The Craving (with Apologies to Edgar Allan Poe, Again)

This poem was originally published on 12/24/06. It is being presented here on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 criminal attacks. It is this author’s very considered opinion that the attacks should have been treated as crimes and not Acts of War. You don’t use the military to go after the Mafia, and we should not have used the full force of our military to go after al Qaeda. In fact, I firmly believe that had we not gone in with our full military, we would have gotten the intel faster and Seal Team Six could have done their job sooner. But that’s a debate for another day.

———-

There has been much speculation about why the President really chose to invade Iraq. Some say it was to stabilize the region so our access to oil would be secure. Some say it was because Saddam had tried to assassinate the president’s father years before. (Then-President Clinton had already punished Saddam for that one, but that’s another story.) I am of the belief that this was just one part of an ambitious effort by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to expand the powers of the Office of the President of the United States of America to a height even Richard M. Nixon would have secretly envied. They are invoking a theory called the “Unitary Executive” which, in essence, says that the Executive Branch of our government has just as much say as to how the laws and the Constitution should be interpreted as the other two branches. (And I don’t mind telling you that it wasn’t easy to work the phrase “Unitary Executive” into a poem structured like this.) This theory has not been widely accepted by constitutional scholars. That little detail, however, has not stopped them. With sincere apologies to Edgar Allan Poe and fans of his great poem “The Raven”, I would like to present my version of the president’s quest for power with a poem I call “The Craving.” And my most deepest thanks to my wife, Jane, for her invaluable assistance in writing this. I hope you enjoy it. And if by some strange fluke of reality, you happen to be reading this Mr. President, take the hint.

The Craving
By Wayne A. Schneider

Act I: Extremists

Once upon a Tuesday Morning, after I ignored a warning
Over many there came a furious full plume of fiery gore.
Later seated simply staring, suddenly someone was sharing
That the enemy was bearing, bearing toward my White House door.
“It’s those terrorists,” I muttered “bearing toward my White House door.”
It was one, and there were four.

The other planes had landed where the terrorists had planned it,
Bringing death and devastation on a scale unseen before.
But the passengers still flying on Flight 93 were trying
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Of Missile Shields and Missive Spiels

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Predictably, the minute President Obama announces a policy shift from the Bush Administration, NeoCons reflexively denounce Obama using the tried and true tactic of lying and altering history. Last night on Real Time with Bill Maher was no exception as Matthew Continetti, (a new face/stand-in for Bill Kristol, also of the Weekly Standard) made the unrebutted assertion that Poland and the Czech Republic wanted the “Missile Shield” that Obama recently discontinued. Did they really?

Not quite, according to an excellent article written in the Spring of 2008:

Concerned that hosting a US missile base will put them on the frontline of a new confrontation with Russia, the majority of Poles now oppose siting the interceptors in their country.

The same was true of the Czech Republic. However, as long as Bush was willing to pay any price, their governments were willing to go along with the deal, even though it was causing great divisions amongst NATO allies.
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That was close..

The New York Times reports:

Top Bush administration officials in 2002 debated testing the Constitution by sending American troops into the suburbs of Buffalo to arrest a group of men suspected of plotting with Al Qaeda, according to former administration officials. (read story)

Cheney was all for it? Surprise, surprise. Some more familiar names crop up John Yoo or Alberto R. Gonzales. Condi was against it.

Your Constitution took a couple of hits during the Bush years, but this is proof how close they were to disband it altogether.

And this is what it was all about.

Former officials said the 2002 debate arose partly from Justice Department concerns that there might not be enough evidence to arrest and successfully prosecute the suspects in Lackawanna. Mr. Cheney, the officials said, had argued that the administration would need a lower threshold of evidence to declare them enemy combatants and keep them in military custody.

To think it would have been only “enemy combatants” who were the ultimate target of the “lower threshold of evidence” would be naive in the extreme. That was meant for you all.

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“Torture Works” vs. “I Make Up Stories”

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Dick Cheney has been trying to tell us that torture works (okay, he still refuses to use the word “torture”, but in the interests of accuracy and clarity, I will substitute the word “torture” for any other euphemism they may utilize), that we gained valuable intelligence from its use, and that “it saved lives.” Did it, Dick? Did it really save lives? Or did it cost lives? American lives? Americans in uniform? Did your insistence on the use, and staunch defense, of a series of illegally-authorized interrogation techniques, which were based on methods known to elicit false confessions, actually end up getting one or more of our soldiers killed?

Thanks to the ACLU, we now know that Dick Cheney was lying through his gritting teeth when he said we received valuable intelligence through the use of torture, particularly in the case of Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (also, and more conveniently, known as “KSM”.) He claimed that intel “saved lives.” Given Dick’s well-documented history of spreading falsehoods, I have every reason in the world to believe that not only was this statement a lie, it was actually the opposite of the truth. I have reason to believe that people died because of the information we gained through torture. And the reason is a very simple one. KSM himself said, in his statement at his “Combatant Status Review Tribunal Hearing” (Pg 15):

I ah cannot remember now…I be under questioning so-many statement which been some them l make up stories just location UBL. Continue reading

Send Bush to jail (and throw away the key)

I wrote in an earlier post, that one of my wishes for the Obama Presidency was signature and ratification of the Rome Statute which constitutes the International Criminal Court in The Hague. I still believe this should be done to restore the trust of the world in American politics by accepting accountability to international standards.  Initially my idea was to find a way to hold President Bush accountable and try him for his crimes in a court of law. However, after some research, I doubt that end would be achieved by joining in the ICC. The Rome Statute states explicitly that it’s rules apply to the signatory states only after the ratification unless it’s jurisdiction was approved retroactively by the signing state.  At least that is how I understood the text.  There may be lawyers among you who know better than me and I would very much appreciate to learn more from you.

I do think it is possible that an Obama Administration signs the statute (or re-signs it, it has already been signed by the Clinton Administration, but the Bush Administration “un-signed” it) and the Democratic Congress ratifies it. I don’t believe it would be made retroactive though, because that would amount to handing Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and some more to The Hague. Barack Obama, among other things, has stressed bi-partisanship and just imagine the Republican’s and their voters’ reaction.

So where does that leave you? You will have to go it alone. And the Bush Administration must be held accountable for their actions. There is a number of crimes that have been assembled by the National Lawyers Guild in an attempt to impeach Bush. In November Joel S. Hirschhorn wrote an article in MWCnews saying:

I want President Obama soon after taking office to go on television and announce the formation of a special group of outstanding jurists and attorneys to make a recommendation whether or not the US Justice Department should bring criminal charges against George W. Bush.  Based on earlier analyses, including work by the American Bar Association, I have no doubt they will recommend indictment.

I could not agree more. The documentary “Taxi to the Dark Side” ran on a German tv-channel yesterday and it brought back the atrocities of the “War on Terror”. And yes, I would like to see Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, Yoo and some more held accountable for these crimes and more in a court of law.

Everybody’s Walkin’

As we approach the 1,000 hours-to-go mark in the Still Bush Administration (Dec 9, 2008, 8 PM EST, 5 PM PST – 1,000 hours to go), Bush must be looking around and watching people getting ready to leave. Here’s Harry Nilsson to help me describe it. I hope you enjoy the parody. I know you’ll enjoy the song.

Everybody’s Walkin’
Original Words and Music “Everybody’s Talkin'” by Harry Nilsson, 1969
Additional Lyrics by Wayne A. Schneider, 2008

Everybody’s walkin’ on me
I don’t hear a word ‘bout stayin’
Only the voices in my mind

People start their packing
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Defense Spending: Reagan/Bush I vs. Clinton vs. Bush II

My blogging arch nemesis, The New Conservative, used a previous post from my homebase concerning America’s readiness to see military reform focused not on spending more, but on spending better as an excuse to hammer Clinton for failing at the very same task. And while I’m not going to disagree that Clinton could have done more to reform the military, it’s inarguable that Clinton did, in fact, significantly reign in military spending. Here are the relevant numbers:

  • $453 billion – the average annual defense budget for the nine years before Clinton took office.
  • $377 billion – the average annual defense budget during Clinton’s time in office, a 16.7% decrease.
  • $496 billion – the average annual defense budget during Bush’s time in office, a whopping 31% increase not even including the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are largely funded through supplementals not included in the official defense budget.

These numbers are in GDP adjusted dollars to make the comparisons as fair as possible. The raw data for these calculations is available here. If anyone finds trouble with my math, please let me know.

Now, we all know that cutting defense spending is second only to cutting Social Security on the political no-no list. The military industrial complex employs several hundred thousand employees. It frequently helps to prop up the economy. And they are represented by some of the best lobbyists in the business.

But couldn’t we get those same economic results by investing in technology we all know we need? Like a new transportation infrastructure — high speed rail in certain areas, new roads and bridges, a new high-bandwidth internet that reaches deep into even the most rural communities. Why not spend on that? Our military will never be able to protect us from economic threats. And frankly, a bloated military still mired in Cold War thinking is ill-equipped to protect us from terrorist threats. But if we give our citizens access to the best technology, if we invest in green technologies, we could create jobs that don’t require us to build unnecessary implements of death. We could scale back our overseas campaigns, engendering good will. And we can knee-cap the terrorists’ agenda by bringing genuine humanitarian aid and progress to those parts of the world most susceptible to terrorist recruitment. Our foreign policy should be based on stability, preferably in democratic systems, as well as the economic and educational development of the poor and powerless countries strewn throughout the Middle East and Eurasia.

I don’t see why this needs to be a partisan issue. I think both sides should be able to agree that spending just under a half trillion dollars on defense (more if we include Iraq and Afghanistan) is too much by any standard. And of course, the more we spend on military equipment, the more persuaded we are to put it to use, which only escalates the cycle.