Is The GOP A Political Party? Or A Crime Syndicate?

For those of you who think the two major political parties in the US are different in name only, I would like to correct the perception. True, both parties are far too friendly with lobbyists and large corporations. Both rely on billionaires to fund their political campaigns. Both have voted to dole out billions in corporate welfare. But that’s where the comparisons end. Today’s GOP would be unrecognizable to Republicans such as Abraham Lincoln, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nelson Rockefeller.

In my lifetime, I’ve seen GOP Sen. Joseph McCarthy create rampant fear of communists around every corner resulting in false accusations and black lists that ruined the lives of political opponents and innocents alike.

We saw GOP presidential candidate Richard M. Nixon treasonously interfere in the Vietnam peace talks for political advantage. As president, he divided the nation. Then, in his re-election campaign, he created a dirty tricks squad to torment his opponents. He was forced from office when it was discovered that he ordered a break-in of Democratic offices and used his position to cover it up. His VP, his Attorney General, his White House lawyer and others went to prison. And, during the Watergate hearings, he was found to have committed tax fraud. But, thanks to a pardon by his Republican successor, he was spared prison even as his tax lawyer was convicted and sentenced.

Similarly, we learned that Ronald Reagan secretly, and treasonously, negotiated with the Iranians to prevent the release of US hostages until after the presidential election. Then, during his second term, it was discovered that he had illegally ordered the sale of arms to Iran in order to fund an illegal war in Central America. At least a dozen members of his administration were indicted while Reagan was allowed to ride off into the sunset. Yet few of the culprits served real consequences since Reagan’s GOP successor, George H.W. Bush, ordered his Attorney General (William Barr) to pardon them.

Under false pretenses, Bush later led a war against Iraq over Kuwaiti oil. And following his “victory” Bush sent the nation’s economy into a deep recession by closing dozens of military bases in the US.

Following in his father’s footsteps, George W. Bush ignored warnings that al-Qaeda was set to attack the US resulting in 9/11. He then took us to war in Afghanistan (our longest-running war) and lied our nation into going to war in Iraq resulting in the squandering of trillions of dollars and the complete destabilization of the Middle East the consequences of which will be felt for many generations. Bush also oversaw the continued de-regulation of our financial sector leading to the collapse of our stock markets and the Great Recession.

Now we have the boss of a crime family occupying our White House – Donald J. Trump – who ascended to power as the beneficiary of substantial election interference by Russia, information stolen from Democratic databases, election fraud, illegal campaign contributions, and more than $70 million from the NRA. He has not only refused to acknowledge Russian interference, he has obstructed investigations into that interference. Only because of an inane judgment by the DOJ has he avoided charges. Meanwhile, his personal lawyer and members of his campaign committee have either pleaded guilty or have been convicted of crimes leading to prison sentences.

And that’s not even the worst of his presidency. He has led the plundering of our treasury to enrich his family, his friends and large corporations. He has gutted regulations designed to prevent another market crash and to protect our environment. He has engaged in ill-conceived trade wars. He has implemented racist policies. He has further divided our nation by empowering white nationalists. And he has undermined the truth, the press and most of our institutions.

All of this has been enabled by compliant GOP congressional representatives who are re-elected only as the result of extreme gerrymandering, union busting and a variety of voter suppression techniques designed to prevent people of color and the working poor from voting for their opponents.

By comparison, the last three Democratic administrations have been guilty of balancing the budget, rescuing our economy from financial collapse, giving millions of Americans access to affordable health care, and twenty years relatively free from scandal…except for that blow job and those emails. You know, THOSE emails.

Why US Must Prosecute Its Architects Of Torture.

When President Obama took office, he and Attorney General Eric Holder declined to prosecute crimes committed by the Bush administration…the fraudulent case for the Iraq War, the illegal detention and treatment of the prisoners at Gitmo, and the failure of government agencies to regulate the gambling addiction of Wall Street. The feeling was that the nation needed to heal…that, in the midst of two wars and an economic calamity, the prosecution of crimes would only make the festering wounds worse. As a result, Bush administration officials were given a pass for war crimes and Wall Street bankers were given a “stay-out-of-jail” card for massive financial fraud.

It’s time for Obama and the Department of Justice to revisit that decision.

The Senate report on the Bush-led torture program chronicles the depravity of our extraordinary renditions and enhanced interrogations. It shows that, under the Bush administration, our nation sank to new lows, placing us among the world’s worst actors. Instead of claiming the high ground in our war on terror, in many ways we joined the so-called “Axis of Evil” as decried by former President Bush himself.

We cannot ever again claim to be the “beacon of hope” or that “shining city upon the hill” as described by Ronald Reagan if we refuse to seek justice against those who committed war crimes in our name. That means an open, and very public, trial of Bush, Cheney, former CIA Director Michael Hayden, former Attorneys General John Ashcroft and Alberto Gonzales, former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld, former NSA Director Condoleezza Rice and anyone else within the Bush administration who authorized and ordered torture. We should demand that Richard “The Dick” Cheney repay his share of the reported $39.5 billion in profits made by Halliburton from the Iraq War. We should also reclaim the $81 million paid to the two psychologists who recommended the various forms of torture and, if they refuse to repay their “consulting” fees, we should arraign them on criminal charges.

“But what about the political divisiveness such actions would create?” you may ask.

That ship sailed long ago. It left port on the day of Obama’s inauguration when Mitch McConnell and his Teapublican cronies plotted to make Obama a one-term president by obstructing his nominations and every aspect of his agenda. It gained speed when Senate Teapublicans used the filibuster a record number of times and the GOP House voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act more than 50 times. And it sped out of sight when the GOP House voted to sue the sitting president of the United States.

Despite the president’s best efforts, there has been no healing of the wounds opened by the Bush administration. And there can be no healing of the US reputation unless those who chose to torture prisoners in violation of the Geneva Conventions and the UN treaty against torture are held accountable. Moreover, without a proper accounting, our own citizens and troops will be more vulnerable to torture in conflicts around the world. Does that mean a former president, vice-president, CIA director and assistant attorney general should go to prison? If we were to follow the precedent established by the Nuremburg trials of former Nazi leaders, the answer could very well be yes.

We cannot be a true democracy unless every crime is prosecuted fairly and equally under the law, and unless everyone is held accountable for criminal actions.

Congress Should Have Given As Much Attention To Iraq As Benghazi.

Congress has spent far more time debating and analyzing the events at Benghazi than it did the invasion of Iraq. The results of the terrorist attacks on the US Consulate in Benghazi resulted in the tragic deaths of four Americans. While the cavalier invasion of Iraq led to the deaths of 4,486 US soldiers and, by at least one authoritative estimate, the deaths of more than a million Iraqis. The invasion of Iraq was based on false pretenses while the concern over Benghazi is that the White House falsely stated the cause of the attacks.

What’s wrong with this picture?

Benghazi has been investigated, analyzed and politicized to death. And the GOP is still out for blood. They want someone, anyone, to pay. They already derailed the nomination of Susan Rice for Secretary of State for merely stating what she believed to be true. And every investigation has proven that her remarks were accurate. But the GOP wants to hang Benghazi around the necks of President Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. There is talk of impeachment and the everlasting hope that further investigations of Benghazi will prevent Hillary from running for president in 2016. There is also the very real likelihood that another sensationalized kangaroo investigation of Benghazi will help the GOP capture the Senate in the mid-term elections.

Yet, the many falsehoods and lies that led to the invasion of Iraq have scarcely been investigated. No one involved in the lies at any level has paid a price. Only recently has the Senate investigated the accusations of Bush-sanctioned secret prisons and torture! In an attempt to heal the wounds caused by that costly and unnecessary war, President Obama chose not to pursue investigations and sanctions against the pepetrators of the lies, even though there is clear evidence that the Bush administration lied about the existence of WMD (weapons of mass destruction), sanctioned torture, and punished anyone who stood in their way, going so far as to commit treason by outing a clandestine CIA operative as payback for her husband’s op-ed debunking the notion that Saddam Hussein had purchased yellow cake uranium from Niger.

And what of the warnings Bush, Cheney and Condoleezza Rice received before 9/11? What of claims from numerous credible sources that the Bush administration received more than 40 detailed warnings of the impending attack? What of the single investigation led by Condoleezza Rice’s pal, Philip Zelikow, which whitewashed the lead-up to the attack and absolved Rice of wrongdoing despite obvious negligence as the National Security Advisor? What of the administration’s blatantly false claims that Saddam Hussein had partnered with al-Qaeda?

Are the American media really so stupid that they would treat the Benghazi hoax more seriously than the deception and lies behind the Iraq War and the negligence surrounding 9/11? Can the GOP be so cynical as to perpetuate the Benghazi myth for obvious political purposes? Are American voters so stupid or naive that they would believe the GOP’s disproven theory that Benghazi is worse than Watergate?

Unfortunately, I believe the answer to those questions is an unqualified yes.

The Cost Of “Wanting To Kick Some Ass.”

Our role in the Iraq War may be over, but the costs are still mounting up. According to a study by a Harvard researcher, the financial cost to the US has surpassed $4 trillion, and if the cost of care for wounded warriors is included, the overall cost could grow to as much as $6 trillion!

Yet that cost pales in comparison to the human cost. The US lost 4,486 soldiers in Iraq. Our allies lost an additional 318. And, according to a new report by Johns Hopkins University, an estimated 500,000 Iraqis died, including 200,000 who died from disease because of failed infrastructure and the fact that they couldn’t get to hospitals or doctors in order to receive treatment.

What makes these numbers even worse is that Bush’s neocon nincompoops used visions of mushroom clouds to sell this unnecessary war of choice. They claimed that the invasion would only last “a matter of days, not weeks,” that it would “pay for itself” and the Iraqis would “welcome us as liberators.” Most disturbing, an official who was inside the Bush administration said that the real reason we went to war in Iraq was that Afghanistan had been “too easy,” and after 9/11, “we wanted to kick some ass.”

The invasion of Iraq also conveniently fit Richard “The Dick” Cheney’s Plan for a New American Century which called for using our position as the world’s lone superpower to force our economic will on the world. He also called for the transformation of America’s defenses by establishing a firm military foothold in the Middle East, but warned that the process would likely be a long one, “absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor.”

9/11 was just such an event.

Given the opportunity, Cheney and his fellow neocons took charge and began planning the invasion of Iraq immediately following 9/11. It made no difference that Iraq had absolutely no role in the attacks. This knowledge should weigh heavily on the conscience of every American. It should cause us to reconsider the process with which we make decisions to go to war. Such decisions should never be opportunistic. They should be the result of a careful, reasoned and agonizing debate. They should be viewed as an absolute last resort.

“Wanting to kick some ass” as a justification to go to war rightfully ranks those in the Bush administration right alongside Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi as bullies, despots and war criminals.

Despite being at war for most of our history, it seems Americans still don’t understand the consequences of war. Maybe that’s because the last war to be fought on US soil was the Civil War. For nearly 150 years, Americans have largely viewed war as something that happens to someone else. Moreover, our most recent wars have been fought by a tiny percentage of Americans.

It’s incredibly easy for people who have no real stake in combat to be war hawks…or, more accurately, chicken hawks. They want to fight…but on someone else’s land with someone else’s children. As demonstrated by the large number of deaths and the widespread destruction in Iraq, war has consequences – terrible, tragic, deadly consequences. War is rarely noble and honorable. War is ugly and bloody. Some people do extraordinarily brave things. But just as many commit awful, regrettable acts that stay with them for a lifetime.

Until we understand that, we can only dream of living in a world at peace.

The New American Royalty?

Last week, Liz Cheney announced that she is running for US Senate from the State of Wyoming. If elected, she will likely walk the same dark path as her father, former Vice-President Richard “The Dick” Cheney. Liz has long been her father’s most outspoken defender and apologist. Like her father, virtually every word that escapes her mouth oozes with hatefulness and contempt for others.

At the same time, some Republicans are clamoring for Jeb Bush to run for President of the United States. If he does run, and wins, he will be the third Bush to be president. In addition, his grandfather Prescott Bush was a US Senator.

On the other side, the presumed presidential nominee of the Democratic Party is Hillary Clinton. Although I very much like Hillary and I think she would be a wonderful president, I’m troubled that she already spent eight years in the White House. Wouldn’t it be better if another popular candidate, especially a woman, stepped forward?

Is this the future of our nation? Are we so enamored with celebrity that we vote for the name instead of the person? Are we more interested in genetics than ideas? Were the last Bush and the last Cheney such great leaders we can’t wait to have another set in power?Politicians are not like software. As we learned from “W”, the succeeding generation is not necessarily version 2.0, 1.5 or even 1.0.

Nepotism is banned in most successful organizations, why not in government?

If this trend continues, how long before we simply proclaim a royal family or families and do away with elections altogether? Then we, too, could breathlessly await the birth of a new monarch.

I may not be an expert on history, but I seem to recall that we fought a war to get away from royalty.

How Quickly We Forget!

A new poll by Gallup has found that 49 percent of Americans now view President George W. Bush favorably, while 46 percent view him unfavorably. Assuming that the poll is more accurate than Gallup polls from the 2012 election, it would seem to indicate that 49 percent of Americans are either uninformed, misinformed or blissfully ignorant. The only other possible explanation is an epidemic of Attention Deficit Disorder!

What exactly did Dubya do that could be considered good?

Was it the fact that he used his brother’s position as governor of Florida to steal the 2000 election? Was it his failure to pay attention to pre-9/11 warnings of a terrorist attack? Was it his campaign of lies and misinformation leading up to the Iraq War? Was it his apparent disinterest in completing the mission in Afghanistan? Was it his administration’s failure to regulate our nation’s largest financial institutions leading to an economic collapse? Was it his policies that led to the loss of millions of jobs? His bailout of the too-big-to-fail banks?

Was it Dubya’s embrace of “extraordinary renditions,” torture, no-bid contracts to military suppliers, or warrantless wiretaps? Was it his administration’s failure in dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? Was it his administration’s embrace of the oily executives who control our nation’s energy policies?

Yes, by all means, let’s sit back and, through the haze of fading memories, fondly remember those halcyon days of incompetence, corruption and abject failure.