Reasonably Ascertainable Reality

Thoughts and musings on current events and other random occurrences.

Location: South Jersey, United States

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Sorry, but I call "bullshit"

This video seems to be making the rounds of the right-wing blogosphere, with directives of "lefties should watch this" and such.

The jist of the video is that some American troops think that people back home "can't have it both ways." That if we "support the troops", we have to support them all the way, including their mission. I'm sorry, but this is bullshit.

First of all, lets ignore the huge numbers of active duty troops in Iraq who don't agree with the mission. I guess they don't support the "troops" either. And you know, those veterans of this War, like Patrick Murphy, in Congress? Yeah, they don't support the troops either. And you know, veterans of other American wars like Vietnam, yeah, they don't support the troops either.

Second of all, and I don't think I'm making any intellectual news here, but I think that most people in this country understand that when the country "decides" to go to war, it isnt the place of the armed forces to decide if they support the mission and if they are going to participate. They joined the armed forces full well knowing that they must follow orders, the orders of the President, no matter what.

Therefore, when I opposed the war in Iraq, I certainly didn't expect that our armed forces were to immediately go AWOL and desert if they didn't support the invasion. No, I understood that they must follow orders, agree or disagree, and thats what the defense of this country requires.

Therefore, when I say I "support the troops", I mean that I support them and the job they MUST do, which is to follow their leaders.

However, if I'm supposed support the complete mismanagement of every part of this war, just so I can prove I support the troops, well guess what, I guess I don't support the troops then. If I'm supposed to accept the reasoning for going into this war, which I NEVER DID, just to prove I support the troops, well then I guess I don't support the troops. If I'm supposed to support torture and denial of habeas corpus and the outsourcing of "rendition" to places like Syria and the unconstitutional imprisonment of Jose Padilla, well then I guess I don't support the troops.

Here is what I support. The fact that the security of this country falls upon the shoulders of an armed forces who don't have the luxury of deciding whether or not they agree or disagree with the President. That, knowing full well they won't have a choice if the time comes, they still enlist and join to be a part of defending this nation. I support and wish for their success and scream and vote AGAINST efforts that put them in harms way needlessly or for political cover. I support congressional oversight of the President in times of war to ensure what we are doing is in our nations interest.

I always thought I supported the troops. Turns out, according to some of them, because I don't agree with the Iraq War, and think that the Bush Administration has done a PISS POOR job of executing it, including, quite possibly, willful negligence, that means I don't support the troops.

So be it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The "Surge" and the President's Plan

I suppose I shall wade into the waters already chock full of opinions about what to do about Iraq.

I do not, and have never, supported a unilateral pull-out of our troops in Iraq. I think it is the highest form of ethnocentricity and arrogance to invade a county, topple its leader, destroy its infrastructure and then withdraw and leave it in chaos and then say something like "well, its up to the Iraqis."

If it was up to the Iraqi's, for crying out loud, we should have left toppling Saddam up to them too.

However, one can not continue to ignore the realities that exist in Iraq today, whether they existed for millenia, or they are something which our effort created -- perhaps a combination of both.

Iraq, in almost all likelihood, will fall into civil war. Its hard for me to imagine a situation where this doesn't happen. The only reason it didn't happen prior to our invasion was the stranglehold that Saddam had on the majority of people, and government dissenters, in the country. Now that Saddam is gone, revenge seems to certainly be on the menu.

Whether the US endeavor has hastened the path to civil war or not, the Sunnis and Shiites in Iraq seem to have little desire to live in peace with one another. Worse yet, no leader has emerged who shows any interest, Maliki included, in bridging the wide divide between these two factions, let alone the Kurds (who got a nice kick in the face when Saddam was executed prior to being tried for the Kurdish massacre...and then the charges were dropped).

Now, while I don't agree with unilaterally withdrawing our troops, I certainly oppose keeping our troops in a country intent on civil war. If the President wants a surge in forces, I'm skeptical as to how many will actually be necessary (let alone how skeptical I am that the President will be truthful in how many are necessary) to stem the violence. I am also skeptical about bringing in extra troops on the broad mission of "securing Baghdad" or some other such nonsense. Direct, clear, concise missions. Timelines for success/failure. A plan that outlines a complete exit strategy with a deadline.

Yes, I'm aware that the insurgents can just wait us out. But they can do that without a deadline. Also, if the Iraqi forces step up, they can wait us out only to be faced with Iraqi forces.

Quite honestly, I find it hard to believe a word President Bush says about Iraq and have the distinct impression he is looking for approximately 2 years of political cover. If he told me it was dark outside, I'd look for the sun.

Questions remain about where the "surge" troops will come from and how many will be enough. Sadly, I don't think anyone has any idea. But I know one thing. If the President is continuing to rely on the advisors who were so wrong on so many things in the past (greeted as liberators, oil revenues will pay for the war, "last throes" etc) he's crazier than I thought he was. At least if you are going to sell the American people on a new strategy, start by getting new strategic minds.

In conclusion, I'm open to a plan, I just don't trust this President to be truthful, to have the right plan, or to execute it properly. Not sure where that leaves me.

Friday, January 05, 2007

How will this end?

A disturbing update on Jose Padilla from NPR.

According to court papers filed by Padilla's lawyers, for the first two years of his confinement, Padilla was held in total isolation. He heard no voice except his interrogator's. His 9-by-7 foot cell had nothing in it: no window even to the corridor, no clock or watch to orient him in time.

Padilla's meals were delivered through a slot in the door. He was either in bright light for days on end or in total darkness. He had no mattress or pillow on his steel pallet; loud noises interrupted his attempts to sleep.

Sometimes it was very cold, sometimes hot. He had nothing to read or to look at. Even a mirror was taken away. When he was transported, he was blindfolded and his ears were covered with headphones to screen out all sound. In short, Padilla experienced total sensory deprivation.

During length interrogations, his lawyers allege, Padilla was forced to sit or stand for long periods in stress positions. They say he was hooded and threatened with death. The isolation was so extreme that, according to court papers, even military personnel at the prison expressed great concern about Padilla's mental status.

The government maintains that whatever happened to Padilla during his detention is irrelevant, since no information obtained during that time is being used in the criminal case against him.

I think that last bit is the most disturbing. So after everything, all of this, NONE of the information gathered during his detention will be used in the prosecution against him?

Not that it would be admissable anyway considering that Padilla has these rights, ya know, guaranteed by the Constitution and all. However, considering the moral cliff the government jumped off of to obtain whatever information they obtained during his interrogation, you would think they would at least put up a fight to have it admitted into evidence.


Another dilemma faces the government as well. Padilla's lawyers contend that as a result of his isolation and interrogation, their client is so mentally damaged that he is unable to assist in his own defense. He is so passive and fearful now, they maintain, that he is "like a piece of furniture."

Even at this late stage, after dozens of meetings with his lawyers, Padilla suspects that they are government agents, says Andrew Patel, who is on the legal team. Padilla may believe that the lawyers assigned to represent him are in fact "part of a continuing interrogation program."

The situation has become impossible, defense lawyers say; they've hired two psychiatric experts to examine Padilla. Both have often testified for the prosecution in criminal cases. This time they have sided with the defense.

After spending more than 25 hours with Padilla, both psychiatric experts have concluded that his isolation and interrogation have resulted in so much mental damage that he is incompetent to stand trial.

But don't worry, our government has a plan for Padilla. A plan it apparently had since the beginning of this mess:

Indeed, there are even some within the government who think it might be best if Padilla were declared incompetent and sent to a psychiatric prison facility. As one high-ranking official put it, "the objective of the government always has been to incapacitate this person."

At this point, I really can't imagine there is anyone out there that can defend this treatment of an American citizen, no matter what he/she is accused of doing. Luckily, I'm not disappointed. The crickets chirping on the right side of the blogosphere do just fine.

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