Time To Extinguish Liberty’s Torch?

The European response – especially that of the Germans – to mass migration from the Middle East and Southwest Asia stands in stark contrast to the immigration policies of the US. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Germany had relatively little to do with events that led to the crisis. On the other hand, the refugee crisis is almost certainly a direct result of US misadventures in the Middle East – most notably the Bush-led invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan. Yet the US has steadfastly refused to help those who were dislocated as a result of our meddling. Likewise, many of our so-called allies in the region have refused to help.

This is not the first time we have turned our backs on those fleeing violence and poverty caused by our actions.

Just last summer, we saw thousands of women and children flood our southern border seeking refuge from the violence and poverty in Honduras and El Salvador – violence for which we bear much of the responsibility. And how did we greet the dispossessed? We herded them into makeshift prisons. Conservatives confronted their buses screaming obscenities and making it abundantly clear that they were not welcome here. If they had no families or relatives in the US, we sent them home to certain poverty and almost certain death.

This is how America welcomes immigrants today.

Where we once welcomed the tired, the poor, the streaming masses yearning to breathe free, we now turn them away. We vilify them and blame them for all of our nation’s ills. We treat them as something less than human. We call them names, order them to speak American, then hire them for all the jobs we consider too distasteful to do ourselves. We underpay them and cheat them. And we applaud people like Sheriff Joe Arpaio for arresting them.

This is America today. A political atmosphere driven by the “We’ve got ours. You can’t have yours” crowd; by the Trumps, the Palins, the McCains and the Cheneys. An America dominated by the loudest, most angry and most heavily armed; where a feeble and compliant press reports only the most sensational statements made by a group of boorish loud-mouths who have little compassion for the poor and disadvantaged. They may claim to be religious, but their only religion is money. And they refuse to share it.

Instead of seeing those who have suffered only because they were born in the wrong place and time, these arrogant buffoons see only “takers” – people they believe only come here to suckle off of the government teats.

Based on all of this, maybe it’s time to send Lady Liberty packing. Maybe we should send her back to Europe where she came from; a place where she will likely feel more at home.

Why Iran Began Its Nuclear Program In The First Place.

With all of the talk about the agreement between Iran, the US and 5 other world powers, one key aspect has been largely overlooked. Iran may never have tried to develop nuclear weapons had it not been for the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. That ill-conceived and unwarranted act placed US troops at the Iranian doorstep and, since George W. Bush labeled Iran as part of the “axis of evil”, it implied that Iran could be invaded next.

So if you’re the leader of Iran, what would you do to prevent such an invasion? The most reliable deterrent is nuclear weapons.

Why else would the US not have invaded western Pakistan when we knew that its madrassas were inciting Muslim extremism? (We knew that because we helped create them to fight the Soviet Union.) Pakistan had nuclear weapons and the missiles to reach Europe…possibly the US. Nuclear weapons are the ultimate deterrent – the ultimate equalizer.

The threat of our invasion has led Iran to the brink of becoming a nuclear power. Iran will not give up that deterrent without receiving something in return. That’s why the nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran and the world powers is the best possible outcome for everyone. The US, Europe and Israel get the assurance that Iran cannot complete their nuclear program. And Iran sees an end to paralyzing economic sanctions.

The agreement has already been approved by the United Nations. It should be approved by Congress.

If not, Iran will become a nuclear power within a matter of months. Moreover, China, Russia and other nations who have their own economic problems will tire of the sanctions against Iran and will resume trading with them.

And what if the US and/or Israel are foolhardy enough to carry out a series of military strikes on the Iranian nuclear installations? That will not only result in international condemnation and make the Iranian people even more anti-US. It will give Iran incentive to quickly rebuild the program and to finance anti-US, anti-Israeli terrorism throughout the region and the world. And the US will likely become embroiled in a war across the entire Middle East.

Considering those alternatives, the negotiated agreement looks a lot better, doesn’t it?

Some Context On The Terrorism In France.

For the last few days, US media have been fixated on the terrorist attack on Charlie Hebdo. Without question, murdering satirists and innocents over ideology is a horrible, despicable act. But would the story have so dominated the news media if the terrorists were not Muslim? The treatment of similar stories by news media suggests otherwise.

For example, 12 people were killed in the initial attack on Charlie Hebdo. That is only marginally more than the average number of innocent children in the United States killed by guns every day. Where are the sensational stories about that? Since 9/11, there have been at least 8 attacks in the US by right wing terrorists. Most of these garnered no media attention. And what about news of the terrorist bombing attempt of the NAACP office in Colorado Springs? Where are the stories about that? Have you seen any news stories about the FBI manhunt for the individual responsible?

Moreover, right wing media pundits continue to call for Muslim leaders to denounce Islamic terrorism and Muslim extremists. Did you know that leading Muslim organizations in the US and Europe immediately made statements publically condemning the Paris attacks? They did. But have you seen any headlines to that effect? Have you heard any broadcast news anchors read the statements? Have you seen any interviews with those Muslim leaders?

No, such stories do not further the conservative narrative of our corporate-owned media. They do not instill fear in our public. They do not pander to our still mostly white Christian population. They do not serve to help divide us by religion and race. They do not make it easier to dehumanize those who are different. They do not serve the agenda of those in Washington (I’m thinking of you, Lindsay Graham and John McCain) who want to send more of our troops into battle in Iraq, Syria and, ultimately, Iran.

The attack on Charlie Hebdo wasn’t merely the outgrowth of religious differences. It was the outgrowth of an extreme ideology created, in part, by extremist textbooks given to Pakistani schools with the intent of rallying young Muslims to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It was the outgrowth of extremist teachings and the funding for terrorist organizations from Saudi Arabia, our supposed ally. It was the outgrowth of the Bush administration’s unwarranted invasion of Iraq. It was the outgrowth of the Bush administration’s torture program.

All of this is not to excuse the Parisian terrorist attacks. But if we’re ever going to be successful in preventing such attacks, we must understand the events and attitudes that lead to them. We must understand that the devout followers of any ideology can commit terrorist acts. Peace begins with understanding. That is why the context is necessary. It’s long past time for our media to provide that context to their sensational news; to tell the whole story; to give us the truth…not just the facts.

Vengeance Is Mine?

In Romans 12:19, Bible readers are warned, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’” Apparently that message is lost on most so-called Christians in the US. After all, we rank among the top five nations for executions. We also lead the world in total number of prisoners, as well as the percentage of our population that is incarcerated.

To show the disconnect between Christ’s teachings and his conservative followers, consider the Republican primary debates of 2012. Many conservatives who count themselves as “Christians” loudly cheered Texas governor Rick Perry when he responded to the question if he ever lost sleep over his state’s large number of executions by saying, “I’ve never struggled with that at all.”

In fact, we should all lose sleep over our policies of incarceration, solitary confinement and executions. Modern DNA testing has shown that 4 percent of the prisoners kept in isolation on death row are, in fact, innocent. That begs the question, “How many innocent people have been executed in the past?” How many more will be killed as the result of sanctioned, pre-meditated murder by the states?

These killings are not going to change the crimes committed by the prisoners. They do not save money. (Studies have shown that it costs 10 times as much to execute a prisoner as to imprison them for life.} They do not even deter other crimes. One study after another has shown that the death penalty does not prevent murders. So why do we continue to sentence people to death? Why are more than 3,000 Americans sitting on death row?

In a word, revenge.

Revenge is also the reason we continue to sentence children to prison for relatively minor crimes. Oh, that’s right…we’re forbidden to call it prison. It’s “juvenile detention.” And these children are not placed in cells. They are in “rooms” or “dormitories.” Likewise, these children are not subjected to punishment. They are subjected to “safety and security measures.” In reality, we’re simply introducing these children to the prison system at an early age. And we’re teaching them how to be real criminals. You can read more in Nell Bernstein’s Burning Down The House.

What then, you may ask, should we do with children who have committed serious crimes? There’s a new movement that has shown to have much better results than punishment. It’s the system of Restorative Justice. In this system, the children are required to meet and talk with the victims of their crimes. They are required to explain their actions. They are forced to hear and see the consequences of those actions. Then the children and their victims negotiate an equitable restitution. Only if they are defiant or refuse to participate are they sent through the traditional, punishment-oriented system.

Our system of revenge often has racial and profit motives. Private prisons are quite profitable – the more prisoners, the greater the profits. (An example of the effects of this is “Kids for Cash” scheme involving two Pennsylvania judges.) And revenge is easier to commit against someone who looks different than you. That’s why our prison populations are disproportionately minorities.

Of course, revenge is not limited to our justice system. It’s the cause of most wars. Israel is notorious for disproportionate revenge killings, such as the current bombing campaign against Gaza. Muslim extremists have committed thousands of atrocities based on offenses against Islam both real and imagined. And the US? Revenge and greed were the key components in our genocide of Native Americans. Revenge for what was falsely perceived as an attack on the USS Maine led to the Spanish-American War. Revenge and misunderstandings led to World War I. And revenge was the motive for our involvement in Afghanistan. Worse, our expectation of a threat is what led us to pre-emptively strike Iraq, and the Middle East is now suffering the consequences.

Certainly, a venegeful response is sometimes necessary as in the case of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. But we all would be a lot better off if our justice system and our government leaders practiced the advice often given to toddlers. Take a few deep breaths and consider the consequences of your actions. Will revenge really accomplish justice? Or will it simply satisfy the more animalistic and weakest aspects of our beings?

Ugly Voices From The Past.

Since the ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) jihadists invaded Iraq, the media outlets who failed to ask the tough questions in 2002 and 2003 have paraded Bush administration neocons and their apologists from one “news” program to another. In recent days, we’ve heard the warmongering duo of Sen. Lindsey Graham and Sen. John McCain, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Iraq Administrator Paul Bremer, chicken hawk Bill Kristol, former Secretary of State Condosleezza Rice, and GOP presidential wannabe Mitt Romney all tell us that President Obama has frittered away all of our hard fought gains in Iraq…that Iraq will soon become a testing ground for more 9/11s.

The obvious question is why on Earth would we ever want to listen to these nitwits again?

If you were paying attention in 2003, you may remember that Graham and McCain told us that there was no history of sectarian violence between Sunnis and Shiites (Wrong). You may remember that Blair was little more than an obedient lapdog hoping to capitalize by pandering to the Bush administration. And you may remember that Rumsfeld said that we would be welcomed as liberators (Wrong) and the war would be over within a matter of days (Wrong again). Rumsfeld ignored the warnings of Gen. Eric Shinseki that we would need many times the number of troops to secure Iraq and pushed his “shock and awe” race to Baghdad without stopping to secure ammunition depots. (That ammunition was then used to create the lethal IEDs that haunted us for the remainder of our occupation.) Wolfowitz was the one who told us that a war in Iraq would pay for itself in oil. (Wrong!) Bush, Richard “The Dick” Cheney, Condosleezza, and Colin Powell assured us that Saddam was sitting on thousands of WMD. (Completely, provably wrong!) Bush announced “Mission Accomplished” more than four years before our combat role ended. Meanwhile, Kristol and his cronies cheered the war from the safety of their offices.

All of these people showed a knack for making impossibly stupid decisions that cost tens of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. Yet no one’s decisions led to more disaster than Bremer’s.

Bremer was the genius who, upon the conquest of Iraq, ordered the cleansing of all Baathists from their government positions. In other words, he fired all of the Iraqi military, administrators, government workers…even teachers…leaving a catastrophic void of expertise and creating an angry, displaced population set on payback. That decision alone led to the sustained chaos in Iraq that exists today. Moreover, Bremer’s stupidity gave the majority Shiites an opportunity to oppress the Sunnis and pushed the Iraqi government toward increased cooperation with Iran.

Now that ISIS is rolling through Iraqi cities, our incompetent media are once again turning to these people for more jewels of wisdom. Of course, the neocons have been quick to claim that the failures of Iraq were not their fault. The fault, they claim, lies at the feet of President Obama. “If only Obama hadn’t withdrawn our troops from Iraq, everything in the Middle East would be peachy keen,” they say. Yet it was Bush who destroyed Iraq. It was Bush who wasted hundreds of billions of dollars by awarding no-bid contracts to Cheney’s Halliburton and others to re-build Iraqi cities that are once again being destroyed. And it was Bush who agreed in 2008 to withdraw all of our troops. Not Obama.

McCain and Graham were livid that Obama refused to support the Syrian rebels. Yet, from the beginning, those Syrian rebels have included ISIS, an al Qaeda offshoot formed as a response to our invasion of Iraq. ISIS is now financed by the Saudis and armed with American weapons that were provided by Congress and the CIA or captured from fleeing Iraqi troops – weapons that may eventually be aimed at us.

In other words, we are witnessing a sh*t storm that is the sole responsibility of the Bush administration. And there are no easy solutions to this mess. Our taxpayers have no appetite for placing troops on the ground or replaying the shock and awe bombing campaign. The ill-advised Iraq War has destabilized the entire Middle East and made it possible for the Islamic world to continue an ancient civil war. About all we can hope to do is to somehow minimize its effects on ourselves and others.

Listening to the neocons can only make matters worse.

The Teapublican Zombie Apocalypse.

Following eight years of the George W. Bush administration, which included two wars (including one pre-emptive war of choice), the failures of FEMA to give aid for the victims of Hurricane Katrina, the crash of the housing market, the nation’s second-largest stock market crash, the bailout of the nation’s largest banks, soaring debt, thousands of home foreclosures and skyrocketing unemployment, the general public was understandably outraged. The Democratic Party stood a good chance of tapping into that outrage thereby ensuring its dominance for generations.

Not only did it fail to do so, it allowed the Tea Party to capture the voters’ anger and help the GOP seize the House of Representatives in 2010.

Was that outcome the result of astute planning and insightful strategies by Republicans? No, it was the result of the stupidity, timidity and outright cowardice of Democrats! Instead of charging Bush officials for the war crimes they committed, Democrats allowed them to profit from the speaker’s circuit and to rewrite history with their inevitable memoirs. Instead of pursuing criminal charges against the banksters who defrauded ordinary Americans, the Department of Treasury and the Justice Department allowed them to give each other six and seven-figure bonuses for their misdeeds. Instead of rewriting the tax code to prevent corporations and individuals from avoiding taxes by stashing profits in off-shore accounts, they bowed to Teapublicans making the Bush tax cuts permanent.

By 2010, the populist outrage created by Teapublican policies was re-directed toward Democrats – not so much for what they had done, but for what they had NOT done. They have not established a brand, making their core values clearly understood. They have not embraced those who joined the Occupy movement and the 99 percent. Too few have stood up against big money and big business. They have not fought hard enough for what they claim to believe in. And, instead of staying focused on solutions to our nation’s problems, they have too often and too easily buckled to criticism.

Now we are heading toward yet another seminal moment in politics and the analysts are suggesting that the Teapublicans will not only hold onto the House. They are likely to take over the Senate! In other words, voters are likely to reward the party that blocked the regulation of financial institutions; the party that panders to large corporations and billionaires while demeaning and dismissing nearly half our population; the party whose policies have hollowed out the middle class and transferred trillions of dollars of wealth upward to those who least need it; the party that took us to war based on a series of lies; the party that has repeatedly tried to cut Social Security and Medicare; the party that refused to allow the duly-elected majority to legislate through a record number of filibusters; the party that prioritized the profits of large corporations over jobs; the party that ignores the needs of small businesses; the party that has destroyed labor unions; the party that underfunds Veterans Affairs then howls when it can’t meet demand; the party that believes that climate change and environmental conservation are based on flawed science.

If you’re a small business owner, a white collar worker, a blue collar laborer, a woman, a retiree, or anyone who wants to breathe clean air and drink clean water, the GOP has made it abundantly clear that they don’t care about you. By the same token, many in the Democratic Party have shown an unwillingness to fight for you. And their election strategy seems to consist of, “A Republican said (or did) something stupid, send us money.” Maybe that explains why so few Democratic voters show up at the polls during midterm elections.

Indeed, the two parties can best be summed up by two quotes. In the HBO series The Newsroom, Jeff Daniels’ character stated, “You know why people don’t like liberals?…cause they lose. If liberals are so f***ing smart, why do they lose so goddam always?” And conservative author P. J. O’Rourke famously wrote, “Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work, and then they get elected and prove it.”

Unfortunately, I believe they are both right.

VA Problems A Product Of Our Never-Ending Wars.

Since taking office in 2009, President Obama has been confronted with an extraordinary list of problems: Two wars, a failing economy, the collapse of our largest financial institutions, a massive number of home foreclosures, a failing auto industry, high unemployment, rising deficits and rising debt. Those are just the problems he inherited the day he took office. In addition, he’s faced a multitude of other issues: An obstructionist and do-nothing Republican Party, a racist and increasingly angry Tea Party, a porous southern border, belligerent leaders in Israel and Russia, rising poverty, and a vanishing middle class.

You may not believe the President has done enough to solve our problems but, in reality, his performance has been nothing short of remarkable. Without the leadership of his administration, we may have experienced a second Great Depression – a fact that is clearly spelled out in Timothy Geithner’s new book Stress Test. Of course, Teapublicans don’t want to talk about that. They call it the “Blame it on Bush Syndrome,” and they hold Obama responsible for all the problems he inherited.

Similarly, the Obama administration is now being blamed for delays at some VA health facilities. Yet VA problems existed long before Obama took office. Indeed, he appointed General Eric Shinseki to fix the problems and reduce delays. By most accounts, Shinseki has had some success. But no one can hope to change a health system that serves more than 8.6 million veterans overnight. The problems could be the result of a few incompetent bureaucrats. If so, they must go.

A larger issue is what led to the crowding at VA hospitals…the willingness of too many politicians to send our youth to war for questionable reasons! When we continue to pursue military actions around the globe, we are going to create more veterans – many with serious and expensive-to-treat health issues. Yet it seems that Congress has not fully recognized that reality when it comes to the VA budget. It’s estimated that, in addition to the trillions spent on the Iraq and Afghan wars, the cost of treating our wounded soldiers could also run into the trillions…a fact that has been little discussed.

When the Bush administration took us to war more than a decade ago, few Americans were asked to make sacrifices. Instead, Bush asked us to go shopping. And, instead of raising taxes to cover the cost of his misadventures, he actually cut them! If it weren’t for the yellow ribbons, ribbon decals on cars, and the obligatory “thank you for your service” statement recited to anyone in uniform, there would have been little indication that we were at war. The Bush administration controlled the news media by forcing reporters to be imbedded in military units. It even banned news media from photographing the flag-draped coffins of those killed in war.

Out of sight…out of mind.

The lesson in this is that if you want to go to war, you better be willing to pay the price. Everyone should be asked to make some sacrifices. Everyone should be asked to pay for the sacrifices of those wounded in war. And those costs should be made abundantly clear. Indeed, such costs are the only real deterrent to cause voters and politicians to hesitate before waving the flag, beating the war drums and sending our troops into yet another foreign conflict.

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.

A Memorial To Gun Victims?

A new study by Dr. John Leventhal, professor of pediatrics at the Yale School of Medicine, found that firearms kill more than 3,000 children each year in the US.  Another 7,000 are wounded badly enough to be hospitalized, most from assaults. And those are just the statistics for children! Overall, there are more than 11,000 homicides per year in the US involving a firearm and more than 19,000 suicides involving a gun according to statistics from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

No other advanced nation comes close.

To put these statistics into perspective, the number of children killed by guns in the US in a single year exceeds the 2,977 people who died in the attacks on 9/11. The 4,486 US soldiers killed during the 6 years of the Iraq War is less than half the number of gun homicides that occur in the US in a single year. And the 2,287 US soldiers who have been killed during the 10 years we have been engaged in the Afghan War is roughly equivalent to two and a half months of gun homicides in the US!

Put another way, as of May 2011, there were 58,272 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC, representing the number of US soldiers killed during our 14 years of military involvement in Vietnam. The number of gun homocides in the US would exceed that number in approximately 5 years. And, if you included gun suicides, the number would be exceeded in just 3 years!

Do you still think we don’t have a gun problem in this country?

Yet despite the overwhelming reality of these statistics, American politicians refuse to act. The shooting of a US Congresswoman and the mass murder in Tucson, Arizona wasn’t enough to force common sense gun control. The mass murder in an Aurora, Colorado movie theater wasn’t enough. Even the slaughter of 26 children in Newtown, Connecticut wasn’t enough to prompt Congress to act. They couldn’t even pass a measure calling for universal background checks of gun purchasers when polls showed that a vast majority of Americans supported it.

It makes one wonder what it will take to bring Americans to our senses.

I would suggest that we create a memorial to gun victims listing all of their names. Make the memorial as visible and as powerful as possible, something similar to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Add the names of gun victims week by week; month by month; year by year. It may take a while, but eventually most sane people will realize exactly what our lax gun laws are costing us.

At least I would certainly hope so.

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.