Heart of my heart, is it meet or wise
To warn a King of his enemies?
We know what Heaven or Hell may bring,
But no man knoweth the mind of the King.
Of the gray-coat coming who can say?
When the night is gathering all is gray.
Two things greater than all things are,
The first is Love, and the second War.
And since we know not how War may prove,
Heart of my heart, let us talk of Love!”
The Ballad of the King’s Jest
The irony of President Obama’s selection as the Nobel Peace Prize winner for 2009 was not lost on the recipient. In one of the receptions held to honor him, Mr. Obama spoke about Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite and its use as a weapon of war as the source of wealth that funds the prestigious peace prize. Earlier in the day during his acceptance speech, Mr. Obama spoke eloquently on the motives for his decision to continue the prosecution and escalation of the Afghan war. As a war time President, Mr. Obama sees war as a tool to bend the will of history toward justice and good. He believes the greatest global good will be served by the pursuit of the Afghan conflict. I respectfully disagree.
The greater irony in Mr. Obama’s acceptance speech for a peace prize is that it was essentially a discourse of war apologetics. Mr. Obama delivered a speech void of any contrition and never once equivocated as he outlined his commitment and reasoning why a nation should engage in war. To be fair to Mr. Obama, his decision to escalate the war in Afghanistan is not a surprise. Throughout his Presidential election campaign, Mr. Obama was explicitly clear that he intended to pursue Osama bin Laden and his band of murderous terrorists to the Gates of Hell. Even if those gates led to a protected compound in downtown Karachi, Mr. Obama’s resolve to check mate al-Qaeda remains steadfast.
The problem with the continued prosecution of the Afghan War is that our enemies are not a nation state nor do they occupy a single geography. Al-Qaeda and their confederates are stationed throughout the globe. They exist in underground sleeper cells waiting to be summoned by unconscionable puppet masters. They are guided by an ideology of hate neatly disguised and wrapped in a hajab of religious orthodoxy. They use asymmetric strategies and tactics to wage war on citizens and soldiers alike. A conventional army garrisoned in a provincial hamlet is ill suited to fight an enemy that knows no bounds in territories and tactics and is prepared to conduct a military operation that spans multiple generations.
The Taliban and al-Qaeda’s access and control of Afghanistan’s lucrative opium trade forms the socio-economic base that allows them to leverage considerable political power to pursue their terrorist agenda. The opium trade is weaved into a complex tribal culture whose power and prominence supersedes a weak and corrupt central government that derives its right to govern by the tepid consent of friendly tribal leaders and the military might of foreign armies. Afghanistan like other narco dependent states will remain politically unstable and continue as a terroristic threat to the United States until the opium trade is supplanted as the countries principal source of economic and political power.
Afghanistan is not the world’s sole narco-terrorist state. A number exist in the Western Hemisphere and one need look no further then across the Rio Grande to witness the growing power of a narco-dollar financed state subversion. Mexico’s difficulties serve as a reminder that the risks to the stability of our republic lie much closer to home and is in fact in full residence within our borders. Engaging a war in Afghanistan is a clear and present distraction from addressing the pressing issues that undermine our national security.
True al-Qaeda’s acquisition of a nuclear weapon conjures up many unimaginable and terrifying scenarios. Unfriendly regimes that are hostile to the United States like North Korea and Iran control nuclear capabilities. But we have no armies attacking them. Perhaps the solution is to remove nuclear weapons and uranium devises beyond the reach of the Taliban, al-Qaeda and other avowed enemies of our republic. If this is the major threat, its mitigation can be achieved without the prolonged deployment of 130,000 troops. It can be accomplished by having an international force guard and quarantine Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. Certainly the Bush Doctrine allows for this type of intervention. Some will object to this course of action on the grounds that we must respect Pakistan’s sovereignty. But Mr. Obama’s escalation of the Afghan War will require unilateral incursions into Pakistan. This action to eliminate the ultimate horror of nuclear weapons falling into the hands of terrorists is the surest way to mitigate this pressing threat.
The multifaceted omnipresent dangers to the United States transcend nuclear terrorism. Economic degradation is compounding social problems and creating deep political fissures within the country. Our countries fractured culture is being exploited by powerful self serving interests. A cabal of corporate elites equate national security with their economic well being. They employ armies of lobbyists and ply multi-channel media platforms to stoke fear and division to advance their narrow interests. Usually at the expense of supporting initiatives that address the complex threats that weigh on the security of the country. These special interests attack programs that stabilize social safety nets. They finance expensive media campaigns condemning aid for local government fiscal stability, universal health care, meaningful environmental policy, expanded funding for public education, infrastructure improvements, support for trade unions, job creation programs and social assistance programs. The well being of our people is the basis of our national prosperity. The sources of social instability remain strong and continue to grow. The recession, a jobless rate of 10%, 4 million foreclosed homes, 30 million citizens unable to have access to affordable health care, failing school systems, bulging prison systems and environmental degradation represent a greater threat to national security then 100 al-Qaeda fighters holed up in an ice cave in the Tora Bora tribal regions.
No doubt the United States was attacked by terrorists enjoying protection of a friendly regime in Afghanistan. On 9/11 I witnessed first hand the horror of fellow countrymen jumping to their deaths from the upper floors of the World Trade Center. Moments later as I stood in front of Trinity Church I escaped the pyroclastic cloud of the falling South Tower through a revolving door on Wall Street. I understand the irrational hatred terrorists harbor in their hearts and the devastating consequences of their insane acts. They are a cancer that must be eradicated.
Mr. Obama, has stated that the Afghan insurgency enjoys no popular support. Afghanistan has a long memory and a longer history of a people subjected to the designs of imperial powers and foreign invaders since the time of Genghis Khan. The resistance to foreign occupation by the Afghani’s is legendary. From the massacre of Elphinstone’s Army trying to escape blood thirsty tribes through the Khyber Pass, to the Soviets disgraceful retreat from the hail of Stinger Missiles supplied by the United States; it now may be our time for a ride in this horrible wheel barrel.
Afghanistan is a region of the globe where the great powers and trends of history clash. It is a vortex of a turbulent maelstrom that brings the powers of China, Russia, India and Islam into a volatile mix. The forces of national interests and modernity is held at bay by tribesmen toting WWII rifles, expedient tribal allegiances and ancient codes of honor. Why doesn’t China and India have a more prominent role in ending this conflict? It is in their geopolitical interest. Better let the United States send its nations finest young people to chase phantoms and fight in the endless canyons of the Hindu Kush; while Chindia builds their economies at home and forge new alliances abroad. Perhaps they hope that this war could be the Pax Americana’s Waterloo?
Mr. Obama quoted from Dr. Martin Luther Kings Nobel acceptance speech, stating, “Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: it merely creates new and more complicated ones.” This above all else may prove to be the most prophetic and ironic truth to Mr. Obama’s war.
The United States cannot afford this war. It is a distraction. It weakens us. National security is more then a well provisioned and gallant army. A nations strength and its ultimate security is based on an enlightened, well fed, healthy and industrious people.
Mr. Obama acknowledged his indebtedness to those that went before him. He stated that, Mahatma Gandhi, George Marshall, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela are worthy figures that we should emulate. Their greatness showed us that a better path must be chosen if we are to progress as a people. Their choices and examples of leadership were not based on expediency and some came at terrible cost. The pathway of war is worn and old. The world is much too weary from the familiar journey. Its time to choose a better path. End the war now Mr. Obama. Bring the troops home.
You Tube Music Video: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Battle Hymn of the Republic
Risk: war, peace
Its been a week of firsts for our country and an endless succession of firsts for the new Obama Administration. So it is with sadness we post the melancholy news that Obama has recorded his first kills as a President. A number of news reports are surfacing announcing that today unmanned US spy drones have launched missile strikes within the sovereign borders of Pakistan killing 8 people. Weather these reports are true and weather those killed are Al Qaeda operatives could not be determined.
As it was under Bush the grim toll of death continues with Obama.
You Tube Video: Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Battle Hymn of the Republic
Risk: war, national sovereignty, peace
For participating in an Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) Survey I received The Pocket World In Figures for 2009. Its filled with all kinds of interesting statistics to measure, compare and contrast economic and social indicators for countries of the world. Included in this useful little tome is the usual mundane statistical econometric measures like GDP, income levels, life expectancy, agricultural output and similar macroeconomic indicators. The Survey also includes many other quality of life statistical measures and one that immediately grabbed my attention were the entries concerning Crime and Punishment.
The Survey tabulates Crime and Punishment statistics in four areas; murders, death row inmates, total prisoner count and prisoners per 100,000 of a country’s population. Sadly the EIU Survey reports that the United States leads the list in two out of the four categories. Those include prisoner population and prisoners per 100,000 of total country population. The US holds the dubious distinction of the number two spot behind Pakistan in the number of death row inmates.
I find these telling statistical measures most perplexing and equally disturbing. The United States prison population of 2.253,000 is 30% higher then second place China with 1,566,000 inmates and third place Russia with 885,000 inmates. These numbers become more significant when measured as a percent of 100,000 of the country’s population. The United States again occupies the top spot with 751 inmates per 100,000 followed by Russia with 627 per 100,000. As a percent of total population the US incarceration rate is 17% higher then that of Russia. China which occupied the number two spot in total prison population falls off the list of the top 23 nations with the highest level of incarceration due to its large overall population.
One needs to ask what is it in the cultural, social, political and economic DNA that places the United States as the world leading gulag?
It has been long known that people of color comprise the majority of death row and prison inmates in the United States. The glaring racial and social class dimensions of imprisonment and how it is disproportionally borne by minorities and the working poor is a direct causal effect of the dismantling of the manufacturing base of the US economy. This has exacerbated the inequality of wealth distribution in the US economy. It has accelerated the deterioration of our urban economic zones thereby fostering the growth of illegal underground economic activities and petty economic crime.
The economic and social factors that contribute to crime and imprisonment are usually the central topics that take center stage in the debate between conservatives and liberals. Ironically this debate obfuscates underlying causal factors that can be ascribed to the political culture in the US. The preponderance of law and order candidates running for public office, the political clout of police and public safety unions, the emergence of industry sectors that build and manage prisons, the vibrant security and protection industries, the use of cheap prison labor and dramatic wealth disparity creates powerful market and cultural forces that incubate and sustain the growth of penal industries and the political sentiment that supports it.
Since 9/11 our political culture has been saturated with messages of fear, suspicion , demonization of “the other” and the pervasiveness of terrorism. This political climate has spawned two wars, the dramatic growth of prison privatization, suspension of some basic rights of privacy with the passage of FISA and the creation of special rendition prison camps like Gitmo that suspend habeas corpus and other internationally recognized standards of basic prisoner rights. The revelations about the Iraqi prison Abu Ghraib has shamefully placed torture at the forefront in the political debate concerning appropriate practices and acceptable tools interogators can use in the fight against terrorism. The US is clearly in danger of losing the moral high ground in its self proclaimed defense of human rights as it continues to extol the righteousness of its law and order society by building and populating an ever expanding network of gulags.
Sadly our penal culture creates some horrific abominations. The US taxpayer conveys its eager willingness to pay up to $40,000 a year to incarcerate a prisoner; while claiming that its good fiscal policy to balk at paying anything over $8,000 to educate a child in a public school.
This Sunday we will be marching in Newark NJ in Support of Solidarity Sunday. Our mission will be to join forces with those who are dedicated to ending violence and crime in our communities. We believe this objective can only be realized if we respond with unity, love, peace, hope and help.
Information on Solidarity Sunday can be found here.
It is our fondest hope and most fervent prayer that we will build more schools and factories and less prisons. We also pray that our fellow citizens and elected officials will find mercy in their hearts and proclaim 2009 as a Jubilee Year and grant amnesty and set free those who are worthy of freedom and have paid the price for their crime. We also pray that those who imprison others will recognize the humanity of their captives.
You Tube Music Video: The Midnight Special, Odetta
You Tube Music Video: Gil Scott Heron, Angola Louisiana
Risk: civil liberties, rule of law, Bill of Rights, social justice
If President Bush sits atop the Dome of the Rock during his visit to Jerusalem and takes a 360 look around he will witness the widening concentric circles of war and violence that continue to expand throughout the region.
Looking north, Lebanon appears to be on the precipice of all out civil war. Iran and Syria are doing all they can to destabilize Lebanon’s weak government by supporting Hezbollah. They have formed some type of unholy alliance to flex their muscles with the development of a nuclear power infrastructure while they continue to extend their tentacles of influence into the civil war in Iraq.
Up the coast where Europe meets Asia, Turkey embarks on periodic bombing runs against the Kurds in Northern Iraq while Russia continues to put out pesky flareups in it’s former Black Sea Republics. To the south and down to the tip of the Red Sea, Ethiopia is being drawn into a war with Somalia and to the west the great powers of the world shadow box in Darfur, stoking the flames of a proxy war between Chad and Sudan. If Mr. Bush strains his neck, way to the east he’ll be able to see the continued disintegration of political stability of Pakistan, Islam’s only nuclear state and Afghanistan’s inability to shake the Taliban infection.
As Mr. Bush sits atop the holy space where the Prophet Muhammad ascended to heaven, where Jesus Christ proclaimed peace to the people on earth and where Solomon installed the Arc of the Covenant, it will serve the world well for him to look into his own soul and examine how his actions and inactions have contributed to the regions instability. The escalation of war and hostilities is never a harbinger of peace. War is averted and peace is won through negotiations, communications and the building of trust through the recognition and pursuit of shared interests and objectives.
As a Christian, Mr. Bush should be able to grasp the need to make sacrifices to achieve a lasting peace in the Middle East. Mr. Bush’s ego may just be “the perfect sacrifice” the world needs to set the region on a track of peace. Mr. Bush can begin with a de-escalation of the rhetoric about Iran, speaking with Hamas representatives in Gaza and the immediate commencement of peace talks in line with the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group to end the war in Babylon.
Sacrifice is a sign of strength Mr. Bush. The alternative is ceding power to the regions growing conflicts. The overlapping rippling effects of these concentric disturbances threatens to immolate the entire region. Consider an Israeli bombing run on a nuclear reactor in Iran, or the fall of the Pakistani government to a Taliban friendly regime. It is time to make the perfect sacrifice Mr. Bush.
You Tube Video: Santana at Royal Albert Hall, Soul Sacrifice
Risk: Political, War, Middle East, Nuclear Exchange, Peace,