Thursday, January 18, 2007

A Speech for Mr. Bush

Having already shown the gall to write a song for Bob Dylan is it any real surprise that I would have the temerity to write a speech for George Bush? After all, it is possible that Bob might write another good peace song. To expect George to actually write a good speech is obviously delusional.

Still, driven by the wish that America could return at least to the semblance of sanity it had when it used to claim to be a peace loving nation interested in the well-being of the world rather than a believer in pre-emptive warfare of the type practiced by Germany in striking Poland in 1939 . . . I decided to try and write for Mr. Bush a speech that I think would enable us to withdraw from Iraq with honor and some shred of dignity.

Although I don't believe a word of any argument against Mr. Bush's guilt as a fabricator of false reasons for the invasion of Iraq as well as a follower of horrendous actual reasons for this illegal war, I have tried to build into this speech a means for him to claim otherwise and perhaps even get away with it. After all, the world in general is forgiving of those who seek forgiveness. It seems to be only those who try to cover things up who are punished for political missteps.

In my wildest dreams, I imagine the president asking for time to speak to the United Nations General Assembly and then addressing them something like this:

I come before you today because I wanted the citizens of the world to recognize that I am speaking not just to the American people, but to all people. I am also here because I need your help. Since March , 2003 my country has been engaged in a war in Iraq. I led my country into that war in the belief that I could best ensure the future security of America by unseating the dangerous dictator Saddam Hussein.

I still believe that the world is a better place now that Hussein no longer holds power in Iraq. However, I do not feel that Iraq is a better place today because of his absence. For that reason I have come before you, and especially the people of Iraq, to apologize.

I have come to admit that neither I nor the people in my administration who structured America's attack on Iraq foresaw that it would be impossible to create a democratic government patterned after the United States' system for a society whose basic structure is tribal. We truly thought that the citizens of Iraq would gratefully accept the demise of Saddam Hussein's government as an opportunity to adopt the governmental form of their liberators. In reality what we freed was not the political will to unite, but rather the will to settle a range of tribal disputes that date back through the centuries to times long before the rise and fall of Saddam Hussein. Our solution to Iraq's problems was democracy, but we did not foresee that all these ancient disputes would need to be settled before democracy could be possible. Because of this, we must now admit that our strategy has completely failed so that, rather than having an effective democracy in place, we have unleashed a blood bath of sectarian violence that must be settled among Iraqis before that nation can take the positive steps forward needed to heal its ancient wounds.

In the past year, over 34,000 Iraqi people have lost their lives to this violence. The people of the United States no longer wish to contribute in any way to that horrible bloodshed. It is for this reason that I have decided to withdraw my plan for increasing American troops in Iraq and have come before you to propose a completely new approach to the problem.

Recognition of our failure to stabilize Iraq does not mean that American troops will immediately leave. Those troops will continue to do their best to contain the violence and protect the citizenry. However, as a clear demonstration of our intent to ultimately remove those troops from the region I pledge the following actions:
  1. Construction of facilities and infrastructure for all planned American military bases in Iraq will cease immediately and those properties will be ceded to the present government of Iraq.
  2. Funds allocated for the development of those military bases in the amount of $_______ will be redirected to the creation and maintenance of infrastructure designed to serve the civilian population of Iraq as soon as: a. The Iraqi people signify through a majority vote that they recognize a defined governing body as having the authority and responsibility to allocate and apply those funds to their appropriate use, and; b. An international peacekeeping force is in place in Iraq. I am asking the United Nations to provide police action oriented troops from a wide range of nations under whose officers American troops will serve. American military staff level officers' only role will be advisory.
  3. Funds so redirected will be placed at the disposal of the United Nations Secretary General to disperse to the Iraqi peoples' chosen government at his discretion with the advisory note that the United States wishes them to be spent through contracts with Iraqi companies capable of creating the necessary improvements within reasonable time frames.
  4. Additionally, the United States will make available to the United Nations $__billion to be dispersed through UN auspices by the Congress of the United States in accord with requests from the UN for purposes of: a. Creating and sustaining the governmental form chosed by the people of Iraq, and; b. Creating and maintaining social infrastructure projects to be approved in advance by the Congress of the United States in response to UN requests for funds.
I recognize that many of the members of my own political party as well as many unaffiliated citizens of the United States and the world do not recognize the United Nations as a valid source of this kind of management. However, I ask those who are skeptical of the UN's abilities to ask themselves where else it is possible to turn.

The world cannot afford to allow Iraq to fall into total chaos and potentially under the control of a terroristic government, but those are exactly the risks we face today. Stability in the region is essential, and I have come to believe that the only way to achieve that stability is to demonstrate clearly that America is willing to allow the people of Iraq to settle their own disputes and to withdraw with no further claims on Iraqi resources, governments or infrastructure.

Under the aegis of the United Nations as I have proposed here, we in the United States of America can remove ourselves from the role of principle leader in deciding Iraq's future and perhaps begin to regain the confidence of the world in our role as a peacemaker.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Pax Americana or Pox Americana?

I have long puzzled over a conundrum on political discourse having to do with the nature and evolution of interactions. The U.S. political system allows only two parties. (Yeah, yeah. Technically there can be more, but the cards are so stacked against their ability to field candidates meaningfully that it's just lip service.)

I believe that the life blood of successful operation under a two party system is dialogue with resultant compromise. In my youth, I think saw that methodology meaningfully at work in our national legislature. Adlai Stevenson, Dwight Eisenhower and Tip O-Neill lived it. All the hoopla around Gerald Ford's funeral highlighted his ability to work with the other side of the aisle, generate compromise and move legislation forward. In the '80s Newt Gingrich tore that system apart with his assertions that party politics come first. In his view, his party could execute its policies only by obtaining and maintaining the majority thus eliminating the need for compromise. Since then we have become more and more divided along party and social issue lines until we were graced with Mr. Bush's famous line - "You are either for us or against us."

The world is not that black and white. Every social problem presents complex nuances which must be recognized by those who seek solutions and neutralized in order to succesfully implement those solutions.

I am considered a left winger. Over the years my discussions with those of the right wing persuasion have continually become less and less satisfactory because I am met with emotional bashing rather than factual discourse. If we want to talk about whether or not there were WMD in Iraq, lets do it by looking at reports from weapons inspectors, statements of intelligence officers, and even speeches by right wing politicians who - even up to Mr. Bush himself - have admitted that they never existed. Instead, I'm told that I'm unpatriotic for questioning the issue.

If we want to talk about national health care, let's look at cost/benefit analyses, the rise of costs in various sectors of the health care community, the efficiency/inefficiency of Medicare and Medicaid as opposed to other insurance systems, but let's not shut one another down because we think the other guy's choice of political parties is stupid.

It is time we returned to respectful debate and settled differences by achieving compromises we can both live with. Either of us insisting that he either gets his way or walks out cripples our ability to achieve anything. It is no longer about who's right and who's wrong. It's about who gets hurt if we can't get together and work out some solutions, and right now our policies and actions are hurting a great many people in this country and around the world.

I recently received an email from a reader of one of my comments in a chat room discussion on Saddam Hussein. The reader urged me to keep commenting because I was giving her a new perspective on Americans. I don't know where she resides, but she said that her impression was that all Americans are bullies who demand that others agree with them or they will beat them up.

Regardless of political affiliation, it's time to ask whether we want to continue Pox Americana or try to move toward Pax Americana or better yet - Pax lo Mundo.

Monday, January 1, 2007

And The Beat Goes On

When a new year turns, our thoughts usually turn with it to contemplation of the future. Some of us resolve to change past behaviors in order to improve that future. A fortunate few can simply pledge to hold the course because the past has demonstrated the value of their strategies.

For nations, signposts that sprung up during the past year sometimes can point the way to a better future, but this year for my nation, for the unfortunate nation we chose to invade, for the entire Mideast and for the well-being of the entire world, the signposts point from a dismal past to a dangerous future.

One terribly unfortunate milestone was passed in the night of our New Year's Eve. The three thousandth American military life was lost in Iraq while American revelers were still blowing their party horns.

We in the USA have very little in our recent past to use as positive guides to the future. We must, instead, identify the negatives that led us to our present position and vow never to repeat them. Primary among them, we should firmly resolve never again to commit the sin of pre-emptive war.

In commemoration of those 3,000 Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, the more than 20,000 who have been wounded, the more than 100,000 whose lives have been permanently and negatively altered, and the multiple hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose lives have been torn asunder by this war, I decided to post here a copy of the poem I wrote the morning W declared that the invasion would begin. My hope is that it will help someone who did not understand then what was wrong with what we did that day to now see that we cannot allow such a thing to ever again be done in our name.


The darkest day in American history has dawned but there is no light.

For months the distant thunder has warned of coming storms,

Tense air trembled with anticipation,

Warm blood run cold with fear,

And tears fallen swift and hot with grief for the looming loss of
law and lives.

Now comes Apocalypse.

Pre-emptive American missiles

Scythe away the lives of innocents,

Killing innocence and all a once proud country stood for.

Now we will suffer the plague and pestilence of power run amok.

Famine flagged Iraqi faces turn skyward,

Waiting to see what horror might come next from tyrants of all stripes

And stars obscured by the smoke of fires burning honesty’s last vestige

From a land led by money-mongers eager to pound their might

into the minds of a world aghast at their impunity.

For all these months we’ve marched to quench these flames,

But tears are not enough.

Our weeping falls on deaf ears

While America’s honor fades away

Before our reddened eyes.

Bob Ranney
Peace Network
of the Ozarks
March 18, 2003