Monday, April 12, 2010

WTF?

What is wrong with us? Have we become so brainwashed and jaded that we can’t see what’s happening? Our young people are being turned into murderers and war fodder by our feckless and imperialistic wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And all we do is watch.

There is a video running viral on the web of a US Army helicopter gunning down 12-15 civilians in a Baghdad suburb in 2007. The grim video leaves no doubt that this was an unprovoked attack on civilians by young men caught up in bloodlust, and the Army’s response leaves no doubt it was deliberately covered up. Watch it and decide for yourself.

One of our primary military contractors, Blackwater (now euphemistically and nonsensically named Xe), murdered 17 Iraqi civilians caught in a traffic jam. Even with first-hand accounts by witnesses saying it was completely unprovoked, the murderers walked away.

Afghan investigators claim that US military forces covered up the massacre of five Afghan citizens following a raid on what turned out to be a baby shower. After first claiming US soldiers had stumbled upon the victims of some kind of an honor killing, military officials now admit that our soldiers were responsible. The Afghan investigators charge that American forces dug the incriminating bullets out of the women’s bodies to cover up the crime.

These are only a few of the hundreds of attacks by mistake or malice on the part of our soldiers, contractors and allies. This is how our Afghanistan commander, Stanley McCrystal, recently explained it:

“We really ask a lot of our young service people out on the checkpoints because there's danger, they're asked to make very rapid decisions in often very unclear situations. However, to my knowledge, in the nine-plus months I've been here, not a single case where we have engaged in an escalation of force incident and hurt someone has it turned out that the vehicle had a suicide bomb or weapons in it and, in many cases, had families in it. That doesn't mean I'm criticizing the people who are executing. I'm just giving you perspective. We've shot an amazing number of people and killed a number and, to my knowledge, none has proven to have been a real threat to the force.”

While we can’t let war crimes go unpunished, there is another side to this issue. What turns normal, well-adjusted young Americans into ruthless, cold-blooded murderers? What are we doing to our young people? Who bears the responsibility?

These wars have become an integral part of our culture, but we have no real sense of the extraordinary damage that is being done to the young men and women fighting in our name. Sure, we see a few of the success stories of those who have recovered from horrific injuries and started a new life with amazing prosthetic limbs, but there are tens of thousands more who have been crippled for life. And the suffering extends to their families whose lives are also permanently impacted.

The insidiousness of these wars is that the damage to the soldiers and their loved ones is profound, while the impact on the rest of us is minimal. And the military is deliberately hiding the carnage from us to keep from losing public support.

It is shameful, dishonorable and simply wrong to destroy the lives of our young people and then sweep them under the rug. We’re sending our solders on an imperialist fool’s mission into hell, turning them into murderers and war criminals, and then dumping them on the street.

It’s time to face the fact that we’re not winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqis and Afghans, but we can’t lay all the blame on the soldiers. Those who made the misguided and inept decisions that sent them there are also to blame.

The politicians, the military and the media tell us how we’re doing the right thing and we’re winning. That’s nothing more than self-serving propaganda.

There is no victory in Iraq or Afghanistan. All we have done is spill the blood of more than a million civilians and brought shame and disgrace to the United States. The atrocities of these wars have stained us and will curse our children and grandchildren.

We have killed nearly 5000 American solders and wounded tens of thousands more. And these are not quickly healed wounds. They include post-traumatic stress disorders, massive head injuries and severed limbs. We have destroyed families with repeated deployments.

In the process, we have squandered hundreds of billions of dollars that could have helped the country through this recession. We could have rebuilt crumbling bridges and highways, rejuvenated our failing schools and sent millions of young Americans to college.

But we didn’t. Instead, we burned through all that money and all those human lives to act out the imperialist fantasies of a small group of political fanatics and greedy mercenaries. And every American who doesn’t now stand up to a government run amok shares the blame.

As long as we continue to let this happen, the blood of these soldiers and civilians is on our hands too. As long as we continue to rationalize this war and these deaths, a little piece of us dies too. As long as we close our eyes to the immorality of this war, we extend it.

We can no longer lay the blame on soldiers, generals and politicians. We're now accomplices in their crimes.

It's time for you and I to stop this war.

Keith Hoffman—Watercolor Landscapes

Keith Hoffman recently relocated to Landenberg, Pennsylvania; but since his studio and gallery were in Jamaica, Vermont for many years, he’s still a New England artist to me.

I came across Keith at an outdoor art show in Vermont about fifteen years ago. I was so taken by his work that I visited his Jamaica studio a few weeks later and bought one of his paintings.



Keith excels at watercolors. His style is reminiscent of the mid-Twentieth Century greats, Ted Kautsky and Herb Olsen. Many artists consider watercolor the most demanding medium because it requires confidence and practice, and the ability to make corrections is limited.

Keith grew up in the New York City area in a family that included several commercial artists and illustrators who encouraged his interest in art. As a young artist, Keith taught painting classes. He did demonstrations for art organizations and university/high school art programs. He joined the prestigious Salmagundi Club and become the President of Long Island's largest art organization, the Art League of Nassau County.



Keith later relocated to Vermont to immerse himself in the rural subject matter that continues to be his passion. While in Vermont, he developed a reputation as one of the State’s finest watercolorists. He had numerous one-man exhibitions at the prestigious Southern Vermont Arts Center in Manchester.

Keith’s move to the Brandywine Valley area of Pennsylvania puts him in a region that has inspired artists like Howard Pyle and the Wyeths. He plans to open an arts center in Landenberg, where he renovated the upper floor of a horse barn into a studio.



He also works as an instructor at the Center for the Creative Arts in Yorklyn, Delaware and the Academy of Lifelong Learning in Wilmington. His work can be seen at galleries throughout the eastern seaboard.

You can see Keith’s work at his website: www.khoffmanart.com/index.html. You can reach him by phone at 610-274-8123 or by email at kbhoffman@verizon.net.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Granny D vs. Judd Gregg

Doris "Granny D" Haddock died last month at age 100. She was a true New Hampshire hero.

She began her political career in 1960 when she and her husband successfully campaigned against an ill-conceived plan to create a harbor in Alaska by exploding nuclear devices. It was part of Operation Plowshare, a frighteningly na├»ve project to find peaceful uses for nuclear explosives. “Father of the Hydrogen Bomb” Edward Teller championed the project. He touted the harbor as an important economic development for America’s newest state.

Alaska’s political leaders, newspaper editors, the state university's president and church groups all rallied in support of the massive detonation even though there was no practical use for the harbor. Opposition came from the tiny Inuit Eskimo village of Point Hope, which would have been devastated by the bizarre experiment. A few environmental scientists and a handful of conservationists including Doris and her husband, Jim Haddock, successfully created enough public pressure to force the AEC to abandon the project.

Doris became interested in campaign finance reform after the defeat of the first McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Bill in 1995. So starting in 1999 at the age of 89, she walked the 3,200 miles from Pasadena, California to Washington, D.C. in 14 months to draw attention to campaign finance reform. Wearing her trademark wide-brimmed straw hat, she covered about 10 miles a day through deserts, mountains and forests wearing out four pairs of sneakers in the process.

In 2004, she ran for the U.S. Senate against incumbent senator Judd Gregg. Running a campaign funded only by small donations by individual contributors, she managed to garner 34% of the vote. Her well-funded Republican rival beat her with 66%. Following the election, Doris founded the Citizen Funded Election Task Force and attended its weekly meetings.

A former Congressman and Governor, Judd Gregg has been a consistent champion of special interests. He was the leading Republican negotiator and author of the TARP program, which bailed out financial institutions. He had a multi-million dollar investment in the Bank of America at the time.

In February 2009, President Obama asked Gregg to serve as Secretary of Commerce. At first he accepted; but he withdrew when the Associated Press reported that Gregg and his family profited personally from federal earmarks steered by the senator for the redevelopment of a Pease Air Force base. He claimed his withdrawal for the Cabinet position had nothing to do with his family’s real estate dealings.

Gregg explained his investments by saying, “I've throughout my entire lifetime been involved in my family's businesses and that's just the way our family works. We support each other and our activities.”

He subsequently stepped down from the TARP Oversight Board because of a busy schedule and announced he would not seek reelection. Since that time, he has done everything he can to derail the Obama Administration. As a lame-duck Senator, the Republican Party seems to have tapped him as to be their obstructionist mouthpiece.

Gregg admitted that his role was to stir up uncertainty among Democrats, hoping to trip up health care reform. He raised the specter that the reconciliation process will shut the Senate down, and questioned whether the president can use reconciliation.

He claimed that Congress couldn’t use reconciliation to fix a bill that hasn't yet been signed into law, even though Republicans repeatedly used reconciliation to push special interest legislation through the Senate during the Bush administration.

He added that the Republican Party had a whole host of procedural hurdles that they would throw in the way of healthcare reform including arcane parliamentary procedures to force Senate Democrats to vote on controversial legislative topics completely unrelated to health care. He pledged to essentially bleed the reconciliation process to death.

Gregg is a perfect example of how the Republican Party is more interested in protecting the status quo and covering their asses than in any meaningful reforms in healthcare, banking or campaign finances.

I can’t help but wonder how much better off New Hampshire and the country would be if a champion of democracy like Granny D had beaten Judd Gregg in 2004. I’m proud to claim her as a New Hampshire hero. I’m ashamed of Judd Gregg.