Answering the ‘Letter across the divide’

Jules Crittenden, Boston Herald City Editor, wrote an Op/Ed Wednesday titled “Letter across the divide” to open a private dialogue into the public forum. His undisclosed friend is a Democrat and Crittendon expressed interest in continuing a “conversation across the great rift that is dividing our country”. Invitation accepted. Beginning from my background of being raised in a strong GOP family, my first presidential vote was for Nixon in ’72. I voted for Carter, then went Libertarian instead of Reagan. In 1988, we tried to join the GOP at the state caucus to support Dole. The local Baptist Temple was in control of the surrounding precincts, we were denied our legal right to register and participate.

The next day I became a Dukakis Democrat. It was quite a journey – I went to that Democratic caucus figuring I would be holding my nose or walk out. Well, darn if they weren’t as intelligent and decent as any people you would want to meet. I learned a lot about the religious infiltration of the GOP that spring, attending a month long series of weekly two hour seminars by the Citizens Network. I served as a delegate to the state Dem convention that year and in ’92, when I was on the platform committe.

Professionally, I’ve been in nursing for 30 years. The humans that have come into my care from all walks, and many countries, have soundly taught me that the vast majority is a very good, decent bunch. The standouts have always been the vets. Too many who came home psychologically maimed, as well as the physically injured who had inadequate benefits – let alone pain control, and a few brilliant minds who were major figures in WWII and Vietnam.

Ideologically I follow a not really schizophrenic blend of Jesus and Ayn Rand – with a lot of additions from many other great teachers and religions, large and small. And yes, even Atheists go to church! My denomination is Unitarian-Universalist. I have spent the last two years trying to catch up on a non-fiction reading list that, like the national debt, just keeps growing. The italicized questions are from the end of Mr. Crittendon’s letter, each followed by my answers and observations. Uh, warning: I have two degrees in BS.

Do you actually think our own president is a greater menace to world peace and stability than our opponents would be with nuclear weapons?

First, I am not convinced the terrorists are that close to obtaining or USING nuclear weapons. They will have to face the reality that using nuclear weapons puts nuclear particles into the world environment. Atomic particles have no geopolitical restrictions. Even if they are exploded in the US, the nuclear elements will eventually be found in distant corners of the world. Are you confident George Bush really understands that?

If by ‘opponents’ you are including Iran: it is ~ a decade away from building the bomb and even less likely to use it except for negotiating power. That’s a reasonable amount of time for serious diplomacy and negotiations to divert their money and energy into better investments.

The same can be true of chemical and biological weapons. Chemicals are the biggest potential (in addition to all my college chemistry; my father is a PhD in chemistry, former spouse an MS Environmental Engineer in hazardous waste). Why haven’t we secured our chemical plants? I know, there are about 58,000 of them. Would a million each do it? How long did it take us to spend 58 billion on Iraq? Could the chemical companies pay some of that? Refineries are just as dangerous and vulnerable. 120 billion? Compared to what we will spend on rearming and outfitting the military?

The destabilization, loss of life and destruction of Iraq has added significantly to the possibility that the terrorists could get nuclear weapons and be infuriated enough to use them. I believe the terrorists are happy for now just threatening us with getting nuclear weapons. When we panic about nuclear damage to us (think Three Mile Island) we are consumed with fear. “Once armed with nuclear weapons, they will begin throwing their weight around..” Will the reality (or empty bragging) that they have nuclear weapons really change much? Do we have to give in to the terror they are determined to foist on us? Doesn’t it come down to who can do more damage if not controlled? Bush with the US Military and lots of nukes, or the terrorists who might be stopped before they get the nukes?

Reality check, it is conventional weapons that are being used by terrorists and the armies of despots, tyrants, etc. to cause the massive deaths and destruction of the past 50 + years. Who is the biggest manufacturer and world supplier of these munitions? Who are these companies selling their products to? Granted they are getting world wide competition now. They expanded the profitable market. George Bush is going to intervene with this?

Remember Saddam’s al-Qaqaa weapons depot that the IAEA and the weapons inspectors had fully documented and warned Bush twice to secure – before and immediatley after the invasion? That wasn’t done. Allowing 380 TONS (760,000 POUNDS) of explosive materials (HMX and RDX) to be stolen – by people who are probably not our allies. (Think about that the next time you see a vet who lost body parts to an IED) And that wasn’t all.

According to remarks by David Kay reported by the Boston Globe, as of late fall 2003, that is months after the dissolution of the Iraq army, more than 100 large ammunition storage points throughout Iraq were still unsecured. These sites contained everything from conventional bombs to artillery shells and rockets.Wikipedia

Are we to accept the word of tyrants that they were well-intentioned and not engaged in weapons programs when all the evidence has convinced our leaders and intelligence agencies that they are?

No, as long as the second half of it is true. If you are referring to Saddam, there was/is plenty of evidence that the weapons programs were not viable and the inspectors were doing what needed to be done to keep them from being restarted. (Remember Scott Ritter?) If the intelligence agencies had spent any time checking the Iraqi scientists who were capable of conducting those programs, they would have discovered what “60 Minutes” did: they had left the country in order to be able to do significant work in the fields they had trained and worked in. (This is usually referred to as a ‘brain drain’)

We are engaged in weapons programs. The big one currently involves using nanotechnology. Know anything about that? We don’t have much intel about Iran’s nuclear program because the front company in Iran gathering that information was exposed 3 years ago, along with the CIA agent in charge of it. By Scooter, or Richard and probably some other members of the Bush administration. The Bush administration is still willing to falsify what is known.

Has history given us any indication that sanctions without a credible threat will have an effect?

How many ways and how many times do the Democratic legislators, John Kerry in particular, have to say: they were voting for the club of a credible threat – to be used as a LAST resort? Kerry said very clearly he voted for that resolution with the understanding that if he were president, it would be the backup he would want to effectively negotiate with Saddam.

Remember the smoking gun and the mushroom cloud? Heard how many advance warnings we had – and ignored – about 9/11? Remember how accurately our satelites can get troop movements on camera, and the unmanned drones can find individuals? We don’t have to rush to pre-emptive war, we have the technology and the intel organizations to know when some one is seriously moving against us- as long as we use them.

Even among our own allies, we’ve found nations that tout humanitarian action and seek to avert war, while cynically pursuing corrupt financial arrangements with the same tyrants. Do you believe it is acceptable to have nations of demonstrated murderous intent in a position to control large portions of the world’s strategic resources?

Our own allies are not the only ones who have done this. Why does China still have a favored nation trade status with the US? We gave Saddam plenty of support when he was useful to us. What was Iran/Contra? The Pacific Island Tom Delay and company had fixed up for slave labor, not to mention prostitution and gambling?

As to who is in control of what: Is taking another country’s resources by force constitutional, ethical or acceptable to American voters? Taking them by financial coercion of their economies which doesn’t allow them to build their own prosperity? (eg. Companies who go in to develop those resources can take all their profits out of the country.)

Then there was the USSR and now Russia ” in a position to control large portions of the world’s strategic resources”. Did you want to go to war with them too? It isn’t just picking the battles we can win. It’s realizing there are ways to win without using military force – even against an enemy that is also a superpower. What countries actually have the most nuclear weapons and which ONE has ever used them? You are sure Bush can keep from using them if he takes on Iran?

Tinpot dictators busy killing their own people can become brass-hat dictators and start killing other people. If we were to walk away from all of this, do you believe they would leave us alone?

Is there NOTHING between war and walking away? (Conservatives are not accused of a black and white perceptual grid for no reason.) Are you seriously suggesting that diplomacy is ‘walking away’? Diplomacy: working with countries who are allies as much as the ‘rogue’ states. It is about terrorists, however there is – literally – no negotiating table for terrorists. Working with the leaders and citizens of the world to counter the terrorists fear of the future, of changes that turnover the beliefs of centuries, of angry men who cannot learn new ways; with respect and support to slowly adjust their beliefs and cultures for so many new changes. To facilitate the growth and development of stable economies, alleviating the hopelessness of poverty.

How many of those ‘brass-hat’ dictators are going to come after the world’s sole superpower with the millitary superiority we have demonstrated twice in just over a decade? Because they think it has been stretched too thin and is weakened from repeated tours in Iraq? After the record we have established of (not) rebuilding the countries we have attacked in the last 25 years? If anything they will go after weak neighbors, and to stop that it would be nice to have more allies who will bear the many costs of military control when unavoidable.

What gives you the idea that Democrats, liberals or progressives want to shut down our intelligence agencies or stop them from doing their work (legally)? If anything, the message (especially from John Kerry – since 1997, The New War) has been to increase this effort, put more money and energy there. Intel involves walking into the country, if you do it right. It could easily pay off more than the money we could spend on chemical and refinery security.

Now, as we prosecute these wars in which we are now engaged, are you able to tell the difference between our own harsh interrogation techniques, aggressive intelligence measures, and friendly fire accidents, and the enemy’s purposeful tactics of torture, mutilation and targeting civilians for mass slaughter?

There’s obviously a difference in motives, transparency, and calculated risk. Do the ends justify the means, not to mention the violation of rights and abandoning the rule of law? How far will they move the line? The fact that terrorists and criminals use these methods is not justification to adopt them. They primarily work by creating paralyzing fear and even if we do stoop to some of these tactics, they will have some sense that the US will not go that far.

The fact of our using these techniques on individuals who have been rounded up and held for months and years without adequate investigation of their possible crimes, is alleviated by the fact that they were not outright killed as suspicious or to inspire terror? The difference is also in pretense. We are the morally and legally hypocritical ones. We don’t go after the mob by bombing a location in New York or LA where there are innocent bystanders. Not In My Name, with My Tax Money do you pay someone to use ‘harsh interrogation’ – or kill innocents without even bothering to keep an accurate count.

The Clinton administration established (despite the degree the GOP Congress thwarted him) that high tech intelligence measures are our biggest advantage over the very small and secretive numbers that we fight. We have accomplished more using legitimate and legal ways than we have by using abuse. How many indictments, court cases and convictions have they produced? Has any country ever been conquered by being ‘too legal’ in this kind of situation? Thanks to the Supreme Court, the line has been moved back where it belongs.

 These are the kinds of questions we need to ask ourselves when the horrible option of war presents itself. “War is bad” is a fact, but it is not an answer to problems that have been building for decades.

The problems have been building for a century at least and we have contributed in unbelievably stupid ways. The 1953 overthrow of the democratically elected Iranian government (however weak it may have been – nurturing would have been ethically and realistically better) and putting the Shah in it’s place is the most incomprehensible. BTW, you do know that the British, after WWI, taught the young Saddam about spraying people on the ground with chemical weapons (left over nerve gas) fr0m the air?

The true phrase, for those who have ‘been there, done that’ is: War is Hell. To which I add, and just as avoidable – if you are sincerely trying. That does NOT mean ALL war is avoidable. There is plenty of historical evidence going back to Rome, that financial interests have contributed extensively to arming adversaries, funding war and profiteering to their advantage; regardless of the costs – direct, interest and inflation – to the taxpayers.

How can we be as factually sure as possible that we are not taking on unnecessary debt, and the deaths, maiming and psychological damage to our military, for a conflict that is largely due to the financial interest of a few powerful and sufficiently wealthy individuals who will become more powerful and wealthy because of it? It would really be helpful if the ‘responsible’ (professional) media would actually do this part of their work instead of selling out to make more profits – like Randolph Hearst and others before or since him. Echoing the hysterical cries of fear and hatred to promote a war is pretty much the same as “Even among our own allies, we’ve found nations that tout humanitarian action and seek to avert war, while cynically pursuing corrupt financial arrangements with the same tyrants.”

Speaking of the quality and role of present day journalism in war. This is a challenge. I hereby double dare Mr Crittendon to assign a book reviewer at the Herald to read Peter Brock’s Media Cleansing: Dirty Reporting and publish the review. (On the essential content – I acknowledge Brock’s problems with sentence construction, organization and spelling. Happy slogging.)

There is finally, the distinction between defensive and pre-emptive war. The founders did not advocate or put anything but defensive war in the Constitution. If the world has changed enough to warrant that, the Constitution needs to be amended. I do not think the American voters will be persuaded on that.

Crittendon closes with the following comments;

OK, this has been a lot of time to spend on a virtual stranger, but you seem like a good sport and I’m enjoying the exchange. But it is a difficult conversation that requires patience. I will continue to try to help you move forward in your thinking.

Ditto. At the Dem Daily we do welcome these exchanges and try to reach across the divide to see if by advancing our own thought processes as well as those of our ‘adversaries’, we can find the will and the way to rebuild the bridges in America.

Let the discussion continue.

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6 Responses to Answering the ‘Letter across the divide’

  1. Ginny

    A little food for thought for Mr Crittenden? 😉

  2. Ginny Cotts says:

    Pamela,

    Seemed more like seven course meal to me. 8)

    (Couldn’t remember what course is fowl, so I hit as many as possible)

  3. BobsAdvice says:

    Ginny,

    Very well said. I guess as we examine our nation’s foreign policy, a larger question arises not so much about who THEY are but who WE are. Right now the Republican leadership is altering almost everything that is important in America! America is above all a place where we value human decency. We do not torture individuals who we capture in combat.

    America is a place where the rule of law is above all. We do not suspend the law when it is expedient from our perspective as this President did with the NSA spying.

    America is a place where the justice system is respected and not perverted. Where accused individuals have the right to examine the evidence against them and where courts deny evidence obtained illegally, in this case under conditions of coercion or torture. This President is trying to subvert this American approach.

    America participates in the world community. We believe in cooperation with our allies, with efforts to make the world a better place to live. This President and his clique have suspended involvement in the ABM treaty, have kept us out of the World Court, have ignored the Kyoto protocols, denying the existence of global warming, and now are trying to subvert our involvement in even the Geneva Conventions.

    So while we may differ in our approach to terrorist groups, we agree that we must address this challenge. But we also agree that we must preserve what is uniquely American, for without our freedoms and our way of life, America will just become another location on the North American continent.

    Thanks so much for the work you do here!

    Bob Freedland

  4. jcrittenden says:

    Ginny,

    Thank you very much for what appears to be a thoughtful reply, sans profanity. It’s CrittenDEN by the way. Those CrittenDONs are no damn good.

    Jules

  5. Ginny Cotts says:

    Jules,

    Darned if I didn’t miss the first one and spelled the other 5 right? And just what is no d**n good about the CrittenDONs? Sounds a little judgemental to me. 😉

    I am not as good as my father tried to raise us. He considered profanity an expression of stupidity. More brains than emotions as per most scientists. We finally named a parakeet for his favorite expletive;

    Malarkey

    Thanks for wading through it. Is anyone going to be assigned Brock’s book?

  6. Ginny Cotts says:

    Bob,

    Thanks for the additions. It’s always hard for me to figure out what to leave out – since I always have LONG posts.

    I agree about the larger question. What I would add is that it seems to me, most Americans want to be what we thought our Constitution, laws and treaties said we would be.

    Somewhere along the line we voted into office people who decided that when no one was looking or could see, America would do things a little differently than the voters were led to believe. To the extent that we have become aware of these actions, there has not been a message that was clear and loud enough to stop those officials from changing the way America acted here and in other countries – in Our Names.

    This policy deception has to stop. Transparancy, open government and honesty must be reestablished for our own citizens, let alone the other people on this planet, to trust our government or respect it.

    Our political situation is a smaller version of this. For several decades, the GOP has been keeping the Democrats from being elected – by a lot of unethical if not illegal means. The chattering crowd has been calling us the permanent minority party. Now, the many indictments of the GOP legislators and officials is turning the voters from supporting their control and power.

    The Democrats did not stoop to those tactics and ethics. I don’t think America will be destroyed or damaged if we refuse to abandon the rule of law and compassion for others – even those who hate us.

    Eventually, we may be able to make some of them friends.