As the funerals begin in Paris, and another round of bombings begins in the Middle East, as the blood is washed away from the streets of France and the blood begins to flow again in Syria, it may be useful to read this column, first published on March 19, 2015, although it could have been written yesterday:

March 19, 2003 – A Day of Infamy

After the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, President Franklin Roosevelt termed it “A Day of Infamy”, as indeed it was. It also presaged the formal entrance of America into World War II and the eventual death of over 400,000 military personnel. Historians looking back on the 21st century may call March 19, 2003 “A Day of Infamy” as it was the day that the United States wrongfully invaded Iraq, presaging the deaths of millions and the destabilization of virtually the entire planet.

We know now that even before the dust of 9/11 settled, the Bush-Cheney administration was determined to invade Iraq. Even though there was no credible (or even plausible) evidence that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, it soon became a doctrine of American foreign and military policy that the regime of Saddam Hussein would be targeted and destroyed.

The straw man of Weapons of Mass Destruction has been debunked and degraded so that even the most gullible Teapublican zealots choose to avoid a serious discussion of this exercise in mendacity by the Bush-Cheney team. The right wing of the right wing in this country chooses to ignore the cascade of lies and the torrent of misinformation that led to the U.S. invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003.

The American people, and the world, were told that this military action would bring democracy to Iraq and set the framework for regional peace throughout the Middle East. The Bush-Cheney team even bribed and cajoled members of a faux alliance into supporting this adventure to put a multinational fig leaf on its naked aggression.
The entire world now knows the consequences of this misadventure. By precipitously collapsing the most powerful military force in the Middle East, America destabilized a region that has been a ticking bomb for decades. By dismantling the Iraqi military structure every religious and political faction with a grievance in that country had the opportunity to arm, mobilize and terrorize its perceived opponents, enemies and competitors for power and domination.

The reason why this retrospective is important is due to the fact that revisionist historians and delusional politicians are creating the narrative that the rise of ISIS and the death spiral in Syria and the homicidal outrages in Libya and Egypt and Yemen and Somalia and Afghanistan are somehow related to the “weakness” and “lack of leadership” of the Obama Administration. We are already witnessing what appears to be the Quadrennial Teapublican Clown Dance, where presidential aspirants from this political cohort find multiple combinations of the words “leadership”, “American exceptionalism”, “power”, “strength” and “democracy” to characterize their foreign policy vision.
One quickly notices that words like “restraint”, “intelligence”, “vision” and “consequences” don’t make the cut when Teapublican speechwriters are at work. Other missing words are “casualties”, “collateral damage” and “unexpected consequences”.

What we know with certainty is the misguided and deceit-drenched policies of the Bush-Cheney regime in Iraq resulted in thousands of American deaths and economic damage to this country in excess of a trillion dollars. What we know with certainty is that hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died unnecessarily and that the infrastructure and national identity of Iraq have been compromised, if not forever, than at least for a generation. What we do know if that without the March 18, 2003 invasion the malevolence of Al-Qaeda does not become a force in that region and the apocalyptic ISIS is never born and is not threatening the planet as it does now.

It is important to understand that as the Teapublican Clown Dance begins that we do not listen to a replay of the music and lyrics that were first released in March of 2003. We literally cannot afford a repeat of the consequences of the Bush-Cheney misdeeds that were not “mistakes”. These misdeeds were the result of a malevolent and deceitful world view that should be denounced and renounced by anyone and everyone who presumes to run for the presidency of the United States.

As the horror and misery of the attacks in Paris settle into the collective consciousness, certain realities have become clear. First, there is no place on this planet where safety can be assured. Second, the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan are new epicenters of terror and global violence; although we forget at our own peril the cauldrons of mayhem in Nigeria, Mexico and Congo. Third, the destabilization of the planet on which we live is clearly the work of the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Rice-Wolfowitz cabal.

Revisionist history is both deceptive and revealing of the motives of the deceivers. The neocon retrospective on the first decade of this century would tell us that after the 9/11 Al Qaeda terror attack the United States had no choice but to invade and occupy Afghanistan, albeit without an exit strategy, and even though Afghanistan has righteously earned its name as “The Graveyard of Empires”.

This revisionist narrative goes on to proclaim the lie that the invasion of Iraq was justified by knowingly non-existence “weapons of mass destruction”. Again, we were witness to an invasion reminiscent of Afghanistan, lacking the essential structure of an exit strategy. Only this time, the invasion of Iraq combined with the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein and the ongoing American-induced chaos in Afghanistan resulted in the destabilization of an entire region – from Western Asia to the Middle East.

Americans are historically used to meddling and interfering and intervening in the affairs of other countries without consequence. Indeed, America’s European cousins established the model for meddling, interfering and intervening during the five hundred year colonial era, dating from the 1500’s into this century. But now, in this era of globalization, there is a difference.

The big difference, the game changer, if you will, is that now the subjects of meddling, interfering and intervening can indeed invoke consequence on the American and European fortresses that are no longer fortresses. We live in a globalized and interconnected world where the consequence in one part of the world becomes a part of our lives in the instant of a key stroke or a car bomb.

But it is important to view history through the lens of truth and accuracy so that it is understood that the Bush-Cheney-Rice-Wolfowitz cabal perpetrated a neocon strategy that obliterated the flimsy stabilizers in the Middle East and Western Asia. Somehow the invasion and toppling of regimes in that part of the world would open the door for the apostles of western democracy and the predatory avatars of One World capitalism. And somehow this epiphany would come to pass under the barrel of a gun accompanied by a rainstorm of barrel bombs and Tomahawk missiles.

The sad, lost souls rising from the rubble of 9/11 and Paris and London and Madrid and Mumbai and Tripoli and Syria are the real consequence of the failed neocon vision of a New World Order. To be clear, without the mindless invasion of Afghanistan and the dark fantasy of the Iraq invasion, we do not have a destabilized Middle East and Western Europe. ISIS would not be lurking around every corner and it is likely that the victims in Paris and London and Madrid and Mumbai and Tripoli and Syria would not be victims.

And now, while George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Condoleezza Rice and Paul Wolfowitz live in luxurious comfort, the world that they have destabilized careens down a path shrouded in a war without end. There is no consequence for them, but there is a real consequence for the rest of us who live on this planet.

Requiem for Sanity

As you are reading this, close to 50 percent of likely Republican voters believe that either Donald Trump or Dr. Ben Carson should be President of the United States. Although both men have proudly owned up statements that alternately boggle the mind or chill the blood, there are walking, talking and voting Americans who think that it would be a great idea for either of these men to be the 45th President of the United States.

Those who follow politics and enjoy the push and pull of democracy in action have had a special treat in watching the Teapublican Candidate Bus careen and lurch over the airwaves and across the country. At first it seemed that there would be a virtual rerun of the 2012 campaign which, in 2011 offered up such implausible candidacies that could have produced a President
Newt Gingrich, a President Herman Cain, a President Michelle Bachman or a President Perry as they took their turn as the leading candidate.

But in 2011 and 2012, there was always the candidacy of Mitt Romney looming in the background like a mountain that could never be climbed by the likes of Rick Santorum or Sarah Palin. And while Mr. Romney was never a shining beacon of progressive thought, he assumed the role of the only adult in the room which translated into the inevitability of his becoming the candidate of the Republican Party.

This time it is different. Donald Trump exploded onto the Teapublican arena and immediately started playing the role of Donald and the Fifteen Dwarfs. Sucking all of the media oxygen out of the campaign, “inevitable adults” like John Kasich and Jeb Bush began suffering from asphyxiation and the other candidates scrambled for the few dangling oxygen masks of credibility as they tried to stay alive. Carly Fiorina found one, as did Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz…..and then there was Ben Carson.

Defying the logic that said that his campaign was DOA as soon as he started to sprinkle his Bible-laced homilies with regular references to slavery and Nazism, the Good Doctor has become a leading candidate in the Teapublican Cage Match. In many polls he is THE leading candidate, and so it appears that this dwarf has undergone a growth spurt.

But what does it say about the Teapublican Party when 49% of its likely voters actually support either a man who utters mean spirited comments clad in the velvet cloak made of faux genteel rhetoric or a man who believes that insults and bluster and a wall of gigantic proportions constitute a campaign platform? What does it say about this country that Donald Trump and Ben Carson are taken so seriously that both of them could beat Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democratic Party candidate, if recent polls are to be believed?

This country faces enormous domestic challenges – an ancient and decrepit infrastructure, health care concerns with a rapidly aging population, mass incarceration and then there is the issue of lingering and pandemic income and racial inequality. The international challenges faced by the United States are countless as well – ISIS, immigration, climate change, global terrorism and a world economy that seems to be riding a permanent roller coaster.

Who are these Americans who believe that Donald Trump or Ben Carson are the right persons to lead this country through this minefield of problems, crises and potential disasters? After to listening to Dr. Carson opine that his reading the Bible leads him to the conclusion that Joseph had the pyramids built to store grain, for what public office could he be remotely qualified?

Similarly, after hearing Donald Trump set forth his Middle East strategy that seems to come straight out of a Special Ops video game, what form of reality puts him the Oval Office with authority to wage war, putting American lives in harm’s way? Yet here are both of them posing as leading candidates to hold the fate of the planet in their hands.

A sane country would not be in this position. Sadly, it is time for Requiem for Sanity to be held.

Many people who consider themselves progressive, and most people who claim sanity, do not really believe that Dr. Ben Carson will ever be elected President of the United States. That dangerous presumption could actually lead to his election, and it is time to take the man seriously and take him at his word(s). And what words they are.

Dr. Carson may singlehandedly dismantle the belief system that holds brain surgeons in high esteem because of their innate intelligence. His kindly, avuncular manner of presentation thinly disguises a malevolent and dangerous worldview, which if implemented would resurrect suffering and discord that many have thought were banished from this society years ago. Consider the words of Ben Carson:

• Obamacare is the worst thing since slavery – Dr. Carson seems to take exceptional pleasure in exhuming the rotted corpse of slavery and inserting into serious contemporary discussion. Perhaps he feels that since he is of African descent he can play fast and loose with the memory of the millions who suffered and died under the legal lash of American bondage. Just as Jews and all people of good will are righteously outraged at useless comparisons to the Holocaust, there is simply no reason to bring slavery into a discussion of the Affordable Care Act, except for shock value. And Dr. Carson clearly pleasures himself by shocking others.

• Would rather see bullet riddled bodies than any limits on gun ownership – Rather than engaging in some semblance of decency and respect for the survivors of gun victims, Ben Carson used the recent campus gun massacre in Oregon to proclaim his dedication to the gross and historically incorrect interpretation of the Second Amendment. It is never clear whether Dr. Carson actually believes the outrageous statements that he makes. But what is clear is that words matter, and his words are offensive in the extreme.

• With less gun control Jews in Germany could have defeated Hitler – Statements like these remind us of the drunken uncle at Thanksgiving who, sometime after the dessert wine has been served, goes off on a riff so stupid, so asinine and so devoid of logic that all in attendance hope that it is the wine that is doing the talking. But as far as we know Ben Carson does not drink alcohol and therefore we should take him at his word and reject him for his words. The illogic, the incorrect history and the bizarre belief that lightly armed German Jews could have defeated the Wermacht are woven together into a bizarre tapestry that literally defies response.

It is a sad testament regarding the state of the Teapublican Party that its leading presidential candidates are Donald Trump and Ben Carson. The only hope for the former Grand Old Party is that 70% of self-identified Republicans have not made up their mind. Nevertheless, one has to wonder who are these people that are not offended by Ben Carson’s rhetoric and who actually embrace what he says?

We can be certain that there will be no apologies forthcoming from Dr. Carson. He believes so deeply that what is so wrong is right that there can be no cure for his very special madness.

And while we may feel certain that he will never be president. We should be very concerned that there are literally millions of Americans who believe that what he says is so right that he should be President of the United States.

From time to time a book will come along that shows us what we still don’t know, or acknowledge, about the history of racism in these United States. And there are times when, the plethora of movies notwithstanding, a movie will come along that helps understand how chaos and violence still lurks in the shadows of too much of Africa. “Spectacle” written by Pamela Newkirk is such a book. “Beasts of No Nation” produced by Netflix and Idris Elba is such a motion picture.
“Spectacle” (published by Amistad) is first and foremost the story of Ota Benga, an African man who was literally snatched from the Congo in the early part of the twentieth century and put on display in the United States. His first “appearance” was at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and then in the New York Zoological Gardens (now the Bronx Zoo) in 1906. He was seen by millions of visitors to the Fair and the Zoo who flocked to see human beings who were considered to be examples of the lowest level of evolution.

Viewed through the lens of the 2015 such bestial and callous treatment of other human beings would be unthinkable. But Dr. Newkirk, a professor at New York University and formerly a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, points out in “Spectacle” that the exhibition of an African man in a zoo reflected a virtually universal mindset in white America and in Europe that people of African descent were naturally and absolutely inferior. Hence, the horrific treatment of Ota Benga was seen as no worse than putting a tiger, elephant or gorilla on display.

But “Spectacle” also includes other important historical facts that have been shrouded by the mists of time. In reading this book we learn of the unthinkable genocidal rule of Belgian King Leopold II who held the Congo as his personal property. The level of vicious and rapacious cruelty that marked his regime has scarred that region of Africa to this very day.

We also learn the deep rooted racism in the attitudes held by the most prominent Americans of the day including Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson (who hosted the premiere of “Birth of a Nation in the White House”). American universities, scientific institutions and general society held Americans in such low regard that any suggestion of equality or equal treatment was quite literally unthinkable and, to the point of “Spectacle”, unimaginable.

And finally, “Spectacle” reveals the awesome will and determination of so many black Americans to achieve education, progress and respect. Creating and building communities, towns, universities, churches, charitable institutions in the lingering shadow of slavery, a shadow that undeniably lingers over this country to this very day. The book reintroduces the heroic men and women who proved the racist theories to be the lies that they were (and area) as they laid the foundation for any and all accomplishment by black Americans to this very day.

“Beasts of No Nation”, written and directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga and starring Idris Elba is important for several reasons. In chronicling the tale of a young boy who becomes a part of a cruel and sadistic army of lost boys headed by a cruel, rapacious and homicidal commandant (excellently portrayed by Mr. Elba), “Beasts” exposes the underbelly of violence that plagues so much of Africa.

The bloodshed and violence is an illustration of black on black crime at its worst. And while hardly a white face is seen in the movie, one has to know that the endless supply of guns and bullets and missiles had to come from somewhere, and it Africa is not the source.
Finally, it is important to note that Netflix is part of the production group that financed “Beasts of No Nation”. Netflix released the movie on Netflix and we are seeing the future of motion picture production and distribution unfolds before our very eyes.

Columbus Day is being celebrated throughout these United States. It is a celebration that embraces ignorance of basic history. It is a celebration that honors the dishonorable, the horrific and the indelible. It is a time when collectively Americans choose to put on blinders and ignore the simple fact that this country, indeed modern “civilization” in the Western Hemisphere is built on the blood soaked soil and bones of the indigenous people along with the shattered remains of their African comrades in pain. Just like the National Football League.

One would think that it would be unnecessary in the second decade of the twenty first century to once again point out that Christopher Columbus didn’t “discover” America. There were millions of indigenous people who had inhabited the so-called New World for thousands of years. There were towns and villages and cities and empires with achievements in astronomy, mathematics and engineering that rivaled and in some cases exceeded the best that Europe had to offer.

Columbus wasn’t even the first European to set foot in the Western Hemisphere. The Vikings beat Columbus to the historical punch establishing settlements in New Foundland almost half a millennium earlier. But Columbus Day has a much greater meaning than the abandoned Viking settlements in what is now Canada.

But Christopher Columbus brought with him greed, avarice and an implacable hunger for gold and riches which, with the blessings of the Catholic Church, opened an era of rape, genocide and treachery which resulted in the deaths of tens of millions of indigenous people throughout the hemisphere. Taking the concept of white supremacy to its most awful extreme, Christopher Columbus and the Europeans who followed him, felt justified in killing men, women and children without remorse. They considered the right to enslave others to be part of their white Christian birthright and they established societies which, to this day, carry the virus of blind sanctioned racism. And we know all too well, that this virus manifests itself in daily society.

The question becomes, knowing these rather obvious facts, why does anyone choose to celebrate the legacy of a murderer who was the harbinger of genocide and the first to seize the opportunity to destroy, demolish and obliterate societies and civilizations? It must be that it is more comfortable for too many to celebrate undeniable falsehoods than come to grips with the uncomfortable truth.

Which brings to mind the National Football League which still abides by the Washington team being called the “Redskins”, an odious term that was never acceptable, and is more horrific in its usage the more that history has been revealed to us. Nevertheless, the NFL and CBS and NBC and other sports news outlets refer to “Redskins” even though it is impossible to consider sports teams like the “New York Niggers” or the “Boston Kikes” or the “Chicago Wops” being acceptable. Referring to the indigenous people as mascots is akin to building a communal toilet on what remains of their tradition and history.

There is no calculus which could reduce the concept of “reparations” to dollars and cents. But it would be helpful to stop celebrating lies and continuing horrific myths while the ghosts of the dead continue to seek recognition, if not redress.

Political discourse, particularly on the right wing of the right wing, has been untethered from reality for quite some time. Consider, for example, the search for “truth” that would “prove” that President Obama is (a) a Muslim, (b) a foreign born illegal immigrant or (c) the anti-Christ. The voyage on the irrational ocean has visited ports that legitimize the shutdown of the federal government and the degradation of this country’s international credit rating. And the ranting in the wake of the Oregon gun tragedy further highlights the Teapublican fondness for fantasy.

Demonstrating his now legendary lack of grace and class, days after the massacre in Oregon Donald Trump resurrected the action hero view of gun ownership. He stated that if the students and faculty and security guards all had guns, death would not have visited Umpqua Community College. The fact that combat veterans and war journalists are unanimous in recounting the chaos inherent in firefights that take place during war should cause even the most committed gun-lover to pause and consider the vision of armed gunmen and gunwomen with little or no military training shooting to kill.

But, doubling down on his cinema-based theory of public safety, Trump went on to say that if he were subject to attack he would, in effect, channel his inner Charles Bronson/”Death Wish” persona. And once again, even the most avid proponent of universal gun ownership may wish to reconsider their position with the vision of a near-septuagenarian plutocrat firing away and real and or imagined enemies.

And, in keeping with the Teapublican tradition of being the party that is the gift that keeps on giving, Ben Carson offered thinly veiled criticism of the victims in Oregon (and presumably the victims in Aurora, Columbine, Tucson and Sandy Hook) for “just standing there” and allowing themselves to be shot. Channeling his inner Rambo, sans the bare chest, Carson went on to say that if he were confronted with situation similar to that in Oregon, he would have exhorted his companions to charge the gunman, encouraging them with the knowledge that “he could not shoot all of us”.

Dr. Carson has by now given brain surgeons a bad name, or at least removed “brain surgeon” as a synonym for a brilliant person. Perhaps, because he is such a brilliant brain surgeon he might be excused from knowing that an AR-15 automatic rifle fires 15 rounds per minute, so clearly it is possible for a gunman in such a fashion to “shoot all of us”. More importantly, this supposedly brilliant and thoughtful man should know that the term “fog of war” is a reality based reference. No one knows what they might do if a gun was aimed at them, and only highly trained combat and law enforcement personnel actually know what to do when the bullets start flying.

But not being satisfied with pouring rhetorical salt on the real wounds of the victims and survivors of all of the many gun massacres in this country, Ben Carson has been quoted as saying that he would rather see “bullet riddled bodies” rather than see the passage of any gun control legislation. And with these statements Dr. Carson has made it clear that he is not running for President of the United States of America, rather he is running for President of the United States of Gun.

The further tragedy is that in addition to all this careless, heartless, senseless and insane talk about guns and gunfights and “bullet riddled bodies”, the Teapublican Party runs the real danger of having its leading candidates ultimately giving it the identity of the Fantasy Party. In addition to fanatical devotion to guns, no matter the cost in blood and treasure, the leading Teapublican candidates truly believe that a multibillion dollar wall (with a great big door) will curtail illegal immigration. The party is now totally wedded to the concept of repealing the Affordable Care Act “on Day One”, thereby evaporating the healthcare coverage of over 20 million American men, women and children with no alternative plan.

On the foreign policy front Teapublicans propose to project strength by “telling” the Supreme Leader of Iran what he should do and by refusing to even speak to Vladimir Putin. We hear of plans to reprise the tragic horrors caused by the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, once again accompanied by the promise that the U.S. military actions will be brief, limited, surgical and successful (this time).

The final tragedy is that instead of offering thoughtful alternatives to the agenda of the Democratic Party, the Teapublicans have shrouded themselves in a world of fantasy and denial, setting forth policies that will never work, from “Day One”. And that is too bad, as the American people deserve better.


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