The Missiles of October
Or: Thirteen Days of Fear and Loathing
By Jose Rodriguez
Part 4: http://dissentiscool.wordpress.com/2010/06/21/the-cuban-missile-crisis-part-4/
Part 3: http://dissentiscool.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/the-cuban-missile-crisis-part-3/
Part 2: http://dissentiscool.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/the-cuban-missile-crisis-part-2/
Part 1: http://dissentiscool.wordpress.com/2010/06/07/the-cuban-missile-crisis/
The President had outlined their next diplomatic moves: alert the American public about the crisis in a televised address; receive legal approval for the quarantine from the Organization of American States (OAS); and, finally, make their case to the world at the United Nations (UN). It was crucial that they secure approval for their actions from their allies. From a legal standpoint, unilateral action against Cuba would have seriously damaged their reputation, not to mention undermine their legitimacy as the moral leader of the world. As preparations got underway, the New York Times and Washington Post sensed that something was wrong and they began to investigate. When UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson discovered that the papers were going to print the stories he alerted the President. Both papers agreed to withhold the story after receiving calls from the President, who asked that he first be allowed to present his course of action to the American public.
On Monday October 22, the President remained faithful to his appointments. He even met with Prime Minister Milton Obote of Uganda, who was thoroughly “impressed” and taken by surprise when he watched the President’s speech to the nation and the world (Schlesinger, “A Thousand” 812). According to Wayne Fredericks, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, the Prime Minister said: “I got one of the most impressive experiences of my life: For thirty minutes this afternoon I had the full and undivided attention of the President of the United States of America, and I had not the slightest inkling of the problems he was facing.” (Strober, 387) Though the President had the weight of the world on his shoulders, he still maintained his famous calm and cool composure. By giving time to Obote during this crisis, he signaled to the Prime Minister that he was dedicated to the issues confronting Africa.
The President scheduled a meeting for five o’clock that same evening to explain their situation to Congressional leaders. Congressmen from all over the country were in their districts for re-election, but they did not mind being called back to Washington by the President. O’Donnell recalled one such congressman, “Hale Boggs [who] was fishing on the Gulf of Mexico. An Air Force helicopter picked him up from his boat and carried him to New Orleans, where an Air Force jet took him to Washington.” (O’Donnell, 327) Once everyone was assembled, the meeting began. John McCone kicked off the meeting by presenting the group with aerial photography and explaining their significance. McNamara and Rusk outlined their rationale for the naval quarantine, but it was quickly followed up with denouncements from all of the Congressional leaders. It seemed to those present that the congressmen were trying to outdo one another in their objection to the blockade. Senator Russell, the most vocal critics, attacked the plan as weak and demanded that the President immediately follow a military course of action. “It seems to me,” he said, “that we are at a crossroads. We are either a first-class power or we’re not.” (Dallek, 557) Senator Fulbright also attacked the plan as ineffective and asserted that a military strike against Cuba did not necessarily constitute an act of war against the Soviet Union (Dallek, 557). Unmoved, the President replied, “Last Tuesday, I was for an air strike or invasion myself, but after four more days of deliberations, we decided that was not the wisest first move, and you would, too, if you had more time to think about it.” (O’Donnell, 328) All of them had sided with the JCS on the matter, though a few of them signaled that they would support the President if they could make it part of the public record that they were not consulted before the final decision was made. Bobby, who did not attend the meeting, could see the frustration in his brother afterwards. As the door shut behind him, the President let his anger show: “Oh, sure, we’ll support you, Mister President. But it’s your decision not ours, and if it goes wrong we’ll knock your block off.” (O’Donnell, 328) As the President changed his clothes for the televised address, he muttered half to himself: “If they want this job, they can have it—it’s no great joy to me!” (Sorensen, 703) It seemed clearer and clearer each day that he was one of the few people who were fighting for peace. As the time approached, the President readied himself to make the most important speech of his life.
At 7:00 p.m., the President appeared on over one hundred million television screens across America. Looking grim and speaking in somber tones, he began: “Good evening, my fellow citizens. This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.” (Kennedy, 149) He carefully explained the nature of the crisis and explained the risks posed by the missiles and the sites. Not only were these missiles dangerous, but their existence in Cuba represented the duplicity and the deception of the Soviet Union. They were also put there in violation of the Rio Pact of 1947.
The President then went on to explain their course of action. A naval quarantine would be established, he said, in order to halt the transportation of the offensive weaponry. Should the Soviet Union fail to dismantle the sites, the U.S. would be forced to carry out air strikes in order to ensure their destruction. Any missile fired from the island, he warned, would be regarded “as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” (Kennedy, 153) In order to secure legal grounding for their course of action, the President announced that he wanted to present his case to the OAS and to the UN: “We are a peaceful people who desire to live in peace with all other peoples.” (Kennedy, 154)
The last half of the speech was mainly dedicated to the people of Cuba. He implored them to remember their long history of overthrowing tyrants and dictators “who destroyed their liberty.” (Kennedy, 155) The American people, he assured them, were with them in their struggle for freedom. He hoped that one day Cuba would be “welcomed back to the society of free nations and to the association of this hemisphere.” (Kennedy, 156) The President ended the speech with the following words: “The cost of freedom is always high, but Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission. Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right; not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved. Thank you and good night.” (Kennedy, 156)
The President’s speech earned him the immediate support from their NATO allies. It had been watched all across the globe in 38 different languages (Sorensen, 704).
The next morning, Secretary of State Dean Rusk awoke Undersecretary of State George Ball, who had fallen asleep on the couch in his State Department office by saying, “We have won a considerable victory. You and I are still alive.” (Dallek, 559) On this day, Rusk was scheduled to make the case for the quarantine before the Organization of American States, while UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson was to make their case before the UN. Behind the scenes, the CIA and ExComm members were out trying to rally support among congressional leaders for the President’s plan.
All their efforts were successful. Dean Rusk, “in his finest hour”, was able to obtain a unanimous vote of approval for the President’s quarantine (Dallek, 560). Stevenson, in a dramatic confrontation with Russia’s UN Ambassador Valerian Zorin, was successful in proving to the world that the Soviet Union had indeed placed missile sites on the island of Cuba. He demanded to know if the Soviets had placed the missiles in Cuba, but Zorin refused to answer. Stevenson then gave his historic retort, “I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over!” (Dallek, 565) Without waiting for a reply, Stevenson presented the aerial photographs of the Russian missile sites to the Security Council, which earned the United States credibility in its claims. The ExComm and CIA were successful in convincing the skeptics and the public that their efforts were justified.
On the morning of Wednesday October 24, just after 10 a.m., two Russian ships, the Komiles and the Gagarin, sailed straight for the quarantine line. Complicating the situation was the presence of a Soviet submarine between the two ships, escorting them across the quarantine line. The night before, the President had issued a proclamation: “Force shall not be used except in case of failure or refusal to comply with directions… after reasonable efforts have been made to communicate them to the vessel or craft, or in case of self-defense. In any case, force shall be used only to the extent necessary.” (Sorensen, 708) They were now on the brink of nuclear war and the President was concerned about the situation getting out of his control and spiraling into disaster. He recalled a part in the book The Guns of August when a German Chancellor was asked how it all began. He replied, “Ah, if we only knew.” (O’Donnell, 330) The President did not want to repeat their mistakes. The room was silent. Bobby looked over at his brother who was covering his mouth with a clenched fist. Suddenly, memories of pain, death, and despair flooded into the mind of Bobby, who thought about their older brother Joseph, who had been killed in World War 2, and about how John had almost been killed during the war. The President looked over at McNamara and asked, “What do we do now? Does the first ship we stop have to be a submarine?” (Sorensen, 332) McNamara reluctantly explained that the submarine could not be ignores: “Our commanders have been instructed to avoid hostilities if at all possible, but this what we must be prepared for, and this is what we must expect.” (Kennedy, 54)
Minutes crawled by.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
There's a facebook group that has reached one million users, hoping for President Barack Obama's death.
Here's an article from the huffingtonpost on that topic:
Facebook Group 'Praying' For President Obama's Death Passes One Million Members
Bianca Bosker First Posted: 04-28-10 11:39 AM
A Facebook group accused of "praying" for the death of President Barack Obama has raised controversy online, with many calling for Facebook to remove the group as "offensive speech."
The group, which lists its location as "Marysville, OH, 43040," currently has over 1 million members--Facebook users who say they "like" the group. It includes an album of anti-Obama imagery uploaded by the group's members--what Facebook labels "fan photos--that show the president against a communist flag, juxtaposed with insulting and derisive captions, or even a cartoon "associating Obama to Hitler."
The group is called, "DEAR LORD, THIS YEAR YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTOR, PATRICK SWAYZIE. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE ACTRESS, FARAH FAWCETT. YOU TOOK MY FAVORITE SINGER, MICHAEL JACKSON. I JUST WANTED TO LET YOU KNOW, MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT IS BARACK OBAMA. AMEN."
Geekosystem notes that the title is "likely a riff on a letter circulating New Jersey teachers' unions earlier this month that employed similar language with respect to (Republican) governor Chris Christie. The president of the New Jersey Education Association went on to issue a formal apology for the email."
Another group, "Petition to remove Facebook group praying for President Obama's death," has been created to denounce the anti-Obama group and advocate for its removal. The group, which has just over 650,000 members, is asking users to "Please act to encourage facebook to remove the page praying for the death of President Obama," and lists three steps Facebook users can take.
Facebook has repeatedly come under fire for hosting Facebook pages many find inappropriate and offensive.
Facebook's procedure for dealing with potentially offensive groups is pretty murky. Facebook has stated in the past that it takes seriously the free speech of its groups, even potentially offensive ones: A number of Facebook groups praising Joe Stack, the man who crashed a small plane into a government building in February, are still alive and well.
Controversy erupted in September 2009 after users discovered a Facebook poll that asked whether President Obama should be killed.
In opposition to this group, a new group has been started on facebook. Here's the link:
Please join this group if you believe that it is wrong to wish the death of a democratically elected President, just because he holds views different from your own.
Monday, September 28, 2009
By Jose Rodriguez
As a Catholic I am embarrassed and ashamed.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has come out in opposition to President Obama's health care reform efforts, despite its long-standing support for health care reform. In fact, the USCCB has long supported health care reform that includes a single-payer system to cover the uninsured, the poor, and illegal immigrants. Yet, in the last couple of months, the USCCB has come out against the current health care reform bill.
The USCCB has aligned itself with Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, and Hannity by asserting that the current health care reform efforts would encourage euthanasia of the elderly, deny health care to the disabled, and would force tax payers to pay for elective abortions and bar doctors from invoking the conscience clause. The accusations read as though they were copy and pasted from Sarah Palin's facebook page. They are advancing paranoid arguments against what is inarguably the most important health care legislation in the last fifty years. But why?
One can only speculate, but it might be partisan, it could be ignorance (they have not read the bills), or it could be any number of things.
This is tragic, as far as I'm concerned. I have been proud of my church's stance on science (particularly evolution), Global Climate Change, the poor, and advocating for a more just and fair global economy. Universal health care was another issue my Church supported, which made me proud to call myself a Catholic. However, the USCCB's current mental status has me quite concerned.
But the USCCB, which does not have any authority whatsoever, has come under fire from Bishops from around the globe. An editorial on a Catholic British website has chastised Bishops in the U.S. for their failure to stand up for a basic pro-life issue: universal health care. The Tablet editorial argues that the Bishops in the United States are wasting an opportunity where they "could play a central role in salvaging Mr Obama’s health-care programme." Instead, the U.S. Bishops are trying to advance an anti-abortion agenda when everyone has agreed that the bill should be neutral on this issue, "rather than the more general principle of the common good." As the editorial notes, nearly 50 million Americans are without health care, and this tragedy is only likely to worsen, as the health care industry is "[sensing] a threat to their profits" and are spending 1.5 million dollars a day to kill health care reform. Rather than attend to the poor, the USCCB has decided that they would rather turn this reform effort into a battle over abortion. The Tablet editorial makes a great point, however: the "National Health Service, one of the great forward strides for social justice, had no Catholic blessing," yet is one of the most enduring and popular government programs in England.
This is clearly a dereliction of duty.
It has been clearly documented that the current health care reform effort does not force tax payers to fund (directly or indirectly) elective abortions. Nor are there any death panels for the elderly or disabled.
I can't believe that the USCCB actually believes this! All they have to do is read the bill! Again are the Bishops lazy? Are they politically motivated? Are they this ignorant? What is the deal?
Republicans have come to the conclusion that Americans want health care reform, and they have come to the conclusion that a majority of Americans and American doctors support the public option. Despite months of promoting lies, and encouraging people to attend and disrupt town hall meetings in order to create the impression that a majority of Americans oppose any health care reform, 73% of doctors support either a single-payer system (10%) or a mostly private system that includes a public option (63%), and 77% of Americans support a public option. And I know what you're thinking: "How can that be? What was the poll question?" Well, here was what SurveyUSA asked: "In any health care proposal, how important do you feel it is to give people a choice of both a public plan administered by the federal government and a private plan for their health insurance--extremely important, quite important, not that important, or not at all important?"
So, faced with overwhelming support for health care reform (including the public option) from Americans and doctors, Republicans have started arguing that the health care bill will pay for elective abortions. There is not a single grain of truth to this argument, which apparently does not matter to the USCCB.
Let's deconstruct this nonsense...
In an op-ed for National Review (an ultra-Conservative publication), on July 23, 2009, Minority Leader John Boehner wrote that President Obama was trying to expand abortion by sneaking it through his health care reform effort and would force American tax-payers to fund abortions. Boehner also accused the President of trying to undermine organizations (like the Catholic Church) that do not support or perform abortions by making it illegal for them to deny abortion services. The biggest lie (which he labels a "fact") is this: "This public plan, like all plans, will be required to classify abortion as an "essential benefit," forcing American citizens to directly subsidize abortion-on-demand with their tax dollars."
These baseless accusations have energized anti-abortion advocates, like the Catholic Church, into opposing what is an essential and basic pro-life issue.
It is important to remember that the Hyde Amendment (passed in 1976) bans the use of federal funds for elective abortions. This law does not apply in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother's life is in mortal danger. So, before any substantive discussion can begin, we must remember that it is against the law to do what John Boehner is suggesting President Obama wants to do. President Obama, who has admitted that he is pro-choice and has a 100% rating with NARAL, has said that he thinks "we... have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government-funded health care." This statement, though it goes against his own personal beliefs, is consistent with the law and consistent with
public opinion. In a recent Rasmussen poll, 48% of Americans do not want tax dollars to pay for elective abortions, while only 13% think that any health care bill should use tax-payer funds to cover abortion. 32% of Americans believe that there should not be a requirement either way.
What Minority leader John Boehner (and the USCCB) does not understand is that most private health insurance policies already cover abortion, whether or not people realize it. This would not change under any health care reform bill, thus making it abortion-nuetral. But there's more.
While there are five different health care bills in Congress right now, H.R. 3200 is the most talked about. H.R. 3200, for instance, has an amendment authored by Lois Capps (D-Ca), which specifically prohibits tax-payer funds from being used to pay for abortions. The bill is only seven pages long, and it is triple spaced, so it should not take long to read, however, no one cares to read it. And those who have, have consciously twisted her language to fit their narrow view.
The Capps Amendment would not require abortion coverage to be part of the minimum benefits package, as many claim it would. It would be up to the insurer whether or not the plan covers abortion... as it stands now. I will simply quote the bill:
"The Health Benefits Advisory Committee may not recommend under section 123 (b) and the Secretary may not adopt in standards under section 124(b), the services described in paragraph (4)(A) or (4) (B) as part of the essential benefits package and the Commissioner may not require such services for qualified health benefits plans to participate in the Health Insurance Exchange."
This seems pretty straightforward, but, again, there are people who want to twist and fabricate. The bill clearly states that abortion coverage is not required for the minimum benefits package in order to "participate in the Health Insurance Exchange." In section two, Capps goes further: "VOLUNTARY CHOICE OF COVERAGE BY PLAN.-In the case of a qualified health benefits plan, the plan is not required (or prohibited) under this Act from providing coverage of services described in paragraph (4) (A) or (4)(B) and the QHBP offering entity shall determine whether such coverage is provided."
The amendment authored by Lois Capps is straightforward (again) in preventing tax-payer funds from being used to cover elective abortions. The Capps amendment requires insurers to segregate the cost of abortion coverage from the premiums, which would be paid for by the insured, not tax-payers. The public option may or may not include abortion coverage, but, again, the cost of that would be paid out of the pocket of the insured, not the tax-payers. Again, here are the words from the amendment:
"(T)he plan shall provide assurances satisfactory to the Commissioner that- (A) any affordability credits provided under subtitle C of title II are not used for purposes of paying for such services; and (B) only premium amounts attributable to the actuarial value described in section 113(b) are used for such purpose."
The Capps amendment also defers to the Hyde amendment, which prohibits tax-payer funds from being used to pay for abortion services. It clearly states, in no uncertain terms, that the bill would have "No EFFECT ON FEDERAL LAWS REGARDING ABORTION." Um... that includes the Hyde amendment, in case you are a Republican or an American Catholic Bishop.
Despite the concerns of the USCCB (raised by John Boehner in his op-ed), the health care proposals would not make it illegal to deny abortion services. The Capps amendment makes this point clearly, if they would only take five minutes to read the damn bill:
"Nothing in this Act shall be construed to have any effect on Federal laws regardin- (A) conscience protection; (B) willingness or refusal to provide abortion; and (C) discrimination on the basis of the willingness or refusal to provide, pay for, cover, or refer for abortion or to provide or participate in training to provide abortion."
How can this be any clearer? Notice that it says, "Nothing in this Act shall be construed," yet that is exactly what Boehner, the GOP, and the USCCB are doing: CONSTRUING!
Another point of concern for the GOP and the USCCB is that Obama is creating "death panels." This has been refuted time and time again, yet there is this persistent element in our society who refuses to accept... oh, I don't know, facts? The elderly and the disabled will not be subjected to any "death panel." It's as pure and simple as that.
The section that has been mis-represented by Sarah Palin, the GOP, and the USCCB, is on the establishment of a Comparative Effectiveness Research Center, which will "conduct, support, and synthesize research" that looks at "outcomes, effectiveness, and appropriateness of health care services and procedures in order to identify the manner in which diseases, disorders, and other health conditions can most effectively and appropriately be prevented, diagnosed, treated, and managed clinically." This is no death panel. This is not a scheme to promote euthanasia for the elderly or disabled. Instead, the CERC will study which treatments are the most effective, thus providing patients and doctors better information and tools for sustaining and extending life, not ending it ASAP. Beyond that, the CERC would only make recommendations about the best methods, not make requirements. The bill makes that absolutely clear: "Nothing in this section shall be construed to permit the Commission or the Center to mandate coverage, reimbursement, or other policies for any public or private payer." Again, there is that word "construed." Does the USCCB or GOP not have access to a dictionary?
The bill also allows seniors to have end-of-life counseling with their doctor, which would be tax-payer funded. Despite the ridiculous claims made by Sarah Palin, these would be voluntary sessions, not mandatory. "It turns out that I guess this arose out of a provision in one of the House bills that allowed Medicare to reimburse people for consultations about end-of-life care, setting up living wills, the availability of hospice, etc.," Obama said. "So the intention of the members of Congress was to give people more information so that they could handle issues of end-of-life care when they’re ready on their own terms. It wasn’t forcing anybody to do anything."
The "Advanced Care Planning Consultation" in Section 1233 is not a scheme to encourage patients to pull their own "plug". It is actually supported by AARP, which is a group that advocates for senior citizens. On the AARP site, they devote a page to debunk the absurd notion that end of life counseling is a back-door for euthanasia. They write that "Several studies in recent years have found that when doctors have end-of-life discussions with patients and families, patients have less anxiety." The study found that "Less aggressive care and earlier hospice referrals were associated with better patient quality of life near death," whereas those who failed to engage in those discussions “experienced worse quality of life, more regret, and were at higher risk of developing a major depressive disorder.” In other words, as people age it becomes increasingly important to know the available options. One doctor even expressed that it is in the best interest of the doctor to keep the patient alive in order to avoid lawsuits. So, for those who cannot comprehend morality, there are also financial reasons to extend the life of patients.
But beyond the needs of the patient, the counseling is also important for the family, who often argue or agonize over what their loved one would want, in the event that they are incapacitated. Having a clearly defined living will prevents the hand-wringing and guilt: the will of the patient is clear and decisive, even if it means a kidney transplant for an unconscious 89 year old man.
At this point, it is hardly worth debating with the lunatic/ paranoid fringe, with which the USCCB has aligned itself. All the facts are known, they are out there, but they choose to expose themselves to conspiracy theories, which only serve to support their fears. In an excellent editorial in today's LA Times, Gregory Rodriguez argues that it might not be useful to try to educate people who cling to conspiracy theories. He cites a study in which conservatives, when presented with information proving that there were no WMDs in Iraq, believed even more strongly that there were WMDs in Iraq. Instead of putting down these buyers of misinformation and rumors, Rodriguez writes: "Rumors and conspiracy theories often supply simplified, easily digestible explanations (and enemies) to sum up complex situations. However crass, they're both fueled by a desire to make sense of the world."
He may very well be right.
I am heartened, however, to see that not all Catholics have given themselves over to madness.
Chris Korzen of Catholics United has come out strong against the USCCB, Stop the Abortion Mandate, Family Research Council, and the Catholic League, who have been promoting lies and misinformation, not to mention mis-representing Catholic teachings. Korzen, on the Catholics United site, writes "The Family Research Council's continued effort to distort the facts leads one to wonder whether the group's true intent is to derail health care reform," said Korzen. "Instead of issuing misleading attacks and inciting fear, the Family Research Council would do better to support efforts aimed at implementing abortion-neutral policies in health care reform legislation.” Catholic Charities, a non-profit Catholic organization that provides food and clothing to the poor, has been fully comitted to health care reform saying "Health care reform: We can't wait!" Though it maintains that it will not support any bill that extends abortion rights, it seems to enthusiastically support the current reform efforts, implying that it does not support the wild accusations of the USCCB.
There is also some indication that there is a schism between U.S. Bishops. Bishop Michael Sheehan told the National Catholic Reporter that the anger against Obama among U.S. Bishops comes mostly from a small minority, but the majority of centrist Bishops do not want a public fight over health care, so they have not spoken up. The Catholic News Service also reported that U.S. Bishops were glad to hear from President Obama, in his speech before a joint session of Congress, that his proposal would not allow for tax-payer funded abortions. "We were gratified to hear that federal funds would not be used for abortions and that conscience protections would be maintained," Sister Carol Keehan said. "We were pleased to hear him say we were going to move on now. There are too many people ... who need this kind of (health care) assistance. We believe it is long overdue. It is a moral and economic imperative and we were pleased to hear him put it in those terms."
This was not an easy blog to write. I love my Church. I am pained to see what is happening from conservative Catholics in the hierarchy, who are using their position to advance their own personal, partisan beliefs. But it makes me angry, too. I am pro-life. I oppose abortion, I oppose the death penalty, I support the environment, and I support social justice. But you know what? I also support the truth. I do not support lies or fabrications, no matter who is telling them.
I pray that they come out of their intellectual darkness, and into the light of truth.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
By Jose Rodriguez
President Barack Obama spoke today to at the United Nations. His speech urged the world to take stronger action on the threat of Global Climate Change; he insisted that the United States is no longer beholden to the "go it alone" mentality that dominated the Bush administration; and he reminded that all nations must be aggressive in their economic policies in order to prevent a backslide into economic ruin.
He also spoke firmly on the issue of Middle-East peace. He affirmed that he would continue to work for a lasting peace between Israel and Palestine. He called on Palestine to rein in their militants, while reminding Israel that their settlements were not legitimate in the eyes of the United States. While aware that the peace process would be difficult, and that it would require Israel to recognize Palestinians have legitimate claims, and that it would require Palestinians to recognize that Israel has a right to exist.
There came a moment when the President reminded the UN body that we are "all God's children." He stressed that we all have the right to live in dignity, and that it was not acceptable for Gazans to have to live without clean drinking water. It was a not so subtle reminder that there is a moral component in bringing about a lasting peace to the people who live in the Holy Land.
The President of the United States has my full support on this issue.
On Tuesday, the President met with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As acknowledged in the speech, the President knew that it would be difficult to forge a lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This was demonstrated on Tuesday when Netanyahu refused to halt all settlement construction in the West Bank, only agreeing to a time- limited freeze. Mahmoud Abbas, who had refused to meet with Netanyahu until he halted all settlement building, allowed himself to be photographed shaking hands with Netanyahu, though that was a moment of embarrassment for him. They see Obama as even-handed, something they have not seen from previous Presidents, so Abbas (as a token of goodwill) agreed to the photo-op.
The President, after meeting both leaders, demonstrated his annoyance and impatience : “It is past time to stop talking about starting negotiations; it is time to move forward... Permanent status negotiations must begin and begin soon. So my message to these two leaders is clear: despite all the obstacles, all the history, all the mistrust, we have to find a way forward.” The way forward will be difficult as Netanyahu and Abbas have different goals: Abbas wants complete independence and statehood, whereas Netanyahu wants to maintain the occupation with limited Palestinian self-rule.
Afterward, Netanyahu claimed that Abbas had given up his preconditions (an implicit self-congratulatory remark, since he did not have to stop all settlement construction) and agreed to negotiations; Abbas has said that negotiations must be on final status issues, including the refugee problem and the issue of Jerusalem. On this issue, Abbas has the full support of President Obama, who insists that negotiations will include the refugee problem, borders, Jerusalem, and guaranteed security for Israel. Netanyahu, like every one of his predecessors, would prefer to kick that can down the road and only speak about future topics for future final status negotiations.
While Netanyahu seems to have won this round of diplomacy, there are signs that the President's patience is growing thin and that he will compel the Israelis to be honest participants in negotiations. According to aides within the Obama administration, the President reminded Abbas and Netanyahu that the upcoming negotiations will be based on past agreements, including Oslo and the Clinton parameters.
There are also rumors that President Obama will summon both leaders to Washington D.C. to begin final status negotiations. However, Netanyahu, who has seen his poll numbers rise as he has defied President Obama, may not be willing to play ball. The failure of any upcoming negotiations would only further erode Abbas' authority, as his numbers have fallen due to a failure to bring about any concessions or promises from Israel in the last decade. That has happened because Israel has refused to make any significant movement toward peace, as President Bush was not particularly interested in peace in the Middle-East and he was content to just allow the Israeli government to do whatever it pleased.
In the end, it might very well be that the Obama administration will have to impose a settlement on both parties, whether they like it or not.
By Jose Rodriguez
Barack Obama ran for President promising to bring "change" to Washington D.C., which turned out to be a winning promise. Even though Americans elected him to bring that change, there has been a shrill and loud portion of our society, motivated by partisan hatred, who have stopped at nothing to block his efforts to bring the change that Americans elected him to enact. Change is a frightening prospect for this segment of society, who respond with scurrilous allegations: Obama is really a Muslim; he hates America; he's a socialist; he was not really born in this country; he's a Nazi; he wants to kill old people; and on and on and on. People, like Rep. Joe Wilson, want to engage in that form of demagoguery in order to uphold the status quo. They want to shout down the President during an important speech, calling him a liar or contradicting him.
But Joe Wilson is not the first Wilson to shout at a President advocating for change during a speech.
In late November 1995, President Bill Clinton became the first U.S. President to make an official visit to Northern Ireland. More so than any President before or since, Bill Clinton was heavily involved in the Irish peace process; Clinton even appointed former Maine Senator George Mitchell to be the first Special Envoy to Ireland (George Mitchell is now the Special Envoy to the Middle-East, where he hopes to broker a peace deal). The conflict between Protestants and Catholics in Northern Ireland seemed so intractable that no previous President wanted to expend any energy finding a solution. President Clinton, however, had made bold promises to the Irish community in the United States, and he intended to keep them. By going to Ireland, he hoped to jump start the failing negotiations between Catholics and Protestants, who had been locked in conflict (known as the Troubles) for decades. Before long, not only had Clinton fallen completely in love with the Irish, but the Irish fell head over-heels in love with the Clintons (Hillary benefited from this love during her Presidential run in 2008). That the leader of the free world would come and meet with Irish leaders and everyday people was an immense honor for them. Protestants and Catholics alike flocked by the thousands (culminating in a speech attended by 100,000 people in Dublin) to see and hear the President of the United States, who was there to advocate for change and peace.
While a majority of Irish on both sides of the conflict wanted change and peace in Northern Ireland, fringe elements within both communities wanted to uphold the status quo. They were the loudest and most violent, so they were successful, for decades, in prolonging the conflict. These people criticized the President's visit, saying that he had no business being in Ireland, and that he certainly had no business interfering in the on-going negotiations.
However, as Clinton got out into the public, shook hands, hugged hundreds of people, shared stories, and even accepted a few beers (which the Secret Service quickly poured out), the Irish public were very warm and receptive to Clinton and his message of hope. The Irish flocked to Clinton by the droves, swarming him and enveloping him, wanting to touch him and be in his presence, as though they could be infused with his energy and power. In reality, it was the President who was feeding off their energy, driving him for nearly 48 hours with virtually no sleep. The Secret Service was alarmed by this obvious inability to maintain security, but the President was more than eager to drown himself in the sea of people. This was, as he put it, the happiest time of his life.
While in Ireland, President Clinton stopped at the Mackie factory in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was owned by a Protestant, but he employed Catholics and Protestants. This place was, ostensibly, a symbol for peace and co-existence, but many of the employees either belonged to the IRA or for Protestant para-militaries in their time off. Before Clinton spoke, two children gave speeches that told of their suffering, but also called for peace. After young Cathy Hamill brought the room to tears with the story of her father's murder, Clinton took the stage.
President Clinton, wagging his finger and clenching his fist, proclaimed, "only you can decide between division and unity, between hard lives and high hopes. You must say to those who would still use violence for political objectives: 'You are the past, your day is over!'" This was a bold statement, considering that those people were in the room with him. It was also an obvious play on the famous IRA slogan, which said "Our day will come." Clinton was challenging these people to turn their backs on the past and to move forward toward change, toward peace.
Not everyone was receptive to his message of change.
Cedric Wilson, a Protestant leader of the Northern Ireland Unionist party, shouted, "Never!"
As Clinton promised to "walk with" them if they chose to "walk the path of peace," Wilson continued to heckle President Clinton: "Never!" "Those who showed the courage to break with the past," Clinton said, "are entitled to their stake in the future." Again, Wilson shouted, "Never!" Clinton pointed out Wilson, the heckler, who stood for the past, not the future of Ireland.
"Peace must be waged with a warrior's resolve-- bravely, proudly, and relentlessly-- secure in the knowledge of the single greatest difference between war and peace; in peace everybody can win." The President received a standing ovation that seemed to last forever. The people of Ireland were resolute: they were rejecting the Wilsons of the world.
In the end, due to the tireless efforts of Clinton, Mitchell, and the interested parties in Ireland, there was a negotiated peace in Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement (April 10, 1998) was not only supported by the Irish governments and the British government, but it was also supported by the Irish people through a referendum. The people made a
choice for peace, rather than protracted violence and conflict. Though in recent years groups in Ireland have tried to re-ignite the Troubles, the people have held fast to the principles of the Good Friday Agreement. Hillary Clinton has even appointed Declan Kelly to be the U.S. Special Envoy to Ireland, and she plans to visit Northern Ireland next month to review the peace process and to give a speech about the threat to peace posed by para-military groups in Ireland. This focus on Ireland is a break from the Bush administration, who largely ignored Ireland and left the U.S. participation in the peace process to the State Department. Had they continued Bill Clinton's level of involvement, the situation in Ireland might be less perilous.
In the end, in a round-about sort of way, there are Wilsons in our world who shout "You lie!" or "Never!" to people who are interested in change, or in making progress. They are defenders of the status quo. As our country struggles to make sense of the health care bills in Congress (while continuing to be raped by insurance companies), we should all, at least, agree that we want to move forward-- that we all want change and progress.
And we should all agree to ignore all the Wilsons of the world.
Thursday, September 17, 2009
By Jose Rodriguez
Okay, how about we start with some TEA Party basics.
The people who organized the nationwide TEA Party protests originally were upset about the increased spending of the Obama administration and the creation of TARP (which was established by the Bush administration, not the Obama administration). Their rallying cry was "Taxed Enough Already!" At the tax day protests, in over 800 cities, there were people dressed in 18 century colonial attire; other people tossed tea into rivers and harbors, in a silly attempt to emulate the acts of the Sons of Liberty over 230 years ago in Boston Harbor. Get it? Tea Party? Boston Tea Party?
Here's the problem.
The Sons of Liberty were protesting the imposition of taxes by the British government. These taxes were then sent back to England. It was colonialism. Not only were the American colonists upset by the taxation, but they were angered by the imposition of taxes without representation. So, in other words, they were not bothered by taxes: they were bothered by the fact that they had no say in the taxation and that their tax dollars went to benefit a small country across a large body of water.
This is not happening now. We enjoy full representation, representation that has found it necessary to tax certain items since the creation of the Constitution and who also found it necessary to collect income tax since 1861. And our tax dollars are not going to benefit some colonial overlord in a far away land, but they are benefiting us here in the United States. So... there is no way to compare them to the Patriots who wrested our Independence from the British empire.
These TEA Parties have been described as "astroturf"; in other words, they are not a true "grassroots" movement, but are manufactured by partisan conservative groups. What is the reason for this characterization?
Well, how about the fact that the TEA Parties were organized by Freedomworks, a conservative political advocacy group established by former House Majority Leader Dick Armey. The TEA Parties have also been heavily covered by Fox News, who has regularly portrayed the protesters as "real Americans," implying that those who support the President are not "real Americans." Fox has given ample time to the protesters and the screamers and the deathers, as well as providing a forum for lies and myths. These protests are not a spontaneously created movement, but have been created by the rich, the wealthy, interest groups, and conservative partisans seeking to bring the President of the United States to his "Waterloo".
Does that mean that all the people at these rallies and protests are political agents? Does it mean they are willing pawns for larger interests?
I would say all these people are really upset about the appearance that government is growing too big, that it is overreaching, and that they are going to be overtaxed. However, these people get their information solely from Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck, Lou Dobbs, or Fox News. They are also readers of conservative blogs, or blogs that deal with lies and scare tactics. They probably are recipients of mass e-mails that are sent out by people trying to manufacture conspiracies. These people are not willing to seek out alternative information, nor are they willing to challenge what their ideological icons say, or to check the facts behind their bold statements and accusations. They are moved to action based on lies, myths, distortions, and their own ignorance.
Now, there has been a lot of talk that these protesters are "overwhelmingly" racist. Of course, all the conservative talking heads (who have encouraged these protesters) cry foul. Glenn Beck likened the accusation of "racist" to crying fire! in a crowded theater. Sean Hannity responded to the racist accusation by saying: ""[T]hese are despicable tactics. It's all designed to silence critics. It's all designed to intimidate. It's all designed to shut down opposition." Rush Limbaugh put his two cents in, of course: "Any criticism of an African-American's policies or statements or misstatements is racist, and that's it. Therefore, the question: Can this nation really have an African-American president?" Charles Krauthammer even described Democrats as being "desperate," which he thinks is why many have accused the right of indulging in racism to shoot down the President's health care reform efforts.
I do not agree that the "overwhelming portion" of protesters are racist. There is inarguably a small portion of the protesters that are racist, and that is quite obvious. All one has to do is look at some of the signs carried at the 9/12 TEA Party in Washington D.C.:
Beyond that, the signs were also outrageous and ridiculous. This proves that the "overwhelming portion" were not racist, but extremist and crazy:
The political climate is becoming hostile. Words often times lead to actions, which can have violent and deadly consequences. These protests are a forum for hate speech. It appeals to the worst in all of us, particularly our anger against those who are not like us. They serve to divide American's against one another, and a house divided against itself cannot stand. We are all biased and prejudiced, and there are political talking heads who want to exploit those prejudices for their own political ends, or for their own aggrandizement. We should reject these hate mongers and expose them for what they are: opportunists.
Do not forget that political extremism exists on both sides of the aisle and across the political spectrum.
Lee Harvey Oswald was a self-avowed communist who hated President Kennedy for his policies against Cuba and communism in general. On the day of his death the Dallas Morning News ran an ad from the American Bible Society that blasted Kennedy's "softness" towards global "Godless" communism. This sentiment was common in the south, particularly in Texas. That political hatred and demonization, from left and right, ended with President Kennedy being assassinated in Dallas, Texas on November 22, 1963.
About one hundred years before, John Wilkes Booth killed President Lincoln at Ford's Theater after the end of the Civil War. Wilkes was an ardent supporter of the Confederacy and hated President Lincoln because he had the audacity to wage a war to free African Americans from their bondage and to maintain the integrity of the Union. Booth was a racist, who hated abolitionists. He even attended the hanging of John Brown, who is yet another example of political extremism leading to violence and murder.
James Earl Ray shot and killed Martin Luther King jr, because he was angered by King's efforts to bring civil rights to African Americans and to force the south to integrate. He was a racist who used politcal grievances to justify this violent act.
Sirhan Sirhan, a Palestinian immigrant, was enraged by Senator Robert F. Kennedy's support for Israel, so he killed the Senator at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. He was also drunk (according to Sirhan), but he was obsessed with Kennedy for quite sometime and had long determined to "eliminate" Senator Kennedy before "June 5th." He was successful.
In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 by a right-wing Jewish radical named Yigal Amir. Amir justified the killing of Rabin because Rabin was engaged in the Oslo Peace process with the Palestinians. Amir, like many on the right in Israel and the U.S., do not believe in working towards peace with the Palestinians, and instead believe in perpetuating violence. In his case, there were also religious motivations for killing Rabin, who he accused of surrendering the Holy Land to the Palestinians.
I can go on and on and on and on and on about this. There is no end to the examples of political opponents using violence to advance their own causes. There is a very real possibility that this can happen in our time. There is a very real possibility that our country will descend into race wars if this President is killed by a racist TEA bagger, believing that he is acting justly and morally by killing the President of the United States.
I guess the bottom-line is this:
Whether these people are racists or not, there nonetheless is a significant level of hatred and anger from a fringe element in our society. We should all be concerned and afraid that this situation, with a single violent act, could throw our country into a tail-spin, the likes of which have not been seen since the civil war.
Now... can we get back to the Health Care debate, please?
- Dissent Is Cool
- I'm an author and writer. I attend UCSB, where I just completed my BA in history, and am one class away from finishing my English BA. I will continue on to get my Masters degree in education. Eventually, I will get my PhD. I am also an educator, working with Special Education and College Bound junior high school students. In my spare time, I am a writer, painter, and photographer.