Friday, December 22, 2006

The Bush in the Bunker

As we come to close the year
It seems the choices now are clear
Iraq is as broken as the glass
That toasted victory so crass
Aboard a ship so close to shore
That Pendleton was at the door
While Neocons so hale and hearty
Sent Marines to their death party
Leave now or double down
And view the blood on Bush’s crown

In this theater of the absurd, we see George W. Bush looking for vindication for a failed preemptive war policy badly handled by like-minded Neocons. This is a war that never should have happened, but for the likes of incompetent ideologues might still have been won. Bush, ever impervious to negative information, sent Paul Bremer, an imperial pro-consul, to administer the destruction of a culture that endured decades of internal differences laid on a history of centuries of rich art, language, and custom. Qualified administrators and soldiers were summarily dismissed and the gates of hell were opened to the New Order now known gently as Disorder.

Today’s theater reminds me of the last days of Hitler in the bunker in Berlin. At that time in late April 1945, the curtain opens on a haggard unitary executive and War Leader swearing vengeance on Reichsmarschall Hermann Goering who has offered to take over the reins of power. Hitler is surrounded by only his most loyal sycophants including Propaganda Minister Goebbels and family, Martin Bormann and Eva Braun, his mistress. He still points to the map and moves his phantom divisions to counter the Russian millions moving west (as the remaining Wehrmacht) and the American and British thousands moving east. Hitler’s reality is the map and the loyalty of the dream weaver Goebbels. The bunker transforms reality from the flesh and blood of soldiers now losing a colossal preemptive war to the two dimensional markers on a map.

Now before anybody attacks me for comparing Bush to Hitler, I know several differences. Bush never used slave labor. He never denied humanity to Jews. He never invaded Poland and he is clean-shaven. I focus on the mentality of the leader in the bunker who lashes out at those who had been his allies and fails to see his own hand in the damage to his homeland and its army. I focus on the absurd creation of a new reality that is unsupported by commonly perceived fact. In November, the nation clearly told Bush to get out of Iraq. Bush saw this as an opportunity to double down his phantom brigades in an all-out attempt to prove that his ideology will provide “victory.” When Hitler finally realized that he was hearing artillery explosions in the garden over the Fuhrerbunker, he put his affairs in order, married Eva and wrote a last will and testament. He also put out an order to arrest Heinrich Himmler for attempting to negotiate with the enemy and blamed “International Jewry” for all the losses. Will Bush awaken from his dream of victory to hear the explosions of the American people over his failed leadership or will he simply dismiss those who disagree with him and continue to deploy his phantom brigades until there is no negotiation possible and no brigade remaining?

In researching for this essay, I read the Kubler-Ross model of five stages of grief (Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance). While many of you might speculate as to exactly where Bush is in that model, I have created a new model from my own observations that may provide some insight. Leaders like Bush who are so self-centered tend to move through only three actual stages of redemption. First, they try desperately to save face. They blame everyone else except themselves and surround themselves with propagandists who can paint foreign allies or even homeland Democrats for his failed policy. Next, they try to save ass. They scramble to protect their physical family fortunes as well as their written historical legacies (the Nixon Library?). Finally, much in the model of Vietnam War Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, they try to save their souls with Mea Culpas as though divine guidance suddenly penetrated the bunker. Unfortunately, it took McNamara 25 years to try to save his soul. Bush is still trying to save face. Will it take that long for Bush to come to peace with himself? People in leadership can simultaneously be struggling with the Kubler-Ross model (Denial for Bush) while working through the stages of redemption.

All the families of the soldiers and Marines have been abruptly dumped into the Kubler-Ross model without sharing that sacrifice with fellow Americans. As recently as yesterday, Bush told us to go shopping. That is not sharing the sacrifice. We are a nation in grief and need to share that grief with those suffering the direct losses. It is time to stop ignoring our heroic dead in flag-draped coffins. It is time to put the cost of the war on the budget books and at least let Americans share the cost of the lost lives, limbs and jobs of returning veterans by providing a warm and sincere welcome home to those who have borne the burden of battle.

If Christmas is nothing else, it is the promise of sharing the pain of life and the hope of everlasting redemption. Let us pray.

George Giacoppe
22 December 2006

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The United States of Israel?

Of all the responses to the much-anticipated Iraq Study Group’s report, none is so stunning as that emerging from the Neocon factory that brought us such hits as the Iraq war. In fact, even before the report was issued, neocon organs like the Weekly Standard and the pages of conservative publications like the Wall Street Journal and the National Review were ringing with denunciations of ISG co-chair James Baker. This is the same Jim Baker who engineered George W. Bush’s theft of the 2000 election, the same Baker who served both George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan as Secretary of State and Chief of Staff. And yet, he is now characterized as an appeaser in the mold of Neville Chamberlain, someone whom Frank Gaffney, for example, attacks as “hostile towards Jews”:

“Jim Baker’s hostility towards the Jews is a matter of record and has endeared him to Israel’s foes in the region,” wrote Gaffney, suggesting that the ISG…would recommend a regional approach that would “throw free Iraq to the wolves” and “allow the Mideast’s only bona fide democracy, the Jewish State, to be snuffed in due course.”
(Jim Lobe, “Neocons Move to Pre-empt Baker Report,” Dec. 6, 2006, Inter Press Service.)

But wait. Why this anti-Israel tirade against Baker? Clearly, it derives from the report’s recommendations 1) that any comprehensive plan for Iraq must include a major American push towards a plan to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; and 2) that a diplomatic initiative must be developed to include talks with Syria and Iran. Both of these recommendations are anathema to Israel, which has long sought to break up any nation in the Middle East that gains even a hint of power that might threaten Israeli dominance. Talk with Syria? Talk with Iran? Israel seeks to cripple both (as the invasion, and now imminent breakup, of Iraq did to that one-time rival. In which regard it is worth noting that that other champion of Israel, Senator Joe Lieberman, both supported the Iraq war in full, and has now attacked the ISG’s ideas about talks with Iran and Syria.). Solve the Palestinian conflict? That could only mean concessions by Israel, something it has vowed never to do.

All of which brings us to the nub of the issue: America’s corridors of power and influence now include large numbers of policy makers and pundits who seem to think—and would like us to think—that Israel is part of the United States. Or vice versa. The Neocons who brought us the Iraq war exemplify this attitude. They have no reservations about arguing, publicly, that a policy such as that suggested by the ISG would be harmful to Israel’s interests. But what about the national interest of the United States of America? Where do American policymakers and elected officials get off arguing for the national interest of a foreign power? Since when does “What’s good for Israel” take precedence over “What’s good for America?” This is precisely the point made by Anthony Sullivan in a December 8, 2006 article in The National Interest online. Commenting on a Foreign Affairs article by neocon Joshua Muravchik urging President Bush to bomb Iran before he leaves office, Sullivan writes:

"But Muravchik deserves our thanks for making the Neoconservative position crystal clear. Some might even conclude that Muravchik’s and the Neoconservative’ real concern is not the United States but Israel. Apparently, American national interests are threatened both by numerous enemies abroad and some fifth columnists at home."

How refreshing that someone finally calls it as it is: “the Neoconservatives’ real concern is not the United States but Israel,” which makes them, literally, “fifth columnists.”
There was a time when “fifth columnists” and those who put a foreign government’s interests above their own would be arrested and tried for treason. Perhaps that day, long overdue, is coming again.
Copyright 2006
Lawrence DiStasi

Saturday, December 09, 2006

You are what you eat

E.coli: A man-made problem

The latest E.coli scare at Taco Bell needs to be put in perspective.Michael Pollan, in his recent book, The Omnivore¹s Dilemma, gives us the information to do just that. Pollan points out that E.coli (Escherichiacoli), a bacterium normally found in the rumen, or gut, of cows, and hence,in their manure, has never been much of a problem for humans. As he says,"most of the microbes that reside in the gut of a cow and find their wayinto our food get killed off by the strong acids in our stomachs, since they [E.coli] evolved to live in the neutral pH environment of the rumen."However, since industrial agriculture has forced the feeding of surplus corn to cows that evolved to eat grass, today¹s corn-fed feedlot cows not only get sick on their unnatural diet (requiring massive doses of antibiotics),but now have a rumen that is "nearly as acidic as our own." It is in this new environment created by humans, specifically by industrial agriculture,that "new acid-resistant strains of E.coli have evolved." So now, what we have to contend with is a lethal strain of the bacteria, E.coli 0157:H7, that can thrive in an acidic environment. The protection that our stomach acids once provided against E.coli no longer works. Any useof cow manure for fertilizer, or runoff from the massive manure ponds that accumulate on industrial feedlots, can now contaminate the crops we eat, and thereby poison any number of humans. E.coli can also, of course, find its way into our meat supply. In this regard, Pollan points out something even more infuriating. It has recently been learned that most of the problem with E.coli 0157:H7 in meat can be eliminated by the simple measure of allowing each cow to eat hay for a few days prior to slaughter. This reduces the E.coli by nearly 80%. But, Pollan writes, grass is now "considered wildly impractical by the cattle industry and by the USDA. Their preferred solution for dealing with bacterial contamination is irradiation, essentially, to try to sterilize the manure getting into the meat." (all quotes, p. 80, The Omnivore¹s Dilemma). Could anything represent so vividly the insanity of the philosophy that now reigns supreme--not just in American agriculture, but throughout aneconomic system that consistently privileges technology and profit above nature and people.
Copyright 2006
Lawrence DiStasi