Living Lessons Blog

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July 5th, Independence Day, the sequel, Sick Out: Iraqi F.L.U.

Here’s a post I submitted in February of 2007  on the Vermont Progressive Party Blog. It’s been slightly edited to reflect Obama’s election and my move from Vermont.

 The bottom line of the piece is that it’s time for a National Sick Out. For two reasons, both of which support Obama’s agenda for change. The first is: WE HAVE TO GET OUT OF IRAQ. COMPLETELY. NO PERMANENT BASES LEFT BEHIND. TURN THE EMBASSY INTO A MID-EAST REGIONAL HOSPITAL FOR THE TREATMENT OF WAR RELATED INJURIES AND TRAUMA. The second reason is: AMERICANS NEED HEALTH CARE NOW.

Love you. Mean it. Sad to say I no longer live in Vermont. Go Bernie! But there’s a bigger audience where I am. Tell people about this blog!

It was a beautiful day in Berkshire today so I went for a brief walk in the cold, crisp sunshine. Enjoying the crunch my footsteps made in the snow, I headed down the path thinking ‘what a great bunny slope for sledding.’ I imagined the raucous, good fun the child in my life and I could have, screaming with glee as our sled of necessity careened off the steep slope and into a snow bank before barreling smack into the middle of Berkshire Center Road and into harm’s way. I’d have to make sure we changed direction to keep us safe from on-coming traffic.

The child in my life is a bright, beautiful three-year old little girl named Nadja. Nadja doesn’t live in Vermont anymore. Her parents had to find better paying jobs, and my modest and uncertain financial life living paycheck to paycheck – or at times, no paycheck at all, means I can’t afford traveling to see her very often. Nadja means ‘promise’ in Arabic. Nadja is one hundred percent home grown American , neither of her parents being either Arab or Muslim, but she’s one hundred percent screwed in terms of the meaning of her name. On our present dangerous foreign policy course, America holds no promise for Nadja.

It’s been almost three months since the election, two months since the Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group presented an alternative political solution to President Bush’s lack of a workable plan in Iraq, three weeks since President Bush purged his dissenting military advisors, two weeks since his new “strategy” of sending 22,000 additional American men and women to Iraq, a week since his State of the Union address in which neither Katrina survivors nor Iraq War veterans were mentioned at all. And it’s only days since President Bush insisted, despite sound advice and factual evidence that our foreign policy has incited civil war in Iraq, that his new ‘strategy’ in Iraq is imperative: we can not, must not fail, American can and must succeed (since we’re not winning and we’re not losing).

Now, as if to do us all one better for calling him out, remember when Commander in Chief  Bush issued a new directive: shoot to kill Iranians in Iraq. Our troops in Iraq already have no reliable way of distinguishing Shia from Sunni from legitimate Iraqi forces from Al-Sadr militia from Iraqi insurgents from Al-Qaeda operatives. How does such a deliberately provocative directive serve the goal of winning the war on terror? Have sufficient number of Americans come to the realization that we can’t win a war against a self-constructed ideology: President Bush’s perpetual state of Terror? Terror is an irrational emotion, not a nation state or a political organization.

President Obama needs our help. We need to make sure the Beltway isn’t running the show. We need to make sure the Pentagon isn’t running our foreign policy because guns, tanks and bombs are all the big ticket hard goods anyone will buy these days.

The promise once implied for Nadja — a future in America where all the children in our lives could expect to have a close, loving relationship with their families, attend reasonably good neighborhood schools, finish high school with decent grades, succeed at university in science of math and settle into jobs paying wages sufficient to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table — has been replaced with President Bush’s promise to bring democracy to the Middle East. Both promises are being broken along with our domestic economy.

I take small comfort knowing our Congressional Delegation and most Vermonters continue to resist the national trend toward selective amnesia about the war in Iraq. Do you remember the original chain of events that got us into Iraq – without the spin. Sure you do, although President Bush hopes his spinning out-of-control, deliberate distortion of the truth and fantasy will continue to be accepted as fact. Why? Because he said so. Because he’s the decider.

The facts are finally available. We know what really got us into Iraq. Fear, lies, big business and future non-sustainable energy interests. I’d love to see just one presidential hopeful speak the truth: We made a mistake in Iraq and our next step is reconciliation and diplomatic reparations. This is what mature adults do when our choices prove to be wrong and harmful — we admit we’re wrong, we apologize, and we make amends for the damage we have cause. Some of us even manage to change our future behaviors based on past experience. There is much deeper shame in leaving our young men and women in harm’s way and continuing to devalue Iraqi women, youth and children than admitting we were wrong in trusting the Bush Administration’s assessment of the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States. Saddam is dead. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, only lethal weapons of mass deception here at home with no accompanying yellow, orange or red alerts. So why are we still there? Since November 7th, President Bush’s and Vice President Cheney’s true colors have been all too visible and they are not red, white and blue.

So, despite ‘the thumping’ the Republicans took in November 2006 and despite 70% of Americans knowing the war in Iraq can’t be won militarily, we are supposed to simply accept a spiraling debacle of violence (already supported for four years by our dedicated and excellent service men and women) morphing into an open-ended mission impossible. The new Orwellian logic from the White House? We can’t leave Iraq because we can’t give The Enemy the impression that we don’t support our troops or that we’re ‘soft’ on terror. After four years of combat (when the combat phase was declared over in 2003) and after being assured several times by Vice President Cheney that the insurgency was under control, President Bush wants the Democratic majority to take on the responsibility of coming up with a workable plan for a graceful exit instead of President Bush taking the responsibility for his deeply flawed and clearly failed ideological blunder. How do we make a graceful exit from a country we have destroyed with economic sanctions, irradiated bombs and a fabricated rationale? The answer isn’t 9/11.

The way forward is no longer about President George W. Bush. Finding the way forward falls directly into our hands and is now our responsibility as our President has clearly demonstrated neither he nor his administration is up to the task. It is time to reorient our attention away from the President’s state of denial and destructive impulses toward our real domestic necessities, our neglected international responsibilities, and the revitalization of a functional democracy at home – not left, not right, but whole. The newly elected Congress must not fall into the political and psychological trap of trying to win a hand in the game laid out to them by the Bush Administration. Congress has the support of the majority of Americans and it needs to change the game, or better yet to end this game entirely.

What must we do, now, to go forward on this one single issue? According to a recent poll, 70% of Americans now disapprove of President Bush’s mishandling of the Iraq War. It is not the job of the newly elected Congress to frame and/or adjust foreign policy; this is the President’s job. However, it is the newly elected Congress’s responsibility to have the courage to function as the checks and balances co-equal branch of our government it is meant to be. This is Congress’ charged duty under the Constitution which all members of Congress swear to uphold.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi has stated her position on two extremely important issues: the first, declaring before the election that “impeachment is off the table;” secondly, she does not support Congress cutting funding for already deployed troop surge in Iraq. Madame Speaker, it is the American public’s responsibility to move you to reconsider these positions and use your excellent leadership skills to make sure we have the change in direction we voted for in November of 2006.

Is anybody else in America as sick and tired of this metastasizing disaster as I am? How much more are we good ‘citizen-employees’ going to take, as if we are merely the passive recipients of the downstream muck flow from bad corporate management? How much more will we take out of our children’s pockets when Vermont has nothing to offer our returning service men and women but gratitude? No jobs. No means to afford sky-rocketing housing costs. No federally assisted economic plan for a state losing its agricultural base and unable to fund the broadband infrastructure required for a technology enabled future. As of 2004, an estimated 40% of U.S. profits were generated by the financial services sector. The interest generated from our credit card, mortgage debt and banking fees is helping to finance outsourcing of jobs and the demise of our domestic manufacturing base. The financial services sector is an unregulated industry which has no interest in or obligation to invest in anything ‘solid’. History affirms when a nation reaches this level of ‘financialization,’ using money to make money, by-passing investment in physical plants, manufacturing related jobs, the tax base infrastructure supporting civilian services, or research and development of alternative energy technologies is simply the shortest straight line to ever greater unregulated profit for the finance and insurance industry while you and I are expected to pay for the war in Iraq as well as sacrifice the lives of our sons and daughters.

Our Vermont delegation heard us loud and clear on November 7th. They’re doing what they can in Congress to avoid our nation being pushed into a Constitutional crisis. On behalf of the children in our lives because we can anticipate the consequences and inevitable carnage to come following President Bush’s intransigence in ignoring feedback from his Congress, the electorate and the best of his father’s advisors it’s time for Vermonters and all Americans to take escalating action in our best interests.

Let’s help our newly elected leadership show Mr. Bush the way or the door. Or else. Think about the signal such leadership would send to the world: Americans are smart enough to resolve our most pressing dilemma and we have the back bone to do whatever it takes.

Let’s give our outstanding Congressional delegation the additional political muscle they need to lead the nation out of darkness by staging a sick out on July 5th, 2009.  Just don’t go to work. Even our shrinking middle class can afford one day. What better day to begin organizing the Legislature initiating criminal proceedings against President Bush and Vice President Cheney? Perfect day to call or e-mail Senators Leahy and Sanders, and Congressman Welch and tell them we are behind them all the way. Let them know we expect their support of any and all Congressional commitments based phased withdrawal and redeployment within three months. With no negative or punitive impact on our National Guard base. Or else.

Town Meeting Day is the perfect day to call or e-mail Nancy Pelosi and tell her impeachment isn’t off the table. Ms. Pelosi doesn’t decide that, the electorate does. Call or e-mail our state legislature and Governor Douglas. Tell ‘em Vermont families can’t afford another lost life. Our failing economy can’t afford permanent national corporate tax cuts or another dollar diverted from our pressing domestic concerns. The Global Economy is passing Vermont by.

I urge all Americans but especially women with children in their lives to call in sick to Congress, the Democratic Leadership in the House and Senate and President Obama on July 5th, 2009. Let them know you’ve got a serious case of the Iraq F.L.U. (Iraq free, liberated and united in deciding its own destiny). What’s the or else? A nationwide general strike if Congress hasn’t set a date certain for phased redeployment out of Iraq.

Having a “voice” and having power so you are heard and responded to are not the same. We’ve vented, we’ve whined, we’ve discussed the Iraq war issue and have reached a political impasse that’s heading toward an Iranian cliff. It’s time to use the power we, the electorate, have to move this country in a new direction while 60% of our nation’s profit still comes from our going to our jobs every day.

No real change in direction backed up by action rather than words? No work. No peace? No work. No sane federal energy policy? NO WORK.

I intend to keep my promise to Nadja: I will do everything in my power to leave her a better, safer world in which to live. This is a promise every mother in Vermont and in America  makes in her heart,  no matter her station in life. This is the promise every mother of a serving son or daughter wants kept.

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