Friday, May 13, 2011

A new age of e"Enlightened" war


Posted on May 12, 2011, Printed on May 13, 2011
In case you hadn’t noticed, they are -- no kidding around -- absolutely the niftiest non-humans on Earth.  I’m speaking about the special operations force of Navy SEALs that took out Osama bin Laden.  They and their special ops colleagues are “supermen” (ABC News), “X-men” (Jon Stewart), “America’s Jedi Knights” (the New York Times), and that’s just to pick the odd example in a sea of churning hyperbole.  For the last week, while the bin Laden operation swallowed almost 69% of all news space according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, they have been the most reported upon Xtra Special Soldiers anywhere, possibly of all time -- from the “square-jawed admiral from Texas” who commanded them right down to the dog (oops... “possible war hero”) they reportedlytook along
In an era when U.S. troops have become little short of American idols, seldom have the media gone quite so nuts as over those SEALs and the other military and CIA “teams” that make up our counterterrorism forces.  You couldn’t pay for this sort of publicity.  It would, in fact, hardly be an exaggeration to say that all of American society has, for the last 10 days, been “embedded” with them. But here’s the strange thing (or perhaps I mean the strangest thing of all): if you read most of the over-the-top press about America’s special ops troops, you probably think that they are tiny crews of elite forces divided into even tinier teams trained to dispel global darkness and take out the bin Ladens of the world.
No such thing. Almost a year ago, the Washington Post reported that there were at least 13,000 U.S. special operations troops deployed overseas in (no, this is not a typo) 75 countries, a significant expansion of these forces in the Obama era.  Since thousands of them remain in the U.S. at any moment, Washington may now have up to 20,000 special operations troops on hand and the odds are that there will be even more after the bin Laden publicity blitz has had a chance to work its charms.  In the latest Pentagon budget, the Obama administration had already asked for $10.5 billion to pay for special forces, a tripling of their budget since 2001 -- and that figure is sure to rise in the years to come, as media slavering turns into congressional slavering. 
Keep in mind that this growing set of secret forces cocooned inside the U.S. military, along with the missile-armed pilotless drones fighting the CIA’s semi-secret war in Pakistan (which also got a modest publicity boost from the bin Laden operation), add up to the newly dominant form of American conflict: presidential war fought on the sly and beyond any serious kind of accountability to the American people.  In return for ponying up the necessary dough, for instance, Congress is now practically begging just to be updated on the executive’s counterterror operations four times a year.  
As TomDispatch regular and retired Lieutenant Colonel William Astore makes clear, “remote war” on the imperial peripheries of the planet is a direct danger to this country, to us, and it’s growing by the day.  Tom
The Crash and Burn of Old Regimes 
Washington Court Culture and Its Endless Wars 

The killing of Osama bin Laden, “a testament to the greatness of our country”according to President Obama, should not be allowed to obscure a central reality of our post-9/11 world.  Our conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya remain instances of undeclared war, a fact that contributes to their remoteness from our American world.  They are remote geographically, but also remote from our day-to-day interests and, unless you are in the military or have a loved one who serves, remote from our collective consciousness (not to speak of our consciences).
And this remoteness is no accident.  Our wars and their impact are kept inremarkable isolation from what passes for public affairs in this country, leaving most Americans with little knowledge and even less say about whether they should be, and how they are, waged.
In this sense, our wars are eerily like those pursued by European monarchs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: conflicts carried out by professional militaries and bands of mercenaries, largely at the whim of what we might now call a unitary executive, funded by deficit spending, for the purposes of protecting or extending the interests of a ruling elite.
Cynics might say it has always been thus in the United States.  After all, the War of 1812 was known to critics as “Mr. Madison’s War” and the Mexican-American War of the 1840s was “Mr. Polk’s War.”  The Spanish-American War of 1898 was a naked war of expansion vigorously denounced by American anti-imperialists.  Yet in those conflicts there was at least genuine national debate, as well as formal declarations of war by Congress.
Today’s ruling class in Washington no longer bothers to make a pretense of following the letter of our Constitution -- and they sidestep its spirit as well, invoking hollow claims of executive privilege or higher callings of humanitarian service (as in Libya) or of exporting democracy (as in Afghanistan).  But Libya is still torn by civil war, and Afghanistan has yet to morph into Oregon.
“Enlightened” War, Then and Now
History does not simply repeat itself, yet realities of power, privilege, and pride ensure certain continuities from the past.  Consider how today’s remote wars and the ways they reinforce existing power relations for a privileged and prideful elite echo a style of European warfare more than three centuries old.
Surveying the wreckage of the devastating Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), fought feverishly across Germanic territories by most of Europe, monarchs like Louis XIV of France began to seek to fight “limited” wars.  These they considered more consistent with the spirit of a rational and “enlightened” age.  In their hands, such wars became the sport of kings, the real-life equivalents of elaborate chess matches in which foot soldiers drawn from the lower orders served as expendable pawns, while the second or lesser sons of the nobility, fulfilling their duty as officers, proved hardly less expendable knights, bishops, and rooks.
As much as possible, the monarch and his retinue tried to keep war-making and its disruptions at a distance from thriving economic and manufacturing concerns.  In many cases, in the centuries to follow, this would essentially mean exporting war to faraway, “barbaric” realms or colonies.  In the process, death and destruction were outsourced to places and peoples remote from European metropoles.
In fact, this was precisely what enraged our founders: that the colonies in America had become a never-ending battleground for French and British imperial ambitions from which the colonists themselves reaped the whirlwind of war while gaining few of its benefits.  A close reading of the Declaration of Independence, for instance, reveals a proto-republic’s contempt for wars fought at a king’s whim and guaranteed to reduce the colonists to so much cannon fodder.
Refusing to surrender the hard-fought right as British men to have a say in how they were taxed, how their families and lands were defended, and especially for what purposes they themselves fought and died, the founders forged a new nation.  Given this history, it’s not surprising that they granted to Congress, and not to the President, the power to declare and fund war.
In this way, a noble experiment was born, and it worked, however imperfectly, until the devastation of a new thirty years’ war in Europe (better known as World Wars I and II) propelled the United States to superpower status with all its accompanying ambitions stoked by existential fears, whether of yesterday’s godless communists or today’s god-crazed terrorists.
Inside the Washington Beltway: The New Court of Versailles
In the eighteenth century, France was the superpower of Europe with a military that dwarfed those of its neighbors.  And who dictated France’s decisions to go to war?  The answer: the king, his generals, and his courtiers at the Court of Versailles.  In the twenty-first-century, the U.S. celebrates its status as the world’s “sole superpower” with a military second to none.  And who dictates its decisions to go to war?  Considering the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, the answer is no less obvious: the president, his generals, and his courtiers within the vast edifice of Washington’s national security state.
France’s “enlightened” wars were fought by professional armies and mercenaries, directed by a unitary executive who did as he pleased, and endured by the lower orders who had no say (even though they provided the brawn and blood).  Similarly, our twenty-first century masters plunge us into their version of enlightened wars and play their version of global chess matches.
The analogy can be pushed further.  In pre-revolutionary France, the First and Second Estates (the clergy and the nobility) constituted less than 2% of the population but controlled nearly all of France’s wealth and power.  Their unholy alliance kept the Third Estate (everyone who wasn’t a churchman or a noble) under their collective thumb.
Now, consider the United States today.  Our equivalent to the First Estate would be the clergy of finance and banking (the religion of the almighty dollar).  Look for them in their houses of worship on Wall Street.  Our Second Estate equivalent would be the movers and shakers inside Washington’s Beltway.  Look for them in the White House, the Pentagon, Congress, and on K Street where the lobbyists for the First Estate tend to congregate.  The unholy alliance of these two estates leaves the American Third Estate -- you and me -- with the deck stacked against us.
When it comes to war, the American ruling class has relegated the members of its Third Estate alternately to the role of “foreign legionnaires” in overseas service, or silent spectators passively watching moves on the big board.  These, in turn, are continually interpreted for us by retired members of the Second Estate: generals and admirals in mufti, hired by the corporate mediato provide color commentary on Washington’s wars.
Small wonder that today’s Beltway elite is as imperious and detached as yesterday’s Court of Louis XIV.  A colleague of mine recently endured a short audience with some members of our Second Estate near Dupont Circle in Washington.  In his words: “They were at once condescending and puzzled by ‘tea party types,’ as they referred to them, which was to say that they inadvertently admitted to being out of touch and were pretty okay with that.  ‘Look,’ I finally said, ‘you cannot continue to pick someone’s pocket while hectoring him about how stupid and uninformed he is and then be surprised that he gets angry.’”
Whether it be unwashed “tea party types,” “retarded” (according to ex-courtier Rahm Emanuel) progressives, or other members of a disgruntled American Third Estate, the Washington elites who wage war in our name simply couldn’t care less what we think, just as Louis XIV and his court couldn’t have cared less about their subjects’ desires.
Endless “limited” wars fought for the interests of the ruling class, massive deficit spending on those wars, a refusal to recognize (or even understand) the people’s growing disgruntlement, a “let them eat cake” mentality: all of this is familiar to a historian.  And like those old French masters of limited war, our new masters of war are hemorrhaging legitimacy.
The Crash and Burn of Old Regimes
In isolating the American Third Estate from war -- indeed, in disengaging it from any meaningful public debate about this nation’s perpetual war-making -- our rulers have conspired to advance their own interests.  Yet in deciding everything of importance out of view, they have unwisely eliminated any check on their folly.

Consider again the example of pre-revolutionary Versailles.  A top-heavy, remarkably dissolute, and openly parasitic bureaucracy plundered the commonweal of France in its pursuit of power and privilege.  Can we not say the same of Washington today?  In its kleptocratic tendency to enrich itself and its accountability-free deployment of military power globally, the American ruling class bears a certain resemblance to French kings and their courts which, in the end, drove their country to economic ruin and violent revolution.

Fed up with its prodigal and prideful rulers, France saw the tumbrels roll and the guillotine blades drop.  How many more undeclared “enlightened” wars, how many more trillions of dollars in war-driven debt, how many more dead and wounded will it take for the American people to reclaim their power over war?  Or are we content to remain deferential to our ruling class and court -- and to their less-than-liberty-loving overseas creditors -- until such a time as their prideful wars and prodigal trillion-dollar-plus “defense” budgets bring our great democratic experiment crashing down?

William J. Astore is a TomDispatch regular, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), and a professor of history.  He welcomes reader comments

Copyright 2011 William J. Astore
© 2011 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.
View this story online at:

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Coming to Islam: While being a Christian, I am also a Muslim. Here is how this happened.

Coming to Islam

From whence Islam cometh:

Muhammad ibn ‘Abdullāh (ArabicTransliterationMuḥammad;[n 1] pronounced [mʊˈħæmmæd]  ( listen); also spelled Muhammed or Mohammed)[n 2][n 3][n 4] (ca. 570/571 Mecca[مَكَةَ ]/[ مَكَهْ ] – June 8, 632),[2] was the founder of the religion of Islam, and is regarded by Muslims as a messenger and prophet of God (Arabicالله Allāh), the last law-bearer in a series of Islamic prophets, and, by most Muslims,[n 5] the last prophet as taught by the Qur'an 33:40–40. Muslims thus consider him the restorer of an uncorrupted original monotheistic faith (islām) of AdamNoahAbrahamMosesJesus and other prophets. He was also active as a diplomatmerchantphilosopheroratorlegislatorreformermilitary general, and, according to Muslim belief, an agent of divine action.

Born in 570 in the Arabian city of Mecca,[8] he was orphaned at an early age and brought up under the care of his uncle Abu Talib. He later worked mostly as a merchant, as well as a shepherd, and was first married by age 25. Discontented with life in Mecca, he retreated to a cave in the surrounding mountains for meditation and reflection. According to Islamic beliefs it was here, at age 40, in the month of Ramadan, where he received his first revelation from God. Three years after this event Muhammad started preaching these revelations publicly, proclaiming that "God is One", that complete "surrender" to Him (lit. islām) is the only way (dīn)[n 6] acceptable to God, and that he himself was a prophet and messenger of God, in the same vein as other Islamic prophets.

From whom the story of Islam and its prophet were revealed to me:

Revalation the second:

Karen Armstrong FRSL (born 14 November 1944 in Wildmoor, Worcestershire) is a British author of numerous works on comparative religion, who first rose to prominence in 1993 with her highly successful A History of God. A former Roman Catholic nun, she asserts that, "All the great traditions are saying the same thing in much the same way, despite their surface differences." They each have in common, she says, an emphasis on the transcendent importance of compassion, as epitomized in the so-called Golden RuleDo unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Awarded the $100,000 TED Prize in February 2008, she called for drawing up a Charter for Compassion in the spirit of the Golden Rule, to identify shared moral priorities across religious traditions, in order to foster global understanding.[1] It was unveiled in Washington, D.C. in November 2009. Signatories include Prince Hassan of Jordan, the Dalai LamaArchbishop Desmond Tutu and Sir Richard Branson.

Whom unto me did reveal knowledge of the author, Karen Armstrong, whose scholarship I could always trust.

Revelation the first:

Leonard Shlain (August 28, 1937 – May 11, 2009)[1][2] was an American surgeon and writer; he authored three books.

Dr. Shlain was Chairman of Laparoscopic surgery at the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco and was an Associate Professor of Surgery at UCSF.
He was a speaker at such venues as the SmithsonianHarvard UniversitySalk InstituteLos Alamos National LaboratoryNASA Johnson Space Center and the European Union's Ministers of Culture. In 1999, he was a contributor to Academic Press' Encyclopedia of Creativity, edited by Mark Runco and Steven Pritzker.[3]

The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image is a book by Leonard Shlain, published in 1999 by Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The Author theorizes pheontic alphabets transform the mind and influence the relationships between men and women. He further argues that while pre-literate and illiterate peoples venerate a Goddess, her associated images and her nurturing qualities, literate cultures venerate Gods and are characterized by patriarchy. Drawing on the history of the Israel, Egypt, Greece, Pagan and Christian Rome, The Far East, and Islam, the author examines history based his theory.

He who introduced me to the revealers

Mike Huston, professional bridge player and labor aritrater, former Professor of Englichs Literature, and the most well-read human being I know advised me of Karen Armstrong's writings. Mike also advised me the writings of and in particular, Leonard Shlain's The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image.

She who said, “Call my father.”

One evening I stopped into the only local gas station in town on the East side of Hough Street. I mentioned to the young high school woman that I was considering converting to Islam. She smiled, dropped what she was doing, picked up a pen, and wrote her telephone number. “Call my father,” she said. And I did.

And the rest, well, the rest of it is being continually revealed.

Addendum:  And I must tell you this:  Since my conversion to Islam, scales have fallen from my eyes and it has been revealed to me that the Lord of Hosts, the Creator of All the Worlds, loves ME, as he LOVES EVERY ATOM of HIS CREATION.  Watching the well behaved Muslim children in church, discussing scripture and theory with the learned church elders, going to interfaith out reach programs, all of this has become very vivid; very much alive.  And I see the hand of God and His Angels everywhere.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

It only costs $281.00 to file the papers for the creation of a new political party. Care to be party to this moment?

SO ... who is gonna pony up for the We Ain't Stupid People Peoples' Party (a.k.a The WASP  P's)?

Send your check for $1.00 payable to

Mark Ganzer
@  1004 S Grove Ave.
Barrington, IL  60010-5025

The pathetic state of hospital care in the USA (Usually Suck Always)

Rheka Basa is the finest reporter in America.  She writes a bi-weekly opinion column for the Des Moines Register.

Morgan De Lac is an emmy-award winning photo journalist who is the editor of Patch, Barrington - the local online news magazine and photo journal.

I passed this along to both of them in full knowledge that should the story be pursued with strong resources, a pulitzer prize would definetly be a possible reward.  

But even more rewarding would be an informed American public.

Greetings Rheka, Morgan

I pass along the tale of my recent emergency room treatment as examples both of what is right with and wrong with hospital care in the U.S.A.

Last Wednesday morning, with shortness of breath, exhaustion, hunger, cold, I asked the wonderful staff at Caribou Coffee in Libertyville to call 9-1-1 for me, which they not only did, but walked me to a chair, and got me a glass of ice water.  The Emergency Tech staff came and did their thing - giving me oxygen, and putting me on an IV.  The hospital intake and support staffs did their thing, finding (as always) that I had an upper respiratory infection and needed anti-biotics.

At this juncture, I need to point out that my upper respiratory thing had been festering for three weeks, but I am too febble minded to figure such things out.  I should have seen my own physician after about 72 hours, and he would have prescribed anti-biotics and it would be a thing of the past.  BUT ... this exemlifies one of the problems with health care in this country.  My own physician treats me gratis, so I could have "afforded" to do so.  But US residents not so lucky to have such a compassionate medical doctor friend would have not been able to have afforded to see the doctor, and would have followed the same course I did.

Of course, I was very lucky not to have developed walking pneumonia.  So far, I have not, but no where is it written that I will always be so lucky.

After the emergency passed, and my oxygen intake was back to almost 100%, things in the hospital became much more lax.  I found the staff's inability to answer my nurses requests, or meet their scheduled testing to be quite unprofessional.  So much so, that I checked out, Against Medical Advice at 8:38 in the morning.  Sadly, I was not able to retrieve my cigarettes, nor my beers.

But, NOW, here is the BAD BAD UGLY side of hospital care in the USA (certainly not all hospitals are as inept / corrupt as Condell, but, most assuredly, SOME are).

On Monday, I received in the mail, a bill for $15,000 for my THREE day stay at Condell.

THREE DAYS?  Wait, one over night = 1
One morning after = 2
One sign out AMA the morning after still - 2.

THUS, they ripped ME off (except I have insurance now) and will rip off the insurer, unless SOMEBODY (it will be me) exercises due diligence and reports their ineptitude / corruption, to the appropriate governing bodies.  And such an activity takes time, and follow through, and almost nobody has it or does it.  Similar thing happened with my brother, who was billed for in-hospital services rendered on three consecutive days, each of which occurred subsequently to his death.  

These are not isolate incidents, and the more the public knows, the more pressure can be brought to bear ON THE HOSPITALS to clean up their act, speaking of which, the Boston globe reported some time in the past year how local hospitals there were able to reduce their patient mortality by 75% merely by requiring that hospital personnel WASH THEIR HANDS!  This, is the state of hospital care in the 21st century.

AND, this is most pathetic.