That is a photo of blood literally running in the streets, as the saying goes. While we were jumping up and down in celebration from the result of our own November elections last week, the rest of the world continued to spin seemingly out of control. The above photo was taken in the Gaza Strip, the day after the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) continued their attack since late June in occupied territory in a northern Gaza village called Beit Hanoun. More photos and outrage can be found on notinhisname.
Today, the U.N. Human Rights Council held a special session concerning the Israeli Defense Forces artillery shelling of Beit Hanoun in which 19 people were killed and some 60 others were severly injured. The UNHRC voted to send in an international fact-finding mission into Gaza and denounced recent IDF actions.
The politically polarizing U.S. ambassador, John Bolton, is not likely to be confirmed by a Democratically-controlled U.S. Senate after his Bush-appointment ends this year. Already, the U.S. Congress is passing around a letter to colleagues in order to gain support for a more acceptable candidate, Jim Leach.
Meanwhile, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, who called the shelling of Beit Hanoun "a technical mistake" was touring the U.S. on a fund raising junket. After a militant Hamas group, Qassam Brigades, killed a woman and wounded several others in the never-ending cycle of retaliation with a barage of rockets in the nearby Israeli town of Sderot today, Olmert changed his miniminally concilliatory tone and vowed "to continue fighting the unceasing, murderous terror in the Gaza Strip."
Bolton's veto in the Security Council last week for a simple investigation into the Beit Hanoun "technical mistake" was characterized as "incomprehensible" by the head of the Arab League, Amr Moussa. According to a report on Democracy Now, Moussa announced that the Arab League will now go against the ongoing U.S. strategic stance of starving the Palestinian government and start sending funds.
Friday commemorated Veterans Day in the United States, although most people simply call this the Veterans Day weekend. The President even signed a proclamation that last week would be considered National Veterans Awareness Week. In it, the President states, "I encourage all Americans to recognize the valor and sacrifice of our veterans through ceremonies and prayers." I think all Americans honored veterans this past week by voting. The ultimate gift will be more intelligent leadership in the government that can secure the country through diplomacy first; when we need the military's might, we don't tie its hands by political elections. On the left is the Department of Veterans Affair's official poster for 2006. They have an interesting gallery of posters online and links about the history of this national holiday. As a military veteran myself, I honor all the veterans of earlier wars and conflicts. I was taught to respect my elders, and as a matter of simple common sense, I listen intently to people with experience to learn from them.
I also think we can listen and learn from the everyday men and women who are currently becoming more than our relatives and neighbors by fighting and dying in the current theaters of combat.
My personal observation of Veterans Day involved watching BookTV on C-Span, where military veteran authors talked about their recent experiences in Afghanistan and Iraq. A few of the programs that I watched:
Mission Rejected: U.S. Soldiers Who Say No to Iraq Peter Laufer Watch Video
Ruff's War: A Navy Nurse on the Frontline in Iraq Cheryl Ruff Watch Video
What Was Asked of Us: An Oral History of the Iraq War by the Soldiers Who Fought It Trish Wood Watch Video
Another thing I did this Veterans Day weekend was check out the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. The LOC is becoming more available in digital form and this is one very cool example of that upgrade.
Honestly, I look to first-hand witnesses to filter the corporate or government media messages of the situation -- liberal, conservative, or completely made up lies.
I found one very interesting first-hand account of the situation on the ground in Afghanistan at the Library of Congress. This veteran was in a position to know. His name is Joseph B. Goellner, and at the time, he was an Army all-source intelligence technician tasked to support both the top ISAF military commander and the U.S. State Department's ambassador in Kabul. I transcribed the following quote from about the 19:00 minute mark in the videotaped interview.
Q: I have to ask you this. Do you think Osama bin Laden is still alive?
A: Well, that's a dangerous question. I personally do not. I personally think he died on December 14th, 2001 in the Tora Bora mission. But, officially in the government, from the government, we always say that, "He is alive," because we can't prove it yet.
Unfortunately, the area, the eastern part of Afghanistan is still very much a war zone, especially in the rural areas. And, we're not able to get up into Tora Bora to find out who we did kill that night. And, because on that night, we dropped several large crater-busting bombs in a small area. We knew there was a large contingent of what appeared to be Arabs. And, later on, the mountain, the whole side of the mountain changed because of the bombs. And, we've not been able to get up in there, and move, do engineering work to move away the rubble to see what is actually there.
And the other reason, that I say, that I believe, that Osama bin Laden died is he's too much of an ego-maniac to stay in hiding this long. And, these little tapes they send out -- can be anyone. I just believe that his ego would not have allowed him to stay unnoticed until now.
Q: And plus, he's like 6-foot-seven and needs kidney dialysis, how do you hide?
A: Yes ... yes, ma'am.
Hmmm. When do you think the goverment or the McMedia will begin to treat their 300-million strong audience with some respect and stop treating all of us like children, or fools?
Feel free to insert your own caption to my google-image montage of the Bush White House tossing Rumsfeld over the side as political shark chum.
I can only imagine that Bush/Cheney likely had a cabinet meeting of the principals where Bush's people said things like, "Donald's lived a full life; we thank him for his service to country; we can give him a service medal; Clinton and Pelosi will shut up and think about domestic policy, if we give up Rummy."
If you don't think politics in the United States is a blood sport, you're not paying attention. It has all the feakish betrayal of reality TV, all the drama of the powerful losing everything (just ask the once 2008 presidential hopeful George Allen), and the sitcom predicability of scripted one-liners.
Bush gave this freakish, five-minute-long, White House Rose Garden dog and pony show and team photo-op of his cabinet's solidarity with the press corps before he met with the newly elected and incoming House and Senate Majority leaders. Donald Rumsfeld was not there. Was that public display of team spirit to bolster the morale of his cabinet that they wouldn't meet the fate of Donald Rumsfeld or to calm the fears of millions of fellow Republicans who just drank all that Bush/Cheney campaign-trail Kool-Aid that Armageddon faced us in 2007, if the Democratic party won in the elections?
House Majority Leader-elect Nancy Pelosi once again publicly stated that "impeachment is off the table," but with a large number of old-school Democratic party icons taking up various leadership roles in House and Senate committees, she may have a tough job impeding powerful committee chairmen from calling hearings that expose the executive branch's innumerable impeachable offenses.
I predict that with ex-CIA Director Robert Gates as the incoming Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld could die from natural causes within the next 18 months, before he can testifiy under oath in a Democratic controlled committee hearing, if he opens his mouth. Look for the old soldier to have a nano-sized micro injection red spot in his left eyeball, before he can tell any death-bed confessions about Bush and Cheney. Rumsfeld is smart, though. He will keep his mouth shut, or simply lie under oath. I wouldn't expect any Robert McNamara Fog of War musings from Rumsfeld concerning Iraq.
Incoming SecDef-elect Robert Gates survived the Reagan/Bush era Iran Contra affair. In my humble opinion, I think it's quite normal and expected that George Bush is calling in some of his family's political chips for shady talent like Robert Gates, convicted felon John Poindexter, and self-admitted liar to congress and neo-con nutbag, Elliot Abrams. Look for a spreading war in the Middle East and even more covert action in South America again.
I want the Democratic-controlled House to call an Intelligence, or Armed Services, or Foreign Relations hearing. Get John Conyers to subpoena Colin Powell to testify under oath for about a month straight.
The next two years will not be boring.
As a related item of interest
This morning, C-Span's Washington Journal was to have a roundtable and call-in discussion about Iraq featuring two Iraq war veterans. Unfortunately, the spokesman for Iraq Veterans against the War had a medical emergency and could not participate. C-Span had to air the segment with only the spokesman for a pro-war group called Veterans For Freedom, David Bellavia. Being a military veteran myself, I thought I would look into this organization.
David Bellavia actually had the temerity to ask an opposition caller, "I'm a vet -- who do you think signs my paycheck?" Well, now I know. Until he leaves in January, David Bellavia's paycheck will be signed (or funded) by that NRC chairman and lying weasel, Ken Mehlman.
I can respect people who disagree with my opinion about Iraq, but when someone -- anyone -- gets on a national broadcast like C-Span, or Fox News, and espouses a foreign policy stance under the guise of credibility, it really irritates me.
In a stunning public referendum against the Bush government, Americans stoically braved Republican fear-mongering TV propanganda, electronic vote hacking, illegal and deceptive telephone robo calls, numerous state voter list purges, and other Nixonian dirty tricks brought into the twenty-first century in order to patriotically vote for regime change in the legislative branch yesterday. 2007 will usher in a government for Americans whose legislative branch can put some constitutional checks and balances upon the monarchial, or corporate, or unitary executive branch's practices of the last six years. Whether the last two years of the Bush regime are marked by political moderation by both sides, legislative gridlock, or calls for executive impeachment remains to be seen. I think we may see a little of everything.
The structure of the U.S. government has three equal branches: the executive, legislative and the judicial. The legislative branch changed control and leadership from the executive branch political party of Bush's loyal (policy rubber-stamping)Republicans to the popular opposition, the Democratic party candidates.
The legislative (law-making and appropriations) branch of the U.S. government has two main bodies: the House of Representatives and the Senate. The Senate is comprised of two elected officials from each of the 50 states, or 100 lawmakers. The House of Respresentatives is based upon population, so each state has a varied number of lawmakers.
In total, there are 436 members of the House of Representatives. Both the Senate and the House are commonly referred to as the U.S. Congress. The U.S. Congress is one of the three equal branches of the U.S. government and is the legislative branch.
Yesterday's vote was a big deal in American politics. In comparison, the executive branch election held in 2004, which put this president in power, was very much like a vote for American Idol. Some people apparently voted for Bush/Cheney in 2004 and had no idea what government he might actually create with his neocon cabinet -- although some of us jumped and down screaming not to validate his misguided agenda since the Iraq war.
Today is your day to vote and help change the world.
In addition to federal level elections for your legislators, remember all the state and local level candidates, and various initiatives need your vote, too. Ballot initiatives have to be decided in almost all the states, and those initiatives range from minimum wage, to gay marriage, to stem cells, to even marijuana decriminalization.
One of the most useful websites I've seen is run by the League of Women Voters. If you don't know where your local polling place is, you can look it up with a few clicks.
If for some reason you have trouble voting at your local polling site today, call toll-free 1-866-OUR-VOTE for information (1-866-687-8683). This is a national hotline manned by the people at Election Protection.
If you are interested in Amercian politics, but don't live in the U.S. to see any TV coverage, check out C-Span this evening for Election 2006 coverage. Two useful sites are also here and here.