reason his drunk driving history isn’t a liability is because he came clean and admitted it (although definitely minimized the reality and did try to make it the Democrats problem by crying "bad politics").

Pat Buchanan recently wrote an extremely articulate and thoughtful analysis of the new Perle, Frum book "An End to Evil."

On this issue, I almost 100% agree with Pat. There are two minor but hidden messages in his review that I must whole-heartedly disagree with. His first hidden message throughout the article is that Bush is somehow not responsible for the mess preemptive war has caused. Even more disturbing is his insinuation that Bush isn’t a neocon himself. Bush clearly buys into the neocon view of American military domination. He talked about it (not so directly) while Governor, and he still continues to cleverly defend it with his "so what if there weren’t WMDs" attitude. I hope you all notice that he has yet to declare the preemptive doctrine a failure.

Admitting mistakes isn’t cowardly nor does it show weakness. In fact, as a leader, it is almost the bravest thing you can do. Insisting you’re right is easy. Admitting you’re wrong is very hard and takes courage and moral clarity. The saddest thing is, I don’t think Bush’s poll numbers are going down because of his mistakes; I think they’re going down because this tough talking "moral" leader stumbles and denies any wrongdoing when asked to admit those mistakes. People see it as weak, and rightfully so. It is cowardly and selfish.

How about a President who puts his country’s good standing with its allies before his political ambitions? How about a President who serves the people rather than just the conservatives in the red states? Now that’d be moral clarity and patriotism of the highest order in one full swoop. George doesn’t have the guts or the morality to risk loosing his power, which is his new addiction in the absence of alcohol. And to extend that very real and alarming metaphor, he’s now drunk driving again. It's intervention time.


Welcome 

Hello. Soon I will be here sharing political views. My perspective is one of the everyday North East middle class life. I earn my bread and butter as a software engineer. I've recently taken a bigger interest in politics because I've noticed how asleep I was about our government. A month or so ago I read the Constitution for the first time in my life (at 32 years of age). I was amazed at what a brilliant piece of writing it was and how little we all understand it. Hopefully, readers of this site will get interested and involved too.

Yes, I lean to the left. What makes me stand out, is that I want conservatives around. I value the balance of a left/right society. Civil discourse is how we all grow and learn. The only conservatives I want to go away are the ones that are trying to rid the world of liberals (as if that's even possible).

So stay tuned. I have much to say, and we can all discuss these issues as I write about them. Meanwhile, please read the Constitution if you haven't already.



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