Thursday, November 30, 2006

On in 32 Americans in Jail or on parole - 7 million total

7M in U.S. jails, on probation or parole

By KASIE HUNT, Associated Press Writer2 hours, 36 minutes ago

A record 7 million people — or one in every 32 American adults — were behind bars, on probation or on parole by the end of last year, according to the Justice Department. Of those, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, an increase of 2.7 percent over the previous year, according to a report released Wednesday.

More than 4.1 million people were on probation and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005. Prison releases are increasing, but admissions are increasing more.

Men still far outnumber women in prisons and jails, but the female population is growing faster. Over the past year, the female population in state or federal prison increased 2.6 percent while the number of male inmates rose 1.9 percent. By year's end, 7 percent of all inmates were women. The gender figures do not include inmates in local jails.

"Today's figures fail to capture incarceration's impact on the thousands of children left behind by mothers in prison," Marc Mauer, the executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based group supporting criminal justice reform, said in a statement. "Misguided policies that create harsher sentences for nonviolent drug offenses are disproportionately responsible for the increasing rates of women in prisons and jails."

From 1995 to 2003, inmates in federal prison for drug offenses have accounted for 49 percent of total prison population growth.

The numbers are from the annual report from the Justice Department's Bureau of Justice Statistics. The report breaks down inmate populations for state and federal prisons and local jails.

Racial disparities among prisoners persist. In the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men — about one in 13 — are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men. And it's not much different among women. By the end of 2005, black women were more than twice as likely as Hispanics and over three times as likely as white women to be in prison.

Certain states saw more significant changes in prison population. In South Dakota, the number of inmates increased 11 percent over the past year, more than any other state. Montana and Kentucky were next in line with increases of 10.4 percent and 7.9 percent, respectively. Georgia had the biggest decrease, losing 4.6 percent, followed by Maryland with a 2.4 percent decrease and Louisiana with a 2.3 percent drop.

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press

Monday, November 27, 2006

Lessons from Vietnam War Bush never learned

Lessons From the Vietnam War
By Keith Olbermann
MSNBC Countdown

Monday 20 November 2006

Keith Olbermann responds to Bush's comparison between Vietnam and Iraq.

It is a shame and it is embarrassing to us all when President Bush travels 8,000 miles only to wind up avoiding reality again.

And it is pathetic to listen to a man talk unrealistically about Vietnam, who permitted the "Swift-Boating" of not one but two American heroes of that war, in consecutive presidential campaigns.

But most importantly - important beyond measure - his avoidance of reality is going to wind up killing more Americans.

And that is indefensible and fatal.

Asked if there were lessons about Iraq to be found in our experience in Vietnam, Mr. Bush said that there were, and he immediately proved he had no clue what they were.

"One lesson is," he said, "that we tend to want there to be instant success in the world, and the task in Iraq is going to take a while."

"We'll succeed," the president concluded, "unless we quit."

If that's the lesson about Iraq that Mr. Bush sees in Vietnam, then he needs a tutor.

Or we need somebody else making the decisions about Iraq.

Mr. Bush, there are a dozen central, essential lessons to be derived from our nightmare in Vietnam, but "we'll succeed unless we quit," is not one of them.

The primary one - which should be as obvious to you as the latest opinion poll showing that only 31 percent of this country agrees with your tragic Iraq policy - is that if you try to pursue a war for which the nation has lost its stomach, you and it are finished. Ask Lyndon Johnson.

The second most important lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If you don't have a stable local government to work with, you can keep sending in Americans until hell freezes over and it will not matter. Ask Vietnamese Presidents Diem or Thieu.

The third vital lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: Don't pretend it's something it's not. For decades we were warned that if we didn't stop "communist aggression" in Vietnam, communist agitators would infiltrate and devour the small nations of the world, and make their insidious way, stealthily, to our doorstep.

The war machine of 1968 had this "domino theory."

Your war machine of 2006 has this nonsense about Iraq as "the central front in the war on terror."

The fourth pivotal lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush: If the same idiots who told Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon to stay there for the sake of "peace With honor" are now telling you to stay in Iraq, they're probably just as wrong now, as they were then ... Dr. Kissinger.

And the fifth crucial lesson of Vietnam, Mr. Bush - which somebody should've told you about long before you plunged this country into Iraq - is that if you lie your country into a war, your war, your presidency will be consigned to the scrap heap of history.

Consider your fellow Texan, sir.

After Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson held the country together after a national tragedy, not unlike you did. He had lofty goals and tried to reshape society for the better. And he is remembered for Vietnam, and for the lies he and his government told to get us there and keep us there, and for the Americans who needlessly died there.

As you will be remembered for Iraq, and for the lies you and your government told to get us there and keep us there, and for the Americans who have needlessly died there and who will needlessly die there tomorrow.

This president has his fictitious Iraqi WMD, and his lies - disguised as subtle hints - linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11, and his reason-of-the-week for keeping us there when all the evidence for at least three years has told us we need to get as many of our kids out as quickly as possible.

That president had his fictitious attacks on Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin in 1964, and the next thing any of us knew, the Senate had voted 88-2 to approve the blank check with which Lyndon Johnson paid for our trip into hell.

And yet President Bush just saw the grim reminders of that trip into hell: the 58,000 Americans and millions of Vietnamese killed; the 10,000 civilians who've been blown up by landmines since we pulled out; the genocide in the neighboring country of Cambodia, which we triggered.

Yet these parallels - and these lessons - eluded President Bush entirely.

And, in particular, the one over-arching lesson about Iraq that should've been written everywhere he looked in Vietnam went unseen.

"We'll succeed unless we quit"?

Mr. Bush, we did quit in Vietnam!

A decade later than we should have, 58,000 dead later than we should have, but we finally came to our senses.

The stable, burgeoning, vivid country you just saw there, is there because we finally had the good sense to declare victory and get out!

The domino theory was nonsense, sir.

Our departure from Vietnam emboldened no one.

Communism did not spread like a contagion around the world.

And most importantly - as President Reagan's assistant secretary of state, Lawrence Korb, said on this newscast Friday - we were only in a position to win the Cold War because we quit in Vietnam.

We went home. And instead it was the Russians who learned nothing from Vietnam, and who repeated every one of our mistakes when they went into Afghanistan. And alienated their own people, and killed their own children, and bankrupted their own economy and allowed us to win the Cold War.

We awakened so late, but we did awaken.

Finally, in Vietnam, we learned the lesson. We stopped endlessly squandering lives and treasure and the focus of a nation on an impossible and irrelevant dream, but you are still doing exactly that, tonight, in Iraq.

And these lessons from Vietnam, Mr. Bush, these priceless, transparent lessons, writ large as if across the very sky, are still a mystery to you.

"We'll succeed unless we quit."

No, sir.

We will succeed against terrorism, for our country's needs, toward binding up the nation's wounds when you quit, quit the monumental lie that is our presence in Iraq.

And in the interim, Mr. Bush, an American kid will be killed there, probably tonight or tomorrow.

And here, sir, endeth the lesson.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

The greatest political and moral challenge of today is what shall we do with Iraq.

This week the war in Iraq lasts longer than American involvement in World War 2.

One challenge I see is whether we take the civil unrest and killing of Muslims by one another as our problem. Although the invasion of the US set it off and predictably for anyone who understood the tribal nature of that society, I do not see that issue as resting on our shoulders. But can we exit the country without doing all we can reasonably do to help provide security and help quell the unrest and killing? Ah. here is the moral and political dilemma. This thoughtful article is worth considering. Paschal Baute, November 25, 2006.

Long After We Withdraw

New York Times Magazine, 11.25.06

As the situation in Iraq continues to deteriorate and as policy makers debate how to extricate the United States honorably from what increasingly appears a war without end, it is worth remembering that all wars do end eventually, and that postwar relationships between the bitterest of enemies can turn out surprisingly well. President Bush’s recent trip to Vietnam, where he attended the annual meeting of APEC — the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation organization — illustrates this reality and even offers a measure of hope at a time when battlefront reports are almost unrelievedly bad and when America’s foreign policy seems to lurch from crisis to crisis.

It often seems as if the U.S. presence in Iraq has created so many new enemies in the Muslim world that the clash of civilizations described by Prof. Samuel Huntington has gone from being the hypothesis of a Harvard political scientist to a historical inevitability. Even many of those who resist the notion that Islam and the West are on a collision course still worry that the harm that has been done in Iraq to relations between the U.S. and the Islamic world will be almost impossible to undo.

And yet the example of Vietnam suggests otherwise. If anything, the trauma of the Vietnam War on the American psyche was and for some still is far deeper than anything the Iraq war has yet produced. These days we speak — probably too glibly — of an America almost evenly divided between so-called red and blue states. But for anyone who remembers what this country was like during the Vietnam era and in its immediate aftermath, these contemporary divisions seem rather shallow. Vietnam truly split the country and brought millions of people into the streets against their own government. People died protesting the Vietnam War on campuses like Kent State. On the battlefield, there was also tremendous savagery. Think of the C.I.A.-run Phoenix program of targeted assassination or the systematic torture of American prisoners of war by the North Vietnamese.

Nevertheless, 30 years after the end of a war that left Vietnam in ruins and America in turmoil and confusion, the issues left over — accounting for the missing in action, reuniting families and even paying compensation for Agent Orange-induced maladies — are far less central to U.S.-Vietnamese relations than issues of trade and investment. America is now Vietnam's leading trading partner, and Intel has just announced the expansion of its factory near Ho Chi Minh City. While Congress dealt a temporary setback to President Bush’s efforts to promote trade with Vietnam, few doubt that such efforts will succeed. As Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, has put it, Vietnam is "reforming" and "booming." (Of course, he might have added that it is hardly a paragon of human rights.)

Remarkably, President Bush's cordial reception to Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in 2005 was accepted with little protest except from small groups of Vietnamese-Americans. On the Vietnamese side, the dour commissars who fought the French and then the Americans, at the cost of more than a million of their own dead — “born in the North, die in the South” was a well-known saying in the North Vietnamese Army at the time — have given way to proud capitalists who, despite their Communist affiliations, are far more interested in deepening trade relations with America and in warding off their historic rival China than in pulling the scabs off old wounds.

Is there a lesson here for Iraq? The answer is that, in fact, there are many. The first, and perhaps the most important, is that history is not predictable and even the most deep-seated enmities can evaporate over time when the conditions are right. As President Bush himself said when he was in Hanoi last week: “History has a long march to it. Societies change, and relationships can constantly be altered to the good.” There is no iron law of history that says that the bad relations between America and the Islamic world, and even between the United States and radical Shiite groups like the one led by the militant cleric, Moktada al-Sadr, are fated to continue this way indefinitely and immutably. Nor is there any reason to believe that an American withdrawal from Iraq will harm these relations any more than the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam permanently damaged U.S.-Vietnamese relations.

After the searing experience of Iraq, few among us believe that outsiders can impose democracy at the point of a gun. Nations and peoples simply have to find their own way. Of course, it is crucial not to romanticize this process. For the Vietnamese, the first decade after the fall of Saigon in 1975 was an appalling one — an era of mass repression and mass hunger. It is entirely possible, likely even, that in Iraq the situation will get considerably worse after a U.S. withdrawal, as it did in Vietnam. To put it starkly, however, the effort to foster democracy in Iraq has failed, and with that failure, short-term suffering may have to be the price of long-term coexistence. Is this perspective harsh to the point of cruelty? Perhaps. But it may be a necessary and sober one as well.

No one in his right mind should imagine a rosy future for Iraq — regardless of whether American commanders choose to preserve the status quo, start withdrawing or even add more troops to try a "final push" this spring. But again, all wars do end eventually. And in their aftermath, in the peace that follows, possibilities arise that seem almost unimaginable as people lie bleeding. It is conceivable that 30 years from now, one of President Bush's successors will travel to Baghdad not for crisis meetings in the Green Zone or to serve Thanksgiving turkey to the troops but to talk about peacetime matters like trade, tourism and the environment. Yet given America’s inability to guarantee the security of ordinary Iraqis after an occupation that has lasted almost as long as our participation in World War II, it is possible to speculate that the sooner American forces leave Iraq, the sooner such a trip is likely to happen.

David Rieff is a contributing writer for the magazine.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Six brothers and their search for meaning.

Six brothers and their search for meaning
A new story by Paschal Baute
November 22, 2006

Once there were six brothers, all born of the same father, named John, James, Gene, Jerry, Joe and Jerome. Actually there had been seven but one, Gerard, died when he was one month old of a congenital heart defect. All the brothers were different.

John, first born, always thought he was more special than the rest. Born on 3rd base and got there on his own. He expected things to come easy and when they didn’t began to experiment in drugs. First alcohol, then maryjoe, then crack cocaine. He tried treatment programs but never quite kicked his addictive habit for long.

James was the bright one who did well easily in school. He went to college and then to graduate school. He became a professor and wrote books.

Gene was the athletic one, very coordinated and quick. Four varsity letters his senior yeat in high school, football scholarship in college, where he broke passing receptions record and became an NFL pro and played on two championship teams.

Jerry was the one talented with money. He could turn a nickel into a dollar and a dollar into ten. He started his own business, soon had three and became rich by the time he was thirty five. .

Joe was the handsome brother. The girls, ladies and women all loved him, not only for his looks but also for his charm. He loved women, and loved courting and winning their hearts but there was always another feminine adventure waiting for him. He was the dance away lover.

Jerome was born with severe asthma, and his parents were up many nights of his young life, keeping him alive and he had a number of hospitalizations and barely survived. He learned to use his illness to get keep his parents hovering, to get his way, and get by, so he never really learned to focus or stay with anything.

The six brothers met yearly in a family re-union. Once the father overhead a conversation among them when they each agreed that Something was missing in their lives. He had worked very hard to support his family, often two jobs and by his 60s was worn out. When he began to have heart trouble he thought of a way to leave his sons something but also to remind them they were brothers and to help keep them together. He died suddenly when he was only 63. The oldest boy was 41 al the rest were in their 30s

When the will was read, it was found that the father left 10k to each son on one condition, that they undertake a trip together to discover what was missing in their lives. He added an extra 10k to the son who discovered first what was missing.

The sons were all competitive with each other and argued with the mother and the attorney but they were both firm and the conditions held. They had to decide what journey to undertake.

They remembered that the father had talked fondly of a Buddhist mond, Xuan Lie, whose writing he admired. They decided to visit this monk together and journeyed to Tibet where he lived.

When they met Xuan Lie, they were all talking without a pause, each presenting their own point of view, interrupting the other. After 40 minutes of this, Xuan Lie set a cup for tea in front of each, and took a large pitcher and begin to pour. He filled each cup to overflowing and keep on pouring til the tea ran over the table and onto their laps.

The brothers were stunned into silence. Finally one asked what does this mean?

The monk replied: you are each too full to receive anything.

There was a long silence. Finally the youngest, Jerome said, What should we do?

There was again a long long pause. Then Xuan Lie said: Stay in the monastery for one month and you will each discover your own answer. Then he smiled and said: But only one of you will do that?

They looked at each other. They were very competitive. They probably would not have stayed if not for his prediction that only one would last. They chose to accept his challenge. They were expected to work and pray with the monks, but had leisure time every evening.

Which four left first, in your opinion? And can you guess the order of leavning?

Joe the handsome lover began to look for a local beauty in the neigborhing village after four days, and he soon disappeared. Jerry the rich money manager decided he could not lose investment opportunities to expand his stash by staying where he had no access to stock market news and was convinced he discovered a new way to make another bundle. He left in ten days. James the professor exhausted the monastic library in a week and came up with a new research and book idea and had to get to a word processor and the internet to pursue this interest. Gene the athlete lasted the longest as his personal discipline was the strongest. For three weeks he worked out running the hills and vallies aournd the monastery daily, but finally decided he needed the fancy gym equipment to monitor his heart, etc. and left.

Could you say that each already had their own private heaven even though they could admit in saner moments that something was missing. The talk remained only talk for these four.

After 30 days, only John the addict and Jerome the asthmatic brother returned to the monk?

Why was it these two and not the other four?

Well, said the monk Xuan Lie, what is your answer?

John said I cannot believe how free I feel for the first time ever. I have not had a hit of anything for a month and my mind is incredibly clear and sharp. I feel really free for the first time in my life. Freedom from my use of drugs is my solution.

The youngest Jerome said. My breathing problems are surprisingly much better here. I ran out of medicine and discovered I can get along without it. Less stress, I suppose. I am breathing differently and feel more alive.

And? Said the monk, your answer to what is missing in your life? Perhaps freedom from stress?

Jerome said after a long thoughtful pause, No. Here is what it is. Every breath is a gift. I cannot count on the next one even here.. My little brother died after a month in this world. I will live with a grateful heart counting my blessings each day..

Then who deserves the final prize? Said the monk.

There was a pause. Then each brother pointed to the other and said My brother does. Each said to the other; You are more handicapped and more deserving.

The monk smiled. Then he said “You both deserve it. Perhaps you have discovered brotherly love. You can both take one half.

No, they argued, still competitive even in who was the most deserving and needy.

Finally they stopped arguing when they realized neither would yield, and turned to the monk and said. Master, then you decide.

The monk smiled again. He took out three tea cups, and filled each one half full .

They all sipped tea, and then he said.

Your cup is now just half full. This is better. Half is always better than full. Let us see whose answer is most sustaining for each of your lives.

What do you mean, they said? .

Return in ten years, the prize will be invested and will be doubled. But only one of you shall return.

They looked at each other and said at the same time, each sure of their solution, We agree.

They left. End of story.

Which in your opinion was the one who returned? Why did the other not return?

Copyright, Paschal Baute. 2006.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Turf and fear trumps dialogue and catholicism, small c.

Opportunities Lost: When Bullies Derail Dialogue, We All Lose
by Robert Jensen

In a world of spin, no one expects truth from corporate executives or the politicians who serve them, but many of us hold out hope that in the classroom and sanctuary we can engage one another honestly in the struggle to understand the world and our place in it. So, while I’ve had my share of squabbles with schools and churches over the years, I remain committed to them as important truth-seeking institutions.

As a university professor who has recently returned to church membership, I have a lot riding on those hopes, which is why it was particularly disappointing in recent weeks to be scheduled for speaking engagements and then abruptly canceled by a Catholic diocese and a private high school in Texas. In both cases, some people in the institutions were eager to have me share my knowledge and experiences, only to have the leadership give in to complaints from conservatives.

My disappointment wasn’t personal -- I’ve been rejected enough to be able to roll with these punches -- but about a concern for the future if the institutions we count on to create space for dialogue are so easily cowed. The problem isn’t that I lost chances to speak, but that everyone lost a chance for engagement.

The first cancellation came from the Diocese of Victoria in September. Staff members organizing the annual “Conference for Catechesis and Ministry” asked if I would lead one session on media coverage of the Middle East and another on strategies for speaking with children about war. I signed on immediately, grateful for the opportunity to discuss these important issues.

After the conference schedule circulated, staff members heard from a conservative member of the diocese who objected on the grounds I am politically radical (true enough), anti-American (a nonsensical charge), and a promoter of anti-Catholic teachings (true, if one thinks that all Catholics who support the full humanity of gay/lesbian people and advocate abortion rights are anti-Catholic, too). The threat that this person’s campaign would spark public protests led the diocese to retract the invitation.

Last week I received a similar call from an administrator at St. Mary’s Hall, a college-preparatory day school in San Antonio. I had been asked to speak about power and privilege, drawing on my book on race and racism. I was looking forward to talking with young people about an important subject, but once again a complaint about my political writings and activism against U.S. policy led administrators to cancel my talk.

In both cases, of course I can’t know exactly what was behind these decisions. I assume the folks in charge decided it was safer to exclude someone with left/radical politics than to risk the backlash from more centrist and conservative constituencies. But I didn’t give the cancellations much thought until last week at the end of a long evening at a private school in California, where I had been invited to speak about power and privilege. When the formal program ended, a dozen people lingered, and we pulled chairs into a circle to continue the conversation about race and gender, capitalism and empire.

When I finally suggested that I was running out of steam and should head toward my hotel and bed, one of the parents from the school said, “I realize you are tired, but I would stay here all night if I could -- I’m so hungry for this kind of conversation.”

That remark led to more talk about how these conversations are too rare in a depoliticized society where so many people are afraid to speak their minds. Others agreed that they wished for more spaces to talk honestly about fundamental questions: What it means to be a person in a complex world, to be a U.S. citizen in a time of imperial war, to be materially comfortable in a world where so many lived without the basics.

I can understand why church and school administrators would take the safe route and cancel a talk by me to avoid potential conflict; I don’t feel any personal resentment or hold any grudges.

But I can’t help but be disappointed in those officials, not for denying me the chance to speak but denying others a space in which collectively we can struggle to get closer to the truth. Who among us is not hungry for that? Even those who wanted to silence me -- at some level don’t they yearn for that conversation?

As a university professor and freelance writer who is active in a variety of political movements, I will never lack for spaces in which I can be heard. I’m worried not about myself but about that man who was so starved for ethical and political engagement that he was willing to stay in that room all night to have that taste of an honest conversation about issues that are so difficult and so important.

When such space for engagement is gone, what hope is there for faith and education? Indeed, what hope is there for democracy?

Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He is the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at

Saturday, November 18, 2006

/Care about our military? Read this:

Volunteer Force May Be "Severely Degraded" Soon, Retired General Says
By Leo Shane III
The Stars and Stripes

Saturday 18 November 2006

Washington - The all-volunteer force could be "severely degraded" within two years unless major recruiting and retention reforms are made soon, according to a retired Army four-star.

"We're in trouble," said retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey, former commander of US Southern Command. "We're making some very short-term decisions. This is a problem of resources and political will."

McCaffrey, speaking on a panel at the Military Officers Association of America symposium, military base pay isn't high enough to entice the top high schoolers to enlist, and politicians haven't done a good enough job appealing to Americans' sense of duty to help with recruiting.

"I don't believe we've ever fielded a more effective fighting force than we have today," he said.

"But we've had some problems in the last year with the number and quality of people coming into the armed forces. Generally speaking we've quadrupled the number of the lowest mental categories. We've quadrupled the number of high school graduates. We're putting 6,000, 7,000, 8,000 moral waivers into the armed forces."

The panel on Thursday said recent recruiting difficulties are a combination of a lack of emphasis on military service in society and the heavy deployment of both active duty and reserve forces. And the experts said if those issues aren't addressed, the recruiting difficulties will only grow, jeopardizing the readiness of the military.

Lt. Gen. Michael Rochelle, the Army's deputy chief of staff, said the current recruiting environment may be the most challenging the service has faced since the draft ended 33 years ago.

He pointed to high schools and colleges who block military recruiters - and noted the San Francisco Board of Education's recent decision to end JROTC programs there - and indications that the general public has not put enough emphasis on the importance of serving the country.

William Chatfield, director of the selective service program, said that military recruiting has evolved into "what the Army can do for young people, not what they can do for their country."

Stephen Duncan, director of the National Defense University's Institute for Homeland Security, said one of the side effects of moving to a voluntary military from the previously drafted forces was a lack of connection between combat overseas and US society as a whole.

"Now we're in a situation where the folks who step forward to volunteer are paying a disproportionate share for the freedoms of everyone else," he said.

Other panelists noted that private contractors in Iraq can make baseline salaries over $100,000, while young privates often make only a small fraction of that amount.

McCaffrey said more bonuses and better base pay for young servicemembers will help solve some of those financial problems.

But he said in order to make sure the military has enough people to respond to future threats, Congress needs to increase the size of the entire force: not just active-duty troops but also the reserves, Coast Guard and border patrol units.

More people will mean more time between deployments and less reliance on the reserves, he said.

"Are we undermanned? Of course we are, for god's sake," he said. "We've got to get our resources to match our rhetoric and our strategy."

But getting that larger pool will require action and more defense funding from Congress, and more promotion of the military by politicians.

"I have not heard the commander in chief, any governor, any mayor, any member of Congress ever stand in front of a TV camera and ask the country to send their boys and girls to fight with us," he said.

"I've pushed the president to get that in one of his speeches. What I heard was, in a speech at Fort Bragg, 'If you're considering a career in the military there could be no more honorable way to serve.' That's not the same. We need people to fight."

Friday, November 17, 2006

A letter to my conservative friends and 12 promises.. A :Liberals pledge

first of all, what I don't want is for you to drop into the deep funk we liberals have been in for two-plus decades. Yes, your Republican revolution is over, but hang in there. And do not despair. I, and the millions who voted for Democrats, have no interest in revenge for the last 12 years. In fact, let me make 12 promises as to how we will treat you, the minority, in the coming years.

Thus, here is "A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives":

1) We will always respect you. We will never, ever, call you "unpatriotic" simply because you disagree with us. In fact, we encourage you to dissent and disagree with us.

2) We will let you marry whomever you want (even though some among us consider your Republican behavior to be "different" or "immoral"). Who you marry is none of our business. Love, and be in love — it's a wonderful gift.

3) We will not spend your grandchildren's money on our personal whims or to enrich our friends. It's your checkbook too, and we will balance it for you.

4) When we soon bring our sons and daughters home from Iraq, we will bring your sons and daughters home too. We promise never to send your kids off to war based on some amateur Power Point presentation cooked up by men who have never been to war.

5) When we make America the last Western democracy to have universal health coverage, and all Americans are able to get help when they fall ill, we promise that you too will be able to see a doctor, regardless of your ability to pay. And when stem cell research delivers treatments and cures for diseases that afflict you and your loved ones, we'll make sure those advances are available to you and your family too.

6) When we clean up our air and water, you too will be able to breathe the cleaner air and drink the purer water. When we put an end to global warming, you will no longer have to think about buying oceanfront property in Yuma.

7) Should a mass murderer ever kill 3,000 people on our soil, we will devote every single resource to tracking him down and bringing him to justice. Immediately. We will protect you.

8) We will never stick our nose in your bedroom or your womb. What you do there as consenting adults is your business. We will continue to count your age from the moment you were born, not the moment you were conceived.

9) We will not take away your hunting guns. If you need an automatic weapon or a handgun to kill a bird or a deer, then you really aren't much of a hunter and you should, perhaps, take up another sport. In the meantime, we will arm the deer to make it a fairer fight.

10) When we raise the minimum wage, we will raise it for your employees too. They will use that money to buy more things, which means you will get the money back! And when women are finally paid what men make, we will pay conservative women that wage too.

11) We will respect your religious beliefs, even when you don't practice those beliefs. In fact, we will actively seek to promote your most radical religious beliefs ("Blessed are the peacemakers," "Love your enemies," "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" and "Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me"). We will let people in other countries know that God doesn't just bless America, he blesses everyone. We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism — starting here at home.

12) We will not tolerate politicians who are corrupt and break the law. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side first. If we fail to do this, we need you to call us on it. Simply because we are in power does not give us the right to turn our heads the other way when our party goes astray. Please perform this important duty as the loyal opposition.

I promise all of the above to you because this is your country too. You are every bit as American as we are. We are all in this together. We sink or swim as one. Thank you for your years of service to this country and for giving us the opportunity to see if we can make things a bit better for our 300 million fellow Americans — and for the rest of the world.

Now pull yourself together and let's go have a Frappuccino.

by Michael Moore, of the LA Times.

MICHAEL MOORE directed the Oscar-winning documentary "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11." His next film, "Sicko," will be released this summer.

Copyright 2006 Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Did Howard Dean's 50 state scheme pay off for Dems?

Howard Dean's 50-State Strategy Pays Off
By Scott Galindez
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Monday 13 November 2006

The chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), Rahm Emanuel, stormed out of Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairman Howard Dean's office in May after an expletive-filled tirade against the DNC's spending too much money, too early, in "non-battleground states." Emanuel was concerned the DNC would be broke and not on the playing field in November. The opposite was true, and the playing field was larger due to the early investment.

Was Emanuel Talking About States Like Indiana?

The Democrats picked up 3 seats in a state that was considered as red as the Hoosiers' basketball uniforms. Dean, in an interview with the Christian Science Monitor, said: "We put folks into Indiana a year and half before we knew the candidates."

Was Emanuel Talking About States Like New Hampshire?

Voters in New Hampshire, home of the nation's kickoff presidential primary, re-elected Democratic governor John Lynch in a landslide over state representative Jim Coburn (R). Democrats gained more than 80 seats to grab a majority in the 400-member House, where they had been in the minority since at least 1922. Democrats also picked up five seats - giving them 13 of 24 seats - to flip control of the New Hampshire Senate, where they have been in the minority since 1988.

Was Emanuel Considering Governors' Races?

Going into the midterm elections, Republicans had a 28-to-22 advantage in governors. That number has now flipped. States with Democratic governors now command 295 electoral votes, up from 126 before the election, a factor that could have a "huge impact for the presidential race in '08."

How About State Legislatures, Rahm?

Democrats nearly doubled the number of states where they control both the legislature and the governor's office. Fifteen state governments are now solidly blue politically, seven more than before the voting. Ten state capitals are fully in Republicans' hands, down from 12. The other 25 states have divided government.

Emanuel and Schumer Deserve Credit, Too

Much has been made about the battle between Dean and the Netroots v. Emanuel and Schumer. In the end, they all did their jobs, and the Democrats prevailed. The DCCC and Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) pumped enough money into the key races in the last month of the campaign to guarantee victory. Now if they could just see that by pumping money and staff early into all 50 states, Howard Dean gave them more key races to work with.

Lesson Learned

The lesson learned should be that the DNC should continue to build the party from the ground up in all 50 states, expanding the playing field, while the DCCC and DSCC should continue to target the key races, giving the final push to victory.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

A deep breath, and celebrating who we are as Americans, by William Rivers Pitt, Truthout

A Deep, Deep Breath
By William Rivers Pitt
t r u t h o u t | Perspective

Thursday 09 November 2006

I will sew no silken seam on a fine May mornin',
You can bide your time 'til your time runs out,
So take this as fair warning ...

- "Shepherd Lad," The Battlefield Band

Let us be absolutely clear on what has taken place. This was not simply a midterm election, not just a historic running of the table, not just a scathing repudiation of virtually everything the Bush administration has stood for since they swaggered into Washington six long years ago.

It was so very much more than this.

The back of the "Neo-conservative Revolution" has been broken, perhaps not for all time - simply because nothing truly evil ever really dies - but for a good long while. The ideology foisted upon an unwilling public by the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Perle, Ledeen and the rest, the ideology that has given us slaughter in Iraq and a ravaged reputation abroad, has been exposed and eviscerated. The Project for the New American Century, and all that was spawned from it, has been relegated, for now, to the dustbin of history.

As unutterably massive as this is, it still does not capture the entirety of the event.

There are many things that make the United States of America unique, but one stands out above all. Every other nation on Earth has within it cultural, religious or historical threads, often stretching back hundreds if not thousands of years, which bind its people together.

When you see the Orangemen march in Ireland, when you see the Serbs mark the anniversary of a massacre that happened 900 years ago, when you see the British celebrate Guy Fawkes Day, you are witnessing an echo out of time that, for good or ill, silently reminds the people of those countries that they have a shared heritage which stretches back dozens of generations.

The United States stands apart from this. We are an invention, the product of an idea, the children of a dream. We come from everywhere, and though our history is stained with far too much blood shed during the unfolding of our own history, the sum total is an amalgamation of the best and worst of the human experience. Nothing like this has ever existed anywhere, ever.

All we have to tie together this amazing and confusing experiment are a few old pieces of paper. The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are the only truths that each and every citizen of this country have completely in common. They are our unifying theme, our organizing principle, and we share this together because the basic idea was, and remains, that these belong to us and defend us and set us, now and forever, free.

It was not always so, and remains today a dream unfulfilled, but in the end, that was the genius of it all. These three documents, and the ideology behind them, were created to be self-improving entities. Much remains to be done to move along the "more perfect Union" Lincoln spoke of, and that work will never be completed ... and that is the point. These things are ours, and they are all that we truly have to bind us together, and our purpose as citizens is to bend our will toward the creation of that more perfect Union.

Before the sun came up on Wednesday, that shared heritage had been under a savage, unrelenting attack by men and women who have no respect for the idea and the dream which makes us all that we are as a people. The right to a trial has been shattered, the right to stand before your accuser has been removed, the right to be secure in home and person from governmental intrusion has been swept by the boards, and all by a president who once referred to the Constitution as "just a God damned piece of paper."

These cancers have not been cut out simply because of an election, of course. But the first, vital step towards repairing our shared heritage was taken on Tuesday night, simply because we have at long last returned to the basic Constitutional requirement of checks and balances within this government. No longer will the best interests of the people be slapped aside by people who have no patience for the process that was laid out by wiser and better men. Some logs have been thrown in the road, and for now, a real chance for healing has been gifted to us by the very democratic institutions these people would shun and shatter. The power of the vote, so often maligned and disdained, has been restored.

A more perfect Union, indeed.

Much remains to be done. The departure of Donald Rumsfeld from the Pentagon will not heal Iraq, nor will it bring back to life the soldiers and civilians who have died thanks to the hubris of others. The cornering of Dick Cheney has not sapped him of his power. George W. Bush remains an incurious front man whose very existence in that seat of power will stand as a constant threat to the safety and security of this nation and the world entire.

Paschal: I disagree here. If the Dems use their new power judiciously to address all the legislation needed, the Bush presidency is OVER. He is not only lame duck, he is dead duck and his recent absurd proposals he is re-gurging this week is the death rattle of his office.

"U.S. envoy tells Iraqis election won't change policy," reads the Associated Press headline from Wednesday. That, in and of itself, says all we need to know about what remains to be done. For the first time in far too long, however, an opportunity has arrived to do more than scream into the thunderstorm and damn the rain.

The real work begins now.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Democrats should LISTEN....

The Ball is in the Democrats' Court
by Helen Thomas

The voters have sent a clear message to President Bush: It's time to pull out of Iraq.

But the president still refuses to listen.

In a bruising post-election news conference Wednesday, an emotional Bush extended an olive branch to the victorious Democrats to "work together" on some of the differences between them, but he remained adamant that U.S. troops will not come home from Iraq until "the job is done."

He told reporters, "We cannot accept defeat in Iraq."

But he did announce the resignation of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- one of the neo-conservative architects of the war -- and declared that a "fresh start" was needed. Former CIA director Robert Gates has been named as Rumsfeld's successor.

Bush was not on the ballot in Tuesday's midterm elections that swept Democrats into control of the House and the Senate.

But the election turned into a national referendum on his pre-emptive catastrophic invasion of Iraq and his conservative domestic policies -- aided and abetted by a rubber-stamp Republican-led Congress.

The people have spoken and their message was one of disgust with the militant Bush-Cheney policy that set "victory" as the only exit strategy.

On the campaign trail Bush took a hard line, saying "If the Democrats win, the terrorists win and America loses."

It's now up to the rejoicing Democrats -- out of power for many years -- to find a way out of the quagmire. The ball is in their court.

So far they have not stepped up to this challenge, offering only vague bromides and nebulous goals.

Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., a retired Marine officer and staunch defender of the Pentagon, deserves credit for his call earlier this year for U.S. troops to leave Iraq, starting "at the earliest practicable date."

But now that they are empowered, it's time for the Democrats to come up with specific plans and take a strong stand against continuing the mayhem the Bush administration ignited by invading oil-rich Iraq. Although the president has conceded Iraq had nothing to do with the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the U.S., he insists that defeat by the Iraqi resistance "is not an option" and he continues to mush terrorism with the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

Although he is paying a heavy price, Bush is not one to admit defeat for this foreign policy fiasco. He already has assigned his successors -- to be named after the 2008 election -- the job of ending the war at some future date. He indicated at his news conference again that he expects the war to go beyond his presidency.

Bush's former chief speechwriter Michael Gerson was quoted in The Boston Globe as saying the president "will not abandon the war in Iraq but must redefine it in a way that satisfies a public desire for a change."

Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, who won re-election Tuesday, said the administration's Iraq policy "absolutely has to change."

Meantime, Bush says he will meet soon with former Secretary of State James Baker, the astute Bush family confidant who is co-chairman of a Congress-ordained Iraq Study Group. The panel is preparing several options for Bush on how to extricate U.S. troops from Iraq without causing more chaos.

Baker already has rejected a quick pullout from Iraq and the panel reportedly is focusing on ways to achieve stability in Iraq to bring the troops home.

The Democrats in Congress may fall back on the bipartisan panel's recommendations, seeming to have little or none of their own.

Americans rarely are given a chance for input on the question of war and peace. This time they have spoken and the Democrats should listen.

Thursday, November 09, 2006


Post-Election Etiquette
by Molly Ivins

The sheer pleasure of getting lessons in etiquette from Karl Rove and the right-wing media passeth all understanding. Ever since 1994, the Republican Party has gone after Democrats with the frenzy of a foaming mad dog. There was the impeachment of Bill Clinton, not to mention the trashing of both Clinton and his wife—accused of everything from selling drugs to murder—all orchestrated by that paragon of manners, Tom DeLay.

Media Matters collected some gems of fairness. For instance, Monica Crowley with MSNBC, in the wake of John Kerry’s botched program, astutely observed "how lucky we are that he was not elected president. ... The Republicans remain the grown-ups, the responsible ones on national security."

How many dead Americans has this grown-up war resulted in?

And how darling of Fox’s Juan Williams, upon learning that polls show the people favor Democrats on taxes, to say, "To me, that’s crazy."

And how many times did Chris Matthews use the Republican talking points about Nancy Pelosi? Extremist, uncooperative, incapable, unwilling to work with the president.

So after 12 years of tolerating lying, cheating and corruption, the press is prepared to lecture Democrats on how to behave with bipartisan manners.

Given Bush’s record with the truth, this bipartisanship sounds like a bad idea on its face. Go back to the first year of the administration, when Bush double-crossed Ted Kennedy in the No Child Left Behind Act. Think about it: You’ve said at the outset of your administration that you need cooperation to get anything done. Then you double-cross one of the senior senators of the other party when your re-education and labor agenda is dependent on him?

These people are not only dishonest, they're not even smart. Not that I recommend nailing them at every turn, but I wouldn't be surprised if they try to do it to Democrats. If what Republicans have been practicing is bipartisanship, West Texas just flooded.

OK, here’s what the D's have going for them. New kids. Easy, popular first moves—for example, increasing the minimum wage. Republicans so inept that it’s painful. You want to look at some really, really basic legislation, try fixing the Medicare prescription drug bill. Or the bankruptcy bill. Or new dollar and trade policies.

Then we get to the real meat of this election. There are all manner of shuffle steps and politically shrewd thing for the D's to do. But now is not the time to be clever. The Democrats won this election because we are involved in a disastrous war. We know how to do this: Declare victory, and go home.

I noticed when Republicans are forced to talk about how to end this, they tend to announce that it’s all hopeless: They have no ideas at all. Thanks, guys. Of all the options, I would say splitting Iraq into three states is least advisable. First, it puts us in the position of screwing the Kurds once again. Second, Turkey has serious objections to a Kurdistan. Third, Turkey is not a militia. Fourth, then you give Iran and Saudi Arabia a pawn apiece. And there’d be an unimaginable amount of future hassle.

Do I have any good ideas? Yes, but it’s not a solution. We need to start the Middle East peace process again. Because it’s the right thing to do. Because it’s what Bush should have done to begin with. Because we have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Bush's November Surprise: Cover for the previous supplying of Saddam with biological weapons of mass destruction, by Rumsfield and Reagan. HYPOCRISY

Bush's November Surprise
by Robert Scheer

How convenient for Saddam Hussein to be convicted two days before the midterm election by a U.S.-elected and -directed court, providing President Bush with his much needed November surprise. How irresponsible for the mass media to neglect to point out that the “crimes against humanity” for which Hussein was convicted occurred 15 months before Donald Rumsfeld, then the special envoy to Iraq, met with Hussein in Baghdad to develop an alliance between the administration of Ronald Reagan and that of the murderous Iraqi dictator.

The record of that trip, an enormous stain on our nation’s human rights record, is detailed in State Department memoranda readily available on the Internet. Rumsfeld journeyed to Baghdad as President Reagan’s special envoy after the bloody crackdown in the town of Dujail. Ironically, Hussein's terror campaign was a response to an assassination attempt on his life by Shiite militants belonging to the party now in power in Baghdad, thanks to President Bush’s invasion.

Back then, Rumsfeld and the Reagan administration he represented viewed the Iraqi Shiites, who detested Hussein, with suspicion, considering them natural allies of their co-religionists in Iran. Rumsfeld’s mission was explicitly intended to align the United States with Hussein’s Iraq and offer military support in the ongoing war with the Iranian ayatollahs, regarded as our main enemy in the Mideast.

Rumseld met with Hussein in December 1983 and returned again on March 24, 1984—the very same day the United Nations released a report that Iraq had committed war crimes by using mustard gas and tabun nerve agent against Iranian troops. “American diplomats pronounce themselves satisfied with Iraq and the U.S., and suggest that normal diplomatic ties have been established in all but name,” The New York Times reported five days later.

The official transcripts of Rumsfeld’s report on his meetings with then Iraq Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and Hussein himself make clear that our defense secretary never even mentioned the brutal suppression of the Dujail Shiites, which has now earned the dictator a death sentence. The diplomatic message was clear: Hussein’s brutality, and even his use of chemical weapons, was not an obstacle to warm relations between the United States and Iraq.

"I said I thought we had areas of common interest, particularly the security and stability in the [Persian] Gulf, which had been jeopardized as a result of the Iranian revolution," Rumsfeld wrote in a memo to the U.S. secretary of state, summarizing his meeting with Aziz. "I added that the U.S. had no interest in an Iranian victory. To the contrary we would not want Iran's influence expanded at the expense of Iraq. As with all nations, we respect Iraq's independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity."

Clearly, Rumsfeld, brought back to the White House more than a decade later by President Bush the Younger, had by then lost whatever interest he might have had in "Iraq's independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity." But even at the time, his high-minded rhetoric bore no relation to reality: At no point did Rumsfeld ever criticize Iraq's invasion of Iran, which had actually started the eight-year-long war, one of history’s ugliest. Nor did Rumsfeld indicate in any way that Hussein might be associated with terrorism.

According to news reports and official affidavits, Reagan had decided as early as 1982 that the United States could not afford to allow Iraq to lose. Indeed, the United States would become the major supporter of Iraq’s war efforts, funneling billions of dollars in cash, arms and so-called dual-use technologies through intermediary channels. The United States directly sold $200 million in helicopters to Hussein’s regime, and our allies were encouraged by Reagan to be just as accommodating.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention even sent Iraq 14 agents "with biological warfare significance," including West Nile virus, according to U.S. Senate investigators, in a 1994 report led by Sen. Donald Riegle. Another Senate committee report, also in 1994, detailed 70 shipments of dangerous biological strains, including anthrax bacillus, which later were found to be 'identical to those the U.N. inspectors found and recovered from the Iraqi biological warfare program," the Senate Banking Committee report said.

A fair international tribunal judging Hussein’s many crimes would have provided a venue for exposing the tyrant's international backers, led by the United States and its allies. That is why this trial was conducted, at Bush’s insistence, not in a neutral setting but rather in occupied Iraq. While this arrangement served Bush’s domestic political agenda, as a means of dispensing justice it is an outrage befitting a president who has besmirched the ideals of democracy in the eyes of the world.

Copyright © 2006 Truthdig, L.L.C.

Paschal: Today, across the world, the international media is rejoicing at the results of the November 7 election and the serious setback to the arrogant policies of the bullying cowboy in the White House. 11/8/06 "He brings down the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly."

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq, Ron Kovic,

The Forgotten Wounded of Iraq
Posted on Jan 18, 2006

By Ron Kovic

Thirty-eight years ago, on Jan. 20, 1968, I was shot and paralyzed from my mid-chest down during my second tour of duty in Vietnam. It is a date that I can never forget, a day that was to change my life forever. Each year as the anniversary of my wounding in the war approached I would become extremely restless, experiencing terrible bouts of insomnia, depression, anxiety attacks and horrifying nightmares. I dreaded that day and what it represented, always fearing that the terrible trauma of my wounding might repeat itself all over again. It was a difficult day for me for decades and it remained that way until the anxieties and nightmares finally began to subside.

As I now contemplate another January 20th I cannot help but think of the young men and women who have been wounded in the war in Iraq. They have been coming home now for almost three years, flooding Walter Reed, Bethesda, Brooke Army Medical Center and veterans hospitals all across the country. Paraplegics, amputees, burn victims, the blinded and maimed, shocked and stunned, brain-damaged and psychologically stressed, over 16,000 of them, a whole new generation of severely maimed is returning from Iraq, young men and women who were not even born when I came home wounded to the Bronx veterans hospital in 1968.

I, like most other Americans, have occasionally seen them on TV or at the local veterans hospital, but for the most part they remain hidden, like the flag-draped caskets of our dead, returned to Dover Air Force Base in the darkness of night as this administration continues to pursue a policy of censorship, tightly controlling the images coming out of that war and rarely ever allowing the human cost of its policy to be seen.

Mosul, Fallouja, Basra, Baghdad, a roadside bomb, an RPG, an ambush, the bullets cracking all around them, the reality that they are in a war, that they have suddenly been hit. No more John Wayne-Audie Murphy movie fantasies. No more false bravado, stirring words of patriotism, romantic notions of war or what it might really mean to be in combat, to sacrifice for one’s country. All that means nothing now. The reality has struck, the awful, shocking and frightening truth of what it really means to be hit by a bullet, an RPG, an improvised explosive device, shrapnel, a booby trap, friendly fire. They are now in a life-and-death situation and they have suddenly come face to face with the foreign policy of their own nation. The initial shock is wearing off; the painful reality is beginning to sink in, clearly something terrible has happened, something awful and inexplicable.

All the conditioning, all the discipline, shouting, screaming, bullying and threatening verbal abuse of their boot camp drill instructors have now disappeared in this one instant, in this one damaging blow. All they want to do now is stay alive, keep breathing, somehow get out of this place anyway they can. People are dying all around them, someone has been shot and killed right next to them and behind them but all they can really think of at this moment is staying alive.

You don’t think of God, or praying, or even your mother or your father. There is no time for that. Your heart is pounding. Blood is seeping out. You will always go back to that day, that moment you got hit, the day you nearly died yet somehow survived. It will be a day you will never forget—when you were trapped in that open area and could not move, when bullets were cracking all around you, when the first Marine tried to save you and was shot dead at your feet and the second, a black Marine—whom you would never see again and who would be killed later that afternoon—would carry you back under heavy fire.

You are now with other wounded all around you heading to a place where there will be help. There are people in pain and great distress, shocked and stunned, frightened beyond anything you can imagine. You are afraid to close your eyes. To close your eyes now means that you may die and never wake up. You toss and turn, your heart pounding, racked with insomnia ... and for many this will go on for months, years after they return home.

They are being put on a helicopter, with the wounded all around them. They try to stay calm. Some are amazed that they are still alive. You just have to keep trying to stay awake, make it to the next stage, keep moving toward the rear, toward another aid station, a corpsman, a doctor a nurse someone who can help you, someone who will operate and keep you alive so you can make it home, home to your backyard and your neighbors and your mother and father. To where it all began, to where it was once peaceful and safe. They just try to keep breathing because they have got to get back.

They are in the intensive-care ward now, the place where they will be operated on, and where in Vietnam a Catholic priest gave me the Last Rites. Someone is putting a mask over their faces just as they put one over mine in Da Nang in 1968. There is the swirl of darkness and soon they awaken to screams all around them. The dead and dying are everywhere. There are things here you can never forget, images and sounds and smells that you will never see on TV or read about in the newspapers. The black pilot dying next to me as the corpsman and nurse tried furiously to save him, pounding on his chest with their fists as they laughed and joked trying to keep from going insane. The Green Beret who died of spinal meningitis, the tiny Vietnamese nun handing out apples and rosary beads to the wounded, the dead being carted in and out like clockwork,19- and 20-year-olds.

There is the long flight home packed with the wounded all around you, every conceivable and horrifying wound you could imagine. Even the unconscious and brain-dead whose minds have been blown apart by bullets and shrapnel make that ride with you, because we are all going home now, back to our country. And this is only the beginning.

The frustrations, anger and rage, insomnia, nightmares, anxiety attacks, terrible restlessness and desperate need to keep moving will come later, but for now we are so thankful to have just made it out of that place, so grateful to be alive even with these grievous wounds.

I cannot help but wonder what it will be like for the young men and women wounded in Iraq. What will their homecoming be like? I feel close to them. Though many years separate us we are brothers and sisters. We have all been to the same place. For us in 1968 it was the Bronx veterans hospital paraplegic ward, overcrowded, understaffed, rats on the ward, a flood of memories and images, I can never forget; urine bags overflowing onto the floor. It seemed more like a slum than a hospital. Paralyzed men lying in their own excrement, pushing call buttons for aides who never came, wondering how our government could spend so much money (billions of dollars) on the most lethal, technologically advanced weaponry to kill and maim human beings but not be able to take care of its own wounded when they came home.

Will it be the same for them? Will they have to return to these same unspeakable conditions? Has any of it changed? I have heard that our government has already attempted to cut back millions in much needed funds for veterans hospitals—and this when thousands of wounded soldiers are returning from Iraq. Will they too be left abandoned and forgotten by a president and administration whose patriotic rhetoric does not match the needs of our wounded troops now returning? Do the American people, the president, the politicians, senators and congressmen who sent us to this war have any idea what it really means to lose an arm or a leg, to be paralyzed, to begin to cope with the psychological wounds of that war? Do they have any concept of the long-term effects of these injuries, how the struggles of the wounded are only now just beginning? How many will die young and never live out their lives because of all the stress and myriad of problems that come with sending young men and women into combat?

It is so difficult at first. You return home and both physically and emotionally don’t know how you are going to live with this wound, but you just keep trying, just keep waking up to this frightening reality every morning. “My God, what has happened to me?” But you somehow get up, you somehow go on and find a way to move through each day. Even though it is impossible, you go on. Maybe there will be a day years from now, if you are lucky to live that long, when it will get better and you will not feel so overwhelmed. You must have something to hope for, some way to believe it will not always be this way. This is exactly what many of them are going through right now.

They are alone in their rooms all over this country, right now. Just as I was alone in my room in Massapequa. I know they’re there—just as I was. This is the part you never see. The part that is never reported in the news. The part that the president and vice president never mention. This is the agonizing part, the lonely part, when you have to awake to the wound each morning and suddenly realize what you’ve lost, what is gone forever. They’re out there and they have mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, husbands and wives and children. And they’re not saying much right now. Just like me they’re just trying to get through each day. Trying to be brave and not cry. They still are extremely grateful to be alive, but slowly, agonizingly they are beginning to think about what has really happened to them.

What will it be like for them when one morning they suddenly find themselves naked sitting before that mirror in their room and must come face to face with their injury? I want to reach out to them. I want them to know that I’ve been there too. I want to just sit with them in their room and tell them that they must not give up. They must try to be patient, try to just get through each day, each morning, each afternoon any way they can. That no matter how impossible and frustrating it may seem, how painful, regardless of the anxiety attacks and nightmares and thoughts of suicide, they must not quit. Somewhere out there there will be a turning point, somewhere through this all they will find a reason to keep on living.

In the months and years that are to follow, others will be less fortunate. Young men and women who survived the battlefield, the intensive-care ward, veterans hospitals and initial homecoming will be unable to make the difficult and often agonizing adjustment.

Is this what is awaiting all of them? Is this the nightmare no one ever told them about, the part no one now wants to talk about or has the time to deal with? The car accidents, and drinking and drug overdoses, the depression, anger and rage, spousal abuse, bedsores and breakdowns, prison, homelessness, sleeping under the piers and bridges. The ones who never leave the hospital, the ones who can’t hold a job, can’t keep a relationship together, can’t love or feel any emotions anymore, the brutal insomnia that leaves you exhausted and practically unable to function, the frightening anxiety attacks that come upon you when you least expect them, and always the dread that each day may be your last.

Marty, Billy, Bobby, Max, Tom, Washington, Pat, Joe? I knew them all. It’s a long list. It’s amazing that you’re still alive when so many others you knew are dead, and at such a young age. Isn’t all this dying supposed to happen when you’re much older? Not now, not while we’re so young. How come the recruiters never mentioned these things? This was never in the slick pamphlets they showed us! This should be a time of innocence, a time of joy and happiness, no cares and youthful dreams—not all these friends dying so young, all this grief and numbness, emptiness and feelings of being so lost.

The physical and psychological battles from the war in Iraq will rage on for decades, deeply impacting the lives of citizens in both our countries.

As this the 38th anniversary of my wounding in Vietnam approaches, in many ways I feel my injury in that war has been a blessing in disguise. I have been given the opportunity to move through that dark night of the soul to a new shore, to gain an understanding, a knowledge, an entirely different vision. I now believe that I have suffered for a reason and in many ways I have found that reason in my commitment to peace and nonviolence. We who have witnessed the obscenity of war and experienced its horror and terrible consequences have an obligation to rise above our pain and suffering and turn the tragedy of our lives into a triumph. I have come to believe that there is nothing in the lives of human beings more terrifying than war and nothing more important than for those of us who have experienced it to share its awful truth.

We must break this cycle of violence and begin to move in a different direction; war is not the answer, violence is not the solution. A more peaceful world is possible.

I am the living death
The memorial day on wheels
I am your yankee doodle dandy
Your John Wayne come home
Your Fourth of July firecracker
Exploding in the grave