The Mahablog: Truth and the Bush Administration

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saturday, may 15, 2004

Go Smarty Jones
I don't have time for proper blogging this morning, as I'm about to head back to NYU for the second day of the progressive conference I mentioned yesterday. I'll have lots to blog about when I get back.
In the meantime, be sure to read "Abu Ghraib Denial" in Slate and "See No Evil" in Newsweek.


7:37 am | link

friday, may 14, 2004

Budget Boobs II
Before plunging into the Outrage du Jour, let's review Mahablog comments from February 2 (emphasis added):
Bush's 2005 budget was released today. His $2.5 trillion budget. The one gifting us with a record $521 billion deficit.
This budget, to go into effect October 1, calls for a 7 percent increase in military spending but does not provide for the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the New York Times.  An Associated Press story adds, "Officials said a supplemental request for these funds [for Iraq and Afghanistan] will be sent to Congress but not until after the November elections."
Um, excuse me, but, if you already know you're going to ask for the money within the 2005 fiscal year, isn't it kind of dishonest not to budget it now? Doesn't this amount to pre-planned budget busting? Do businesses let managers get away with this (none that I've worked for)?
Now, in this Associated Press story, the ubiquitous White House Officials say they plan to ask for a $50 billion supplement spendng bill for Iraq and Afghanistan, but not in this calendar year. However, keep in mind that the fiscal year goes from October to October.
If a business manager were to submit a budget for a fiscal year and deliberately leave out a $50 billion item for that fiscal year, thinking that he could wait until three or four months into the fiscal year and then ask for the money then, he would no doubt meet with much disfavor from his superiors. Wouldn't you think?
Well, I'd think so, anyway. But it seems the November elections came early (who won?), because the White House Officials are asking for a chunk of the $50 billion already.

The Bush administration will ask Congress for at least another $50 billion for Iraq and Afghanistan, a top Defense Department official said Thursday.

Both Republican and Democratic senators said in response that Congress would exercise much stricter oversight over any more money given for Iraq than it had in the past, because lawmakers are angry at reports that the administration used defense funds in ways Congress never approved.

President Bush asked Congress on Wednesday for $25 billion more by October, in a letter to House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill. Thursday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz told the Senate Armed Services Committee the administration will ask for even more after New Year's, and "it will surely be much larger than $25 billion." He didn't give an exact number, but estimates range as high as $80 billion. [Sumana Chatterjee, Knight-Ridder, May 14, 2004]

So, the Bushies were too dishonest to put the $50 billion into the 2005 budget they submitted in February, even though already knew they would ask for it in the 2005 fiscal year. They thought they could sneak it through after the November election while Shrub was basking in the triumph of his glorious victory. But plans have changed, and they are asking for it now.
The Bushies still fail to be entirely transparent regarding this money, however.

WASHINGTON -- Senate Democrats and Republicans assailed Bush administration officials Thursday for submitting a vaguely worded request to add $25 billion to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan beginning Oct. 1.

The new funding would be added to the more than $400 billion already sought for military uses worldwide in fiscal 2005. But lawmakers complained bitterly that the request lacked specific details and sought to circumvent the Senate's oversight role.

This is a blank check," said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. [Eric Schmitt, New York Times, May 14, 2004]

Here's the good part -- the White House wants the $25 billion placed in a fund entirely under Bush's control, without congressional oversight. Many Senators, including some Republicans, are pissed.
Several thoughts crowd into my brain at once -- Congress should be pissed about the funds allocated for military action in Afghanistan that were (illegally and unconstitutionally) redirected into preparation for the Iraq War. Let's keep that issue alive, shall we?
Second, remember that the Bushies pulled the same trick with last year's $87 billion supplement. Even though some of the line items were clearly absurd, Bush would tolerate no modification whatsoever to his request, and Congress eventually approved it over the protests of those who said more oversight was required. Since then the Bushies have been bashing Kerry with his "no" vote on the $87 billion. I think it's time to revisit the $87 billion -- if Congress shows more spine this time, Kerry should definitely make this an issue.  Also -- what did the Bushies really do with that $87 billion, anyway?
Finally, let's think about why the Bushies feel compelled to request the money now instead of waiting until after the election. Clearly they are going through money faster than they had anticipated. But does it also reveal a little uncertainty on their part regarding the election? Hmmmm?


12:23 pm | link

Program Notes
This evening and most of tomorrow I'll be attending a conference of the New Democracy Project, held at New York University. Among those listed on tonight's program are Paul Krugman, Gary Hart, Sandy Berger, and Eliot Spitzer. Should be good. I'm not yet set up to do offsite blogging (we elderly people are a bit slow about this technology stuff, you know), but I promise to take notes.
It has come to my attention that bloggers of the Right are angry at us Lefties once again because no Left blogs of note linked to the Nicholas Berg beheading video, whereas all Right blogs did. This proves, in their minds, that we don't care.
It's not that I don't care, it's just that I couldn't imagine that any properly socialized person would want to watch a beheading. I wouldn't have looked at it if you paid me, and I'm not about to encourage terrorists to behead more people by giving them the attention they seek.
I agree with this article that the beheading far overrides prison abuses on the atrocity scale. However, the prison abuses were (are?) being carried out by my government, in my name, and I'm serving notice that I don't give my consent. Al Qaeda is the enemy; they do not answer to me.
Further, the prison abuses are more significant to the U.S. because they have rendered U.S. goals for a pro-American, secular, democratic Iraq utterly unobtainable. Many on the Right have not caught on to this, it seems.
I found this editorial on a very conservative site that presents my point of view on Berg's death pretty well:

Nick Berg's mutiliation and death continues to be used to make points, and that's what distresses me this morning. We are better than the murderous terrorists who executed the decapitation and I would never argue otherwise. But when it comes to holding that severed head in front of the camera, leaders and pundits are nearly as guilty as those who killed Nick Berg.

Yesterday I feared Nick Berg's murder would be trotted out as a reason to back the war on terror. I feared it would be used by others as a reason to reject the war. I worried it would be used to downplay the sadistic actions of Lynndie England and the other guards at Abu Ghraib and to attack those who sought to uncover that scandal. I worried Berg's murder would be held up as an example of what happens when you abuse prisoners. I thought we'd see a prizeless contest develop among analysts, pundits and politicians to see who could offer the most sincere condolences combined with most strongly expressed anger at the perpetrators of the killing.

I saw a group of incredibly evil men use a severed head in hopes of pushing their agenda. Now I see Americans doing the same thing. This morning I have read editorials and statements explaining that Nick Berg's legacy will be to strengthen our resolve for the war on terror--his demise reminds us of why we must fight. I have read others who tell me Nick Berg's death is symbolic of all the reasons the war on terror is doomed and how our currently policy merely encourages needless bloodshed. Articles claim Berg's killing shows us how little merit there is in attacks on U.S. treatment of prisoners. I've read more than one person explaining that the errors we made in Abu Ghraib killed Nick Berg and will kill others. Letters of condolence, jammed pack with rhetoric carefully designed to push agendas proliferates. ...

Nick Berg is dead. I saw them kill him on the internet. That gruesome scene didn't clarify, it didn't vindicate a position. It showed a murder and made me think about things like freedom, evil and war in a very human way. Perhaps it's possible to know about what happened, to see what happened, to let it have its profound personal impact and to move to looking for ways to create a world in which we will not have to see more heads dangled in front of cameras--literally or figuratively.


U.S. tanks rumbled into the holy city of Najaf this morning. I suspect this is a huge strategic mistake, but by now one more stratigic mistake may not make much difference. Also this morning, 315 inmates were released from Abu Ghraib. I'm sure Arab news media will interview all 315 of them.


7:23 am | link

thursday, may 13, 2004

GOP Places Party Above Country
Whilte discussing a lecture given by Senator Pat Roberts at Kansas State University, Bob the Lizard tells us where Republican loyalties lie:

The lecture paid sincere tribute to George W. Bush for the ''courage to act'' after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and in this election year Roberts is not sniping at the Republican president.

Of course not; he doesn't want to wake up with a bloody horse head in his bed. But what's with the "courage to act" business? How much "courage" did it take Bush to respond to 9/11? None, of course; he was riding a tidal wave of national outrage. Had he not acted, he would have been political toast.

Nevertheless, the former Marine officer from Dodge City, Kan., is blunt in addressing two overriding problems in the war on terror: lack of accountability in the intelligence community and a messianic desire to recast the world in the American image.

These are precisely the concerns I have heard all over the country from people who call themselves Republicans and are distraught about the U.S. adventure in Iraq. They ask questions. Who is responsible for the false forecast of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that was the immediate cause for war? Are we really intent on planting democracy throughout the Arab world? These skeptics are not about to vote for John Kerry for president, but they are very unhappy. ...

Roberts' broader criticism goes beyond intelligence failure to the U.S. mission of planting the seeds of democracy on Arab soil. ''In fighting the global war against terrorism,'' he said, ''we need to restrain what are growing U.S. messianic instincts -- a sort of global social engineering where the United States feels it is both entitled and obligated to promote democracy -- by force, if necessary.'' While stressing U.S. willingness ''to use force unilaterally if necessary,'' he called it ''time for some hard-headed assessment of American interests.'' ...

As a loyal Republican and strong Bush supporter, Roberts is torn. His president is under incessant assault from Democrats, and for this reason, Roberts comes to Bush's defense. In his Landon Lecture, he suggested ''we may transform the world for the better'' in fighting the war against terrorism.

But Bush can be faulted for lack of interest in accountability and for succumbing to messianic pretensions of spreading democracy, even though Roberts does not single out the president. The questions remain whether any official ever will pay for the intelligence failures and whether the difficulty of nation-building is a lesson learned.

In other words, for the GOP, loyalty to Party comes first. No matter how badly Bush screws up, no matter how big a disaster he is for the United States, Republicans will defend him. Because, you know, being a Republican is more important than being an American.


7:10 am | link

wednesday, may 12, 2004

States of Grace and Hot Links
Josh Marshall writes, "...being the good guys is about what you do, not who you are. That's a truth that the architects of this war, in subtler but I suspect more damaging ways, frequently failed to understand."
Pretty much a point I tried to make last week. Time and time again we see that Bush supporters are heavily invested in the idea that Americans, or at least "patriotic" Americans who support Bush, are intrinsically good. This in turn leads to an assumption that everything we do must be good, or at least justifiable, or at least not as bad as the stuff those other people do.
This point of view is the basis for much Right-Wing ideology. And this mindset is the foundation for Bush's support in the first place. Right-wing Americans love Bush because he reinforces their delusions about themselves.
Liberals are more likely to see Americans as neither intrinsically good nor bad, just people like other people. This means liberal Americans can admit to faults and mistakes without having an existential crisis. Right-wingers sneer that this is self-hatred and that liberals like to wallow in guilt trips. No, it's just being realistic, not to mention honest and emotionally mature. (Note that there are some on the extreme left who do see Americans as being intrinsically bad, and I disagree with this as much as I disagree with the "intrinsically good" view.) 
Scott Lehigh writes in today's Boston Globe:
... the tragic error here is in the Pentagon's apparent assumption of American exceptionalism, the notion that even outside the United States, the basic decency of our society will still obtain even without strict rules and requirements.
Along with the assumption of American exceptionalism is the assumption of Bush Administration exceptionalism. As Paul Krugman pointed out yesterday, 
From the day his administration took office, its slogan has been "just trust us." No administration since Nixon has been so insistent that it has the right to operate without oversight or accountability, and no administration since Nixon has shown itself to be so little deserving of that trust.
My impression is that at least some of Bush's people are so certain of their own intrinsic good that they find oversight and accountability somehow insulting. Of course, we can only guess at what they're hiding. Are the Bushies corrupt, or delusional? Or both?
Matthew Yglesias writes of Rummy's recent Senate testimony,

It doesn't come through on the transcript, but it was clear from Rumsfeld's tone, his body language, the expression on his face, and the look in his eye that this was one of those disturbing moments when you realize that this administration's real problem isn't that they lie too much. The problem is that they actually believe what they're saying.

And of course, Bush supporters believe this also -- Bush and his people are intrinsically good and moral; therefore, what they do will be good and moral, and people who disagree with them are not good and moral.

That's really the entire argument in favor of Bush, isn't it? When you peel away the rhetorical huffing and puffing, and all the bravado and excuses and rationalizations, that's all that's left: We're the good guys, because we say so.

And I am sure they genuinely believe this.

These past almost four years, many of us have been dumfounded that so many Americans are unable to see what a fraud Bush is. I don't think Bush supporters are necessarily stupid. I think they can't see the truth because to admit the truth about Bush would be to admit the truth about themselves -- that America is not exceptional. We are not the Chosen People. To be born American is not to be born into a special state of grace.

Sad but true: Most people who support Bush will continue to defend him no matter how terribly he screws up. That's because their perception of Bush is wrapped up in their perceptions of themselves. And people view threats to self-identity with as much alarm as threats to their bodies. Expect to see the Right put up thicker and thicker walls of belligerance as the situation in Iraq deteriorates. It's all self-defense. They can't admit they were wrong, about Iraq or about Bush, without experiencing a kind of existential death.

It's ironic that the Abu Ghraib situation is coming to light as an older one is remembered -- Emmitt Till. Almost 50 years ago, a mob of Mississippi whites dragged Till, 14 years old and black, from his bed. The whites bashed in Till's head, and shot him, and left his body in a river.

Two men accused of the murder years ago were acquitted by an all-white jury that deliberated all of 67 minutes. Apparently new information has come to light, so the 1955 murder case is being re-opened.

Till's mother insisted on an open-casket funeral, so that the world could see her son't mangled face. Photographs of the murdered boy's body ran in newspapers and magazines and galvanized the civil rights movement. (I'm sure many at the time objected to the photos' publication on the grounds that they would stir up trouble.)

The whites who killed Emmitt Till were enraged because he had whistled at a white woman. And I'll bet those men believed that killing Till was the morally right thing to do. They believed that being white made them exceptional. Being white meant being born into a special state of grace.

Yep. Pretty ironic.



9:34 am | link

Mickey Kaus Is a Flaming Idiot
In "Nix the Pix," Kaus argues that Sixty Minutes II should not have broadcast the famous photos of prisoner abuse. Here are his reasons:

1) You don't have to print everything. I wouldn't print the identities of CIA agents. I wouldn't print private information (e.g. outing someone as gay, or twisted) if it would cause them to commit suicide. I wouldn't publish the sailing dates of troop ships, to use the classic court hypothetical. Would you? Forget whether the government should be able to stop you from printing them--would it be a moral thing to do to print information that would very likely result in hundreds of deaths?  The Abu Ghraib photo situation is very close to that one, except that the deaths are likely to be measured in the thousands and tens of thousands--once all the Arabs and others who are enraged enough by the pictures to become (or support) anti-U.S. terrorists are finished with their careers. That's if we're lucky.

I hadn't realized the Arab World gathers in front of the TV every week to watch Sixty Minutes II. Seriously, Kaus, do you think that if Sixty Minutes II hadn't broadcast those photos, that Arab news media would never have noticed the Abu Ghraib story? Or that they could never have obtained photos through their own resources? It was only a matter of time.

Or do you suppose that the story would not have been incendiary in the Middle East had there been no photos? Indeed, without the photos, sheer imagination and rumor would have filled in the blanks; the CW of the Arab street would have had U.S. soldiers barbequing Iraqi babies.

2) "What would be the alternative: covering it up?" No. As Goldberg and others have suggested, CBS could have produced a story--even a TV story--that didn't display the pictures. If the Pentagon dragged its feet about stopping the abuse and disciplining those responsible, CBS (or whoever had the pictures) could have threatened to publish at least some of the photos as a spur to justice. But if the only alternative were covering it up--then yes, covering up is sometimes the right thing to do.

Yes, this makes sense. With typical White Man arrogance, Kaus assumes those simple, childlike Iraqis would never have noticed what was going on in their own country if we didn't tell them.

3) "Why not suppress all negative news and just salute?" That's a silly argument. Just because you don't publish something doesn't mean you don't publish anything. As they say, Mississippi's a hard word to spell--you never know when to stop. But you've got to stop somwhere. Editors draw lines all the time. (Did we see, for example, all the grisly photos of Nicole Simpson's mutilated corpse? I think I'd remember it, and it would have gotten big ratings.) Given that the purposes of publishing the photos could have been largely accomplished without publishing them, I'm not sure this case was even close to any line.

I hadn't realized that Nicole Simpson's murder was a breach of national security, but never mind. Given that even with the photos a big chunk of the American Right remains in denial about what really happened -- it was just a frat prank, after all -- without the photos the story would've received so little attention (especially from Faux News and Limbaugh) the average American would never have heard it. Or, had the public heard, Limbaugh and O'Reilly would just have assured them it was just a French liberal lie. There's no proof, like photos, after all.

Kaus's point #4 is essentially a reworking of Point #1, which is that if Arabs hadn't seen those photos they would never have become enflamed by the Abu Ghraib story, and thus many would not have turned against the American occupation. Kaus is arguing that without the photos the story still would have received proper attention in America, but would have gone unnoticed in the Middle East. Sure.

I had to read Kaus's point #5 three times to be sure I understood it, but he seems to be acknowleding that the invasion of Iraq in and of itself stirred up some "blowback" in the Middle East and the world, even without the Abu Ghraib story, and perhaps war hawks should acknowledge this. However, I could be wrong. You decide:

5) At the same time, it would be nice if conservatives like Goldberg would apply the logic of their argument about the photos to larger questions of foreign policy--weighing, say, the arguments for invading Iraq without the U.N, against the costs of rising Arab and world anger. The next time a Democratic peacenik (or Frenchman) frets about "blowback," let's have no more hoots of derision from Goldberg or from any other conservative who's argued for photo-suppression.

What the hell is he saying here? Is it possible that, deep down inside, Kaus resents us Democratic peaceniks and Frenchmen because we were right and he was wrong? Very weird.


7:21 am | link

tuesday, may 11, 2004

Miracles and Hot Links
David Brooks Gets a Clue
This has been a crushingly depressing period, especially for people who support the war in Iraq. The predictions people on my side made about the postwar world have not yet come true. The warnings others made about the fractious state of post-Saddam society have. ... We went into Iraq with what, in retrospect, seems like a childish fantasy. We were going to topple Saddam, establish democracy and hand the country back to grateful Iraqis. We expected to be universally admired when it was all over. ... For us to succeed in Iraq, we have to lose. [David Brooks, "For Iraqis to Win, the U.S. Must Lose," The New York Times, May 11, 2004] 
Only a clue, but remarkable nonetheless.


6:35 am | link

monday, may 10, 2004

Three Little Words
The vocabulary words for today, boys and girls, are arrogance, insularity, and dysfunctional.
Background: Bob the Lizard says that Rummy will be axed as Secretary of Defense, but hints that, as a face-saving measure for Bush, he might remain in the cabinet in another capacity.

The problem for Bush is that sacking his war minister in time of war is not the same as dismissing a feckless secretary of the treasury. As Rumsfeld's aides circled the wagons last week, his supporters accurately conveyed the adverse fallout with this argument.

The Democrats demanding Rumsfeld's scalp are really aiming at Bush. Rumsfeld's scalp would signify that the war in Iraq is a failure and, by extension, so is Bush. When Rep. Charles Rangel is ahead of the Democratic lynch mob in calling for Rumsfeld's impeachment if necessary, he is pursuing his relentless opposition to U.S. foreign policy.

The solution to Bush's dilemma was hinted at when he promised Rumsfeld would ''stay in my Cabinet.'' That triggered speculation: Would Rumsfeld switch jobs with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice? Would he replace the beleaguered George Tenet at the CIA? Whatever the solution, it was hard to find anyone outside Don Rumsfeld's E-ring at the Pentagon who felt he should remain there.

Talk about shuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic ... but in a moment of reptilian candor, Bob conceded that Rummy deserved to be sacked.

Rumsfeld is paying the price for the way he has run the Department of Defense for more than three years, but the price is also being paid by George W. Bush. From the first months of the Bush administration, I have heard complaints by old military hands that the new secretary's arrogance and insularity were creating a dysfunctional Pentagon. That climate not only limits the government's ability to deal with the prisoner scandal but also may have been its cause.

Right. But what Bob won't admit is that "arrogance and insularity," along with "dysfunctional," describe the entire Bush Regime. From an editorial in today's Guardian:

George Bush started to withdraw the US from the international community at the beginning of his presidency. Earlier this year he dismissed foreign objections to his policies by insisting that the US needed no permission slip from the rest of the world to defend itself. At home, he has evaded oversight by Congress on matters of finance, intelligence operations and foreign relations. He sidestepped questioning by the press by holding fewer news conferences than any other modern president.

Along these lines, please read Evan Thomas's profile of Rummy in Newsweek. It describes how Rummy's arrogance and insularity have created a dysfunctional Pentagon.
Joe Klein writes in Time how Bush's childish, simplistic religious views factor in to this mess: "Faith without doubt leads to moral arrogance, the eternal pratfall of the religiously convinced." Jim Spencer writes in the Denver Post, "Don't let religious arrogance turn us into the thing we hate."
Fareed Zakaria, in "The Price of Arrogance," cleverly introduces another vocabulary word, responsibility.

I take full responsibility," said Donald Rumsfeld in his congressional testimony last week. But what does this mean? Secretary Rumsfeld hastened to add that he did not plan to resign and was not going to ask anyone else who might have been "responsible" to resign. As far as I can tell, taking responsibility these days means nothing more than saying the magic words "I take responsibility."

In the Washington Post, Dana Milbank and Jonathan Weisman write that conservatives are becoming restive (another good word):
Conservatives have become unusually restive. Last Tuesday, columnist George F. Will sharply criticized the administration's Iraq policy, writing: "This administration cannot be trusted to govern if it cannot be counted on to think and, having thought, to have second thoughts." Two days earlier, Robert Kagan, a neoconservative supporter of the Iraq war, wrote: "All but the most blindly devoted Bush supporters can see that Bush administration officials have no clue about what to do in Iraq tomorrow, much less a month from now."
Now, if Will and Kagan are beginning to realize the White House is dysfunctional, rest assured your garden-variety idiot has known this for several weeks. I understand even Peggy Noonan is getting restive. Remarkable.
From the other side of the morality divide, Mickey Kaus suggests that "tougher interrogation techniques instituted by our troops last fall did pay off," but asks, "why didn't our generals or their subordinates ban photographs?" Granted, he cushions these sentiments with a generous amount of qualifiers, but you've got to wonder ... even better, this flaming idiot writing in WaPo is calling for more wars. There's no such thing as being too stupid any more, is there?


6:31 am | link

sunday, may 9, 2004

Lord Love a Wingnut
Awhile back I blogged that right- and left-wing blogs focus on and/or ignore different items in the news. For example, the Right makes a big deal out of UNscam; the Left does not. At the same time, the Right pretty much ignored the allegations against Bush in Bob Woodward's new book, not to mention Richard Clarke's book, etc.
A blogger on the Right noted that I had admitted to not paying much attention to UNscam, and said this was proof that I didn't care about evil.
Well, get a load of what this same blogger thinks about Iraq's prisonergate.
Right now I'm listening to Pat Buchanan explain why the brutality at Abu Ghraib doesn't rise to the level of atrocities. And Mort Zuckerman is explaining that We are still better than Them because we admit to mistakes (not until the photos were published, however). And then Buchanan says, in effect, that America still has the moral high ground because, well, because, and anyway we're the biggest kid on the block and the other kids have to deal with us whether they like us or not.
Remember, this is all self-defense. It takes guts to face reality. It's a lot easier to deny and attack reality.
No wonder these people mistake Weenie-in-Chief Bush for an actual leader.
Update:  Here's an antidote to the morally bankrupt who think the Abu Ghraib situation is excusable or no big deal -- An article from Col. David Hackworth's Soldiers for the Truth site, "A Disaster, Pure and Simple." The author, David DeBatto, is a retired Army staff sergeant and Counterintelligence Special Agent who served in Gulf War I.


10:16 am | link

Happy Mother's Day to Me
This is my first Mother's Day without my mother, who died last November. But I can't feel sorry for myself when I think of those mothers who lost children in the past year.
Some time today, President Smirk and his flunkies will step out and mouth platitudes about honoring mothers. If he really wanted to honor mothers, he wouldn't be so quick to throw away the lives of their sons and daughters.
Consider also the anxiety of mothers whose sons and daughters have gone away to fight Bush's War, and the mothers (and fathers) raising children alone because their spouses are off fighting Bush's War, and the heartbreak of parents whose children were terribly wounded in Bush's War.  
On this day, remember those mothers.


7:54 am | link

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The Loyalties of George W. Bush

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"To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public." --Theodore Roosevelt, 1918


The War Prayer

I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!... He has heard the prayer of His servant, your shepherd, & will grant it if such shall be your desire after I His messenger shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause & think.

"God's servant & yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused & taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him who heareth all supplications, the spoken & the unspoken....

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the pastor -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed, silently. And ignorantly & unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is completed into those pregnant words.

"Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe.

"O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended through wastes of their desolated land in rags & hunger & thirst, sport of the sun-flames of summer & the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave & denied it -- for our sakes, who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask of one who is the Spirit of love & who is the ever-faithful refuge & friend of all that are sore beset, & seek His aid with humble & contrite hearts. Grant our prayer, O Lord & Thine shall be the praise & honor & glory now & ever, Amen."

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! -- the messenger of the Most High waits."

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It was believed, afterward, that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

[Mark Twain, 1905]

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My Unitarian Jihad Name is: Sister Numchuku of Reasoned Discussion.

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Copyright 2003, 2004 by Barbara O'Brien

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