Tuesday, August 19, 2008

A Question of Patriotism

What is it with extreme right wing conservatives who believe that they have the market cornered on Patriotism? I have to say this is one of the most frustrating and negative tactics that increasingly enter our political landscape.

Obama gave a speech today at the VFW Forum in Orlando, Florida, where he was adamant about not questioning McCain’s patriotism or his motives, and that he is looking for the same courtesy from McCain.

But one of the things that we have to change in this country is the idea that people can't disagree without challenging each other's character and patriotism. I have never suggested that Senator McCain picks his positions on national security based on politics or personal ambition. I have not suggested it because I believe that he genuinely wants to serve America's national interest. Now, it's time for him to acknowledge that I want to do the same.

Let me be clear: I will let no one question my love of this country. I love America, so do you, and so does John McCain. When I look out at this audience, I see people of different political views. You are Democrats and Republicans and Independents. But you all served together, and fought together, and bled together under the same proud flag. You did not serve a Red America or a Blue America -- you served the United States of America.

So let's have a serious debate, and let's debate our disagreements on the merits of policy -- not personal attacks. And no matter how heated it gets or what kind of campaign he chooses to run, I will honor Senator McCain's service, just like I honor the service of every veteran in this room, and every American who has worn the
uniform of the United States.

McCain and his surrogates have been very snide with their innuendos that Obama is being presumptuous (read “uppity”), ambitious, and willing to lose a war to win an election. If you’re willing to lose the war, it implies treason which makes you un-patriotic, so I don’t buy any claims from McCain and his surrogates that, that’s not what they were doing. Moreover, it is still a pervasive stereotype that anyone who has a “liberal” point of view or anyone who criticizes Bush or McCain, a POW, is an anti-American, a terrorist supporter, hates America, is a coward, etc.

Today, I read two articles written by Philip Butler, a POW and Naval Academy classmate of John McCain, and a blog by John Cafferty on CNN, and the responses their opinions generated.



Typically, all negative comments were accusing the authors of their lack of patriotism or *gasp - horror of horrors * of being a liberal. Why is it that Mr. Butler, who was a POW with McCain in the same location, but for longer, is being maligned, yet McCain who glorifies war and toughness is held up as a hero? Moreover, to paint Cafferty as drinking the liberal “Kool-Aid”, is just plain silly. I tend to think of John Cafferty, as a curmudgeonly commentator, a middle of the road, common sense guy – certainly no one who can be accused of being a liberal.

Our democracy and freedom should mean that we as Americans have a right to express our own opinions, without being maligned on our patriotism. I mean isn’t that one of the benefits the Bush administration is touting for why we invaded Iraq and got rid of Saddam? That the Iraqi people were living in tyranny, unable to voice opposition to Saddam without fear of being arrested or worse - sentenced to death?

I am not naïve to think that every international situation can be resolved peacefully. During the Saddleback Forum, both McCain and Obama were asked is there evil in the world and what should be done about it. Both candidates professed that they did believe in the existence of evil. I also believe that there is evil in the world.

People question why do bad things happen…how can God let the atrocities occur? My opinion is that God doesn’t let these things happen, people themselves cause them. God gives us the free will to do what we want. It is up to the individual how that free will is exercised. As to what can be done about it? Well, Obama was right, we need to confront it. McCain was wrong, we can’t defeat it - only God can truly defeat evil (again my personal view). Evil doesn’t end with just one war. McCain’s comment is very arrogant from a Christian point of view.

So yes, I do think there are certain situations where force is required. But War is not glorious. It asks a heavy sacrifice on our soldiers, as can be attested by the loss of life, limb, high case of PTSD and suicides. It causes just as heavy a toll in civilian populations, and it causes economic destruction. It’s been 5 years, and Iraq’s economy is still in shambles. This lack of financial stability is so crucial to getting Iraq on it's feet, and reducing our national security risk.

This is why we have to be judicious about bringing the case for War. Unfortunately, we are in danger of being “bullied” by neo-cons and extreme right wing conservatives, that anyone who opposes war is a coward, un-American, and not a true patriot.

During the Nuremburg Trials, the Nazi Leader Hermann Goering was interviewed by Gustave Gilbert, an Intelligence officer and Psychologist. There is a very enlightening conversation in Gilbert's book 'Nuremberg Diary’ from April 18, 1946,

Goering: Why, of course, the people don't want war. Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.

Gilbert: There is one difference. In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars.

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

So if we were to take a feather from the Republican Neo-con playbook, are we to infer that Bush, Cheney, and the rest of the neocon gang are being un-American and using Nazi tactics??

By the way, anyone else getting irritated with McCain’s annoying boast “I know how to win wars”? He says it every chance he has, almost as much as he mentions the “surge worked”. If he knows how to win wars, why didn’t he share his wisdom with Rumsfeld or Bush?

Note: With regards to the surge, I find it amazing that McCain constantly gets the timing of the surge and the Anbar Awakening mixed up, and the fact that he has not been honest with what the surge really accomplished. But the public opinon is still that he is a Foreign Policy Expert. A majority of the public is not aware that a significant contributing factor, for why we are able to keep the insurgency down, is due to the fact that we are PAYING Iraqi’s not to be insurgents. Essentially paying them a bribe not to rise up against our Troops. Talk about the ultimate welfare program! Although, there will be some Iraqi’s whose hatred of the “occupiers” and their own sense of nationalism is more important than any money they receive to feed their families. It was the fact that Iraqi's were getting tired of being terrorized in their own neighborhoods by Al Qaeda, that led to such events as the Anbar Awakening and the Sunni re-engagement. This all happened BEFORE the SURGE!! McCain keeps harping that it was the surge that led to the Anbar Awakening, and the reduction of violence.

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