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Senator Bond, blog reader January 24, 2007

Posted by Matt Hurst in Missouri, Politics.
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An interview after the President’s State of the Union caught my ear, or rather a couple phrases uttered by Missouri Senator Kit Bond (R).  Watch it for yourself if you’d like

“I said, continuing to do the same thing and expecting to get a different result I believe is the definition of insanity. But when the president comes forward with a new strategy”

While a majority of the interview covers the kind of rhetorical talking points you’d expect the Republican party to tout in the media, one caught my attention: It sounded almost identical to something I said in my last post (at the start of it):

“It is commonly said that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results”. The more things change in Iraq the more they stay the same…”

For a rhettorical way to frame discussion of the president’s change in Iraq strategy (or rather, a lackthereof) that I hadn’t heard anyone else making, the Senator sure seems to have done a little research, eh?  Maybe now would be a good time to remind the office of my representative Senator that I have a few more turns of phrase, or rather a few choice words, for his ear about Iraq as well.

Troop inSURGEncy January 10, 2007

Posted by Matt Hurst in Politics.
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It is commonly said that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and expecting different results”. The more things change in Iraq the more they stay the same: while Rumsfeld is (finally!) out and the generals changing, President Bush has no one left to blame for his failure to ensure a democratic Iraqi state because of the complete lack of security. More importantly, US troops continue to die in increasing numbers while Iraq creeps further and further into a civil war. In the meantime, other threats have emerged on the world stage only to be ignored because of our preOccupation in a war based on lies.
But instead of finding the political and tactical solutions all military and diplomatic experts urge is necessary now, President Bush is expected to announce a proposed increase in troop levels in the Iraqi theater. He will argue that this increase will quell violence and allow the Iraqi forces to grow so that they can be selfsustaining. Mr. Bush may further yet admit that he has made mistakes (gasp!); ones he will tell us he has learned from in this new plan. While everyone agrees that troop levels should have been higher during the initial invasion force to ensure security, that window of opportunity has passed. Perhaps the president would be advised to learn from other mistakes, like the times he has increased the troop levels before tonight:

 1.)  Massive Troop Rotations (December 2003-April 2004): As part of a massive rotation of 250,000 troops in the winter and spring of 2004, troop levels in Iraq were raised from 122,000 to 137,000. Yet, the increase did nothing to prevent Muqtada al-Sadr’s Najaf uprising and April of 2004 was the second deadliest month for American forces. [Brookings Institution, 12/21/06. www.icasualties.org. USA Today, 3/4/04
2.)  Constitutional Elections and Fallujah (November 2004-March 2005): As part of an effort to improve counterinsurgency operations after the Fallujah offensive in November 2004 and to increase security before the January 2005 constitutional elections U.S. forces were increased by 12,000 to 150,000. Again there was no long-term security impact. [Brookings Institution, 12/21/06. New York Times, 12/2/04.] 
3.)  Elections and Constitutional Referendum (September-December 2005): In the fall of 2005 the Bush administration increased troop levels by 22,000, making a total of 160,000 American troops in Iraq around the constitutional referendum and parliamentary elections. While the elections went off without major violence these escalations had little long-term impact on quelling sectarian violence or attacks on American troops. [Brookings Institution,
12/21/06. www.icasualties.org
4.)  Operation Together Forward, (June-October 2006): In June the Bush administration announced a new plan for securing Baghdad by increasing the presence of Iraqi Security Forces. That plan failed, so in July the White House announced that additional American troops would be sent into Baghdad. By October, a U.S. military spokesman, Gen. William Caldwell, acknowledged that the operation and troop increase was a failure and had “not met our overall expectations of sustaining a reduction in the levels of violence.” [CNN, 1
2/19/06. Washington Post, 7/26/06. Brookings Institution, 12/21/06.]

The metric by which we win this war has to change, because you can change metrics but not necessarily outcomes.  Tactical changes recommended by the Iraq Study group actually include a reduction of troop levels in Iraq over the next 6 months rather than the surge of troop levels.  Any new tactics ought to be taken on by existing troop levels, so maybe we need an exit strategy…

Maybe I’m the one insane, but I hear echoes of another voice in the room
“I’m not going to be the first American president to lose a war”
…I really oughta stop playing the Nixon tapes on repeat.  THE EMPORER HAS NO CLOTHES!

What ever happened to Habeas Corpus? October 18, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Politics.
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They were scared shitless. It had been five years since a people had been savagely attacked, but they knew the enemy was at large. A final solution was needed.
They were an administration, accused of savage acts that violated international law, and fighting a loosing battle for their political control of their own nation. They needed a final solution.
They were a party, beleaguered by crime and corruption in violation of their own law. The laws set before them, a naive writ made 800 years their prior, threatened their security of rule. To secure their power, a final solution needed to be made.

In the fall of 2006, a solution was finally made – the Military Commissions Act. No longer beleaguered by the right to trial by jury. No longer threatened by the rights of the enemy to the Geneva Conventions. No longer in jeopardy to the whim of another enemy party to prosecute them. No longer in violation of law – the law said they could do what they wanted.

We fell asleep. The American people were either too scared or too deafened by the boy who cried wolf, to do anything more than change the channel. Those in the former category had little to fear – they didn’t speak up so much as follow orders to duck and cover in the endless war. Those who didn’t know any better wanted to know which star could dance the best on television. Either one had given up their rights by not practicing them ages ago. In effect, nothing had changed.

The Military Commissions act, raced through congress in the last few weeks of session before the mid-term elections at the insistence of President Bush, legalizes in broad terms the torture and detention of people who have been deemed guilty of crimes they have not committed. Framed in terms of fighting terrorism, this law legalizes the practice of this administration to extract those termed “enemy combatants” by the administration (which the law does not bother to define) and hold them indefinitely (in detention centers, prison by any other name) without the right to know what for they will be charged. The right to trial by jury for these people deemed threats to the country is negligent, although it also allows that government to torture them in what would otherwise be relegated to war crimes (and was during the Nuremburg Trials).

The congress and Bush administration have suspended the Great Writ – the Writ of Habeas Corpus. In other words, we have betrayed a long legal tradition, not just pre-9/11 but pre-Magna Carta. This tradition, the very foundation of our democratic system, supposes that those held as threats to their fellow citizen must be held with REASON that is self-evident.
It was important enough that people fought a war over it – the American Revolution. It was important enough that it was written in our constitution before the Bill of Rights was. IT was important enough that the Bill of Rights presupposes the Great Writ. It is important enough that we would not even treat the Nazis without the same rights they violated. It was the very foundation of our democratic system, since laws we make would have to be enforced with the right to face these charges over mere suspicion.

WHERE WERE YOU WHEN HABEAS CORPUS WAS SUSPENDED? You might ask yourself again huddled in the corner, asking yourself why you had been detained yourself

Anniversaries September 13, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Philsophy, Politics.
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With only a weeks time to rest between historical markers, the American people remembered twin tragedies against its greatest hopes. As summer drew to a close Americans reflected on the progress, or more specifically the lack thereof, made in recovery in the year since Hurricane Katrina impacted the Gulf coast. In little more than a week later all eyes turned back into their sockets in blind observance of the fifth anniversary of the attacks of September 11th, 2001. A third and centennial anniversary (of which we’ll measure these anniversaries by) went by unnoticed that same day, swept aside by nostalgia and commiseration of a people growing uneasy about the direction they were in being driven into the ground and left to fend for themselves.
Although it can only be made into argument, it can be useful to compare the two new popular anniversaries of a great morbid fascination and shame to its people. The latest in grieving sheik, Katrina’s one year anniversary was mourn-abrated in a once great city destroyed by the explosive forces of abuse; and has left in disrepair since it’s attack. The same could be said for another great city with a gaping hole in the ground where monuments to man’s ignorance to the impact of their actions was ignored. New Orleans does not stand up, and neither do the towers of New York; but of course the Pentagon has risen it’s heights as never before and never again.
I must concede that I agree with the great dictator that we must never forget the lessons learned from either of these senseless tragedies. Although I should mention we differ radically on what those lessons are.

Both tragedies occurred as a product of the same economic means, though through differing ends being political and environmental in process. Hurricane Katrina, arguably the first super storm to ravage a metropolitan area since the onset of global climate change, broke apart our preconceptions that global warming only meant a warmer summer. As those who could afford to flee the impact area in any matter of combustion engines left behind their trails by the tailpipe, those left behind faced the product of carbon emissions heating the surface of earth’s oceans – the same warming water that creates hurricanes that feed off the heated seas. In another attack from a man made conflict, those on American buildings of symbolic importance, September 11th is still best framed by ignorance and perversion (but not necessarily just by those that did harm to innocents). In the same high octane fossil fuels exploding into their targets was carried to burning resentment and hostility of a people disenfranchised by the markets of energy from their right to self-governance, rising up against a perceived empire (now justified in their assessment) as the innocence of a people collapsed with the towers. And like our inability to promote sustainable energy consumption through economic regulation, the governing mechanisms that were created to protect us simply passed to responsibility for its consequences off to each other without ever providing the solutions to the problem.
In addition, both tragedies were ultimately preventable if the agencies responsible had acted on the information already available to them. It has been well established in the past five years that many government agencies anticipated the threat of Al-Queda, and a few even had credible intelligence of such a planned attack. I need not repeat what is a matter of public record, only to offer that the means to prevent the atrocities of that day were possible under the existing apparatuses and laws of that day. Likewise Katrina’s greatest impact on New Orleans, the failure of the city’s levee system, was a well known problem predicted not just on the storm’s eve but 40 years since it’s creation. IT is only the failure of a the governed to protect and care for those who give it consent to rule them that we remember today.
I will not address the President’s address last night – it is filled with the same recycled speaking points he has made time and again, and can be easily torn apart as a an argument (if only for the evidence contrary found as the consequences of his own actions). Now with the new flavor of “Islamo-fascism”, we can all rest safely with the knowledge that no such tyrants who wish to take away our freedoms can harm us as long as we stand together. No one, no matter how determined, can take away American’s freedoms (just our civil liberties instead) to spend ourselves into slavery.

In times where people stand and suffer, it was another anniversary this September 11th that may offer us something of hope – the 100th anniversary of Gandhi’s non-violent, civil disobedience movement. On that date in 1906, Gandhi stood before the most powerful empire of the world and began to break down the economic system that was the instrument of its power by standing up to the Salt tax that served to punish the great masses and enrich the pockets of those within their means. In time this tactic that neither harms oppressor nor the oppressed gave birth to his people’s independence, and also to the people of our own Civil Rights movements. He showed us that it is possible to stand up to those that wish to do us harm or those institutions that thrive on our ignorance and suffering not by the strike of the hand but by winning the hearts of our enemies. In the end he proves that the best (and perhaps only) means of solving differences of political, social, economic, and religious differences not by holding each other back but by bringing us up together. It forces us to examine our interdependence and recognize the humanity in each other, rather than tearing each other apart and only making our animosity towards each other grow in every action. His passive resistance has not been in word or deed in the last five years, but its need has grown in every passing say if we are to rebuild a world we want to live in.

The Conflict and Death of the Party August 16, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Philsophy, Politics.
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nothing to see hereBombs away! Another day, another round of munitions fired. Safely tucked behind projected screen, projecting the line of fire into my home, I am tempted to be an armchair analyst. After all, from watching the news you would think that a smart bomb targeting “the enemy” were a discriminating as a bullet. The aftermath is just all of us in collateral (damage).It’s redundant to say that the Middle-East is a cycle of violence, but that doesn’t make it any less true. The central conflict is created in the same way as it’s solutions, in that the wars are always waged for and between “us and them”. Jewish people see their “people” threatened and killed every day by “the enemy”, and so too do the Lebanese (and likely Arab people as a whole). Even the Christians are interested in the deaths of other Christians. Not that this is a religious conflict necessarily; all I see is people suffering and dying on both sides. It’s a question of affiliation, a dichotomy of “us and them”, “our people and the enemy”.

This is not just a case in the Lebanon/Israel/Hizbollah conflict, but in our own in the middle east. The United States has a history of propping up leaders/dictators of our own, and tearing down democratically elected leaders of their own. In the past their have been secular democracies in the middle east, but don’t tell the Bush League that. Lest we forget that this is not just how the Iranian Revolution started, but also Iraq where CIA asset Saddam Hussein was installed in a coup (or two). Using our puppets to control states “for their own good” and to wage war against each other (see the Iran/Iraq war of the 1980s, or Lebanon-Syria), we have sabotaged all future efforts to bring peace and freedom to these people.

As long as people see themselves as separate in identity, it is easy to vilify the others. It becomes easy to injure the other when they are less human than you, if only because they share different values or perspective. In the meantime, you see people like yourself being injured, and enter this defensive perspective towards the other. The very act of violence reinforces this separation between “peoples”, and thusly inspiring future generations of violence. This is the cycle created as people lash out against the other in successive waves of conflict. In the end it is never important who started a conflict when everyone is left bloody.

Perhaps then it shouldn’t be surprising that our occupation of Iraq spurs protest mostly on the basis of “our troops” who have lost their lives to this quagmire. Not to diminish the lives lost by brave men sworn to defend “their country” upon request (because they can only follow the orders to march towards their own peril), but we often neglect the suffering of another contingent; the Iraqi people. The deaths of some 100,000+ Iraqi people, almost entirely civilian, and perhaps more through collateral damage brought on by war is almost entirely forgotten in the debate. The very occupation of our forces in the country encourages conflict, and endangers the lives of American and Iraqi alike as they threaten each other over sovereignty. Every life lost is significant, and a tragedy for all parties involved.

For now, the portrayal of a conflict depends entirely on who is hurting “your” people. WE must recognize the humanity in everyone. WE must recognize that WE are ALL <i>each others</I> people; that we are part of the same human community. Only then will we stop hurting each other, as we treat them as our own.

all lines open August 2, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in dialogues.
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America, is that you? I’ve been calling you all week, where have you been? Don’t tell me you were out helping your friend, I heard all about it on the news. Yeah, I know you have to keep your secrets, but what’s a secret between friends. I mean we used to be friends. You changed.

Me? I’ve been crossing the Delaware again. Remember when I used to live around there? How could either of us forget, it could’ve been a turning point for you too. No, they shut down washington’s park, but washington square is open for business. I know New York’s a mess, but will you stop sending your relatives to ground zero. No, it’s just that they have no respect in that house, as if nothing is sacred to them anymore.

Speaking of which, will you stop using that god voice with georgie boy? no, it’s just that he hears enough “from god” to cancel out whatever you tell him. i suppose if you believe in anything hard enough, you’ll find evidence to make it seem real. I’m just not sure I believe in dreams anymore. At least not the ones that make you judge so many people you used to say need an open relationship so that we could talk freely. Now we’re just given every reason to be suspicious of you, since your shadow casts itself in the darkness.

Call me back when you have something constructive to offer. Peace.

Disclaimer (for WordPress) July 23, 2006

Posted by Matt Hurst in Blogroll.
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The critics agree about American Dream blog:

“Thanks for the kind words–your presence and voice in class added an essential dimension…thanks.” – Kathy Sullivan (paid in full)

“This is the first I’ve seen of them” – Mike Steinberg, professional documentarian

“perhaps it’ll gain you a following of sensitive, poetic girls…” – ksen, love triangle expert

” I s’pose it would be nice to have someone observe your situation, not knowing anyone close to you, causing them to formulate honest and fair opinions…You do drink an awful lot, but makybe drinking through this is for the best. You can forget the most of it and I can be on my merry way. Eventually.” – Veronica Mink, 1920s flapper icon

“the sort of bliss one can only find in the midwest.” – Mr. Benigans, noted Zine artist

“aw, we’re not allowed to have whores? then what am i supposed to do for money? and since when did a cat give you sexual gratification? (meow.)” – Miss Serbus, award winning poet

“It is us in all our stupidity, or thurs for power or even in our indifference who create the most damage.” – J Nichols, inadvertantly paraphrasing MLK Jr.

“I would expressedly never read anything Thadius Ignatious Elliot wrote.” – Matthew Hurst, no introduction necssary