Though it does not dominate the front pages in the same way that arguments about Vietnam medals and current war catastrophes have, one of the more bitter debates that has developed during the current presidential campaign involves the question of whether Catholics should vote for John Kerry, a Catholic, for president. The Roman Catholic bishop of Colorado Springs, Michael Sheridan, recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholics ought not receive communion if they vote for politicians who defy church teaching by supporting abortion rights, stem-cell research or same-sex marriage.
Kerry does support abortion rights and stem-cell research. He's not for same-sex marriage, but he's otherwise supportive of gay rights initiatives. So, in Bishop Sheridan's view, voting for the presumptive Democratic nominee would, at best, be wrong, and, at worst, downright sinful. And Sheridan is not alone in griping about Kerry's pro-choice stance; a number of bishops have threatened to deny communion to Kerry and other Catholic politicians who fail to follow church teachings on abortion and other hot-button social issues.
But what about politicians, like President Bush, who violate church teachings with regards to launching preemptive wars and imposing the death penalty? Should conservative Catholic politicians who back the president and his war be denied the Eucharist? Should their supporters sanctioned?
The facts on the ground are inescapable--the US occupation of Iraq must be ended. Over the last several weeks, many of the nation's pundits, policy-makers and military brass have concluded that "the American position is untenable," to quote former US ambassador to the United Nations and Kerry adviser Richard Holbrooke. One Pentagon consultant spoke for many in the military when he referred to Bush's Iraq policy as "Dead Man Walking."
Meanwhile, the Army Times called on Donald Rumsfeld and other senior defense officials to step aside in the wake of the metastasizing Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal--"a failure that ran straight to the top."
Support for the occupation among both Iraqis and Americans is also eroding quickly. Recent Coalition Provisional Authority polls found that 80 percent of Iraqis distrust the US. And, according to a USA Today/CNN/Gallup, the majority of Iraqis now want the US to leave Iraq immediately, while only a third of Iraqis believe the US-led occupation is doing more good than harm. (And that poll was taken in late March and early April.)
In the United States, the most recent polls found that 60 percent of Americans think that we've "gotten bogged down in Iraq." Moreover, by a 54 to 44 margin, Americans say that unseating Hussein was not worth the mounting cost in blood and money.
America's politicians, of course, are trailing behind public opinion. In setting the parameters of this debate, neo-conservative hawks like Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitzâ€“and even some leading Democrats--have presented the world with a false choice. "Stay the Course," they urge, because if we leave Iraq now, we will consign the country to civil war and an Iranian-style dictatorship for years to come.
At this point, there are no good options but Kerry, sadly, has bought into this assumption by making the case that the US must remain in Iraq lest it descend into chaos. Shorn of the neocons' pipedreams for a democratic Iraq, Kerry's rhetoric is, essentially, an "Internationalization of Staying the Course."
But, by staying the course, America risks doing much more harm than good. We create new recruiting tools for terrorists in the region with our widespread abuses and neglect hotbeds of terrorist activity along the Pakistan-Afghan border. We will simply trap the US and UN in a spiral of unending violence, as the stand-offs in Najaf and Falluja demonstrate. And the occupation itself is breeding instability and violence, while strengthening the most radical Islamic forces. The world will grow even more cynical about America's global intentions, Iraqi morale will keep plummeting, and the UN's credibility as an independent body will continue to erode.
While the neocons frame the debate over Iraq as a war between light and darkness, civilization and terror, democracy and Islamic-fascism, the uprising against the Americans is, in fact, nationalist in character. War in Iraq has never offered the hope of finding Osama bin Laden, avenging 9/11 or dealing the terrorists a major military or psychological blow.
"Iraq's twentieth century resistance to foreign threats has typically been national in character, not separatist, beginning with the revolts against British occupation in the 1920s," wrote William Pfaff recently in the International Herald Tribune. America, Pfaff argues, must leave Iraq soon based on a strategy of "Iraqi national interest and Iraqi nationalism"--real sovereignty that grants Iraqis full responsibility for managing their nation's resources, security and foreign affairs.
Kerry has the opportunity to articulate just such a bold vision--let's call it the "Internationalization of Withdrawal." The capacity to admit a mistake and change course for the sake of the nation and the world is the ultimate test of any true leader.
For the sake of our nation's credibility; of the untenable security situation; the mounting US and Iraqi deaths and casualties; and of the worldwide crisis of confidence in the United States triggered by Bush's unilateral policies, America needs a Kerry exit strategy.
Here at home, the political landscape is shifting rapidly to pressure Kerry to change course. On May 18, thirty-nine groups--organized by the Win Without War coalition--launched a campaign calling for withdrawal from Iraq. They plan to use email and telephone campaigns--as well as public protests--to push Kerry and Democratic members of Congress to craft a credible exit plan.
As one of the key organizers put it, "there's a lot of frustration among some people that Kerry has not distinguished himself from Bush on this policy." Kerry should seize the moment, they argue.Still, many of the coalition's leaders intend to vote for him in November--and not Ralph Nader, who has called for the US to pull out of Iraq in six months. As someone involved in Win Without War's work made clear: "We do not wish to complicate or oppose" Kerry's campaign. "But the peace movement must stand for what it believes is right.and become an independent factor that politicians cannot take for granted. We appreciate Senator Kerry's criticism of the Bush Administration's Iraq policy, but we not agree that more American troops should be sent to that unlucky country. We hope Senator Kerry will remember his Vietnam experience as he reflects on the crisis in Iraq."
The same day Win Without War launched its campaign, two leading foreign policy establishment figures called on Kerry to craft an exit strategy. In an op-ed in Tuesday's Washington Post, James Steinberg, former deputy national security adviser in the Clinton Administration, and Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, argue that it is critical to set a date to get out. (Both men have advised Kerry.)
Kerry now has the opportunity to join not only a swelling movement for withdrawal, but also to ally himself with many leading military officials--and with the increasingly demoralized US occupation forces and their families--who are saying that this is a war we cannot win, and one that will bleed both the American forces as well as the Iraqi people. It is clear that only the Iraqi people can successfully fight for their own future.
Kerry can say that he agrees with a majority of Americans that we were deceived about WMDs, credibly declare victory by calling for early elections to be administered by the United Nations or other international organizations and endorse a hand-off of genuine sovereignty to the Iraqi people.
As soon as those elections are over, our job would be done. We don't need long-term bases in Iraq, and we should respect the Iraqi people's right to self-determination. Kerry should make the case that by leaving Iraq quickly and responsibly, America will improve its security, not weaken it.
If he can muster the courage, Kerry certainly has the background to take on this president and re-frame this debate. He also has the moral authority to do what is right for America and reject the politics of caution that so far has defined his campaign and disappointed so many supporters. Kerry saved the lives of his fellow soldiers in Vietnam and later was the eloquent and moderate leader of the veterans' antiwar movement.
While I still strongly believe that Ralph Nader has made a terrible mistake by running in a year when all energy must be focused on defeating Bush, he is now challenging Democrats to give Americans a clear choice in Iraq. Kerry would be wise to offer some bold ideas for creating a smarter, safer security policy and giving the Iraqi people a genuine opportunity to figure out their own future.
As if the military, political, and moral fallout from George Bush's regime change in Iraq isn't enough, the White House has now announced its intentions "to bring an end" to the Castro government in Cuba. Â
Last week's release of a 500-page report of the Presidential "Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba"-appointed by a year ago under a barrage of pressure from Cuban-American hardliners in the politically pivotal sub-state of Miami-marks a new escalation in the 45-year effort to roll back the Cuban revolution.
Peter Kornbluh, a regular contributor to The Nation who follows Cuba policy at the non-profit National Security Archive, compares Bush's new initiative to "an Operation Mongoose without the CIA covert sabotage and assassination efforts." The Commission, he notes, is adopting what the report describes as "a more proactive, integrated and disciplined approach to undermine the survival strategies of the Castro regime." Â
The Commission's recommendations, which Bush has adopted, add $45 million dollars to the budget for "hastening change" in Cuba. Â Among the new operations: a White House plan to send a C-130 plane on a mission to circle Cuba and beam the signals of TV and Radio Marti onto the island; a major expansion of propaganda operations to discredit and isolate Castro, i.e. spreading the specious and threatening charge that Cuba has the capacity to make biological weapons; escalating the political operations of the US interest section on the island; and further efforts to squeeze Cuba economically by curtailing the ability of US citizens, including Cuban-Americans, to travel to, and spend money on, the island.
That last component not only violates the rights of US citizens--last year both the House and the Senate voted to lift the ban on free travel to Cuba, only to have Bush's Congressional allies, Bill Frist and Dennis Hastert, strip the legislation of that clause in committee--but hurts the very families in Miami whose votes Bush hopes to win in 2004. Under Bush's punitive rules, Cuban-Americans will only be able visit their relatives once every three years, instead of once a year, as is the case under the already draconian travel policies.
The new Bush policy means that Cuban-Americans will be prevented from seeing elderly parents still on the island for interminable periods of time and that relatives in Cuba will have to go without the emotional, financial and material support these already limited visits bring. Â
According to Silvia Wilhelm, who runs Puentes Cubanos, a non-profit group in Miami promoting exchanges with Cuba, these measures will only hurt ordinary Cubans, not the Castro government. "It will determine, in some cases, the people who will survive or perish," she says. "In the name of democracy, I might add." Even Cuba's leading dissidents--including Oswaldo Paya and Elizardo Sanchez, two of the island's best-known democracy activists--have rejected Bush's initiative. Paya has said that it is up to the Cubans, not the US, to design a post-Castro transition.
The Administration's new initiative, according to a recent editorial in the Financial Times, "combines ideology with the narrowest political short-termism." And, as is the case in every electoral cycle, it immediately transforms Cuba into a game of political kickball. John Kerry, who also wants votes in Miami, supports continuing the embargo, but favors lifting the restrictions on travel as a less threatening and more promising approach to bringing US influence to bear on an eventual post-Castro transition of power. Â
With brother Jeb in the background, Bush is taking the low road. For now his new Cuba policy will be associated with Secretary of State Colin Powell who chaired the Commission. But this just gives more weight to Powell's chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, who seems to understand the folly of Washington's approach. In an interview in next month's GQ Magazine, he describes the embargo and efforts to isolate Castro as "the dumbest policy on the face of the earth. Its crazy," he said. We couldn't agree more.
Most Americans long ago stopped believing that George W. Bush is what he
claimed to be during the 2000 presidential campaign: a compassionate
So there were WMDs in Iraq after all. They're called digital cameras.
Partly because of them, the United States faces one of the most
humiliating defeats in imperial history.
As of this writing, seven in ten Americans want Defense Secretary Donald
Rumsfeld to remain at his post, a vote of confidence that exceeds that
even for the President himself.
Only on my last day in this hilly, river-spliced city, with such
beguiling old world charm and art nouveau elegance that unless you're
Kafka a strenuous effort is required to maintain fury or g
Even before the Congressional hearings on the criminal abuse of Iraqi
detainees at Abu Ghraib prison, Colin Powell brought up My Lai, the
Vietnamese village where, in 1968, American troops slau
One of the hallmarks of the Iraqi occupation is the way that new technologies are changing the face of war. The digital cameras that were employed by the Abu Ghraib photographers and the speed with which their photos circulated around the world via the internet were only the latest examples.
An international coalition of peace and justice groups, together with their Iraqi counterparts, have launched a new project, hoping to take advantage of new forms of communication to keep track of what's really going on in Iraq.Founding organizations of the International Occupation Watch Center include Bridges to Baghdad, CodePink, Global Exchange, Focus on the Global South, United for Peace and Justice and ZENKO.
The idea is to create a safe and effective space for "monitoring the economic and reconstruction policies under occupation, including the activities of international corporations, and advocate for the Iraqis' right to control their own resources, especially oil." (Click here for a full mission statement.)
Iraq Occupation Watch offers calls to action, press links, reports from Iraq and info on delegations. Click here to learn more about this important new resource, click here to tell your local media to check the reports out, and click here to contribute to Iraq Occupation Watch.
One day after the most recent monthly jobs report showed that 280,000 new jobs were created in April--welcome news, but, the Bush Administration's job record is still dismal and characterized by broken promises--a more important reflection of the nation's economic health could be found buried in the New York Times business section.
The article detailed a new report by Citizens for Tax Justice, which shows that Americans are being taxed more than twice as heavily on earnings from work as they are on investment income, even though more than half of all investment income goes to the wealthiest five percent of taxpayers.
Bush's tax cuts, according to the report, widened the advantages for investors, reducing taxes on investment income by twenty-two percent while taxes were only reduced by nine percent on income generated from actual work. According to CTJ's study, if investment income were taxed exactly as earnings from work, government tax revenues would increase by about $338 billion this year.
If any further evidence was needed of how this Administration has relentlessly shifted the country's tax burden from those who live off their wealth to those who work for a living, here it is.
So, why was John Kerry sounding like a tired deficit buster this past weekend at the Democratic Leadership Council's confab? Why not use such a report to deliver a passionate critique of the way Bush and his cronies enforce one set of rules for the wealthy and another set for the poor and middle classes? Instead of reacting defensively to short-term indicators, Kerry needs to lay out the broad pattern of economic injustice that has defined this Administration's policies. That's a winning strategy. Instead of channeling tired DLC mantras, Kerry should start channelling John Edwards and his rousing theme of Two Americas. If there was ever a year for it, this is it.