February 21, 2007

Speaking of Lies, I Like the Funny Ones

Some lies are laughable, others contemptible. Over the past six years, the Bush gang has given us a plethora of both types, this month being no exception.

First, the laughable. After British Prime Minister Tony Blair announced his plans to withdraw around 1,600 troops from Iraq, numerous Bushies rushed to the media and explained why this announcement was actually—get this—good news.[1]

Saith Condi Rice: “The British have done what is really the plan for the country as a whole, which is to be able to transfer security responsibilities to the Iraqis as conditions permit.” Reinforcing Condi’s spin, National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley called Blair’s announcement “basically a good news story, an indication that progress is being made, and that events on the ground permit this kind of adjustment in forces.”[2]

Let’s return to the real world for a moment, shall we? The war in Iraq is not going well—even the President finally admitted this and has therefore called for a massive surge in troop levels. So amid all this, our major ally comes along and announces that it’s going to cut its troop levels by over 20%. And this is good news for America?

Okay, that’s a laughable lie. Laughable because it’s ridiculous and no one really believes it.

Now for the contemptible lie.

On February 14, Bush “told a White House news conference that it is clear that a faction of the [Iranian] government—the Quds Force—was responsible for shipping explosive devices to Iraqi insurgents. What is unclear, he said, was whether the Quds Force was acting independently or under the aegis of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”[3]

As usual, Bush didn’t back up this accusation with any sort of evidence. And why? More than likely because he doesn’t have any.

According to Marine Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, we have no evidence that Iran’s government is in anyway involved in sending weapons to Iraq. “It is clear,” Pace says, “that Iranians are involved [in manufacturing lethal weapons used by Shiite insurgent groups], and it’s clear that materials from Iran are involved, but I would not say by what I know that the Iranian government clearly knows or is complicit.”[4]

What’s perhaps as contemptible as the lie itself has been the failure of the American media to call Bush on it. Even the supposedly liberal NPR is guilty in this regard. As Paul Craig Roberts writes, “On February 13 [the day after Pace’s comments], I listened for two hours to NPR and did not hear a single report of General Pace’s contradiction of Bush/Cheney propaganda about Iran’s leaders. But I did hear a neoconservative from the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a propaganda institution in Washington D.C., push the buttons for war with Iran.”[5]

If a student wrote a paper containing unsupported claims, claims that were refuted by the most credible experts, he or she would undoubtedly be marked down, probably not even given a passing grade. But when the President of the United States does the very same thing, no one, not even those who purportedly make up the anti-Bush, left-winged media, bat an eye.

Please someone, wake me up, tell me that this is all just a really bad dream.

[1] CNN.com, “Blair: 1,600 troops to leave Iraq,” 02/21/07,

[2] Yahoo! News, “Cheney slams Iraq plan advocated by Dems,” 02/21/07.

[3] UPI, “Bush sure of facts on Iran weapons in Iraq,” 02/14/07, http://www.politicalgateway.com/news/read/63584.

[4] “Pace Demurs on Accusation of Iran: General Says He Knows Nothing Tying Leaders to Arms in Iraq,” by Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, 02/13/07, pg A18.

[5] Roberts, “Military Breaks Ranks With Bush—But NPR Falls in Line,” 02/14/07.

February 20, 2007

Violence Begets Violence, and Other Lessons from Iraq

Ask any proponent of the war why the US is still in Iraq, and you’ll more than likely be told that we’re fighting to keep America safe. For instance, Anne Coulter recently wrote that the US occupation in Iraq has prevented another 9/11. She continues, “If absolutely nothing changed in Iraq over the next few years—if it didn't continue to get better and if the savages never lost heart…by 2010, 6,000 brave American troops will have died to prevent another 9/11 terrorist attack on American soil for a decade.”

Newt Gingrich echoed these sentiments in a recent column. Gingrich argues that victory in Iraq is necessary for protecting America from “the forces of fanatical Islam and their allies.” Failing to defeat these forces, he argues, will be devastating for America. “In our country,” he writes, “we face the greatest crisis in American civilization since the Civil War…And the reason for the current danger is this: If our enemies get nuclear weapons, they are going to use them.”

If Coulter and Gingrich are correct, then one has to wonder if our recent military endeavors in the Middle East have been justified. After all, if defeating “the forces of fanatical Islam” is the only way to prevent another 9/11, then current US policy is perhaps defensible. But is this assertion correct? Is military victory in Iraq the only way to keep America safe?

In order to answer this question, it seems that we should first answer a much more basic question, which is, why do the terrorists hate us and want to kill us?

George Bush provided an answer to this question when addressing Congress on September 20, 2001: “Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what we see right here in this chamber—a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms—our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.”

While many leaders have reiterated Bush’s sentiments, conservative writer Dinesh D’Souza contends in his latest book, The Enemy At Home, that al-Qadeda has targeted America because they despise our morally decadent culture. According to D’Souza, “what bin Laden objected to was America staying in the Middle East, importing with it the immoral ingredients of American values and culture.” To be more specific, D’Souza believes that the cultural left is responsible for 9/11 because it has “fostered a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies” and has waged “an aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family and to promote secular values in non-Western cultures.”

If Bush is correct and the terrorists hate us because of our freedom, then it follows that, unless we’re willing to give up our freedom, the only way to live at peace with the terrorists is military victory. And if D’Souza is correct and the terrorists hate us because of the values propagated by liberals, then it follows that, unless we’re willing to deport the likes of Noam Chomsky and Hilary Clinton, the only way to live at peace with the terrorists is military victory.

But are either of these assessments correct?

In order to answer this question, it would behoove us to look at the words of Osama bin Laden himself, who has very clearly stated his reasons for attacking America.

In his 2002 “Letter to America,” bin Laden claims that he is at war with America because America is guilty of the following atrocities: (1) helping the Israeli, Russian, and Indian governments in their oppression of Muslims, (2) attacking Muslims in Somalia, (3) supporting corrupt regimes in various Muslim nations, (4) robbing Muslim lands of their natural resources, (5) having a military presence throughout the Middle East, and (6) enforcing sanctions against Iraq that resulted in the deaths of 1.5 million Iraqi children.

So, unlike Bush claims, bin Laden is not upset with American democracy. And unlike D’Souza claims, the thrust of bin Laden’s anger is not aimed at America’s decadent culture—although he certainly thinks our culture is decadent and goes to great lengths in condemning it. Rather, bin Laden is incensed over what he views to be atrocities committed by the American government against Muslims.

This assessment is shared by Michael Scheuer, who worked for the CIA for 22 years and headed the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999. As Scheuer writes, “Bin Laden has been precise in telling America the reasons he is waging war on us. None of the reasons have anything to do with our freedom, liberty and democracy, but have everything to do with U.S. policies and actions in the Muslim world.”

So Osama bin Laden waged war against us because of our foreign policy. Does it follow, then, that America can end this war by simply changing this policy? According to the “Letter to America,” the answer is no. Along with demanding that America change its foreign policy, bin Laden calls upon Americans to convert to Islam and put an end to their immoral behavior.

But, according to Scheuer, a mere reversal of US policy is all it would take to engender peace with al-Qaeda. Bin Laden, Scheuer writes, has only been able to garner so much support because he has recognized “the difference between those issues Muslims find offensive about America and the West [i.e., their immoral cultures], and those they find intolerable and life threatening [i.e., their foreign policies].”

Scheuer points out that in the 1980s bin Laden and many other Muslims fought the Soviet army “not because the Soviets were atheists and communists,” but because they had invaded the Muslim Afghanistan. Once the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, so did the mujahideen, even though Muslims still regarded the Soviets as infidels.

So it seems that, contrary to the contentions of Bush and D’Souza, many Muslims have declared war against the United States because of perceived atrocities in American foreign policy. And, contrary to the contentions of Coulter and Gingrich, a military victory in Iraq is not the only way to keep America safe. Rather, America could ensure its safety by overhauling its foreign policy.

As is well known by those who look at recent history with even a semblance of objectivity, American policy in the Middle East has been, at best, deeply misguided and, at worst, unspeakably immoral. To give but one example, from 1990 to 2003, the Iraqi people suffered under US-led economic sanctions. Although the exact number of deaths caused by this policy is unknown, Columbia professor Richard Garfield conservatively estimates that from August 1991 to June 2002 the sanctions killed around 400,000 Iraqi children under the age of five. While this figure is horrifying, it is equally horrifying that the US knew of the sanctions’ devastating effects for well over a decade before deciding to lift them.

The United States, though a great country, a country I am proud to be a citizen of, has committed numerous actions over the years that have been equally wrong. Therefore, we must rethink our foreign policy because, not only is it putting America in harm’s way, but it is violating the basic human rights of millions of Muslims throughout the world.

February 16, 2007

Why People Don’t Like Evangelical Christians

“Dad,” the little boy said after school one day, “why don’t people like us?”

Dad knew this day was bound to come, and he’d been preparing for it. So he sat his son down, opened up the Bible, and turned to the Gospel of John: “If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

“So,” the little boy said, seeking clarification, “people don’t like us because we belong to Jesus?”

Dad nodded his head, encouraged by his son’s astuteness...

Dad, Dad, Dad, I don’t know where to begin. I really don’t. Have a seat, would you? We need to have a talk. That’s right, you and me.

For the most part, people don’t dislike you because you’re a Christian. In fact, just the opposite is true—people don’t like you because you’re not Christian enough.

Jesus said be in the world but not of the world. But you and your peers are…well, you are the world, only with a Christian label.

You don’t believe me? Need an example?

Okay, here’s one. I’ve been in the work place for several years now and the only way I can tell the Christians apart from the non-Christians is that the Christians occasionally talk about going to church or Bible study. But that’s really the only difference. The Christians gossip as much as the others, they complain as much, tend to be just as lazy.

Still not convinced? Okay, how about taking a short quiz. The answers may surprise you.

Q1: How can you spot a Christian driver?

Q2: How can you spot a Christian businessman?

Q3: How can you spot a Christian housewife?

How do you think you did, Dad? Let’s find out. The answers are as follows. You can spot a Christian driver because his or her car has a little fish decal on the back. You can spot a Christian businessman because, when he’s screwing you over, he makes sure to do it in the name of Jesus. And you can spot a Christian housewife because she tends to gossip under the guise of a prayer request.

That’s right, Dad, I’m saying that people hate you because you’re just like the world. But actually, now that I think about it, that’s not quite right. If you were just like the world, no one would bat an eye. What angers people so much is that, although you act like they do, you claim to be better. Though you live like rats, you claim to be disciples of the greatest moral teacher of all-time.

When you get down to it, the honest pagan’s not such a bad guy. Sure, he might double-cross you, but he never said he wouldn’t, never said he was above such behavior. You, on the other hand…

As long as you’re quoting Bible verses to your son, I have a couple for him: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own?”

You see, Dad, people dislike liars and cheats, but they absolutely despise hypocrites. If you truly followed Jesus—loved your enemies, kept a tight reign on your tongue and anger—then you wouldn’t be so reviled. No, people might not understand you. And yes, they’d think you were a little weird. But they might—no promises here, but they might, just might—want what you had.

So, Dad, that’s what you should be telling your little boy. If you have trouble explaining all that, just have him give me a call.