Tuesday, November 15, 2011


Cindy Sheehan asked the seminal question about the war in Iraq. "What did my son die for?" In her new book, Condoleezza Rice says the war was the spark that ignited the uprising known as the "Arab Spring". By invading Iraq, the United States inspired freedom-loving Arabs to rise up against their oppressors following the example of the United States removing Saddam Hussein. Rice is whistling past the graveyard of history. Along with her boss, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and George Tenet, the Bush national security team is trying to re-write history in their favor and they are doomed to failure.

With President Obama's announcement all U.S. troops will leave Iraq by the end of the year, our long national nightmare is over. There is no metric currently available that would contradict the conclusion this war, and to a great extent the war in Afghanistan, was a complete failure. The butcher's bill is striking in its scope. Almost 4,500 dead soldiers, over $1 Trillion spent, as many as 100,000 wounded physically and untold hundreds of thousands wounded mentally, as many as 1,000,000 Iraqis dead or wounded or fled from the nation, a military machine which is severely broken (perhaps irreparably), and a nation left in tatters and ready to explode again. All of this the result of a concerted campaign of lies perpetrated by the White House, with the corporate media's assistance, to convince the American people to support a foreign policy not in its own best interest. (Oh and don't forget a feckless Congress including Democrats like Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and John Kerry, who voted to give Bush permission to go to war).

As the last troops exit, what do they leave behind as a testament to their blood and lives sacrificed in this glorious effort? Iraq's infrastructure is still dysfunctional. The government cannot provide electricity for 24 hours a day. Clean water is iffy if available at all. The three warring parties, Shiite, Sunni, Kurd, are still at each other's throats. There is no oil revenue sharing legislation. The Kurds in the north don't recognize the power of the central government. Attacks between Shiite and Sunni are on the rise. Prime Minister Malicki is trying to violently purge Sunni's from the government. No one believes Iraq's army or security forces can keep the peace and Sunnis don't trust them and fear them. After 9 years, and the loss of so much blood and treasure, Iraq is on life-support and the patient appears to be coding.

Geopolitically, the situation is even worse. Iran, which was a minor player in the region when Saddam was in power, is now the dominant force. Malicki is seen to be courting Iran and its influence on Iraq is growing. In an act of unbridled hypocrisy, regressives criticize Obama for bringing the troops home citing the increasing influence of Iran. The same hawks who said Iraqis should be free, should be a democracy, should control their own fate and used young Americans as cannon fodder to accomplish their goal, are now getting the vapors at the thought of an Iraqi government with close ties to Iran. America went to war with Iraq and Iran won. (These same hawks are now pressing for a military attack on Iran...it never ends)

Turkey recently invaded Iraq to attack the bases of Kurdish separatists who demand an independent nation in Turkey and are engaged in a series of cross border attacks killing Turkish soldiers. The ongoing conflict could turn into open warfare if not contained. Turkey is a NATO ally and which side will we be on if hostilities break out? Iraq seems incapable of addressing the situation. The war in Iraq has de-stabilized the region to the detriment of United States' national security interests and goals.

We now know, the war in Iraq is a direct cause of the disaster that is Afghanistan. The Bush administration diverted valuable resources from Afghanistan to prepare to invade Iraq. At a time when the Taliban and Al Qaeda were on the run, Bin Laden and Mullah Omar trapped in Tora Bora, the country's fate up for grabs, Iraq dominated Bush's attention and Afghanistan slipped into an abyss of inattentiveness and apathy. (My favorite example is the decision to move some elite special force units, who spoke Farsi and Arabic, to Iraq and replace them with troops who spoke Spanish)

Anyway you measure, Iraq is a tragic and unnecessary failure. The military planning was inadequate and intelligence non-existent. Bush's senior staff didn't know the difference between Sunnis and Shiites. General Tommy Franks thought troops would be coming home in less than six months. The dissolution of the Iraqi army, failure to secure arms depots, de-Bathification of the government and failure to have enough troops to control security on the ground, led to a bloody civil war with American soldiers in the middle.

We all know the lies by now. We knew there were no weapons of mass destruction. What's worse, we know Bush knew it too. In October of 2002, the CIA station chief in Europe reported this news to the administration. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported the same thing. U.N. weapons inspectors, who had removed or destroyed all of Saddam's WMD's in the 90's, reported that fact. Scott Ritter, one of those inspectors, told anyone who would listen there were no WMDs. He was pilloried by the White House and derided by the corporate media. We now know the White House invented the WMD strategy to sell the war. Paul Wolfowitz admitted to Vanity Fair it was the only story they could think of to get the American people on board. Former treasury secretary Paul O'Neil wrote at the first cabinet meeting of the Bush administration, Iraq was on the agenda. The Downing Street memos show the decision to go to war was made as early as June of 2002. As the memo stated,"...the Bush administration says it just has to cook the books to move the policy forward." We know every assertion made by Colin Powell in his famous speech to the U.N., a speech Chris Mathews proclaimed made us all believers now in the war, was a lie. Powell has never recovered his reputation from that ignominious performance.

Rice et.al. can try to revise history if they like. Maybe it helps her sleep better and not have to confront the blood on her hands, but history will conclude, the decision to go to war in Iraq was a disaster and the policy a failure which the U.S. may never recover from.

Ms. Sheehan, your son died for nothing except to advance a foreign policy, which left the United States broken and weaker economically and spiritually, and which continues to take the lives of young Americans to this day.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Thanksgiving is the most un-American holiday of the year. Americans have been raised on a series of myths that portray this land as specially selected by God for great things. Americans are rugged individualists, pioneer stock, who pulled themselves up by their bootstraps and became great. Republican presidential hopefuls speak of "American exceptionalism". This is the greatest country because we worked hard, persevered and accepted God's will we would come out on top. American school children learn about "manifest destiny", and discover it was our fate to conquer the whole nation and it was our job to supplant the native peoples so as to reap the rewards the land had to offer. We have earned the wealth, standard of living and dominance on the world stage. It's called "pride".

Thanksgiving is a celebration which requires humility to truly enjoy its meaning. It demands an acknowledgement of how lucky we are and how blessed. It recognizes the happenstance of events that led to so much prosperity. Thanksgiving is at its best when people admit so much of what they have is fortunate and could easily have turned out differently.

I know what it's like to suffer from excessive pride. I was an American success story. I was convinced I had earned or deserved the success I had achieved, the family that loved me and the material wealth that surrounded me. It's worse than that. Not only did I believe all this was earned, I was concerned others were getting what was rightfully mine. I was jealous of co-workers who received better treatment from management in my estimation. Less talented folks who were preventing me from my much deserved place in the sun. I chaffed at not having my talents recognized. A loving wife and caring children were a given. I swallowed the American myth hook, line and sinker. I was incapable of appreciating my luck and good fortune. So many Americans are like me in this excess of pride. They look disparagingly upon the poor and disadvantaged. It's their fault they are in the circumstances they find themselves in. My comfortable life is all my doing.

Thanksgiving is a seditious holiday if observed sincerely. It encourages us to take personal inventory and requires a humble honesty without which all the turkey and yams, the cranberries and mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole and apple pie, the family and friends gathered around the table, serve only to reinforce how much we deserve and how good it feels to be a "have" rather than a "have not". Nothing could be more un-American in this day and age than to admit that there but for the grace of God, I could lose everything, hurt my family, wreck my reputation and surrender my freedom because of a lack of gratitude and the absence of humility.

Thanksgiving has defied commercialization that increases its un-American nature. The best America can do is to turn the day "after" Thanksgiving into the biggest shopping day of the year. However, the day itself frustrates the American mythology. It is a day where the only purpose is to gather and give thanks. Unfortunately, much of that gratitude is about all we have and how hard we worked to achieve it.

I will tell you a secret I have discovered over the last 3 plus years. The job and the recognition, the cars and flat screen TV, the house and perks which come with economic success don't encourage humility and don't open the door to happiness. As this Thanksgiving dawns for me, I will wake with gratitude on my lips, and in my heart, for a wife and children who love me despite a thousand reasons why they shouldn't. I rise healthier physically than any time in the last 25 years. I have been blessed with words of kindness from so many of you, most of whom I have never met. I live in amazement at literally thousands of letters and cards from strangers encouraging me and deciding to go on this journey with me. At night, after a show, I would go home and sit in a room and feel lonely, dissatisfied and angry about not having more. On this Thanksgiving morning, I will awaken with a cross-section of people many of whom have shown me great kindness in an environment that encourages callousness and self-interest. I will hear voices of people I love over the phone. I will marvel at how lucky I am to have finally reached a place where all I have is a blessing I don't deserve nor have earned. My life is rich and full and this is still true even after the long, embarrassing and devastating fall my pride caused.

Thanksgiving celebrates values and emotions American exceptionalism downplays or outright derides. It reminds us how lucky we are and asks us to acknowledge all we have been given and we neither deserve nor have earned any of it.

May I ask you a favor? On Thanksgiving will you spend some moments in un-American reflection about all the reasons you have to give thanks and chronicle the real blessings in your life? Could you humbly offer a prayer of thanks, as you look around your table cognizant of all the bounty and gifts you have? Will you forsake the false pride that permeates our American ethos and gratefully accept what you have been lucky enough to experience?

I will give thanks for you and so many others who have shown me what friendship and caring are all about and I know I don't deserve any of it. I am a lucky man who some would say lost everything, but in reality re-discovered a humble spirit and has now found a priceless treasure.


Thursday, November 10, 2011


Lord, on this day grant us the humility to recognize all the gifts we have been given and acknowledge all the reasons we have to be grateful in our lives. It is so easy to let daily trials and tribulations convince us we have little for which to give thanks....nothing could be farther from the truth.

Thank you for the gift of life. Often we take our existence for granted and don't see it for the miracle it is. We have been born into a land of plenty and even as we struggle to keep food on the table, a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs, there are those so much worse off for whom each new day is a struggle to survive. For them, loneliness, despair and loss of hope are daily companions. As millions of Americans face poverty and our nation seems to be more selfish, thank You for those who care in our lives and for the generosity of strangers towards those in need.

Thank you for those we gather with on this day. We join family or friends or perhaps we reach out to strangers, please bless all who gather today in love and fellowship.

Thank you for all those who provide food on this day. Bless the farmers, and all who get it to our table. Thank You for those who spend hours and days lovingly preparing and creating the table we will all share. We are so grateful for the stories and tales, the laughter and joy, the love and care we will experience today.

Oh COMFORTER, we know it is difficult to be thankful with tragedy and economic storms battering our world, but we refuse to give in...refuse to become callous...refuse to lose faith.

With the knowledge we can make this a more bountiful land again, and belief in the basic goodness of people, thank You for all who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit prisoners and heal the sick, for through them the WORLD IS ALIVE WITH THE GRANDEUR OF GOD.