Photo credit: Reuters

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Moral Injury

Dear Mr. President,
I harp on war because it is at the heart of what’s wrong with America. Your Kill Lists, your targeted assassinations, your teams of assassins are a moral failure. You may be the Commander-in-Chief but you have only a textbook understanding of war, of what it means to kill someone, not an image on a computer screen but a flesh-and-blood human being on the battlefield. You exhibit no understanding of the visceral trauma to one’s psyche, how it violates the mind and the soul, and the lasting effects. In her article, “Mad, Bad, Sad,” Nan Levinson calls it “moral injury.” The term’s been around for awhile—Homer’s Odysseus exhibits it—but we mask it with words like PTSD, “battle fatigue” and “shell shock.” Moral injury results from “taking part in or witnessing something of consequence that you find wrong, something which violates your deeply held beliefs about yourself and your role in the world.” No one comes out of war unmarked. The VA estimates 11-20% of the 2.3 million vets who have cycled through Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from PTSD. It’s one of the hidden costs of war, the war returning home in the warrior who cannot erase the memory of what he or she saw or did. The violence comes home to the home and to the streets, in flashbacks, in the loss of one’s moral compass. We as a nation also suffer from moral injury. For 10 years we invaded and occupied countries, tortured and terrorized in violation of who we believed we were. You continue with covert wars, terrorist drone strikes and unlawful assassinations. The moral injury that results is to all of us, to the national psyche. We have lost our way, no longer a beacon of democracy, no longer a just and moral society, but a nation of barbarians and terrorists. We have lost faith in every branch of government and in who we are collectively. We are no longer a nation ruled by law, justice and fair play, but a nation where only the rich and powerful are heard. We are descending into something from which we may never recover. Do you ever ask yourself what you are doing? What is the right thing to do? Take a break from one of your million dollar fundraisers and read Nan Levinson’s article (, think about the futility and damage that war does not only to “them,” but to us as well. War is not the answer to anything, Mr. President. War is evil, immoral and unconscionable. Violence begets violence. Stop basking in the delusion of reflected glory.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


Dear Mr. President,
I’ve been accused of being so far left that I’m now taking positions on the right. However, I believe I haven’t moved as far left as the country has moved right. I do occasionally find myself in the same camp as the right wing, not for the same reasons but for the fact that whatever the issue, it is simply wrong. That’s where I find myself now with the Affordable Healthcare Act, aka Obamacare, which Frank Bruni, in his Obamapologist editorial Tuesday called “landmark healthcare legislation, achieved through … fierce effort, meant to be a cornerstone of his legacy…” Landmark legislation? The cornerstone of your legacy? Excuse me? From out here on the Left Coast, it looks like a bailout for the insurance industry and Big Pharma. 35 million new customers is a pretty sweet deal for them, not so great for the consumer. You took the real landmark legislation—single payer healthcare/Medicare For All—off the table before it could even be debated. Medicare works. Medicare For All would have too and it would have been a real solution to the healthcare disaster in America. Here’s what someone said back in 2008: “… the reason people don’t have health insurance is not because they don’t want it. It’s because they can’t afford it.” You said those words when you were campaigning and they helped you get elected, but the emasculated bastardized legislation that you “achieved through fierce effort” is Republican to the core, hammered out behind closed doors with insurance moguls and pharmaceutical lobbyists. By almost every measure America’s healthcare ranks near the bottom of industrialized nations and is the most expensive. Obamacare does nothing to change that. It’s a gift to the for-profit healthcare industry that does little to rein in costs or guarantee decent and adequate healthcare for anyone. The irony is that after you capitulated to their demands, the Republicans blindsided you when they decided not to let you have any legislative victories even if they were their own long-held ideas. As I’ve said before, you’re the best president the Republicans have ever had even if they won’t admit it. No, I haven’t moved further left; the country’s moved further right and it’s lonely out here. One last quote from an article in a recent New Yorker: “… with the exception of raising taxes on the rich, virtually every major policy currently associated with the Obama Administration was, within the past decade, a Republican idea in good standing.” Case closed.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012


Dear Mr. President,
I just read Jimmy Carter’s Op Ed in Monday’s New York Times. Now, I’m not by nature paranoid, but I can’t help but wonder if I missed delivery of that issue—the first missed delivery in many months—because one of your CIA guys was monitoring my door and decided I didn’t need to see that piece by Mr. Carter. As a friend said when I voiced that suspicion, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean it isn’t true.” Imagine, Jimmy Carter, one of your predecessors, coming out against your Targeted Assassinations Program, your covert wars of aggression, your killing of American citizens without trial, your gutting of the Constitution. It’s like he wrote one of my letters! Of course, you probably haven’t read any of my letters—26 since I started up again in May without a single response from The White House, but that’s not unexpected. What can you say to my accusations, to my rants, to my outrage at your betrayal of We the People? And then, this morning I read in yesterday’s New York Times, an editorial by Frank Bruni, former restaurant critic, now political analyst and Obama apologist, and it’s a perfect example of what I talked about in yesterday’s letter; about those who are in denial, who refuse to acknowledge the truth of who you are. One of those who say, “Obama’s just another spectator on the boat with the rest of us.” Bullshit! I say, Obama knows exactly what he’s doing and it is evil. He has sold his soul to the Devil for power. After reading Carter’s op ed, I feel vindicated, Mr. President, that I see clearly what and who you are even if Frank Bruni and others don’t or won’t, and so, I’m not stopping. Even though I know your censors in the basement of the White House who sift through those 65,000 letters a week and feed you 10 a day won’t consider passing on any of mine, I still feel like it’s my patriotic duty to continue writing and venting about the disaster that you have unleashed on America and the world, to continue to denounce your war crimes and your crimes against humanity and the American people–not just my words but now Jimmy Carter’s as well. It’s a moral obligation to continue these letters, Mr. President, even if you never see any of them and no one ever reads them, for they track your misdeeds and your descent into the dark side of corruption and the abuse of power. You may not read a single one but my voice is out there along with hundreds of others, maybe thousands, maybe a million, and eventually we will be heard.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Top Ten Betrayals

Dear Mr. President,
When I hear “Obama can’t do anything with the Republicans blocking his every move” or “Obama doesn’t really have any power to do anything” or “Obama can only do so much,” I want to scream. They are apologists, people still in denial at your betrayal of us, at who and what you are. If you win re-election it will be because of them, because they cling to the fiction that you’re a good man at heart and that given the chance, you’ll do the right thing. They refuse to see the damage you have done or what is to come, for to do so is to acknowledge that you are the destroyer of freedom and democracy in America and around the world. They would have to see that you didn’t have to abandon the single-payer health plan even before negotiations started and that you didn’t have to extend the Bush tax cuts with an additional bonus for the rich of a $5 million exemption per person on estate taxes plus a 35% top tax rate on the rest; something the Republicans never asked for but you gave it to them anyway. And no one asked you to put Medicare and Social Security cuts back on the table after this Republican idea had been soundly defeated; that was your idea. The apologists would also have to see that the inhumane treatment of Pfc. Bradley Manning was torture and that you approved it, and they would have to object to your pursuit of other government whistleblowers with false charges of espionage. They would have to see that no one forced you to extend and expand the Patriot Act—a violation of our civil rights—or to sign the NDAA which overtly guts the Constitution, a violation of your oath of office and an impeachable offense. And finally, no one forced you to expand the War on Terror, but you did—into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and now the Philippines, with your unmanned drones and Hellfire missiles and teams of assassins working in the dead of night. No one, Republican or Democrat, forced you to personally approve every name that goes on the weekly Kill List, including 17-year-old girls in the mountains of Waziristan who you deem imminent threats to America, or to authorize secondary strikes on rescuers and mourners. But you do. These are war crimes, Mr. President, crimes against humanity, wars of aggression, acts of terrorism. You have done all these things and more. They are all acts of betrayal to We the People, to democracy, to humanity. You made a Faustian pact with the Devil, Mr. President, and you are leading us all down the road to perdition.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Dear Mr. President,
Today the New York Times reports that those commando-style squads of DEA agents (Foreign-deployed Advisory Support Teams, aka, FASTs) operating in Honduras and other Central American countries, are military trained, led by former Navy SEALs and use State Department helicopters. Last month they (or the Honduran Police) mistakenly targeted the wrong fishing boat and killed four innocent people – 2 of them pregnant women. Yesterday, an American agent killed a suspected drug smuggler. What is alarming is the increasing militarization of the nation’s “security forces” including not just government agencies like the DEA, the ATF, Homeland Security and the CIA, but almost every large police department in the country. During Occupy demonstrations in New York, Chicago, Oakland, San Francisco, LA and other cities, police responded with military-style discipline, tactics and force. Even university police departments, campus cops, have become increasingly militarized, pepper-spraying and/or beating peaceful demonstrators at, among other places, UC Berkeley, Cal State Fullerton, Santa Monica Community College and UC Davis. The implications of military-trained and coordinated police and sheriff’s departments are unsettling, the harbinger of repression and tyranny and the end of freedom and democracy. This is the war culture coming home, seeping into our psyche, bleeding into daily life. The friendly beat cop is no longer friendly; he looks like the Terminator, an anonymous black-suited jack-booted cyborg in full body armor, face shield and helmet, armed to the teeth and more than willing to use his weapons. They look, and are, menacing, unapproachable and unresponsive and there is a mentality that permeates them – like their predecessor Nazi Gestapo counterparts, they simply follow orders without question. Like one officer told a friend just before breaking up an Occupy encampment in San Francisco, “They pay me from the neck down.” This is the legacy of war. It doesn’t stay on the battlefield, it comes home and infects us all with its toxic poison. There are no victors, only victims, and there is no honor in war, only shame and reproach. We thought we were electing a peacemaker in 2008 but instead you prolonged and expanded war. You were a Trojan Horse, a wolf in sheep’s clothing. You lied to us, you lied to the world, and this will be your legacy, Mr. President, a liar and a warmonger who killed freedom and hope and justice around the world.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

2,000 And Counting

Dear Mr. President,
The number of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan officially passed the 2,000 mark today—2,001 according to The New York Times, 2,017 according to the web site, iCasualties. Almost 1,400 of those deaths occurred on your watch; that is, you condemned 1,400 Americans and thousands of Afghans and troops from other countries to die in a senseless immoral war. Another 8,000 Americans were wounded, people missing parts of their bodies and parts of their minds. People, unlike you, who have experienced the hell of war and been forever damaged and brutalized by it. We are still spending $10 billion a month on this “War on Terror” and for what? To enrich the war profiteers and the corrupt government of Hamid Karzai? The war, nicknamed “Enduring Freedom,” may be enduring but it has nothing to do with freedom, it’s all about control of natural resources, especially the Middle East’s oil. We are just the latest foreign invaders in a long line of foreign invaders and in spite of the generals’ perennial claims of “turned corners,” “fragile gains” and “progress,” we have turned no corners and made no progress. We have ceded large swaths of the country, like last year’s retreat from the previously declared “critically strategic” Pech Valley, to the Taliban; insurgents attack at will anywhere, at any time, as witnessed by their siege in April of the heavily fortified Western embassies and NATO headquarters in downtown Kabul; the resort hotel takeover by insurgents this week; the daily suicide bombings; the daily attacks on NATO patrols; and the rising number of “green-on-blue” attacks in which Afghan troops kill U.S. troops. In spite of the most powerful military force in history, in spite of the most advanced killing machinery in the history of mankind, in spite of advanced technologies like night vision, unmanned drones and laser-guided missiles, we still are unable to quell what is constantly characterized as a terrorist-Taliban insurgency consisting of ragtag groups of bearded fanatics with 30-year-old weapons, homemade IEDs and suicide bombers willing to blow themselves up along with the hated invaders. No matter how you and your generals spin it, Mr. President, there is no glory or honor in war, only shame and a legacy of hate. One last fact: the U.S. has not won a war since August 1945 and whether you recognize it or not, this one was lost the day it started. Afghanistan is Vietnam redux and the shame of Afghanistan will be your legacy.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Big Brother in Afghanistan

Dear Mr. President,
Big Brother is here! In this morning’s paper is a small article about a suicide bomber killing 21 people including 3 American soldiers at a checkpoint in Khost. The article mentions that the soldiers were conducting “biometric surveys” on local residents. It quoted Afghan officials saying these surveys occur weekly as part of a program by the American military to collect fingerprints, iris scans and photographs of Afghans to help identify insurgents. Curious, I found articles about this program in The New York Times (19 November 2011) and The Guardian (27 October 2010). As of November 2011, the U.S. military had biometric data on more than 2 million Afghans and the Afghan government, with U.S. funding, is collecting biometric data on every Afghan in order to issue national identity cards that will help identify suspected terrorists, criminals and people under investigation. Everyone entering or leaving Afghanistan through a border crossing or airport is scanned. Turns out, we don’t do iris scans but we do fingerprint all foreign arrivals in the U.S. We don’t fingerprint American citizens—at least, not yet—but the trend is a little scary, Mr. President, what with all the security and surveillance apparatus we have and everything shrouded in national security and secrecy, and the steady erosion of privacy and rights and freedom. Today this biometric data program, last month your secret Kill Lists and Targeted Assassinations, and last year the NDAA giving you the right to have the military pick up and incarcerate indefinitely anyone you say is a terrorist … well, you get my drift. I wonder how many people know about biometric data collection or worry that you might suddenly decide to implement the same program here because of some national security threat. We should all worry. You could do it with one of your secret justifications like your order to assassinate American citizens without a trial—transparency’s not exactly your strongest point. Oh, by the way, that 2011 New York Times article also mentioned that one of their reporters—of Norwegian descent—volunteered to be test screened. The screening resulted in a “hit” identifying him as a terrorist on a watch list with the note, “Deny Access. Do Not Hire. Subject Poses A Threat.” The terrorist’s photograph was of a heavily bearded Afghan. Is this the kind of information you use to determine who lives and who dies this week? About as reassuring as one of your false promises, Mr. President.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The False Prophet

Dear Mr. President,
As of 16 November 2011, 57 members of Congress belonged to the 1%. That number’s probably higher now but still, it’s pretty startling. What’s even more startling is that the top 20 consists of 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans which supports my contention that there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between you. The median net wealth of our representatives is $891,506; more than half are millionaires. No wonder the rich get richer and the rest get the shaft. No wonder tax rates for the rich are at historic lows. No wonder there’s no discussion of the real issues facing us today: why we’re still spending $10 billion a month on illegal, immoral, stupid, already-lost wars while we slash government jobs and services; how long we can continue to decimate the middle class in order to pour money into the pockets of the rich; what should the tax rates for the rich be the current 35%, 50% (the Reagan era), 71% (the Nixon era), or 91% (the Eisenhower era). But no, all we hear is that we have to slash government spending by cutting benefits and services and lower taxes on the mythical “job creators” (the rich). I no longer hold hope for change, Mr. President. That’s what we thought we were getting when we voted for you in 2008. Instead, we got more tax cuts for the rich, more war, more secrecy, more surveillance, more fear and a president who takes a personal interest in who to assassinate this week, who thinks himself above the law, judge, jury and executioner, who commits war crimes and crimes against humanity without batting an eye. Three and a half years on, we have less equality, less fairness and less justice. You betrayed us, Mr. President, and that’s been a bitter pill but it reinforces the awareness that government is run by wealthy oligarchs and we are in imminent danger of losing what little democracy and freedom we still have left. I’ve heard police helicopters overhead all day and now sirens, probably an Occupy SF demonstration. I hope it’s the start of a mass movement of protest. I hope it’s the end of business-as-usual and politics-as-usual and I hope it’s the beginning of a new surge to restore our vision of the world, our connections with each other and our notions of fairness, equality, justice and the common good. A vision that respects and honors our fellow beings and our planet. We thought that was your vision too, at least that’s what you promised. But you were a False Prophet and the question now is, Where do we go from here?