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While We Still Have Time

In spite of the grimness of the times in which we live, there is still hope. If you feel, like I do, that the usual discourse about matters of critical concern tends to be superficial, misguided, and false, then you might find some solace and inspiration here. I will try to offer insight and a holistic perspective on events and issues, and hopefully serve as a catalyst for raising the level of dialogue on this planet.

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Location: Madison, Wisconsin, United States

I was born in 1945, shortly before atom bombs were dropped on Japan. I served in the U.S. Army from 1968 to 1971. I earned master's degrees in Economics and Educational Psychology, and certificates in Web Page Design and as a Teacher of English as a Second Language. I followed an Indian guru for eight years, which immersed me in meditative practices and an attitude of reaching a higher level of being. A blog post listing the meditative practices I have pursued can be seen here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Giving up silly notions

Torture is its own reward
There's plenty of buzz on the Web about how Obama is caving to pressure from forces dark and secret in regard to torture. Most prominent is this article in the New York Times. Joan Walsh in Salon offered her view of the ethical slide in this opinion piece. Renowned journalist Helen Thomas makes a similar argument here.

A scene we'd like to see
Pressure from the citizenry is mounting for a full-scale investigation of the torture practices of the Bush regime, but so far there is no support for such an investigation from Obama and his administration. The first investigation of Bush's torture regime was done by Major General Antonio Taguba, and it ended his military career. Now he is supporting a thorough probe. Read about it here. For some elaboration on the topic, there's this from the Daily Kos.

José Padilla being escorted to a dental appointment
One has to ask, being a supporter of the Obama election campaign and his presidency, why he would leave the door open to torture and "extraordinary rendition." I think there are several reasons. One is that by being duplicitous about these degrading practices he sends a message about his attitude towards any possible investigation and prosecution of Bush and his cronies. In the "intelligence community," such as it is, many would stand to lose their jobs and/or end up in jail if torturers and those who authorized torture were to be investigated.

Manadel Al Jamadi, murdered at Abu Ghraib
At some point, Obama will have to declare whether or not he thinks torture is criminal. He has already hinted at his attitude by approving "extraordinary rendition," and by not ruling out torture under certain circumstances. If torture is criminal, then it should be prosecuted. If not, then everyone gets off scott free.

What is likely a greater reason for keeping a torture capacity is that Obama inherited a completely phony "war on terror" from the completely phony Bush criminal regime. Rather than calling the completely phony "war on terror" a completely phony "war on terror," Obama has joined in its basic premise - that deployment of "U.S." forces is necessary and justified in places around the world that we have defined as "terrorist" havens. If you go along with the premise, then you go along with the program. Torture is part of the program.

The "war in "Afghanistan" is no more justified than the "war" in "Iraq." I wrote about the folly of invading "Afghanistan" in 2001, to no avail. The torture practices of the Bush regime began there, and if "we" escalate our presence there, torture will also escalate. Yesterday Eric Margolis wrote here and here about the continuing folly of staying in "Afghanistan."

The chief reason, I believe, as to why our president is going soft on torture is that he feels he is in danger of a failed presidency, and he has only been in office for a month. He is trying to hold his own regime together, and at the same time trying to hold the country together. His economic plan, similar to his foreign "policy" plan, is establishmentarian. He is relying on Wall Street insiders and political hacks for advice and for cabinet positions, though Janet Napolitano, Steven Chu, Hilda Solis, and Eric Shinseki are some notable choices. I believe Eric Holder will be a good Attorney General, far better than the past three.

A few more likely reasons for Obama's duplicity on torture are these.

I watched Bill Moyers Journal the other night, and he had a very insightful interview with longtime writer, teacher, and activist Parker Palmer. Palmer talked about illusions under which "Americans" live. One of them is the illusion that "we" are a "world power." I never thought of it this way before, but there is no earthly (no pun intended) reason that "we" have to be a "world power. If "we" are a "world power," then why can't, say, "Lichtenstein" be a "world power?" Or, hmm, "North Korea," "India," "Pakistan," and "Iran.?"

The problem with thinking you're a "world power" is that you then have to do "world power" things. Like overthrowing freely elected governments, which we did in "Iran," "Chile," "Guatemala," "Congo," "Indonesia," and countless other countries. Other "world power" activities include invasions of little countries like "Vietnam," "The Dominican Republic," "Grenada," "Panama," "Iraq," and "Afghanistan." Earlier in our history "we" invaded the "Philippines," "Cuba," "Puerto Rico," "Haiti," and even "Hawaii." Here's a list of invasions by all countries throughout history.

Maybe, if we gave up the mentality of being a "world power," we could give up torture. It will be a tortuous decision for Obama, but one he may have to make. The establishmentarian approach to restoring our economy is not likely to succeed, and climate change makes notions of "empire" a tad archaic. We can't afford to be a "world power." The sooner we give up such silliness, the better.

One of the results of a NATO bombing attackIt won't be easy. Frank Rich wrote in yesterday's New York Times about the "American" tendency for denial, and the "world power" illusion is likely to last as long as our economic system holds together. The only real question is how long we can last, doing things the way we do now. One of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. It's a form of self-torture.

This segment of today's Democracy Now explores the recent history of interventions in "Afghanistan," and the factors involved in Obama's pending "surge."

Bill Moyers offered this perspective on "our" involvement in "Afghanistan."

In a previous interview on Bill Moyers Journal, the wisodom of the military option in "Afghanistan" is discussed.

Some resources for ending torture can be found here.

I'm not a knee-jerk fan of Pete Seeger, but this song is pertinent to the subject at hand.

Here's another.