Category Archives: American History

Open Thread: Who’s Our Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, or Washington?

One of my favorite books is John Adams by David McCullough.  Last night on HBO a multi-part series began based on this book and the life of John Adams.   Whenever I study American history and the revolutionary period I am awe struck by the passion most of these men appear to have had for freedom and liberty; for doing what was best for the American people and not necessarily for themselves. 

This really struck home as I watched the show last night when the King of England decreed that any one in remote open rebellion against the crown would tried for treason and hung.  Each of the men in the continental congress knew this applied to them.  There was a somber and reflective mood amongst them as it sunk in that they were officially outlaws and traitors.  Yet rather than dispanding and sinking back into line with the British, they became united and the push for independence became stronger.

This got me to think about how fortunate we were to have such men at that time in our country.  I have no doubt that they were ordained by God from before the foundations of the world to be born when and where they were and to play such an important role.  Then I began to think about our situation today and compare our current crop of politicians and leaders with those whom I call the “big-4”.  The big-4 consists of George Washington, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and Thomas Jefferson.  These four people set themselves apart from the rest as the key players in America’s independence. 

Sadly,  when I look at our prospects todayI only see one leader that I would call a modern-day (insert-name here), and that is Gen. Petraeus.    He could arguably be our modern-day Washington.  Not that he will go down with the same acclaim or has accomplished as great a work as Washington, but he is innovative, a strong leader, honest, and rescued our military from what seemed to be a hopless situation.

However on the political front, I see little of note.  It disgusts me that our current choices for the next President are McCain, Clinton, and Obama.  We have a guy who has a terrible temper, drops f-bombs on capital hill interns regularly, and dumped his first wife to marry into money.  We have a lady who can’t be trusted, has been in more scandals than can be counted, and is as dirty as mud.  And a no-experience senator who refuses to take a stand on any issue really and rarely votes;  when he does it is usually after everyone else to see what side is going to win.  Really, I am extremely disappointed with the options we are presented and see no reason for optimism for the next 4 years. 

One  of the reasons I was such an ardent supporter of Romney is that I really believed that he wanted to help the country, it wasn’t a quest for power or money.   This is a country that needs fixing bad, especially with the economy, and Romney was the guy to do it. Not only that, but he is a good person, honest and a man of integrity.  However, now we are stuck with a bunch of candidates that are terrible really. 

Nevertheless, to find a silver lining, I would like all of you to propose which modern-leaders would you put into the category of an Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, or Washington?  Why?    These leaders can and should be from both parties as no one party has the exclusive right to good leadership or, conversely, scandal. 

So I will begin and the first one I can think of is Congressman Jeff Flake of Arizona.  Here is a guy who is principled and determined.  He does not sway with opinion polls and seems to genuinely care about the path our country is taking as opposed to lining his own coffers.   He may never become more prominent than a congressman, but I sure hope he does.    So who do you like?

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Filed under American History, Barack Obama, Congress, Democracy, Election 2008, Hillary Clinton, History, John McCain, Mitt Romney, Politics

Petraus and Congress

Yesterday, General Petraus presented his long awaited report on progress of the surge in Iraq. All in all his report was positive regarding how things have gone. As I watched (some) of the coverage I was greatly impressed by the General and the his understanding of the realities of the War and the way in which he handled the congressmen. I am very impressed by the General, but more on that in a minute.

I have a really big problem watching our public officials or candidates on T.V. I am not a fan of most speeches by the President, I can only watch debates for at a maximum of 30 second intervals without gouging my eyes out, trying to watch congress or senate on CSPAN is as enjoyable as a root canal, and even political shows on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, etc. drive me crazy. About the only political organization that I actually enjoy watching is British parliament, great fun. (Wouldn’t it be great to see the President (Bush or otherwise) have to constantly defend his positions against progress in the manner that the British PM does, fantastic). Anyway, the point is, is that as I was watching the coverage of the report yesterday, I was sucked in by General Petraus and completely repelled by the congressmen. Politicians drive me nuts. Every one of the congressmen questioning Petraus loves the sound of their voice. They wouldn’t shut up. It would be their turn, so they would go off on some partisan diatribe about whatever they thought about the war or Bush or whatever, they would talk for a good 10 -15 minutes then some of them would just defer their time to someone else and not ask a question. And if they did ask a question it usually had to do with political policy rather than military tactics and strategy. If I were in Petraus’s shoes I would have blown up. I would have said that they are all complete idiots, they have no idea about anything going on in Iraq, told them they were playing politics with peoples lives, and that he is the commander of American forces in Iraq, not the President.

We need to realize that most congressmen are no different than you or I, most of them are not children of privilege and many had regular jobs before getting into politics. They certainly don’t have any greater understanding of history, international affairs, or public policy than most of you who browse and read political blogs regularly. That fact is never more apparant to me than when I am watching our congressmen at work, some of them are dumb, dumb, dumb.

Anyway, let me go back to Petraus. I am convinced he is our Eisenhower, he is absolutely the right man to be in charge. In fact, I could see him running for President in 2012. I don’t know if he is GOP or a Democrat. I assume GOP because I like him and hope that’s what he is, so I would expect that if Hillary wins the presidency that the good General may well be in the thick of it in 5 years. If he is a Democrat and a GOPer (other than Romney or Huckabee) is in office, I would likely vote for Petraus and give my vote to a Democrat for the first time. He is impressive.

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In Praise of France

Last week France (finally) announced that it is ready to help stablize Iraq. The childish attitude of the French over the past couple years about Iraq — the “they got themselves into this mess, let them get it out” attitude at the expense of a people who desparately need all the help they can get — is finally coming to an end. It has long been my belief that Iraq needs the likes of France and the U.N to help in stablization efforts. We don’t need the French to support us (the U.S.), we don’t need the help, what we need is the French to support the Iraqi people and government. We don’t need the French to send troops or armour or bombs, feel free to leave the military efforts to us (of course we won’t complain if they want to commit troops, that would be great). But what we and Iraq needs is French moral support. Iraq needs infrastructure, investment, government consulting, and the development of their oil industry. We need the U.S. and France to stand together and say, “we differed on the need to go to war, we differed on the way to reign in Saddam and the WMD program. But what is done is done and it is time to put aside our differences and work together for the good of the Iraqi people, security of the greater Middle-east and for the World.”

So far, the adminstration of Sarkozy in France is starting out better than we Americans could have hoped. It does not look like Sarkozy will be a puppet of the U.S. but it also does not appear that he will fight us on every little thing. The best defense that the Western world will have against extremism and the rise of the East (China, Russia, and Iran) is a united front lead by the U.S., UK, and France.

All in all, things are looking up in Iraq and undoubtedly this played a large part in France’s decision. The French decision will only help to improve the economic and political situation in Iraq. The U.S. and Iraq need to welcome the French with open arms.

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Perceptions of Iraq Improving at Home

Prior to starting this blog, I like most Americans, was wavering in my support for the Iraq War. In 2002 and 2003 I was all for military action in Iraq. I, like nearly everyone in the world, believed Iraq had WMD’s, I criticized the UN for their “if you do it one more time!” routine without ever backing it up, and I believed that Saddam had to go (although I did not believe he was a direct threat to America). As the war continued and dragged on and as the media only reported the negatives in Iraq, my commitment weakened and by May of this year I was leaning towards withdrawing the troops. That all changed once I started the blog and actually started researching what was really going on. Within two weeks of doing this research I was (and still am) 100% convinced of how essential it is that we stay in Iraq and I was also convinced that the surge was starting to work and the tide was slowly changing there.

Previous columns highlighted my reasoning for such beliefs, but I was ever more frustrated. The word was not getting out to the American people. However, that looks like it is starting to change. Last week a couple of analysts from the Brookings Institution, Michael O’Hanlon and Ken Pollack (who were staunchly against the War from the beginning) said, “we were surprised by the gains we saw and the potential to produce not necessarily ‘victory,’ but a sustainable stability that both we and the Iraqis could live with.” They continued, “there is enough good happening on the battlefields of Iraq today that Congress should plan on sustaining the effort at least into 2008.” While these quotes are far from throwing support behind the war, they emphasize a current trend among the media and other observers that Iraq is not as bad as some thought. The one question I have for the above individuals is what constitutes ‘victory’? I would think that a ‘sustainable stability’ is exactly what we are looking for in order to be victorious in Iraq; a stable government that can provide basic services and freedoms and can also provide relative security from insurgents and terrorists. I think we should be looking for stability more along the lines of Morocco or Indonesia rather than Canada or Sweden (at least for the relative short term). But I digress.

Even the AP is getting in on the act. Robert Burns wrote in a column that, “the new U.S. strategy in Iraq… is working.” He further adds:

Despite political setbacks, American commanders are clinging to a hope that stability might be built from the bottom up—with local groups joining or aiding U.S. efforts to root out extremists—rather than from the top down, where national leaders have failed to act.

Commanders are encouraged by signs that more Iraqis are growing fed up with violence. They are also counting on improvements in the Iraqi army and police, which are burdened by religious rivalries and are not ready to take over national defense duties from U.S. troops this year.

Cincinnati Enquirer columnist Peter Bronson writes, “We’re winning in Iraq. Ok, I said it. It’s crazy. Stupid. Naïve. Hopelessly optimistic. And true. Something has changed, and the cut-and-run crowd in Congress did not get the memo. They insist the war is lost and we should get out yesterday. But the war has taken a turn for the better, like a patient making a sudden recovery after years on life support.”

These are just a few examples from among many articles that show that the perceptions of the current situation in Iraq is starting to change. It is very refreshing to finally be hearing good news out of Iraq.

However, the most significant sign that things are changing here at home does not come from the media but by what the people think. In a Gallup Poll released today says that, “the additional troops are ‘making the situation better’ rose to 31% from 22% a month ago. Those who said it was ‘not making much difference’ dropped to 41% from 51%. ” While the 31% and 41% numbers respectively are nothing to write home about, it does show a recent trend of increasing support for our mission in Iraq.

This current situation makes me wonder if Iraq will follow the trend of most of America’s previous wars – e.g. the Revolutionary War, Civil War, and WWII. In each of these wars we lost major battles and were struggling during the initial and early stages in the War. In fact in the Civil War, the Union was losing for the first 3 years and only Lincoln’s resolve kept us afloat. It looks like this same pattern could be what is happening for us in Iraq: early loses, strong negative public sentiment, and then, finally, victory.

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It’s not about “the science”.

According to (suprisingly) the NY Times, The former, and I stress former, Surgeon General is claiming censorship.

Interesting, that a position that traditionally has been bi-partisan if not politically neutral has all of the sudden cried foul play, and just short of a year later. He complains that officials had him come to meetings to explain “the science” of things like global warming but wasn’t heard. He also claims he was pressured to not release reports about the dangers of even brief contact with second hand smoke. I would love to ask him a few questions of my own.

1) Why now? Why did you wait for over a year to even bring this up?

2) You were elected to a position that is meant to safeguard the American people, why did you allow politics to interfere with that end?

There are more, but they are all inter-related with the above. Here’s what I got from the article. There is a former surgeon general that was not asked for another term, even though his adminstration was, now he’s upset because he didn’t take advantage of his time in office. Here’s why, when he consulted the Surgeon Generals that were appointed by the Reagan and Clinton administrations, both stated they felt political pressure to either release, or not release certain findings or theories from the administrations. Yet, both of them had the fortitude to release them anyway. Dr. Carmona, unfortunately was not as strong. He didn’t have the spine to stand up for science, now he’s stating that people didn’t respect his scientific opinion. I don’t respect his opinion now either, he has shown that scientific finding and reason are not his number one priorities, even while sitting as Surgeon General of the United States.

He can complain all he wants, but this isn’t about “the science”. This is about a doctor that did not live up to his appointment, and is now trying to blame someone else for his own folly. I’m not buying it. Did he honestly believe that the American people wouldn’t support him if he released a report about the dangers of second hand smoke? If he were to release such a report, what president would dismiss the man that reported on an issue that is very important to the people? The answer is none. It’s not about censorship or “the science”, this doctor is just feeling remorse for not doing what he was appointed to do.

~ RationalZen

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The Case for Staying in Iraq, Part I

I am convinced more than ever that we need to maintain the course we are on in Iraq or at the least, keep an active and large presence of US troops there.  Last night my wife and I were flipping through channels and we were sucked into a PBS special on the Iraq War.  Most of it felt like there was a negative slant, but at least PBS (or whoever produced it) seemed to at least try to be objective.  During and following the show my wife, who isn’t really into politics and world affairs like I am, was very intrigued and we entered into a long discussion on the situation there and the politics of Iraq in this country, including the anti-war movement.  It was really fun to talk about it with her, and I told her I would write about our discussion today.

So in this installment I simply want to highlight Michael Yon’s latest column on Iraq. He says it better than I could.  In part II or III (if necessary), I will really get into the meat of my arguments in support of our current efforts in Iraq and why we cannot bring the troops home too soon.

The big news on the streets today is that the people of Baqubah are generally ecstatic, although many hold in reserve a serious concern that we will abandon them again. For many Iraqis, we have morphed from being invaders to occupiers to members of a tribe. I call it the “al Ameriki tribe,” or “tribe America.”

I’ve seen this kind of progression in Mosul, out in Anbar and other places, and when I ask our military leaders if they have sensed any shift, many have said, yes, they too sense that Iraqis view us differently.  In the context of sectarian and tribal strife, we are the tribe that people can—more or less and with giant caveats—rely on.

Most Iraqis I talk with acknowledge that if it was ever about the oil, it’s not now. Not mostly anyway.  It clearly would have been cheaper just to buy the oil or invade somewhere easier that has more.  Similarly, most Iraqis seem now to realize that we really don’t want to stay here, and that many of us can’t wait to get back home.  They realize that we are not resolved to stay, but are impatient to drive down to Kuwait and sail away. And when they consider the Americans who actually deal with Iraqis every day, the Iraqis can no longer deny that we really do want them to succeed. But we want them to succeed without us.  We want to see their streets are clean and safe, their grass is green, and their birds are singing.  We want to see that on television.  Not in person.  We don’t want to be here.  We tell them that every day.  It finally has settled in that we are telling the truth.

Now that all those realizations and more have settled in, the dynamics here are changing in palpable ways.

One of the key elements that I see in this is consistent progress in Iraq – Mosul, Anbar, now Baquba.  Slowly and surely we are beginning to see the domino effect that we hoped to see in 2003.  Considering how (relatively) stabilized the norther Kurdish areas, the southern provinces are, and the progress of many of the central provinces surrounding Baghdad are making, there is reason to be optimistic for real success and victory if we American’s can just keep our emotions in check and our eye on the big picture (this issue of emotions is HUGE and will be addressed in a subsequent entry).

Yon continues:

And so on 05 July, or D + 16, after the meeting, Iraqi leaders including the Deputy Governor of Diyala, and also Abdul Jabar, one of the Provincial chair holders, headed to some of the most dangerous areas in Baqubah on what Americans would call “a meet and greet.” At first the people seemed hesitant, but when they saw Iraqi leaders–along with members of their own press–asking citizens what they needed, each place we stopped grew into a festival of smiles.

The people were jubilant. None of the kids–and by the end of the day there were hundreds–asked me for anything, other than to take their photos. These were not the kids-made-brats by well-meaning soldiers, but polite Iraqi kids in situ, and the cameras were like a roller coaster ride for them. The kids didn’t care much for the video; they wanted still photos taken. While the kids were trying to get me to photograph them, it was as if the roller coaster was cranking and popping up the tracks, but when I finally turned the camera on them–snap! –it was as if the rollercoaster had crested the apex and slipped into the thrill of gravity. Of course, once the ride ended, it only made some clamor for more. Iraqi kids that have not been spoiled by handouts are the funniest I have seen anywhere.

 American soldiers just watched, but during one of the impromptu stops, an Iraqi man who might have been 30-years-old came up and said that he’d been beaten up by soldiers from the 5th Iraqi Army. He had the marks on his face to lend initial credence.  But most striking was that he hadn’t gone to the Iraqi leaders, nor did he come to the man with the camera and note pad. He did what I see Iraqis increasingly doing: he went to the local sheik of “al Ameriki tribe.”  In this case, the sheik was LTC Fred Johnson.  (Note: I have not heard anyone calling the American commanders sheiks, but during meetings around Iraq, American officers often preside like sheiks and with sheiks.)

More and more Iraqis put their trust in Americans as arbiters of justice. The man said he was afraid to complain to Iraqi officials because he might get killed, but he wanted to tell LTC Johnson, who listened carefully. When the man pleaded for anonymity, Johnson said he needed written statements from witnesses. The man pointed to some witnesses, and then disappeared and came back with statements, and I can say from my own eyes that Johnson was careful with those statements, guarding them until he could get alone with an Iraqi general later on 05 July.

On D +1 and for those first few days of Operation Arrowhead Ripper, the Iraqi leaders seemed mostly inert. But now on D+16, only about two weeks later, they are out politicking, showing their faces in public, letting the people know they are in charge.  And, unlike the tired cliché of a politician in a parade, they truly have been working behind the scenes. I know because I sit in on the meetings, and listen to the progress reports as items on the lists get checked off. I hear the whining as each section of Baqubah seems to think they are the forgotten ones. “Why the Sunni getting help first?” They ask. But then in another neighborhood, “Why the Shia getting help first?” But I watch the sausage-making.  LTC Johnson will say, “Mike, c’mon.  It’s time to make suasage and you need to see this.”  It’s messy and frustrating.  But food shipments have resumed to Baqubah after 10 months of nothing.  Not that Diyala Province is starving: Diyala is, after all, Iraq’s breadbasket.

 

The efforts highlighted here are indicative of the work that our troops are doing across Iraq.   We are even working on creating situations like this in the most dangerous areas of Iraq, places like Sadr City.  Obviously there are still plenty of problems in Iraq, for instance the political leadership is mediocre and as stable as house of cards at best, but at least there is political leadership.  It seems as though the Iraqi people are finally realizing that we want them to succeed, we want to help them succeed, but we also want to go home, so they better get their act together.  They are! So, let’s utilize a little more patience and have some rational thinking and the U.S. may come out of Iraq as heroes rather than as villains.

(note:  In the rest of Yon’s article it discuss how it is known that Al’Qaeda is attacking the Iraqis and he also has some wonderful pictures of Iraqi children in Baquba)

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A Call for the Extermination and Murder of 13 Million People

Wow. I have been browsing various blogs today looking around for interesting articles. Then I came across one from supporters of our good friend Sam Brownback, blogsforbrownback.wordpress.com, titled LDS: Still Crazy After All these years. Here is the text of the column:

“Thanks to our friends at the Political Pale Horse for this tidbit:

Emma Nemecek, a Brownback for President staffer, sent an email to the Romney campaign about his Mormon faith. The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Nemecek said in the email “the only thing Christianity and the LDS Church has in common is the name of Jesus Christ, and the LDS Jesus is not the same Jesus of the Christian faith.” She went on to say “those who claim that [the] LDS [faith] is a Christian denomination don’t know Mormon or Christian theology.”

Never underestimate the intelligence of the average American voter.

Aside: Ever notice that LDS (Latter Day Saints) is an anagram of LSD? Makes you think, doesn’t it? No wonder they wear magical underpants (”garments”). They probably keep the angry dragons away (especially when infrequently laundered).

A further aside: I wonder when the Scientologists will front a Presidential candidate. A religion based on crappy science fiction from the 1950s? What’s next? Heaven’s Gate? The Nike party?”

Nothing too hostile here, I don’t think it is too thought out, but this is about standard for anti-Mormon comments. But then we get to the comments section, and these are incredible:

“What I’d like to know is how long after Sam Brownback is elected President will it be before those Mormons and Jehovahs Watchtower Witnesses are charged with felonies for pestering Christians. It is nothing short of terrorism against real Christians what they do.”Mrs. T.D. Gaines-Crockett (Bold added for emphasis)

So despite religious freedom guaranteed in the Constitution, Mormons should be arrested and treated like terrorists. Sounds reasonable. But wait it gets better (and this is incredible):

“What’s wrong with these crazy people? Don’t they know Jesus is Lord? People like them belong in prison. Or in the grave. Why can’t we just kill them all now, and get it over with?”Marcia P.

Honestly, what can you say to that? Well, ok I had something to say to that, here is my comment:

“Wow, I can’t believe the vitriol and bigotry here. Incredible. Do you realize, Marcia, that you are basically calling for the extermination of a entire group of people, that puts you in the same category as Hitler. You realize that despite Mormons obvious differences in doctrine, we generally live good moral lives and espouse many of the same moral principles you all do (except for the apparent acceptance of Genocide). It is fine that you don’t think Mormons are Christian, if this is how Christians view their common man, I don’t want to be considered Christian.

By the way, how is what Mormonism does on par with Terrorism, last I heard we weren’t blowing up cars or killing people randomly. Based upon the comments here I would think many of you would be more aptly compared to Terrorists. Which leads me to the title of the piece and referring to Mormons as Crazy. Again, re-read what you all just wrote, sounds a little irrational and crazy to me, but what do I know I am just a terrorist crazy Mormon.

Finally, I am Mormon and I believe Jesus is Lord, as do all Mormons. Get your facts straight.” – Swint

I should also add a comment by Nick Byrum, a non-Mormon rational view of the comments:

“My god, while you are at it, why don’t you Bats for Brownback go back to smearing Catholics as “spiritual cannibals”? That whole consubstantiation vs. transsubstantiation thing, remember? I thought we dealt with that kind of prejudice back in 1960.

Or better yet, why don’t you go find a Jewish public official and start calling him a Christ killer? I thought we dealt with that kind of prejudice back in 1945.

If you want to go after Romney on issues, go for it. But this crap is beyond the pale.

Are Mormon doctrines wacky? Sure. I like a good glass of wine now and then. But the fruits of the religion–stable happy families, clean and sober and productive citizens–are just fine.

That is why Mormonism, however new and hokey, is a much better faith than an “established” religion like Islam, which has brought the world nothing but slavery, torture, and murder.

Frankly, I’d rather have Mormons for neighbors than you creeps.” – Nick Byrum

Following all these, Mrs. Gaines-Crockett goes on to defend the genocidal tendencies of Marcia P.

Frankly, people are free to have whatever opinion they want of anything, they are welcome to want to kill 13 million people if they want to, but that is not very Christ-like of them. It is really, really sad that there are people with such hatred in their hearts, especially those who call themselves Christian. I do not have a problem with people disagreeing with Mormonism, or calling us a cult, or even saying we are Satanic. You can think what you want, and frankly, I am confident enough in my beliefs that those things will not affect me and that I do not need to spend time tearing down and disparaging the beliefs of others. This is really the reason why I started the Mormon Q&A page, to share what we believe, not to tear down others. Call us what you will, but when you get too emotional and make irrational statements you sound, well, irrational and ignorant. So like I said in my comment above, if these hateful sentiments is what is considered Christian, then I don’t want to be Christian.

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