Pat Tillman was a tough-tough defender in the National Football League. He feared no man. When he enlisted to become a Ranger in Afghanistan, it surprised many. He was making multi-millions of dollars as a pro football player. No one can question Pat Tillman's courage and service to his country.
From his earliest deployment in Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush wanted to use his story to cover their mistakes in Iraq. However that didn't happen for at least two reasons. First, Tillman made it very clear that he did not want them to "parade me through the streets." His motives for joining the military had nothing to do with being seen as a hero. Nevertheless the Bush crowd waited until they might utilize him some way. Second, Tillman called our war in Iraq "illegal as hell," and thought it was carried out on an "imperial whim."
Roman Polansky, noted film producer-director, enticed, drugged, raped a 13-year-old girl. After being charged in court, he fled the U.S. After all these years he was taken into custody by Swiss officials in Zurich. The U.S. wants him extradicted.
A resounding cry has sounded from the "creative arts" community that he should be let go. They say the original judge was unfair. They say that after all these years he should be absolved. They say that because he is such a creative person, he should be given special consideration. They say the 13-year-old girl is now a mature woman and does not want him prosecuted [he paid her a handsome sum for a settlement...admitting his guilt once again].
*While watching the Packers-Vikings game and reading-viewing after-game accounts, I am amazed at how much was made of Brett Favre's great game and how little was made of Aaron Rodgers miraculous game. Yes, Favre is an all-time great quarterback and he had a very good game. But Favre was not sacked or even touched during the entire game. Any NFL quarterback would have a good game under those conditions, and Favre has the best running back in the League in his backfield.
Rodgers, on the other hand, was sacked over and over, rushed over and over, and his offensive line as like a sieve. Yet Rodgers kept the game close, and few, if any other NFL quarterbacks would have had that marvelous game under those conditions in a hostile enviroment.
While in college he was in the ROTC. He volunteered to serve in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. He was awarded the Silver Star and the Bronze Star. A grenade blew off both his legs and his right arm. After returning home for therapy, he served in several public offices in Georgia, and in 1996 was elected to the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. He was considered a moderate. What an amazing set of heroic accomplishments!
Max Cleland has written a new book about all this, and he recounts in gripping testimony what veterans face when returning home from war. For all of us who make statements about war and often exhibit "patriotic and heroic" actions from someplace other than the battlefield, this is a must read. It is time to "get real" and Mr. Cleland makes it real. But this aspect of the book will get short notice because this book is a political bombshell and revelation.
Far be if from me to decide who should merit the prestige of the Nobel Prize for Peace, but it seems a little premature to award this unique recognition to Barack Obama nine months into his presidency. I understand the fresh voice and hope he brings. I understand what it means to his being the first African American elected to the White House. But these hopes must translate into more direct and specific peace outcomes, though not every Nobel Laureate saw accomplishments evolve from their promise.
Just as I think it is too soon to criticize President Obama in his first nine months in office because he has not solved the avalanche of problems that were years in the making, I think we should temper our showering of praise of this magnitude on him this early.
President Obama is absolutely correct in doing exhaustive research and fact-finding as he decides on the basic and major approaches by the U.S. in Afghanistan. The elephant in the room is that after Bush diverted focus from capturing Osama bin Laden and ending al Qaeda as was imminent at Torah Borah, Bush directed the invasion of Iraq. Afghanistan was left to become a Chinese puzzle. U.S. options in Afghanistan are widely varied, disputed, fraught with danger, and these horrible choices harken back to our disaster in Vietnam. Any chance for a decent outcome in Afghanistan will require complex, new approaches that are carried out intelligently. Listening only to the military would be making the same mistake we made in Vietnam. Their input is essential but limited in perspective.
We are not engaged in only a military battle in Afghanistan. That is the mistake we made from the beginning in both Iraq and Afghanistan. The war in Afghanistan is now the longest in U.S. history. And merely sending 40,000 more combat troops would be a big mistake. We need to find a way to communicate with a wide and splintered illiterate population. Our form of democracy is like trying to foist a 20th century concept onto a 12th century people. And the religious fanaticism that has been trumped up for hundreds of years only adds to the problem. We simply cannot win a war focused only on military infusion and only combat action. The USSR tried that in Afghanistan and failed miserably. And let us recall clearly that the Soviets were close by while we are a half-a-world away. Afghanistan is not a nation in the true sense of the word. It is a fragmented conglomeration of war lords, drug cartels, distortioned Islamists, and a wide spectrum of ethnic splinters.
Needless to say, the United States has become so "ultra-sized" that rational thinking is considered outlandish. Both liberals and conservatives in the U.S. bear almost no resemblance to those with similar labels two generations ago. Yes, I believe that the conservatives have gone farther off the deep end than liberals, but both groups' abnormalities are so extreme as to make it a moot point.
It seems that people holding elective office today feel they have to swear allegiance to an extreme version or a distorted version of liberal or conservative in order to function. This is the sad state of affairs in the U.S. today. What has evolved is an America that is far, far removed from both equality and liberty. At one time equality was more closely associated with liberal thought, and critics felt that carrying it to extreme would mean socialism or communism. On the other hand, critics of extreme conservatism felt that left unregulated, it would result in fascism/Nazism. HOWEVER what has actually developed is a cadre of liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, who are in the hip-pocket of influence buyers. And this has worked to the detriment of the majority of American citizens. Our elected officials --our servants-- no longer serve us, but serve the buyers.
Oh, how non-combatants love to use the term "support our troops" as they act-out their unsupported fantasies about war and its consequences. The reality of war and the actual support of our brave military men and women is something quite different. We should never enter a war unnecessarily, but those presidents and vice presidents who have no battle experience seem to push us in the direction of war.
Ronald Reagan never served yet chose to invade Greneda. George W. Bush never served in battle, yet he CHOSE to invade Iraq. Not only that, but George W. Bush got himself elected by dissing two military heroes, John McCain in the South Carolina primary and elsewhere, and John Kerry in his run for president. And the strongest war hawk in recent years has been Dick Cheney, who got himself several excuses not to be drafted at all. Former General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, on the other hand, got us out of the Korean War quickly. As shameful as some of these leaders have been, you and I have not given enough attention and support to the veterans when they return from war. Their problems are complex, disabling, and serious. Yet we give them only passing attention.
Let me state it openly. Bill Clinton, Teddy Kennedy and John Edwards did things that were reprehensible. They cheated on their wives, and they took advantage of the good will placed in them by many fine people. But none of those men presented themselves as saints, neither used piety as a self-proclaimed persona. Nevertheless I must openly state that I am critical of them for this lapse in moral character. But I am in no position to judge them beyond that statement.
However there are far too many self-pious, Bible-toting, halo-polishing right-wingers who make me sick to my stomach. Pat Robertson, that right-wing pentecostal who encouraged the U.S. government to have the C.I.A. kill Caesar Chavez, the democratically elected leader of Venezuela. Yuck. Some Christian this moral charlatan is.
Through the years I have spoken and written about my personal interaction with the Martin Luther King family. I repeat once again that a great untold story is the life and influence of the famous Martin Luther King's father, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Sr. or "Daddy KIng," as he is affectionately known. Some day a book, drama, and/or film will be made about "Daddy King." His son is more famous and he is honored this week for his words and work as a great American.
The quotes below come from a book,THE WORDS OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., selected by Coretta Scott King, Newmarket Press, 1983. A copy of this book was presented to me as a gift by a Loretto Catholic nun who played the organ at the funerals of both the son and the father in this case. There are many reasons why Martin Luther King is admired by people worldwide, and the quotes below also indicate at how universal and true is his wisdom then and now.
There always has been a threat in the United States from right-wing capitalism. Early capitalism took advantage of underprivileged people to the extent that would not be tolerated in America today, so some capitalists have moved their operations overseas. Initially capitalism abused child workers, had horrible working conditions that caused early deaths, paid miserly wages, etc. The government of the U.S. went along with much of this, there was no safety net, and corporations built a greed-foundation that they still feel they have a right to carry out as they see fit. Using stumbling blocks every step of the way, corporations began to yield to public pressure and reform. But they remain reluctant to operate humanely.
Whenever greed-capitalism is regulated, it finds a way around those regulations, or gets a right-wing president elected, or gets a compliant Congress elected, or moves their operations to a foreign country. And in those foreign countries, which are pleased to welcome them away from the U.S., they return again to abusing child workers, pay putrid wages, and maim and kill literally millions of workers who succumb to premature deaths. Only when major catastrophies occur, such as in India where abusive American corporations literally killed many thousands, are we made aware of the ongoing abuse of workers who supply us with cheap products. The human cost is tremendous. And as U.S. workers lose their labor union jobs to overseas greed-capitalism, they no longer can buy anything but Wal-Mart level products. And now even that is in some jeopardy, and people are losing their homes, have no health insurance, are dying early, and our veterans are homeless and walking the streets after risking their lives to protect capitalism.