Innocence Lost: The Path From Purity To Pragmatism

The attainment of morality is an elusive construct. Attempting to define the morality of a society is even more complex. Often, the combatants seeking to instill morality believe, with certainty, that the end justifies the means. In truth, cohesion often requires the concession of purity.


Commentary By: Daniel DiRito

AshesOfInnocence.jpg

Many Americans like to look at Europe as an example of the moral decay we can expect if we continue to alter our values and ignore our long standing Christian principles. Implicit in this belief, amongst many on the religious right, is the presumption that one’s morality is directly correlated with one’s sexuality…and that goes beyond any consideration of one’s orientation. It also includes a belief that sexual activity is only acceptable under the umbrella of a marriage. That means that sex before marriage is unacceptable and it also infers that both parties are expected to be virgins.

Along with these sexual mores and our disdain for Europe is a growing belief that Islam is an unacceptable religion…or at the very least a religion that will not lead to salvation and therefore it cannot lead to one’s admittance into heaven. Fortunately, life often provides the contrasts and comparisons necessary to illuminate the absurdity and/or hypocrisy of our beliefs…and our predisposition to judge others while ignoring the need for self-examination.

An article in The New York Times provides the backdrop for some measure of reflection…and an illumination of the slippery slope that moral certainty often becomes. The prevalence of Islamic immigrants in Europe has served to pit a strict religious ideology against a far more secular society…and that has led to some rather convoluted interpretations of propriety.

It seems that a number of the Islamic women (note that we don’t focus on the Islamic men) who have partaken in the sexual freedoms afforded by European culture now find themselves in the unenviable position of being unacceptable marriage partners. Islamic teaching require that a bride be a virgin, and should that not be the case, she can be rejected and the marriage can be nullified

Friday, August 5th, 2011 by Daniel DiRito |

Opening The Files: 10/13/07

Things are heating up for both sides in the Get Gore campaign.


Commentary By: The Xsociate

An Assault on Nobel Reason

Depending on ones political slant, yesterday you were either suffering from Goremania or Gore-aphobia with the news that Al Gore had won the Nobel Peace Prize. Righties immediately sought to downplay the significance of the award. They were joined by the always obliging Fox News who, though a little slow on the uptake, were soon smearing in style.

With this cap to a year of awards, naturally the topic soon turned to the heated speculation (pun intended) of whether Al would seek out the most coveted prize of all: the Presidency. It’s not all that surprising that in the wake of this award, the thirst for a Gore candidacy would only become more parched. After all, it is but another example of how were it not for the decision of nine Supreme Court justices seven years ago to award Bush the presidency, we may not find ourselves in such dire straits regarding a multitude of problems facing humanity.

In light of that, it’s not surprising there are those pondering what might have been.

Noam Scheiber wonders what effect all the gaga over Gore is having on Bush. Al probably shouldn’t wait up for that congratulatory call.

Gotta love Fox News’ suggestion about who should have been awarded a “peace” prize. Then again, “peace” has been a pretty relative term with them for a while. Hunter, meanwhile, has some other suggestions.

Bob Franken ponders what a head to head with fellow Tennessean Fred Thompson would look like should Al run. For Fred’s stake, lets hope it doesn’t come down to giving short, concise answers.

And some wonder what Gore’s advocacy of confronting climate change has to go with a world peace. My bloghost at ASZ Richard Blair connects the dots for us.

(X-posted at The Xsociate Files)

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011 by The Xsociate |

The Net Neutrality Battle’s “Philly” Flavor

Net Neutrality is an issue I know little about, but it’™s a Philly issue when Comcast and its Executive VP David Cohen is involved. The FCC hearing at Harvard is the subject of controversy, with Comcast blowing it with a sophomoric strategy that backfired bigtime.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Oh, I suppose hijinks like Comcast’™s blocking opposition by monopolizing seats at the FCC net neutrality hearing in Cambridge the other day aren’™t just Philly-style hijinks. The whole brouhaha is sure getting a lot of press, though, and Comcast is getting the short end of it. Let’™s give a little background.

The FCC planned a hearing at Harvard on the issue of net neutrality. They planned it for a room that held 290 people, and Comcast paid people off the streets to take seats in the front rows. Petty tactic, but Comcast is claiming the guys off the streets were saving seats for Comcast employees, a claim that would work if the Comcast employees actually showed up to replace the shills off the streets who slept through the meeting. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Attention was called to Comcast’™s tactic by Free Press officials who attended the hearing. One photographed two seat-warmers sleeping during the hearing.

‘œWe spent time educating the public about the event and the issue,’ said Free Press spokeswoman Jen Howard, ‘œand we did not have to pay anyone to attend.’

Bracy, of the Berkman Center, said the group of seat-warmers caught her attention when she showed up at the Ames Courtroom at 7:15 a.m. Monday to prepare for the hearing.

About 35 people – mostly men dressed in jeans and baseball caps and one in a camouflage jacket – were parked in the first three rows of the auditorium drinking coffee and reading the Boston Globe, she said.

They were ‘œregular Joes’ who looked like they could have come from Dunkin’™ Donuts, Bracy said. She was surprised to find them there several hours before the late-morning event. ‘œI thought, great, we’™re reaching out to new communities.’

But Bracy’™s suspicions of the Internet activists grew when none of them appeared to know about wireless Internet capabilities and two in the front row fell asleep during the hearing.

Why would Comcast do such a thing. OK, I know net neutrality is a contentious issue, and I know that Comcast is the wrong side of it, but I’™m no expert on the issue. Indeed, I’™ve always wondered why net usage hasn’™t, at least somewhat, been priced by bandwidth usage. Comcast sure would love that, wouldn’™t they? No, I’™m not all that up on the issue of net neutrality, so this article isn’™t about that subject, really. If you want to read about net neutrality, go check out the wikipedia article, or go to savetheinternet.com. No, I won’™t talk much about net neutrality. I’™ll write here about Comcast, their dirty little tricks, how they were incompetent at pulling those dirty tricks off, and how now they’™re going to have to go into the belly of the beast, Silicon Valley, and argue their case. Of course, the Comcast story here probably starts with David Cohen.

David Cohen has a big rep here in Philly. He was a monster presence at Ballard Spahr, a large national law firm with its headquarters here in Philly. During the 90′™s David Cohen worked for the Ed Rendell Mayoral Administration here in the city as Chief of Staff. I remember hearing a speech David Cohen gave to the local American Red Cross chapter about ten years ago. He had the wife and kids up on the stage, and he told a story that is also told in Buzz Bissinger’™s book ‘œA Prayer for the City,’ a moving look at the challenges the Ed Rendell administration faced in Philly in the 90′™s. The story was of an officer who had been shot, and of the intimate exchange that happened at the hospital between Mayor Rendell and the young son of the officer who died. No, not a dry eye in the house. To me, David Cohen will always be the man who told that story and moved me, though he is also now the Executive Vice President of Comcast, a company that has long thrown its monopolistic weight around here in the Philly area and across the country.

I’™m not a Comcast fan. When I first lived in Philly I paid for their services, which went up and up and up seemingly every year. They had no competition, so they charged whatever they pleased, or so it seemed. Heck, that’™s why I’™m with Direct TV now. But I’™ve been a David Cohen fan in the past. And this silly stunt Comcast pulled at the hearing in Cambridge is not something I would expect of Cohen. It is not that I think Cohen is above playing a little hardball on the issues that effect his company. It is that David Cohen has never been so clumsy and incompetent as Comcast has shown themselves with this incident. Let’™s make sure to focus on the issue. One of Comcast’™s most important tasks is to LOOK like it is a good corporate citizen, even if it is on the wrong side of such a populist issue as net neutrality. Comcast’™s tactics blew that fiction apart. Indeed, Comcast will be rewarded with that with a hearing at Stanford, a place where Comcast critics are sure to have a crowd far more energized than the one in Cambridge.

Yeah, Comcast screwed up trying to protect David Cohen by filling the front rows of the auditorium in Cambridge with docile bodies of shills off the street. They should have left well enough alone, for they’™ve gotten bad publicity and an even worse forum, from their viewpoint, for the next hearing. This is simple incompetence on the scale of a George Bush. David Cohen used to be a Democrat, but I’™m beginning to wonder given this incompetent performance.

Sunday, July 31st, 2011 by Richard Blair |

Taliban Advances in Pakistan

The ham-handed, post-9/11 foreign policy moves of the Bush administration have actually led the world much closer to the possibility nuclear terrorism. In the near term, President Obama is left with very few (if any) realistic options to deal with the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan.

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Taliban in PakistanIn the immediate aftermath of the events of 9/1//2001, the Bush administration made a strategic foreign policy blunder that is still reverberating with negative consequences: embracing the government of Pakistan, then controlled by military strongman Pervez Musharraf, as a full partner in the administration’s horribly misguided “global war on terror”.

The thing is, the Musharraf regime was never more than an unwilling accomplice to BushCo’s wet dreams of U.S. dominion in the Middle East. Terrorist training camps within Pakistan continued to operate unfettered even as U.S. forces stormed into neighboring Afghanistan. Operations conducted by Pakistan’s military have been mostly staged for “show” purposes, and have been only marginally effective. Since Musharraf’s resignation as President, extremist elements in the country have made significant inroads, up to and including the government acceding to Taliban demands earlier this year that Shari’a law be implemented in a major Pakistani province.

And now, it appears as if Taliban militias are within striking distance of toppling the Pakistani government. Militia forces have advanced to within mere miles of Islamabad:

Residents streaming from Buner, home to nearly a million people, told local newspapers that armed militants are patrolling the streets. Pakistani television stations aired footage of Taliban soldiers looting government offices and capturing vehicles belonging to aid organizations and development projects. The police, say residents, are nowhere to be seen…

…Maulana Fazlur Rehman, head of one of the country’s Islamic political parties, warned in Parliament Wednesday [that] the Margalla Hills, a small mountain range north of the capital that separates it from Buner, appears to be “the only hurdle in their march toward the federal capital,” The only solution, he said, was for the entire nation to accept Shari’a law in order to deprive the Taliban of their principal cause.

The Bush administration left office with the full knowledge that they were leaving behind a fetid, smoking pile of foreign policy manure. Without a doubt, the instability in nuclear armed Pakistan is fast becoming the number one priority for Team Obama.

It’s interesting that the handwringers on the right were so worried about extremist Islamic elements getting their hands on nuclear weaponry from Saddam in the aftermath of 9/11. Many of us on the left also harbored the same concerns – except that the geographic source of the concern was much different – Pakistan, a nation that already possessed the weapons of mass destruction.

The ham-handed, post-9/11 foreign policy moves of the Bush administration have actually led the world much closer to the possibility nuclear terrorism. In the near term, President Obama is left with very few (if any) realistic options to deal with the deteriorating political situation in Pakistan.

But deal with it, he must. And soon.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Why Not Snakes?

The CIA was authorized under the Bush Administration to use insects as interrogation enhancements. But no snakes. Not one thing about snakes. I’m smelling some kind of injustice here.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

We found out today that the Bush Administration wrote a memo that authorized the use of insects as an interrogation enhancement. Here’s the creepy crawly from Time:

The CIA desire to use insects during interrogations has not previously been disclosed, according to two civil liberties experts contacted by TIME. The Bybee memorandum, which was written on August 1, 2002, described the CIA’s plans for using insects this way:

“You [the CIA] would like to place Zubaydah in a cramped confinement box with an insect. You have informed us [the Department of Justice] that he appears to have a fear of insects. In particular, you would like to tell Zubaydah that you intend to place a stinging insect into the box with him. You would, however, place a harmless insect in the box. You have orally informed us that you would in fact place a harmless insect such as a catapiller in the box with him.”

An additional sentence at the end of this paragraph is redacted in the copy made public Thursday. Later in the same memo, Bybee concludes that “an individual placed in a box, even an individual with a fear of insects, would not reasonably feel threatened with severe physical pain or suffering if a caterpiller was placed in the box.” Bybee adds, however, that the interrogators should not tell Zubaydah that the insect sting “would produce death or severe pain.”

This sounds like the rejected script of a James Bond film or something. The evil guy, who has a lair inside a mountain, tortures Bond with insects. No, no, the rewrite says they have to use snakes. Hey, even Indiana Jones hates snakes!

Man, this is lame. The Bushies simply had no imagination. They should have had Simon Cowell lecture the terrorist suspects, or just shown them pictures of Dick Cheney and his friend with the shot up face. These guys needed some serious advice. Insects, indeed. What about the SNAKES!

Thursday, April 16th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

CNBC, PRNewswire, or AP?

Ok, this is too much. Osama (remember him?) is apparently a victim of the global economic downturn, and is being forced to franchise the al-Qaida–„– brand to terrorist groups around the world, even in embattled Somalia…

Commentary By: Richard Blair

Here’s an excerpt – you decide (link below):

…[Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Michael] Maples said the Somali extremist group al-Shabaab is poised to formally merge with al-Qaida, expanding the terrorist franchise in East Africa. An analysis of the propaganda released by both groups recently highlights their ideological similarities, suggesting a merger is forthcoming, Maples said.

Al-Shabaab conducts almost daily attacks in Somalia. A merger would strengthen al-Qaida’s foothold in East Africa…

Here’s the answer.

Tuesday, March 10th, 2009 by Richard Blair |

Obama Acts, Cornyn Whines, Specter Snivels

Barack Obama denounced torture in his Inaugural speech, and now he has signed four executive orders helping to end the practice by US personnel. John Cornyn, on the other hand, is holding up Eric Holder’s AG nomination because Holder won’t swear not to prosecute torturers, or those who gave the orders. Specter is with Cornyn.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Surely it should have dawned on Senator John Cornyn Tuesday that there’s a new regime in town and that Barack Hussein Obama will not tolerate torture. Surely he hard this section in Barack Obama’s Inaugural Address:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake.

Maybe Cornyn didn’t understand the Inaugural address, and that’s why he’s holding up Attorney General nominee Eric Holder’s confirmation? Well, if Senator Cornyn did not understand Barack Obama’s stand on torture, then the executive orders Barack Obama signed today just might get through Cornyn’s thick skull. Heck, maybe Cornyn needs some help from George Bush to understand this, after all, Cornyn is thought to be one of the stupidest Senators in the Senate. But back to Obama’s executive orders today. He is closing Gitmo within a year, forming a commission to figure out what to do with the inmates at Gitmo, some of whom are dangerous, eliminate torture by US personnel by requiring the strict adherence to the US Army Field Manual, and special circumstances concerning Ali al-Marri. Sounds to me like there’s a new sheriff in town.

But Senator Cornyn wants to leave that sheriff without his chief officer, the Attorney General. Why does Cornyn oppose Eric Holder’s nomination? Holder has yet to say whether he will or will not prosecute cases of torture perpetrated by US personnel. Cornyn is defending those who have tortured on the floor of the Senate. He’s taking up the cause Bush didn’t have the stones to do when he failed to give a blanket pardon to all who tortured in Bush’s name.

Senator Cornyn isn’t the only one who wants the torturers and those who ordered them to go scot free. Here’s a bit from the Washington Post report:

But even as Cornyn was getting out of the way of one appointee to President Obama’s Cabinet, he raised new questions about another. The Senate Judiciary Committee decided yesterday morning to delay a vote to send Holder’s nomination to the full Senate while lawmakers attended the morning National Prayer Service with Obama. The hearing was rescheduled for yesterday, but Republicans then requested a one-week delay on the nomination that Democrats were required to grant under committee rules.

. . .

Holder has generated more controversy than any other Obama nominee and was sharply questioned in an appearance before the committee last week. Many senators, including some Democrats, said they were troubled by his role in the pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich in the final days of the Clinton administration.

Led by the ranking Republican on the committee, Sen. Arlen Specter (Pa.), GOP lawmakers also said they had more questions for Holder about whether he would favor prosecuting Bush administration officials for their involvement in warrantless wiretapping and harsh detainee interrogation practices. Cornyn said he would press for Holder to take a stand on the Military Commissions Act, which the Texas Republican described as providing interrogators with immunity from prosecution if they believed they were acting legally.

So Snarlin’ Arlen is right there with his buddy John Cornyn. I’m sick of Arlen Specter. He may have a reputation for bipartisanship, but Arlen Specter failed to protect us from Bush’s authorization of the use of torture, he failed to protect us from Bush’s politicization of the Justice Department, he failed to prevent domestic spying, and he now looks to be a failure in tracking down just how the Bush Administration instituted its regime of lawlessness. Maybe he’s got a magic waterboarding theory or something that makes everybody immune.

OK, I’m angry at Arlen Specter once again. If there is any man in the US Senate who knows his own complicity in allowing the Bush Administration destruction of the Department of Justice, it should be Specter. And if Specter has a hope in Hell of negotiating his way to victory in 2010 against Allyson Schwartz or Pat Murphy or Joe Sestak, then he needs to show that he understands that the rule of law is important. Murphy and Sestak, at least, will pound him on the issue, and they’ve both got battlefield cred. Any of those candidates will use this opposition to Eric Holder as Specter trying to give one last bone to Bush, who abused the constitution far worse than any President we have had in years. For Specter’s own sake he needs to get behind Holder immediately.

I know someone who is having lunch with Mr. Specter tomorrow. OK, I know several someones, and I just might pass along a question and see if one of the folks, Specter donors all, will ask it. Give me some suggestions, please, but make them politic, something that can be asked in a roomful of people who know the constitution well and are dedicated to defending it.

Thursday, January 22nd, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Bicycle Enthusiasts are Terrorists

The Washington Post ran a stellar report yesterday about illegal surveillance by the Maryland Police, which stooped to investigating people advocating for bicycle lanes in cities. Oh, the HORROR! Bicycle lanes. A coincidence that the Maryland government at the time was run by Robert Ehrlich and Michael Steele, both Republicans? No.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

In Maryland that was evidently the case, according to an article by Lisa Rein and Josh White in yesterday’s Washington Post. More complete details are now out about the suveillance program conducted by the Maryland State Police, and it is shocking the kinds of citizens groups that agency decided to infiltrate and report on, on the slim rationalization that the groups might be harboring terrorists. This is a mighty report, that’s for sure. Here’s the lead, from the Washington Post:

The Maryland State Police surveillance of advocacy groups was far more extensive than previously acknowledged, with records showing that troopers monitored – and labeled as terrorists – activists devoted to such wide-ranging causes as promoting human rights and establishing bike lanes.

Intelligence officers created a voluminous file on Norfolk-based People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, calling the group a “security threat” because of concerns that members would disrupt the circus. Angry consumers fighting a 72 percent electricity rate increase in 2006 were targeted. The DC Anti-War Network, which opposes the Iraq war, was designated a white supremacist group, without explanation.

One of the possible “crimes” in the file police opened on Amnesty International, a world-renowned human rights group: “civil rights.”

According to hundreds of pages of newly obtained police documents, the groups were swept into a broad surveillance operation that started in 2005 with routine preparations for the scheduled executions of two men on death row.

The operation has been called a “waste of resources” by the current police superintendent and “undemocratic” by the governor.

I’m willing to bet, based on the fearmongering inherent in these actions, and the incompetence the officers showed in choosing who to monitor, that every single one of the officers who hatched this illegal and unconstitutional surveillance program were Republicans. Though he was not implicated in any of this wrongdoing, the Governor of Maryland at the time, Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr., is a Republican. Micheal Steele, current GOPAC Chair and candidate for the Chair of the RNC, was Lietenant Governor of Maryland when these ugly crimes took place. Alas, Republicans will counter that they are not crimes since no charges have been filed, but I value the constitution far more highly than they do.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a bicycle enthusist, and log ten to forty mile trips quite often throughout the spring and summer. I have even joined an advocacy group here in PA, the Friends of Schuylkill River Park. Thankfully I live in Pennsylvania, and there is no evidence, as yet, that police or others gone wild in their zeal to perform Homeland Security tasks have targeted that organization.

Monday, January 5th, 2009 by Steven Reynolds |

Alberto Gonzales Can’t Find a Job, Whines

Alberto Gonzlaes has decided to write a book. It will consist of several hundred blank pages, as he simply doesn’™t recall much of what he did during his tenure in the Bush Administration. What is pitiful is that Gonzales compares himself to victims of the War on Terror, because the Senate picked on him, I suppose. Shameful and pitiful.

Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

Republicans have been unable or unwilling to protect their own, and have not found a nice, cushy job for amnesiac and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Poor Alberto Gonzales. He’™s whining to the Wall Street Journal about his treatment on Captial Hill and et cetera, and has now decided to write a tell all book. (OK, the jokes about how he could possibly write a book if he ‘œcan’™t recall’ are cheap, if accurate.) Gonzales, famous for tracking down John Ashcroft in order to justify violating the constitution with the NSA domestic surveillance program, is now whining because, as a lawyer charged with knowing the law, he’™s got a track record of not recalling how he violated the constitution. But the whiney complaints are good reading, at least when in a Wall Street Journal blog:

Mr. Gonzales has been portrayed by critics both as unqualified for his position and instrumental in laying the groundwork for the administration’™s ‘œwar on terror.’ He was pilloried by Congress in a manner not usually directed toward cabinet officials.

‘œWhat is it that I did that is so fundamentally wrong, that deserves this kind of response to my service?’ he said during an interview Tuesday, offering his most extensive comments since leaving government.

During a lunch meeting two blocks from the White House, where he served under his longtime friend, President George W. Bush, Mr. Gonzales said that ‘œfor some reason, I am portrayed as the one who is evil in formulating policies that people disagree with. I consider myself a casualty, one of the many casualties of the war on terror.’

This is pretty much the most clueless statement I can imagine. The treatment Gonzales received concerned the program of politicizing the department he was in charge of, the Department of Justice. It came after a string of answers which showed Gonzales either didn’™t know at all what was happening in his own DOJ, or was purposely misleading Senators with a string of ‘œI do not recall’ answers. Gonzales now doesn’™t just fail to recall, he fails to understand the enormity of his incometencies. Look for no responsibility taken in this book.

Worse here is that Gonzales compares himself to the real victims in the War on Terror, the men and women who died on 9/11, the soldiers who died because of Bush’™s policies, the tens of thousands of Iraqi dead. . . those are victims of the ‘œWar on Terror.’ Mr. Gonzales is at worst complicit in some of those deaths in that he helped justify some ugly policies. At best, Gonzales is merely a bumbling incompetent, and thus his is not a tragic story. Tragedy requires one fall from great heights, after all, and while Gonzales’™ role in the Bush Administration was a high-ranking one, it was still a role in the failed and incompetent Bush Administration.

The interview with the WSJ is a bit pitiful and self-serving, of course. Gonzales is a Republican, after all. Here’™s another excerpt:

Among other things, Mr. Gonzales said Tuesday that he didn’™t play a central role in drafting the widely criticized legal opinions that allowed the Central Intelligence Agency to use aggressive interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects and expanded the president’™s power to hold ‘œunlawful combatants’ and terrorism suspects indefinitely. He also said he told the truth to Congress about a classified eavesdropping program authorized by the president, and admitted to making mistakes in handling the U.S. attorney firings while maintaining that he made the right decisions. He says that while he bears responsibility as former Attorney General that ‘œdoesn’™t absolve other individuals of responsibility.’

Mr. Gonzales, 53 years old, doesn’™t have a publisher for his book. He said he is writing it if only ‘œfor my sons, so at least they know the story.’

This last bit seems a bit poignant. Gonzales gives excuses about his behavior concerning the NSA program and the torture policies of the Bush Administration, and then cops a little responsibility about the US Attorney scandal. I’™m surprised he admits to anything, really. This guy is universally considered a liar and an incompetent, after all. But it is poignant because it appears Gonzales knows that the only ones he can convince about his good name and reputation are his own sons. How far he has fallen.

Let’™s not let Alberto Gonzales off the hook, though. He was a lawyer with a degree from Harvard when he was hired by President Bush. He’™d worked for Bush in Texas, so likely knew what he was getting himself in for. There are no excuses for the damage he did to our constitution, and while Alberto Gonzales’™ sons may indeed believe his accounts, it is unlikely anyone else will. I’™m just wondering where the man finds a publisher who will touch the book.

Wednesday, December 31st, 2008 by Richard Blair |

Christmas in Baghdad, Shamelessness on Fox News Sunday

Iraq is celebrating Christmas and CNN is making it out like there never was such freedom before the US invaded, forgetting, perhaps, that Saddam did not persecute Christians. This is not an excuse for the US invasion, as it will be played, nor is it an excuse for the excesses defended by Dick Cheney on Fox News Sunday.


Commentary By: Steven Reynolds

My first reaction to the story on CNN about the first public Christmas to be celebrated in Baghdad was quite wary. A hot air balloon supporting a huge poster of Jesus is not going to go over very well among the Muslims there, is it, no matter whether they are Sunni or Shiite. And I am not often impressed by the kumbaya nature of the depiction of the celebration, with one woman, a Muslim, explaining why she attended.

On a large stage, children dressed in costumes representing Iraq’s many ethnic and religious groups – Kurds, Turkmen, Yazidis, Christians, Arab Muslims not defined as Sunni or Shiite – hold their hands aloft and sing “We are building Iraq!” Two young boys, a mini-policeman and a mini-soldier sporting painted-on mustaches, march stiffly and salute.

Even before I can ask Interior Ministry spokesman Major-General Abdul Karim Khalaf a question, he greets me with a big smile. “All Iraqis are Christian today!” he says.

Khalaf says sectarian and ethnic violence killed thousands of Iraqis. “Now that we have crossed that hurdle and destroyed the incubators of terrorism,” he says, “and the security situation is good, we have to go back and strengthen community ties.”

In spite of his claim, the spokesman is surrounded by heavy security. Yet this celebration shows that the security situation in Baghdad is improving.

Many of the people attending the Christmas celebration appear to be Muslims, with women wearing head scarves. Suad Mahmoud, holding her 16-month-old daughter, Sara, tells me she is indeed Muslim, but she’s very happy to be here. “My mother’s birthday also is this month, so we celebrate all occasions,” she says, “especially in this lovely month of Christmas and New Year.”

I suppose this celebration of Christmas in a country wracked by violence ever since the US invasion seven years ago is going to be touted as a good thing. Heck, Dick Cheney may use this as evidence as to why it was OK to torture, spy on Americans, get hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians killed, etc., etc. That wouldn’t surprise me at all. But Cheney is trumped by the celebrants themselves. On display at the celebration are some dioramas made by school children, and in them you can see the kind of terror and pain Bush/Cheney’s invasion of Iraq brought (from CNN):

In the middle of the park there’s an art exhibit, the creation of 11- and 12-year-olds: six displays, each about three feet wide, constructed of cardboard and Styrofoam, filled with tiny dolls dressed like ordinary people, along with model soldiers and police. They look like model movie sets depicting everyday life in Baghdad.

Afnan, 12 years old, shows me her model called “Arresting the Terrorists.”

“These are the terrorists,” she tells me. “They were trying to blow up the school.” In the middle of the street a dead “terrorist” sprawls on the asphalt, his bloody arm torn from his body by an explosion. Afnan tells me she used red nail polish to paint the blood. A little plastic dog stands nearby. “What is he doing?” I ask. “He looks for terrorists and searches for weapons and explosives,” Afnan says.

Afnan was likely six years old or so when Dick Cheney and George Bush invaded Iraq on the series of false pretexts Cheney is still defending. As I understand it, Christianity was not persecuted in the days before the US invasion, so Cheney and Bush cannot lay claim to having brought freedom of religion. Afnan’s diorama of ethnic and religious violence was brought to her directly from Bush and Cheney. Indeed, in a remarkable performance for its baldfaced defense of wrongdoing, Dick Cheney appeared on Fox News Sunday and laid out a case for Bush Administration successes, a performance stunning in its tenuous grip on reality, at least the reality young Afnan sees. From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Cheney, speaking less than a month before he and President Bush leave the White House, was blunt and unapologetic about his central role in some of the most controversial issues of the last eight years, including the invasion of Iraq, warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, and harsh interrogation tactics. Cheney also said he disagreed with Bush’s decision to remove embattled Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in 2006, saying that “the president doesn’t always take my advice.”

“I was a Rumsfeld man,” Cheney said. “I’d helped recruit him, and I thought he did a good job for us.”

The interview was the second in less than a week for the normally reclusive vice president, and it comes as part of a broad effort by Bush and his aides to focus attention on issues that they consider major accomplishments of their two terms in office. In an interview with ABC News last week, Cheney suggested the administration would have gone to war with Iraq even without erroneous intelligence showing that Saddam Hussein had developed weapons of mass destruction. Cheney also said in that interview that he approved of the administration’s use of coercive interrogation tactics, including a type of simulated drowning known as waterboarding, against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and others.

Dick Cheney seals his reputation for all time as the puppetmaster behind the throne who supported policies of spying on US citiznes, invading Iraq, supporting Rumsfeld’s failed strategies, torture, etc. Perhaps because the performance was on Fox News Cheney’s immediate viewing audience did not sit in shock at the man responsible for the disasters of the last seven years. Perhaps those viewers even cheered. The rest of us know that Cheney’s policies have mangled our constitution, have destroyed our reputation in the world, have killed hundreds of thousands of innocents, and have led to the terror in young Afnan’s art project.

Again, a Republican such as Dick Cheney proves he has no sense of shame.

Monday, December 22nd, 2008 by Steven Reynolds |
Next Page »