The Prince of Pot in a US Prison

Ok, he is not Omar Khadr. He is not Maher Arar either. But to some, this story in its very unimportance sends a very cold chill through Canada.

Marc Emery is a Vancouver icon. The Prince of Pot, a well loved character who founded the BC Marijauna Party and ran for office 12 times, in a province that would have legalized marijuana decades ago, assuming they had ever bothered making it illegal in the first place. Located in the city fondly known as Vansterdam, where the 4/20 celebrations  are legend, Marc is not a criminal so much as an integral part of the culture. Since no one bothers pretending that marijuana would be illegal here unless the US commanded it so, seed selling operations such as Marc Emery’s are almost never harassed. Seed shops are common, and the last conviction was against Emery in 1998 when he was fined $2,000.

This did not stop him from being a well known media and political figure for the last 20 years and paying more than $600,000 in Canadian income taxes on his business. He sent a copy of his magazine and seed catalogue to each member of the Canadian parliament for many years. Besides being the founder of the Marijuana Party, Emery was a major supporter of political parties, lobby groups, demonstrations and rallies, medical marijuana initiatives and detox centres. Along with other political parties around the world, he has been a major contributor to the US Marijuana Party.

The US government presented Canada with an extradition order for Marc Emery for the crime of selling seeds by mail (conspiracy to grow a plant). This is a crime that is almost never fined in Canada, that a person can spend life in prison without parole for in the US (because of the fascinating US view that one marijuana seed = one plant = 100 kilos of pot).

The US DEA’s office described his arrest: “Today’s arrest of Mark Scott Emery, publisher of Cannabis Culture Magazine and founder of a marijuana legalization group, is a significant blow, not only to the marijuana trafficking trade in the United States and Canada, but also to the marijuana legalization movement. Hundreds of thousands of dollars of Emery’s illicit profits are known to have been channeled to marijuana legalization groups active in the United States and Canada. Drug legalization lobbyists have one less pot of money to rely on.” The entire document described Marc’s political activity, not his seed selling. It is illegal in Canada to extradite a person for political activity.

It also described Emery as being one of 46 most wanted drug traffickers in the world, and the only one from Canada. As someone who lives in one of the world’s largest and most important drug shipping ports, and also as someone who has walked with a smile past the shop where Marc and his two clerks chat with their regulars, this is the most evidence I have ever seen that the United States’ war on drugs has absolutely nothing to do with fighting drugs.

Nevertheless, our repulsive conservative government, not the school yard bullies themselves, but the guys standing behind the bully cheering “Hit him again! Harder!” extradited Marc to the US for the crime of selling seeds.

On his way to the US Marc said “I do not feel bad about anything. I won’t be repentant. I won’t be apologizing to any judge. My only regret is that I couldn’t do more.”

But that was before he spent 3 weeks in solitary confinement. At his sentencing he concluded his statement with “I won’t ever advocate or counsel or behave in a manner civilly disobedient again.” In his letter to the court he said, “In my zeal I believed that my actions were wholesome, but my behavior was in fact illegal and set a bad example for others. I have now abandoned this method and ideology of disobedience as a necessary part of my rehabilitation. I will not recommend that others disobey the laws of the United States.”

 Call me dramatic, but I felt like I was reading the last page of 1984.

Update: The link above is an entertaining, easy to watch overview of Marc Emery’s current court case. For those who want more detailed background into who exactly Marc Emery is, what his importance is and was in Canadian society, and a more in depth look at his legal case and the significance of it, here is a longer documentary. This one is also very interesting to anyone looking at alternative politics.

The lighter documentary focuses on Emery’s marijauna activism, but as you can see in the more detailed documentary, he has been a loudly and passionately active participant in many aspects of our political life for decades. Love him or hate him, we need him and many more like him.

Accountability and ‘Obama’s Wars’

After reading the horribly written NY Times advance review of ‘Obama’s Wars’, I have been wondering what the point is. When the NY Times comes out with their ‘official view’ articles, the ones full of spin, choppy quotes, and third party innuendo, the ones which allow no reader comments, there is always a point.  What is it we are being set up to accept this time?

The point of the article (perhaps the point of the book, although there is no guarantee of that) seems to be that Obama is but a pawn to the out of control intelligence mafia and army. “Privately, he told Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. to push his alternative strategy opposing a big troop buildup in meetings,” we are told, with no explanation of how they would know this. He bristled, erupted, pressed, implored, and lost his poise, according to the NY Times who wasn’t there. “Mr. Obama’s struggle with the decision comes through,” we are assured.

Why are we being told that the elected President and Commander in Chief of the US and self appointed President of America and Leader of the Free World is not in control of his own military? Could it be that Obama is not feeling quite safe just by declaring all of his crimes against humanity ‘state secrets’? Could it be that he, knowing what we don’t, knowing perhaps what Wikileaks also does, is feeling a draft in his underpants? Will this work to cover his vulnerable parts in the event of us finding out what he knows? Will we say, “Oh, Obama, you’re so cool, you don’t have to be responsible for anything!” and allow him to retire unmolested with his Nobel Peace Prize, while the probably genuinely moronic Bush is held accountable for his actions?

I do not ascribe to “We do not forgive. We do not forget.” I am capable of doing both, with reason. But the only reason that would stop me from condemning Obama for every one of the actions he has overseen would be for him to stand up immediately, beg forgiveness, and admit he has lost control. Since he seems very far from doing anything of the kind, I am not likely to forgive or forget. Sorry NY Times, just not buying it.

And not just for Obama. While private individuals who have committed no crime, and some people accused of committing crimes in the military, are having their rights to privacy completely violated, individuals whose actions are of very public concern are unknown to us. It is time we knew the names of every person fighting these wars who is accused of war crimes by their comrades. They may be private individuals, but their actions are of great public importance and we require this information in order to govern ourselves. If they have done what they regret, they can speak now and we may forgive and we may forget. If they have collected ear necklaces and not come forth to explain, the day is coming, they will be tried, they will be too late to explain. And so will Obama.

‘Lie With Dogs, Wake With Fleas’ – My Grandmother

Fear & Loathing in the USA

For anyone currently looking at the foreign and domestic policies of the USA, and feeling confused, sick, and disoriented, I highly recommend a reading or re-reading of the amazingly prescient* Hunter S. Thompson’s novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. It explains everything. Only by imagining a large percentage of the US population (and many elsewhere) in a paranoid, delusional, occasionally euphoric high, seeing shoe bombing Muslims and pothead Canadians around every corner, can I begin to understand the people supporting US policy. For the wonderful people in the US who are fighting so hard to get logic through, they must feel like the poor hitchhiker from Oklahoma.

In the years of the Iraq war, the US has trained their youth, not with physical fitness like the Hitler Youth, but with passivity, aggression, and ignorance, movies and video games that encourage violence and killing, news that informs the citizens that people in other parts of the world are ‘different’, not like them, too stupid to govern themselves, and not worthy of consideration. The media, in one of the most astounding bursts of hyperbole ever produced, induced a state of mass hysteria that turned one terrorist attack into an act beyond revenge. When Wikileaks released the Collateral Murder video, there were a shocking number of internet comments that either celebrated the ‘game score’, or explained that in Iraq, children were violent and probably armed, not like children in the US.

There are still people who would like to blame the state of the country on one president, rather than the inexorable progression it has been. While Bush declared war on Iraq, Obama has declared war on the world. While Bush talked of ‘war’, Obama turns words such as ‘intervention’, ‘influence’, ‘partnership’, and ‘engagement’ into a terrifying form of doublespeak. While Bush spoke of ‘combating terror’, to ‘defend the homeland’, Obama speaks of using ‘all elements of American power’ to introduce ‘a new era of American leadership and  engagement in the world’. And while the netizens of the US once blustered and threatened with fear and loathing, they now calmly wonder why they, in their role as the ‘world police’ do not kill even more people and make those people pay their bills.

Now the US media is prepping their citizens for the attack on the final, greatest enemy of the US – themselves. As anyone who reads the US news will know, the media introduces the idea, regardless of any ‘news’ element, just before the government moves on it. Expect martial law (even more martial law, I mean) right about now.

When Obama speaks of “the greatest military in the history of the world”, “the future belongs to America” and his two sets of laws, one for the chosen ones in the US, and another for the rest of humanity, he is speaking of the greatest and most horrifying attack on human rights and society the world has ever seen. He is implementing martial law over every country in the world, torturing and killing all who disagree and hundreds-thousands-millions of bystanders, without trial or accountability. He is rewriting the constitution of his own country and completely disregarding all other laws throughout the world. He is destroying the living environments of people all over the world and claiming all of the world’s natural and military resources for his own use. The world has never dreamed of a psychopath on this scale. Even action movies usually focus on one country or region – taking over the entire planet is the realm of super villains in comic strips.

It is long past the time when anyone can pretend they didn’t know or didn’t understand. The leaders are telling us their plans. We are telling everyone what is happening. The quote we hear most often from activists who stood up to oppose regimes of terror, from Oskar Schindler to Daniel Ellsberg, is regret that they did not stand up sooner. It is time to stand up now, before history marks you forever by the people you are lying with.

At the beginning of his book, Thompson quotes Dr. Johnson, “He who makes a beast of himself gets rid of the pain of being a man”. Perhaps. But I prefer to think of Dr. King, who said, “A man who won’t die for something is not fit to live.”

Drugs and Terrorists, Porn and Pirates

When you hear these four magic words, think; am I about to be emotionally manipulated here? Is someone perhaps going to use my visceral reaction to these terms to push something past me that I would never usually consider? Because probably, yes.

Drugs

This is the good old standby for the US government. Justification for a war and astounding disregard for human rights in Columbia, the invasion of Panama and removal  of their own ex-CIA, ex-puppet leader, and now apparently, there is an insurgency in Mexico and Central America* to be dealt with. Besides the wars, there is regular interference in the domestic policies of foreign governments , environmental terrorism, and of course, a huge amount of money that goes to the MIC. All of this to save the US from drugs, because drugs may kill some people, if they choose to use them? No, of course not. That would be silly. We all know the US government and military have no problem with drug dealers.  

What would the US really do, if it wanted to stop the flow of drugs in their country? Well, first, far more regulation of the pharmaceutical industry and medical community, then regulate the fast food industry to stop them from lacing the food with additives and sugars … oh, sorry, you mean illegal drugs? Well, first, let’s study why exactly people are becoming addicted to illegal drugs (see previous sentence). Then legalize the drugs so they can be properly regulated and the people addicted to them can receive counselling and recovery help. Far cheaper and easier than maintaining huge military systems to kill millions of people … to stop drug trafficking … which might otherwise kill somebody.

Terrorists

Ok, so to combat drugs we attack everyone in the Americas, to stage a military occupation of the entire Middle East we will be looking for terrorists, got that?

To prevent terrorists, I recommend that governments and the MIC stop terrorizing people.  No, really.

Porn

This one is so awful, it’s a wonder they didn’t think of it first. Perhaps there was a time when the MIC wouldn’t dare go this low? If so, those days are gone, as countries like Australia and copyright enforcement agencies rush to use the torturing of small children to push their agenda for a police state. But does anyone believe these  are the people standing up against child porn?

It is hard to imagine anything more horrible than child pornography. And it’s hard to imagine anything less effective than “filtering” it. Countries that claim to be blocking thousands of child porn sites don’t think perhaps their time would be better spent shutting them down? A firewall protecting one country from viewing images over the internet is a completely ineffective way of stopping child porn from being produced or viewed in that country. It needs to be stopped internationally, not have little jumping hurdles put up at various national fences.

This is a case where the internet really needs to police itself, in conjunction with effective and completely independent, international law enforcement, which does not answer to any government or other policing unit, and who are no less afraid of arresting generals than they are of anyone else.  To do this without invading personal internet privacy would require an organization that has no other motive for collecting information on private individuals, not a government with myriad enemies they would like to bring down and myriad other agendas.

The best protection against child porn is, of course, to leave it where all can find it, not just the poor demented souls that want to. If it’s there, and we have an effective agency to report it to, we can clean it up ourselves. We are legion.

Pirates

In the case of the Somali pirates, no one said it better than K’Naan. But I meant the people currently being hunted for copyright infringement. This is another relatively new one, and it appeals to the public by calling on their sense of fair play, in wanting to ensure that their favourite creative person gets paid.

In reality, a lot of our favourite creative people are indy artists, youtube performers, self published e-book writers, bloggers (cough), and buskers. Are they getting paid? Sometimes, if we like them and they ask. Or if they manage to scrounge some sort of endorsement that will pay them based on views. This system is becoming more and more common, and it is a very workable concept. Many waiters survive almost completely on tips that are enforced mostly by the honour system. If this concept became more mainstream, who would lose out? The artists would be paid, and as a bonus, would be in much closer contact with their audiences. Everyone would have equal access to information, education, and entertainment and be able to choose from a huge variety of material. The popular artists would actually be the most popular artists, chosen by the people who listen to them. The only people to be cut out of this picture are the ones that are no longer actually doing anything, the ‘industry’.

Under the enforcement system suggested, the creative people would not be paid more, because of course, all of this enforcement will cost money. The few who are paid at all will remain selected by corporations, not the audiences. The lawyer buying copyright to newspaper content, will not help the blogger whose one post was stolen by a newspaper (especially since they could prove no loss of income). And apparently the laws being enforced against hackers are not to be followed by the prosecuting organizations. The anti-piracy laws are there to protect those who can afford to hire lawyers, not the average creative person. 

Meanwhile, anti-piracy laws are enabling governments and corporations to invade personal privacy and harass individuals and organizations they disagree with. The future of this trend will provide almost limitless potential for a police state, under the name of copyright enforcement.

To prevent piracy, we need new copyright law. We won’t steal it if it’s free. Obviously, people who create need to survive, and there are many ways to make that happen without providing an excuse for a global police state.  

* Off topic, but I love how the Obama-Clinton team declare war on major continental areas now instead of fooling around with just one country at a time. So much more efficient. And they don’t have to learn geography.

There Are No Plans for Peace. Ever.

Why are people still thinking they will have peace in their lifetimes by sitting passively? Nothing in Obama’s own words indicate that. He is very openly pursuing an endlessly escalating war on ever changing fronts as the US takes advantage of ‘the limitless possibilities’ to be ‘the leader of the free world’. People who are expecting peace, this year, this decade, ever, I am not seeing plans for it. Unless you consider living in the grip of ‘the finest fighting force in the history of the world’ to be peace.

These are Obama’s own words. All meaningless fuzzies have been crossed out below. My comments are in italics. Summary at the end. 

February 27, 2009

Obama Speech on Iraq withdrawal Good morning Marines. Good morning Camp Lejeune. Good morning Jacksonville. Thank you for that outstanding welcome. I want to thank Lieutenant General Hejlik for hosting me here today.

I also want to acknowledge all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. That includes the Camp Lejeune Marines now serving with – or soon joining – the Second Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq; those with Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force in Afghanistan; and those among the 8,000 Marines who are preparing to deploy to Afghanistan. We have you in our prayers. We pay tribute to your service. We thank you and your families for all that you do for America. And I want all of you to know that there is no higher honor or greater responsibility than serving as your Commander-in-Chief.

I also want to take this opportunity to acknowledge Ryan Crocker, who recently completed his service as our Ambassador to Iraq. Throughout his career, Ryan always took on the toughest assignments. He is an example of the very best that this nation has to offer, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude. He carried on his work with an extraordinary degree of cooperation with two of our finest Generals – General David Petraeus, and General Ray Odierno – who will be critical in carrying forward the strategy that I will outline today.

Next month will mark the sixth anniversary of the war in Iraq. By any measure, this has already been a long war. For the men and women of America’s armed forces – and for your families – this war has been one of the most extraordinary chapters of service in the history of our nation. You have endured tour after tour after tour of duty. You have known the dangers of combat and the lonely distance of loved ones. You have fought against tyranny and disorder. You have bled for your best friends and for unknown Iraqis. And you have borne an enormous burden for your fellow citizens, while extending a precious opportunity to the people of Iraq. Under tough circumstances, the men and women of the United States military have served with honor, and succeeded beyond any expectation.

Today, I have come to speak to you about how the war in Iraq will end.

To understand where we need to go in Iraq, it is important for the American people to understand where we now stand. Thanks in great measure to your service, the situation in Iraq has improved. Violence has been reduced substantially from the horrific sectarian killing of 2006 and 2007. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been dealt a serious blow by our troops and Iraq’s Security Forces, and through our partnership with Sunni Arabs. The capacity of Iraq’s Security Forces has improved, and Iraq’s leaders have taken steps toward political accommodation. The relative peace and strong participation in January’s provincial elections sent a powerful message to the world about how far Iraqis have come in pursuing their aspirations through a peaceful political process.

But let there be no doubt: Iraq is not yet secure, and there will be difficult days ahead. Violence will continue to be a part of life in Iraq. Too many fundamental political questions about Iraq’s future remain unresolved. Too many Iraqis are still displaced or destitute. Declining oil revenues will put an added strain on a government that has had difficulty delivering basic services. Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it. And even as Iraq’s government is on a surer footing, it is not yet a full partner – politically and economically – in the region, or with the international community

In short, today there is a renewed cause for hope in Iraq, but that hope rests upon an emerging foundation.

On my first full day in office, I directed my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of our strategy in Iraq to determine the best way to strengthen that foundation, while strengthening American national security. I have listened to my Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and commanders on the ground. We have acted with careful consideration of events on the ground; with respect for the security agreements between the United States and Iraq; and with a critical recognition that the long-term solution in Iraq must be political – not military. Because the most important decisions that have to be made about Iraq’s future must now be made by Iraqis.

We have also taken into account the simple reality that America can no longer afford to see Iraq in isolation from other priorities: we face the challenge of refocusing on Afghanistan and Pakistan; of relieving the burden on our military; and of rebuilding our struggling economy – and these are challenges that we will meet.

Today, I can announce that our review is complete, and that the United States will pursue a new strategy to end the war in Iraq through a transition to full Iraqi responsibility.

This strategy is grounded in a clear and achievable goal shared by the Iraqi people and the American people: an Iraq that is sovereign, stable, and self-reliant. To achieve that goal, we will work to promote an Iraqi government that is just, representative, and accountable, and that provides neither support nor safe-haven to terrorists. (How, without permanent occupation?) We will help Iraq build new ties of trade and commerce with the world. And we will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq that contributes to the peace and security of the region.

What we will not do is let the pursuit of the perfect stand in the way of achievable goals. We cannot rid Iraq of all who oppose America or sympathize with our adversaries. We cannot police Iraq’s streets until they are completely safe, nor stay until Iraq’s union is perfected. We cannot sustain indefinitely a commitment that has put a strain on our military, and will cost the American people nearly a trillion dollars. America’s men and women in uniform have fought block by block, province by province, year after year, to give the Iraqis this chance to choose a better future. Now, we must ask the Iraqi people to seize it.

The first part of this strategy is therefore the responsible (define responsible). removal of our combat brigades from Iraq.

As a candidate for President, I made clear my support for a timeline of 16 months to carry out this drawdown, while pledging to consult closely with our military commanders upon taking office to ensure that we preserve the gains we’ve made and protect our troops. Those consultations are now complete, and I have chosen a timeline that will remove our combat brigades over the next 18 months.

Let me say this as plainly as I can: by August 31, 2010, our combat mission (nope, he didn’t say the mission would be ended. He just won’t be using the word combat anymore. How about ‘Freedom Forces’?)  in Iraq will end.

As we carry out this drawdown, my highest priority will be the safety and security of our troops and civilians in Iraq. We will proceed carefully, and I will consult closely with my military commanders on the ground and with the Iraqi government. There will surely be difficult periods and tactical adjustments. But our enemies should be left with no doubt: this plan gives our military the forces and the flexibility they need to support our Iraqi partners, and to succeed. (This ‘drawdown’ is absolutely meaningless and it can be reversed at any time for any or no reason.)

After we remove our combat brigades, our mission will change from combat to supporting the Iraqi government (Oh, OK, not Freedom Forces. Iraqi Government Support Forces.) and its Security Forces as they take the absolute lead in securing their country. As I have long said, we will retain a transitional (All forces were always meant to be transitional.) force to carry out three distinct functions: training, equipping, and advising Iraqi Security Forces as long as they remain non-sectarian; conducting targeted counter-terrorism missions (Like the Iraq War, for instance.); and protecting our ongoing civilian and military efforts within Iraq. Initially, this force will likely be made up of 35-50,000 U.S. troops. (And a whole lot of people called something else.)

Through this period of transition, we will carry out further redeployments. (In or out? Doesn’t say.) And under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend (Good intentions. Means nothing.) to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011. We will (Ok, here’s the word we’re looking for. But now no date.) complete this transition to Iraqi responsibility, and we will bring our troops home with the honor that they have earned.

As we responsibly (still that word) remove our combat brigades, we will pursue the second part of our strategy: sustained diplomacy on behalf of a more peaceful and prosperous Iraq. (Diplomacy troops!)

The drawdown of our military should send a clear signal that (Not the same as saying it is a fact – just saying it will look like it.) Iraq’s future is now its own responsibility. The long-term success of the Iraqi nation will depend upon decisions made by Iraq’s leaders and the fortitude of the Iraqi people. Iraq is a sovereign country with legitimate institutions; America cannot – and should not – take their place. However, (However?) a strong political, diplomatic, (Hmm. Diplomatic does not equal political? Diplomatic equals … military?) and civilian effort on our part can advance progress and help lay a foundation for lasting peace and security.

This effort will be led by our new Ambassador to Iraq – Chris Hill. From his time in the Peace Corps, to his work in Kosovo and Korea, Ambassador Hill has been tested, and he has shown the pragmatism and skill that we need right now. He will be supported by the courageous and capable work of so many American diplomats and aid workers who are serving in Iraq.

Going forward, we can make a difference on several fronts. We will work with the United Nations to support national elections, while helping Iraqis improve local government. We can serve as an honest (As opposed to the elected leaders?) broker in pursuit of fair and durable agreements on issues that have divided Iraq’s leaders. And just as we will support Iraq’s Security Forces, we will help Iraqi institutions strengthen their capacity to protect the rule of law, confront corruption, and deliver basic services. (We will set up a puppet government.)

Diplomacy and assistance is also required to help the millions of displaced Iraqis. These men, women and children are a living consequence of this war and a challenge to stability in the region, and they must become a part of Iraq’s reconciliation and recovery. America has a strategic interest – and a moral responsibility – to act. In the coming months, my administration will provide more assistance and take steps to increase international support for countries already hosting refugees; (Take steps? And not offering to take refugees himself …) we’ll cooperate with others to resettle Iraqis facing great personal risk; and we will work with the Iraqi government over time to resettle refugees and displaced Iraqis within Iraq (Helping the Iraqi people really does not seem as urgent or as hands on as ’assisting’ the government decision making, does it?)  – because there are few more powerful indicators of lasting peace than displaced citizens returning home.

Now, before I go any further, I want to take a moment to speak directly to the people of Iraq.

Our nations have known difficult times together. But ours is a bond forged by shared bloodshed, and countless friendships among our people. We Americans have offered our most precious resource – our young men and women – to work with you to rebuild what was destroyed by despotism; to root out our common enemies; and to seek peace and prosperity for our children and grandchildren, and for yours.

You are a great nation, rooted in the cradle of civilization. You are joined together by enduring accomplishments, and a history that connects you as surely as the two rivers carved into your land. In years past, you have persevered through tyranny and terror; through personal insecurity and sectarian violence. And instead of giving in to the forces of disunion, you stepped back from a descent into civil war, and showed a proud resilience that deserves respect.

There are those (Secret hidden enemies. Trust Big Brother, it’s time for the Two Minutes Hate.) who will try to prevent that future for Iraq – who will insist that Iraq’s differences cannot be reconciled without more killing. They represent the forces that destroy nations and lead only to despair, (Really evil enemies. Like, bad guys.) and they will test our will in the months and years to come. America, too, has known these forces. We endured the pain of Civil War, and bitter divisions of region and race. But hostility and hatred are no match for justice; they offer no pathway to peace; and they must not stand between the people of Iraq and a future (We will fight the secret evil enemies.) of reconciliation and hope.

So to the Iraqi people, let me be clear about America’s intentions. The United States pursues no claim on your territory or your resources. We respect your sovereignty and the tremendous sacrifices you have made for your country. We seek a full transition to Iraqi responsibility for the security of your country. And going forward, we can build a lasting relationship founded upon mutual interests and mutual respect as Iraq takes its rightful place in the community of nations.

That leads me to the third part of our strategy –comprehensive American engagement across the region. (Umm, what? Didn’t you just say …?)

The future of Iraq is inseparable from the future of the broader Middle East, so we must work with our friends and partners to establish a new framework that advances Iraq’s security and the region’s. (Iraq is the new Israel.) It is time for Iraq to be a full partner in a regional dialogue, and for Iraq’s neighbors to establish productive and normalized relations with Iraq. And going forward, the United States will pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria. (Castro underestimated this.)

This reflects a fundamental truth: we can no longer deal with regional challenges in isolation (We need to take over the entire Middle East.) – we need a smarter, more sustainable and comprehensive approach. That is why we are renewing our diplomacy, while relieving the burden on our military. That is why we are refocusing on al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan; developing a strategy to use all elements of American power to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon; and actively seeking a lasting peace between Israel and the Arab world. And that is why we have named three of America’s most accomplished diplomats – George Mitchell, Dennis Ross and Richard Holbrooke – to support Secretary Clinton and me as we carry forward this agenda.

Every nation and every group must know – whether you wish America good or ill – that the end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and  engagement in the Middle East. And that era has just begun.

Finally, I want to be very clear that my strategy for ending the war in Iraq does not end with military plans or diplomatic agendas – it endures through our commitment to uphold our sacred trust with every man and woman who has served in Iraq. (We wouldn’t want them to have fought for nothing, now would we?)

You make up a fraction of the American population, but in an age when so many people and institutions have acted irresponsibly, you did the opposite – you volunteered to bear the heaviest burden. And for you and for your families, the war does not end when you come home. It lives on in memories of your fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who gave their lives. It endures in the wound that is slow to heal, the disability that isn’t going away, the dream that wakes you at night, or the stiffening in your spine when a car backfires down the street.

You and your families have done your duty (War is the duty of US citizens?) now a grateful nation must do ours. (It is the duty of the nation to expand the military?) That is why I am increasing the number of soldiers and Marines, so that we lessen the burden on those who are serving. And that is why I have committed to (Now that’s interesting. I am increasing the number of soldiers, but I have only committed to their well being.) expanding our system of veterans health care to serve more patients, and to provide better care in more places. We will continue building new wounded warrior facilities across America, and invest in new ways of identifying and treating the signature wounds of this war: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury, as well as other combat injuries.

We also know that service does not end with the person wearing the uniform. In her visits with military families across the country, my wife Michelle has learned firsthand about the unique burden that your families endure every day. I want you to know this: military families are a top priority for Michelle and me, and they will be a top priority for my administration. We’ll raise military pay, and continue providing quality child-care, job-training for spouses, and expanded counseling and outreach to families that have known the separation and stress of war. We will also heed the lesson of history – that those who fight in battle can form the backbone of our middle class – by implementing a 21st century GI Bill to help our veterans live their dreams.

As a nation, we have had our share of debates about the war in Iraq. It has, at times, divided us as a people. To this very day, there are some Americans who want to stay in Iraq longer, and some who want to leave faster. But there should be no disagreement on what the men and women of our military have achieved.

And so I want to be very clear: We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime – and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government – and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life – that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.

There are many lessons to be learned from what we’ve experienced. We have learned that America must go to war with clearly defined goals, which is why I’ve ordered a review of our policy in Afghanistan. We have learned that we must always weigh the costs of action, and communicate those costs candidly to the American people, which is why I’ve put Iraq and Afghanistan into my budget. We have learned that in the 21st century, we must use all elements of American power to achieve our objectives, which is why I am committed to building our civilian national security capacity so that the burden is not continually pushed on to our military. We have learned that our political leaders must pursue the broad and bipartisan support that our national security policies depend upon, which is why I will consult with Congress and in carrying out my plans. And we have learned the importance of working closely with friends and allies, which is why we are launching a new era of  engagement in the world.

The starting point for our policies must always be the safety of the American people. I know that you – the men and women of the finest fighting force in the history of the world (He keeps saying this. Are we still a world that celebrates the ability to mass kill?) – can meet any challenge, and defeat any foe. (I don’t think mortal humans are up to that. And does anyone want to meet any more challenges?) And as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I promise you that I will only send you into harm’s way when it is absolutely necessary, and provide you with the equipment and support you need to get the job done. That is the most important lesson of all – for the consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. (He doesn’t ever promise peace, does he? Does he understand that some people would like peace?) 

You know because you have seen those sacrifices. You have lived them. And we all honor them. (Everyone in the US honours war?)

“Semper Fidelis” – it means always being faithful to Corps, and to country, and to the memory of fallen comrades like Corporal Jonathan Yale and Lance Corporal Jordan Haerter. These young men enlisted in a time of war, knowing they would face great danger. They came here, to Camp Lejeune, as they trained for their mission. And last April, they were standing guard in Anbar. In an age when suicide is a weapon, they were suddenly faced with an oncoming truck filled with explosives. These two Marines stood their ground. These two Marines opened fire. And these two Marines stopped that truck. When the thousands of pounds of explosives detonated, they had saved fifty Marines and Iraqi police who would have been in the truck’s path, but Corporal Yale and Lance Corporal Haerter lost their own lives. Jonathan was 21. Jordan was 19.

In the town where Jordan Haerter was from, a bridge was dedicated in his name. One Marine who traveled to the ceremony said: “We flew here from all over the country to pay tribute to our friend Jordan, who risked his life to save us. We wouldn’t be here without him.”

America’s time in Iraq is filled with stories of men and women like this. Their names are written into bridges and town squares. They are etched into stones at Arlington, and in quiet places of rest across our land. They are spoken in schools and on city blocks. They live on in the memories of those who wear your uniform, in the hearts of those they loved, and in the freedom of the nation they served.

Each American who has served in Iraq has their own story. Each of you has your own story. And that story is now a part of the history of the United States of America – a nation that exists only because free men and women have bled for it from the beaches of Normandy to the deserts of Anbar; from the mountains of Korea to the streets of Kandahar. You teach us that the price of freedom is great. Your sacrifice should challenge all of us – every single American – to ask what we can do to be better citizens.

There will be more danger in the months ahead. We will face new tests and unforeseen trials. But thanks to the sacrifices of those who have served, we have forged hard-earned progress, we are leaving Iraq to its people, and we have begun the work of ending this war.

Thank you, God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America. Semper Fi.

So here’s what I got, back in February, 2009.

  1. Aid to the country of Iraq which has been demolished by the US will be encouraged from other countries. Not from the US.
  2. There will be more promises made to treat veterans better.
  3. Combat troops will be renamed Iraqi Support troops and Diplomacy troops.
  4. He will ‘relieve the burden on our military’ by ‘increasing the number of soldiers and Marines’, ‘building our civilian national security capacity’, ‘pursu(ing) the broad and bipartisan support that our national security policies depend upon’, and ‘provid(ing them) with the equipment and support they need to get the job done’.  
  5. He ‘will forge a partnership with the people and government of Iraq’, not to rebuild the country but to ‘build new ties of trade and commerce with the world’, and ‘establish a new framework that advances Iraq’s security and the region’s’.
  6. And we are introduced to a new enemy or several. ‘Not all of Iraq’s neighbors are contributing to its security. Some are working at times to undermine it.’ And ‘those who will try to prevent that future for Iraq’.
  7. He ‘can no longer deal with regional challenges in isolation’, so he will ‘pursue principled and sustained engagement with all of the nations in the region, and that will include Iran and Syria.’
  8. He will ‘use all elements of American power’, ‘we must use all elements of American power to achieve our objectives’ (yep, he said it twice), because ‘the end of the war in Iraq will enable a new era of American leadership and  engagement in the Middle East. And that era has just begun.’ ‘We are launching a new era of  engagement in the world.’
  9. In case anyone mistakes his statements for a wish for diplomatic or economic ties only, and is willing to overlook all the statements about military expansion, he tells us about ‘the finest fighting force in the history of the world’, who ‘can meet any challenge, and defeat any foe’.

The media is now prepping the public with stories of how Iraq really wants the US to stay. Here and here. As quite possibly they do, given the current state of their country.

Obama’s Speech August 31, 2010 

This time I just pulled excerpts, everything seems to be on track, just as he said in February, 2009:

So tonight, I am announcing that the American combat mission in Iraq has ended. (Not ‘The combat mission has ended.’ but ‘Tonight, I am announcing’ that. Not the same thing. Watch how many people cannot tell a lie without extra verbage.)

And when that government is in place, there should be no doubt:  The Iraqi people will have a strong partner in the United States.  Our combat mission is ending, but our commitment to Iraq’s future is not.

A transitional force of U.S. troops will remain in Iraq with a different mission:  advising and assisting Iraq’s Security Forces, supporting Iraqi troops in targeted counterterrorism missions, and protecting our civilians.  Consistent with our agreement with the Iraqi government, all U.S. troops will leave by the end of next year. (Leaving a different military under the US puppet government.) As our military draws down, our dedicated civilians — diplomats, aid workers, and advisors — are moving into the lead to support Iraq as it strengthens its government, resolves political disputes, resettles those displaced by war, and builds ties with the region and the world. (We will continue to occupy and govern their country.)

What America can do, and will do, is provide support for the Iraqi people as both a friend and a partner. (We will set up a puppet government.)

We will disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda, while preventing Afghanistan from again serving as a base for terrorists. (How? Only possible by permanent occupation.) And because of our drawdown in Iraq, we are now able to apply the resources necessary to go on offense. (We have changed fronts. Same war.)

As with the surge in Iraq, these forces will be in place for a limited time to provide space for the Afghans to build their capacity and secure their own future.  But, as was the case in Iraq, we can’t do for Afghans what they must ultimately do for themselves.  That’s why we’re training Afghan Security Forces and supporting a political resolution to Afghanistan’s problems. (Installing puppet government number 3 in the Middle East.)

Indeed, one of the lessons of our effort in Iraq is that American influence around the world is not a function of military force alone.  We must use all elements of our power — including our diplomacy, our economic strength, and the power of America’s example — to secure our interests and stand by our allies.  And we must project a vision of the future that’s based not just on our fears, but also on our hopes — a vision that recognizes the real dangers that exist around the world, but also the limitless possibilities of our time. (The American Empire.)

New markets for our goods stretch from Asia to the Americas.  A new push for peace in the Middle East will begin here tomorrow.  Billions of young people want to move beyond the shackles of poverty and conflict.  As the leader of the free world, (What, no caps?) America (Actually, just the US.) will do more than just defeat on the battlefield those who offer hatred and destruction — we will also lead among those who are willing to work together to expand freedom and opportunity for all people. (The American Empire.)

As long as I am President, we will maintain the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.

Our troops are the steel in our ship of state.  And though our nation may be travelling through rough waters, they give us confidence that our course is true, and that beyond the pre-dawn darkness, better days lie ahead. (We gain confidence that we are right through our ability to kill.)

 

Need more evidence? Awesome article that provides a progress report on the American Empire.

Media Watching

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Many people around the world are calling for us to fight for freedom of the press. I don’t think so. Freedom of speech, freedom of information, and accountability of the press would be what I am looking for.

I mentioned in Transparency, Privacy and Democracy the duty of the press to provide us with true investigative, transparent, and unbiased journalism on the topics that the public truly does need to know to make self governing decisions. Due to a lack of real information available to us, the press has been able to publish far too much propaganda and entertainment news, and we have not been able to call them on it. While I love inflamed rhetoric as much as the next person (see my blog), it has no place in a supposedly serious hard news piece.

Demanding accountability from the media has greatly accelerated this summer and needs to become second nature in every article we read. The old media are existing on our sufferance now. If they wish to survive, they must become highly reliable forums for public discussion. Here are my rules for my own media watching:

Feedback. If there is no allowance for feedback, do not read. An article that is afraid of reader comments is the equivalent of a politician that is afraid of their voters.

Fact check. Where have they obtained those facts? Are they verifiable? Phrases like “it is common knowledge…”, “sources say”, “it may be inferred”, “many … are saying”, “this may be …” should be called.

Opinions. Unless an article is clearly billed as an opinion piece, the opinions should be left for the comments, and that includes the leading descriptives. Again, I love a flowery piece, but do the adjectives match the facts? If not, call.

Quotes not in quotes. Why do some writers think this is ok? They can say you said something you didn’t, if they don’t put it in quotes? I don’t think it’s ok in any case, but look out for fragmented quotes with the writer’s own words inserted, and demand to know what was actually said.

Headlines and beginning sentences that completely contradict the story. Those are fairly obvious if you read the story and should of course be called, but what about the very factual headlines that strongly encourage readers to think something completely different? Here is a NY Times article that accurately describes the horrific decision by the US Court of Appeals to disallow torture victims to bring their case to court because of the US government’s “need to protect state secrets”. Note, they are not objecting to specific evidence being brought to court, they are objecting to the actual case being brought before a court at all. The article is very reasonable, but if you look at the front online page, or the article as it is brought up online, it says

Court Dismisses a Case Asserting Torture by C.I.A.

A sharply divided appeals court dismissed a lawsuit involving the C.I.A.’s “extraordinary rendition” program.

I don’t know about you, but this does not sound to me like the right to bring the lawsuit was revoked, it sounds like just this one suit was thrown out, probably because it was not backed by evidence or the law. Writer is solid, editor needs to be called.

What else? The duty of the press in a democracy is to provide us with the information we need to know to make informed decisions to govern ourselves. The private lives of private citizens are to be kept private. Any newsworthy information on public organizations is to be published. If the media you are reading does not fulfill its obligation, it is not worth fighting for. Fight for freedom of speech and information, not to protect those who are telling us what an actor’s child is wearing.

The Chrysalids

 When I was in high school, there was a book on the required reading curriculum called The Chrysalids, written by John Wyndham in 1955. Like 1984, it was a pretty interesting book that has come to take on the significance of a history book … for the future.

The main character is a boy who lives a very restricted and dull existence among narrow and bigoted people in a post-apocalyptic world. (The Old People were destroyed by “the power of gods in the hands of children”.)

He is a mutant who has vivid dreams and imagination and eventually he discovers the ability to communicate telepathically with other people in the world. At first, his secret is shared with just a few others in his circle, but eventually he makes contact with people he has never met before (from a country called Sealand that appears, at least at first, to be far more open and tolerant). He meets them telepathically and they form an alliance against the establishment who would kill them if they knew about their communication.

In a former life, I was a programmer, and not to be dramatic or anything, but that is exactly how it felt, back in the day of BBS’s when the internet first became widely used. There was no one on BBS systems or the early internet to talk to but the few other people on these systems. Programmers were so used to people who shuddered at the mention of computers, and here was an entire society of people obsessed with them. The society quickly put together rules that were followed by most – sharing of information was always strongly encouraged. At work, we acted as a team with anyone on our networks, whether we knew them or not.  Their knowledge was our knowledge, so we could all appear omnipotent at our jobs. When the internet and email first went public, anyone who tried advertising through email would be spammed by everyone so their provider would refuse to provide them service. We made our own laws and planned our own society.

Of course, it wasn’t ours for long. Very soon businesses of all sorts put up web pages and information, and added more and more services. Hacker laws still applied and almost all services were soon free. People had to conform and think of other ways to make money, advertising became acceptable. But the underside of the internet was still ours, it still felt like home, where we could always communicate with the other cells of our Gaia-esque self, where we could still share anything.

This summer has shown us an increasingly accelerated threat on that world. Not just our internet, but our global connection. Watching the world governments intimidate the travel of the Wikileaks founder feels oddly personal and chilling to me. Our internet, our travel, our blackberries … our personal trade? Our skype conversations? Our cell, landline, face to face conversations?

Typically, just as we are in danger of losing it, I think many of us have awoken to how much we would miss that world, even though we were not actually using it effectively before anyway. So maybe, right now before we lose it, is the time for a giant push to see just what our Gaia can do. How many of us are there, and how much do we care? And what were those plans we had for this place anyway?