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Saturday, April 22, 2006

Are we There Yet?

In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
-George Orwell

Has defending our right to speek freely about an obvious failure of leadership become a revolutionary act?

Today, on the 35th anniversary of John Kerry's historic testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I can't help but wonder if this is where we're headed.

Senator Kerry is again speaking truth to power in a speech today at Faneuil Hall in Boston. He's defending our right to dissent, as he did when faced with the same decision 35 years ago today.

The right to free speech is what makes America great. It defines us. Defending that right should not be a revolutionary act, it should be a daily one.

Support Senator Kerry's defense of democracy. It's time to speak out.

We're almost there.


Live blogging from the speech here

Tay Tay rocks!!!


The Democratic Daily has an advance copy of Senator Kerry's speech as prepared for delivery here

Friday, April 21, 2006

35 years and what have we learned?

I am writing this as I ride a train from Philadelphia to Boston, on my way to witness what, to me, is a momentous anniversary in our national history, even if it will be barely noticed in our national media, let alone by the circus-captivated American public.

35 years ago this Saturday, April 22nd, a young former Naval officer appeared before the Foreign Relations Committee of the United States Senate, to tell the truth as he had seen it in the American War – known to Americans, of course, as the Vietnam War.

On this 35th anniversary that young man, now a Senator himself, will reach out once more to cast forth the truth, as he sees it, for another generation, of another war that America wages for dubious goals as it wreaks havoc and bloodshed in the lives of brown-skinned people in a distant land, at a terrible cost of American lives and credibility.

35 years – why are we back at the same point again?

35 years and what did we learn?


I’ll tell you what I have learned in just the last two years. Too many Americans cannot handle the truth. In 1971 our culture was reeling with the consequences of a war that stole away our youth and our promise, for reasons that were dissatisfying and / or disbelieved by a large segment of the population. During the young veteran’s testimony he was commended by the committee for his act of coming forward to speak the truth as he saw it, for his maturity and leadership in leading thousands of others in a hugely emotionally charged demonstration without serious incidents.

Yet down through the years instead of heralding him for his effort and courage, many – some of whom complain of being spat on themselves by a close-minded public – target their angst and anger at this one who at the young age of 27 did his best to simply tell the truth as he saw it.

In 2004, Americans had the choice for their president, of a man with a record of failure, who spoke of his own youth as “irresponsible”, vs. a man with a record of courageous leadership that began in his youth. Americans chose failure.

Instead of learning from our history, many Americans have obstinately rejected the truths of that history, lest they be forced to relinquish or alter some sacrosanct notion of their own honor, or the justification for their own behavior or the behavior of a loved one. They wrap themselves in a flag of false patriotism as if it will protect them, while they fail to exercise what true patriotism demands: honest and open reflection on the facts of history – all facts presented by all sides, not just the cherry-picked evidence that supports their own views or reflects their own experiences; a real desire and effort to understand the consequences of the actions of our government and our people on others; and finally the vigorous participation of truly patriotic citizens in guiding their governmental representatives to choose the courses that will truly make us proud to be Americans.

Or in short: honestly seek out the truth and then have the courage to tell that truth, as you see it; as John Kerry did in 1971.

35 years.

I just listened to an audio file of Kerry’s full opening statement from 1971. It breaks my heart to hear how much of it rings true today, if only the names “Vietnam” and “Vietnamese” are replaced by “Iraq” and “Iraqis.” Sure there are many differences…and the one most glaring to me – yet one point on which I hope that I will be mercifully proven completely wrong – is that while John Kerry could say in 1971 that there was no rational argument to support any notion of real threat from the North Vietnamese if we withdrew our troops from Vietnam, I cannot see such a statement about Iraq today. It seems to me that by removing Iraq as a counterbalance to Iran, Bush has created a huge strategic problem for the non-Islamofascist world; simply withdrawing our troops risks leaving the entire region to “religious” extremists, who among other things will treat women as property, and respect no notion of religious toleration or freedom of expression. Yet if we don’t withdraw now, we will only be faced with the same choice later – only after more death and destruction and fertilization of hatred. In other words, it will only be worse if we do it later, and we most surely will do it later if we don’t do it now.

I believe we truly have no good options in Iraq. In fact we don’t even have lousy options. We only have horrible choices and really, really, horrible choices.

My only hope comes from the assurance that John Kerry knows far more than I do - perhaps he can detect a decent option among the ruins of Bush’s Iraq Debacle. Or at least a merely lousy one.

35 years.

I cannot imagine what must cross John Kerry’s mind as he reflects back on that passage of time, and the parallels between that era and today’s. Perhaps tomorrow he will grant us some glimpse. In any case I am sure of one thing … he will not express it in the tone of despair and anger that I feel as I write this. I think that he will speak of the past as a guide for the future; where we’ve been and how it informs our choices for going forward from here. As desperate as the situation is, I look forward to tomorrow knowing that I will hear a message of hope and guidance.

35 years – where are the leaders of our country? Where is the leadership?

Tomorrow, I go to hear one of the true leaders of our country speak. How I wish that sane, decent, hopeful, and guiding leader were our President.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Time Online highlights Fighting Dem Joe Sestak

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1182606,00.html

Can the Dems Win on National Security?
It's been their Achilles' heel for years. But as the mid-term elections approach and Republicans continue to stumble, Americans may finally trust Democrats to protect the home front
By MASSIMO CALABRESI

Posted Tuesday, Apr. 11, 2006

No one on Capitol Hill, least of all the Democrats, seems to remember the last time Americans trusted both major parties equally to keep them safe. Ever since 9/11, the Republicans have rarely failed to capitalize on their de facto position as the party of national security. But with six months to go before the mid-term elections, the battle over national security and politics may well be at a tipping point. Last week an AP-Ipsos poll found that American adults were evenly divided on whether Democrats or Republicans could do a better job protecting the country. Likewise, on Monday a Washington Post-ABC News poll found Americans split down the middle when asked which party was better qualified to handle terrorism.

Mind you, these days saying the Democrats are just as qualified as Republicans to handle national security is not exactly a compliment. Over the last six months, the GOP has seemed to have nothing but lapses on that all-important front, from the deteriorating situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, and the Dubai ports deal, to new revelations about the President's role in the leaking of pre-war intelligence, his warrantless wiretapping program and, last week, Congress' inability to pass a border security bill.

(snip)

Still, most Congressional races are won or lost at the local level, so for now the Democrats may be able to get away without a commanding national figure like Sam Nunn or George Mitchell. And they certainly have plenty of impressive local candidates on tickets around the country for the fall, including more than 40 military vets. One good example is Joe Sestak, decorated three-star admiral, family man, and naval commander straight from Central Casting. On his website, just above the picture of him in Navy whites briefing President Clinton in the Oval Office, is a typical resume line: "As the [George Washington] Battle Group Commander, he led an international coalition force of 30 U.S. and allied ships and 15,000 sailors, exercising command of combat operations in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as senior diplomatic engagements throughout Southwest Asia, Europe and Africa." A giddy Congressman Rahm Emmanuel, head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, says Sestak, "neutralizes the national security issue."

Oh yeah.

Friday, April 07, 2006

PA-07: Admiral Joe vs. Moonie Curt

(Cross-posted at Democratic Underground.)

A couple days ago, Curt Weldon (Wacko-PA07) made a crass attack on his Dem opponent, retired Vice Admiral Joe Sestak. Curt presumed to select the best hospital for Joe's cancer-afflicted daughter, suggesting that there was something wrong with Joe choosing one outside the states of PA or DE (why DE, anyway?); never mind that Joe had not yet retired at the time. Nice one, Curt. Way to exploit not only a child, but also a poignant family situation that Joe Sestak has handled with grace and optimism.

DavidNYC "swings" into the fray at Swing State Project with an excellent post reminding us about some of Curt Weldon's weirder history...

When I got an e-mail yesterday from Admiral Joe Sestak's campaign about Curt Weldon's depraved attack on Sestak's four-year-old, cancer-stricken daughter, I wanted to throw things. What kind of disturbed, twisted nutbag could stoop so low? Well, as community member Predictor reminds us in the comments, this kind of nutbag:

Weldon spoke at the coronation of Sun Myung Moon "as humanity's Savior, Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent", on March 23, 2004. His office originally vehemently denied his attendance, then when he was revealed to be a co-chair organizer of the event claimed that he had intended to attend but could not because of a scheduling conflict; then when a photo surfaced of him speaking at the event while standing next to a lifesize photo of him pinning a Unification Church medal on Moammar Al Qadhafi, stated that he had left immediately after the speech and had no knowledge of what else went on.

That whole Moon coronation thing seriously, seriously creeped me out. I mean, it was really beyond insane. Get this:

(go here for the rest, and links...)


This would be entertaining except that some of us are, sigh, "represented" by this "nutbag." You can help us get rid of him - find out more about Joe Sestak at www.sestakforcongress.com .

In case you're wondering about Joe Sestak's chances against an entrenched incumbent (even a nutty one), there's this:

Sestak, Weldon put fund-raising into high gear
The challenger needed a fast start to show he is viable. The incumbent has more in the bank.

By Tom Infield and Thomas Fitzgerald
Inquirer Staff Writers

Republican U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon and his Democratic opponent, Joe Sestak, appear to be off to a lightning start in their race for campaign cash.

Sestak, trying to demonstrate that he's a serious contender to dislodge Weldon from a seat he has held for two decades, said yesterday that he had raised $420,000 in just under two months as a candidate.

Not bad, not bad at all. I've met Joe - full disclosure, I do volunteer with the campaign; not paid though, sigh - and I have great hope that he will go all the way. It will be nice to be represented by a Democrat for a change. And a sane and decent one at that.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

John Kerry Steps Up on Iraq: A REAL Exit Plan

In a NYT op-ed today, John Kerry calls for a REAL exit strategy for Iraq.

First he notes the immorality; the parallel with Vietnam in knowing that our military strategy cannot achieve our stated objectives, it would be immoral to continue in Iraq as we did in Vietnam:
Two Deadlines and an Exit
By JOHN F. KERRY
Published: April 5, 2006

WE are now in the third war in Iraq in as many years. The first was against Saddam Hussein and his supposed weapons of mass destruction. The second was against terrorists whom, the administration said, it was better to fight over there than here. Now we find our troops in the middle of an escalating civil war.

Half of the service members listed on the Vietnam Memorial Wall died after America's leaders knew our strategy would not work. It was immoral then and it would be immoral now to engage in the same delusion.

(snip)

As our generals have said, the war cannot be won militarily. It must be won politically. No American soldier should be sacrificed because Iraqi politicians refuse to resolve their ethnic and political differences.

Kerry notes that the only things that have "worked" so far in our Iraq policy have been enforcing deadlines - so now it is time to apply that working strategy to create an actual exit plan that will work, and meanwhile (hopefully) impel the Iraqis to work out their governance problem.
So far, Iraqi leaders have responded only to deadlines — a deadline to transfer authority to a provisional government, and a deadline to hold three elections.
Now we must set another deadline to extricate our troops and get Iraq up on its own two feet.

He then lays out the following terms of the deadline deal:

IF (and only if) the May 15 deadline is met with formation of a unity government:

And MEANWHILE:

To increase the pressure on Iraq's leaders, we must redeploy American forces to garrisoned status. Troops should be used for security backup, training and emergency response; we should leave routine patrols to Iraqi forces. Special operations against Al Qaeda and other foreign terrorists in Iraq should be initiated only on hard intelligence leads.

However Kerry does leave open the possibility of some residual forces after the December '06 withdrawal:
Only troops essential to finishing the job of training Iraqi forces should remain.

But note that he calls for removal of combat forces and leaving only "essential" troops for a specific mission. That means a 10,000 troop drawdown from the current 150,000 or so, will not fill the bill. As I read it, it does mean that we might leave as many as 10,000 there, although I am guessing that is not what Senator Kerry has in mind, and I would hope the drawdown would be more thorough than that. Well, if a plan by a leading Democrat had a snowball's chance in a very hot place of getting implemented, anyway.

Next, Kerry calls for brokering a "Dayton Accords-like summit meeting," engaging the various Iraqi leaders, the UN and the Arab League. (For those who don't remember, the 1995 Dayton Accords ended the Bosnian War.:

For this transition to work, we must finally begin to engage in genuine diplomacy. We must immediately bring the leaders of the Iraqi factions together at a Dayton Accords-like summit meeting. In a neutral setting, Iraqis, working with our allies, the Arab League and the United Nations, would be compelled to reach a political agreement that includes security guarantees, the dismantling of the militias and shared goals for reconstruction.

And finally a summarization of the rationale for an exit plan like this:
We will defeat Al Qaeda faster when we stop serving as its best recruitment tool. Iraqis ultimately will not tolerate foreign jihadists on their soil, and the United States will be able to maintain an over-the-horizon troop presence with rapid response capacity. An exit from Iraq will also strengthen our hand in dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat and allow us to repair the damage of repeated deployments, which flag officers believe has strained military readiness and morale.

For three years now, the administration has told us that terrible things will happen if we get tough with the Iraqis. In fact, terrible things are happening now because we haven't gotten tough enough. With two deadlines, we can change all that. We can put the American leadership on the side of our soldiers and push the Iraqi leadership to do what only it can do: build a democracy.


Kerry was quickly backed up by Russ Feingold, who declared:
Since August 18, 2005 I have been calling on the Administration to aim to redeploy U.S. military personnel from Iraq by the end of this year so that we can focus on the threat posed by global terrorist networks. I applaud Senator Kerry's call today for our combat forces to be withdrawn from Iraq by the end of this year. Senator Kerry has been a strong leader in calling for a clear, coherent strategy to complete our military mission in Iraq while engaging Iraq's leaders with genuine diplomacy. Having just visited Iraq last month, I witnessed the desperate need for Iraqi politicians to form a unity government to prevent the country from falling deeper into violence. Senator Kerry is absolutely right to say that the end of this year is a reasonable target date for redeploying our troops in Iraq.

Of course, the rightwrong and "left" wingnuts are already out in droves on the blogs either faulting Kerry's proposal (rightwrong wingnuts), or whining that it's coming from John Kerry instead of their current fave ("left" wingnuts). Ah well, same as it ever was, I guess.


Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration's public statements on Iraq
The Bush Administration's
public statements on Iraq
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