Sunday, April 30, 2006

More Shame on Colin Powell

It's pretty easy for Colin Powell to now say he "advised President Bush before the Iraq war to send more troops to the country, but the administration did not follow his recommendation". He's the former Secretary of State and with 2400 dead soldiers under his belt, in a war he did nothing to stop, it just seems a little too easy and a little too late for him to say "I told ya so".

How long ago did he forget about his years as a soldier? How long ago did he forget that he was a General, a leader of men? Before troops were sent into the middle east, back in 2002 or 2003, he could have and should have shouted from the rooftops, "SEND MORE TROOPS TO IRAQ", and fallen on his sword, but no, he has waited until now, nearly 4 years too late and his statement is barely a whisper.

People still say that Colin Powell isn't so bad. If you feel that way, you are wrong. He stood in front of the UN in 2003, and while he refused to cite the 16 words that Bush spoke at the state of the Union earlier in the month about Iraq attempting to acquire uranium from Africa, he knew he was not speaking the truth. He said

My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources. These are not assertions. What we're giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. I will cite some examples, and these are from human sources.

We know the sources were not solid, and the information was not based on solid intelligence. It was based on information that was formed to fit the premise this administration wanted, and what they wanted was to go to war with Iraq.

I hold Colin Powell, George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld personally responsible for the death of my only child, Lt Ken Ballard.
Why? Here are the facts.

  • 1st Cavalry had arrived in Iraq on 3.29.04 to replace 1st Armored Division.
  • Ken's unit turned in their weapons on 4.3.04.
  • No soldiers from Ken's unit had been killed as of 4.3. 04.
  • Ken's unit had shipped their personal belongings home.
  • They were ready to march out of Baghdad the week of 4.10.04.
  • Ken expected to be home in Germany by late April.
  • On 4.14.04, 1st Armor Division was operationally extended for 120 days because the "mission was not complete" (read that, there weren't enough soldiers in Iraq.)
  • Instead of shopping for Ken's Homecoming Party, we had to fire up the CARE package shipping schedule, which had ceased as we awaited Ken's return. We resumed shipping necessities & goodies to Iraq.
  • Every single day in May, Ken's unit was in combat.
  • Ken was killed on 5.30.04.
  • 4 men from Ken's unit were killed by the end of May.
  • All of those soldiers should have been home safely to their families.

And the answer is, Bush, Powell, Rumsfeld and Cheney are responsible for my son's death because they did not properly plan for this war by providing sufficient boots on the ground, equipment, and training, they didn't plan for the peace. And worst of all, they don't know how to get out of Iraq. I suspect they would if they thought about it, but with 6 enduring bases, 4 American and 2 UK, being built in Iraq, bigger than any we have seen before, why would they want to?


Bruce Eric Kaplan from The New Yorker Magazine
that's all.....

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

1000 Days and Counting

In 1000 days, this president will go away, his time is up, his term is over, but let's not get excited anytime soon. Bush and his cronies will have done more damage to this country and our earth during his administration than anyone could have ever imagined.

I will always remember the night of the 2000 Presidential elections. I was not employed at the time, so I had the liberty of staying up all night to watch this slow moving train wreck. The networks were as confused as any of us. "We call Florida for Bush, no Gore, wait, no Bush". It went on for days as we waited for the Supreme Court to decide. The Supreme Court? Since when did they decide presidential elections? It seemed surreal to me. I remember thinking how awful it would be for this country to have Bush as the president. I quickly told myself, well, it will only be 4 years. How bad can it be? After 4 years people will realize how bad it had been and we could have a more reasonable person in charge of the country. It didn't work out that way.

It turns out, that the 2000 Presidential election was a day that changed my life forever. Because of Bush's election and because of the policies of his administration, my only child is dead. On 5.30.04, two Army soldiers knocked on my door to tell me that my son, Lt Ken Ballard was killed in battle in Najaf, Iraq.

When Bush was asked recently if there would be a day when there would be no more American soldiers in Iraq, he responded "That, of course, is an objective, and that will be decided by future Presidents and future governments of Iraq." He just doesn't care; it's not his responsibility anymore.

Nearly 18,000 American soldiers have been wounded. How high will that number grow in 1000 days? 2390 American soldiers have died in Bush's little regime change project. How many more will die in the next 1000 days?

Today is the 2 year anniversary of the death of Sgt Sherwood Baker, my friend's, the Zappala's oldest son. He was killed while protecting the Iraq Survey Group as they searched for the Weapons of Mass Destruction. He was the first Pennsylvania National Guardsman killed in combat since 1945.

This Saturday is the 2 year anniversary of the death of Sgt Adam Estep, my friend, Ken Estep's oldest son and Carrie's bonus son. Adam had been married barely 2 months when he was killed. He was a brilliant artist. Adam's unit, 1st Cavalry had arrived from Texas 30 days before.

April 2004 was a bad month with 140 Coalition soldiers dead; 4.67 a day. Now two years later, this April, in 2006, is on track to be a bad month for casualties as well. Things are not getting any better; it doesn't matter how many times Bush and his cronies tell us it is. He says that again and again and again, hoping that we will believe the lies that led to this war.

The President's numbers are at an all time low of 32%, and he continues to insist the that the best way to honor the sacrifices of the fallen is to complete the mission and to stay the course. Please do not honor the sacrifice of my son by killing one more person. Honor the sacrifice of my son with the truth.

As we mourn the loss of our soldiers, the US mainstream media doesn't report on Iraqi casualties. Their most precious resource, the Iraqi sons and daughters are being killed in this mess, too. We don't know the number, but it is estimated that the number is more than 30,000, and some say up to 100,000.

We are at the 1000 day countdown, but I'm not waiting. I will continue to speak out, meet with legislators, and work for change. I gave this country my best I had and I will not stop- what are you doing and what will you do to stop this war and this administration?

I hope this is a light at the end of the tunnel 1000 days away, but I fear it is another Bush freight train bearing down on us and is still out of control.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Unwelcoming Bush to California

It was Unwelcome Bush day in San Jose, Stanford & St Helena in California and I was one happy camper. Bush doesn't come to these parts much, but he braved it on Friday. For the record, I do not want to meet the current president of the US; there is nothing he could say that would make me believe he understands the pain he has caused millions of people in this country. He cannot say anything to make me believe he has given any thought to what a family experiences when their loved one is killed in his ugly war. I don't think he cares, either.

As I said, I was giddy as a school girl going on my first date. I didn't want to meet Bush or see him, but I really wanted to be in a crowd to let him know we're really not that into him here in Silicon Valley. My friends from Gold Star Families Speak Out had done their part to dog Bush and to let him know that he wasn't welcome in their towns, it was my turn now. I brought my big poster sized photo of Ken, it's the Lt Stripes pose, probably a better pose than Bill Murray ever did in Ken's favorite movie, Stripes. I wore my best shirt with the photo of Ken on the front and his headstone from Arlington on the back. That usually gets my message across.

There was a lot of confusion on Friday morning about public transportation or even private transportation. Where would we park, where could we park? I think the SJ PD liked it that way just fine. We were told we couldn't walk down a very public street to our assigned "free speech area". WTF? The police officer at that intersection told us we could still drive through, though we were told we could drive and a fellow protester told us she would drive us. The very minute we got to the intersection, less than 3 minutes later, they closed the road. Okay, take deep cleansing breathes....We drove for a bit more and found ourselves at yet another roadblock. We were very close to our intended target area as the crow flies, but the police officers wouldn't let us through. I reminded them that we were trying to get to a "free speech" area and that we had permits, so would they PLEASE tell us how to get there. After a few moments of discussion, they told us, make a u-turn, go back around, blah, blah, blah...It didn't seem that convincing to me, but there really was no other choice. It was becoming very apparent how much money this presidential visit was costing our town in terms of security. The closest we could get to the "free speech" area, which was really a penned-in street, was about 1/2 mile hike and there was only one way in. As a result, there were several hundred protesters in front of Cisco Systems in San Jose. We heard later that there were hundreds more who weren't there, because they couldn't get there or they didn't even know where there was. I'm sure the San Jose PD was quite happy with this conundrum that they had created. For anyone who actually got there, we earned our way in! We knew we were in the right place when we heard the drumming and chanting and other political commentary. The Liars Anonymous performance courtesy my friend, Jeff.

Many kudos to the people who organized this event in such a short amount of time, especially the folks from South Bay Mobilization. The World Can't Wait, and several more groups were also in attendance. My friends from Mountain View Voices for Peace and Military Families Speak Out were also there. Because of the president's appearance, most every media outlet was in attendance as well.

Although people were still straggling in, the organizers thought it was time to begin with some speeches. I spoke first

Today is the day we unwelcome George W. Bush to San Jose. Today is the day we let him know that the people of the Bay Area are not alone when we say we want our country back....This week when retired generals are calling for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense, the President made it clear once again that he is not listening to the military of the citizens of this country because HE CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!....We still don't know what the noble cause is. Why are we in Iraq? Why is there no exit strategy? When did Peace become a bad word?.....and I ended with PRESIDENT BUSH, GO BACK TO WASHINGTON, YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE!

While people from other organizations spoke, many people came up to me afterwards and thanked me for speaking, for being there. One man, a former police officer spoke to me and told me he had been laying low on the peace movement, he was angry about a lot of things, but mostly he was mad at the individual soldiers. I started to interrupt him, but he continued. He told me that he had heard me speak in Palo Alto at the rally marking the 3rd anniversary of the war, about a month ago. He told me how he was touched by what I had to say then and how it impacted him. I think that was why he was at the rally on Friday. Score one more for the peace movement; all of our voices are powerful AND necessary.

None of us really expected to see Bush and we were not disappointed in that. Instead of arriving via limousine, he flew in via Marine One, the Presidential helicopter. While he spoke about his pro-technology agenda with about 250 business leaders inside Cisco, we continued to entertain ourselves with speeches, songs, drumming and general peaceful protesting.

This peaceful gathering did not warrant the overwhelming police presence in San Jose. By my count there were probably 4-5 protesters for each police officer. There were a nearly 20 officers on horseback. And the piece de resistance was the police officer filming each one of us to document our presence. He tried to look subtle, but how can you when you have a videocamera in front of your face?

Bush & Co took off in their helicopters and headed to Stanford. A big high 5 to the students and others who did such a good job of keeping Bush from his intended destination on the campus. Bravo! They did eventually get to the campus home of George Shulz, a former Secretary of State. Bush was not welcome at Stanford, either.

On Saturday morning, Bush took a mountain bike ride after his overnight stay in the wine country. He told a reporter who accompanied him on the ride "I still ride the mountain bike primarily to help settle the soul and to burn off the excess energy one gets when you're living life to its fullest," I'm so happy for him. He's living his life to the fullest, settling his soul. We sir, are trying to end a war and stop the killing, but I'm glad he can find time for a bike ride. This ain't no war president; he just doesn't care. For that matter, he doesn't even pretend to care. Give him a couple of ibuprophen and maybe that'll cure his case of Iraq fatigue.

There were protesters in the Napa Valley and there were protesters in Sacramento. The President was not welcome there, either.

Go back to Washington, Mr Bush, you are not welcome in California. If you come back, we'll greet you the same.

p.s. Happy Earth Day and Happy Birthday to Gary.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

What difference does it make?

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Mahatma Gandhi
(1869 - 1948), "Non-Violence in Peace and War"

No difference.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Rumsfeld should resign

I was first asked about Rumsfeld by a reporter in December 2004. He asked me should Rumsfeld resign? I told him yes.

The subject that time was the 1000 plus condolence letters that Rumsfeld did not personally sign. I had suspected that the letter of condolence regarding the death of my only child, Lt Ken Ballard that I received from the Secretary of Defense had not been personally signed. Despite many weeks of denying that he had a machine sign those letters to the first 1000 families of soldiers killed in Iraq, he finally admitted that a machine had signed them.

“At the earliest moment in the global war on terror, I determined that it is important that military families who have lost loved ones in hostile actions receive a letter from me directly.
“I wrote and approved the now more than 1000 letters sent to family members and next of kin of each of the servicemen and women killed in military action. While I have not individually signed each one, in the interest of ensuring expeditious contact with grieving family members, I have directed that in the future I sign each letter.

I can assure Rumsfeld that at that time, military families don't care about an expeditious anything except an expeditious return of their loved one's body. So, don't do us any favors, we can wait for your hollow words.

What Rumsfeld, Bush, every member of Congress and the Senate and every single government official who sends a condolence letter to a family who is suffering this loss, should do this. First write the letter and make it meaningful. Generally, the letter is a form letter, I think the Army must have about 5 different templates to choose from. The official should be forced to sit down and read the letter that they send to the family along with a photograph of that soldier. They should look into that face, and see the dreams that died, the future that died and the family that died when that soldier died. Did he or she have children? Were they in love? What was their favorite music? Those officials should understand who is dying in this war. They should see the faces of our countries most precious resource, our sons and daughters, our future. And mostly they should cry. Because then we will know they are being touched by this war. It's shameful that they don't.

The next time those legislators are sitting in their seat ready to cast a vote, they should remember those faces and think of the soldiers who are still in Iraq because of their continued support of the war. They should ask themselves why they are casting that vote and in who's best interest is it?

Retired Army Col. David Hackworth, an author and frequent critic of the Department of Defense, publicly criticized Rumsfeld in a syndicated column earlier this month for not reviewing each KIA letter personally.
He called the fake signatures “like having it signed by a monkey.”

We don't know if Rumsfeld is signing condolence letters now, but at the rate soldiers are being killed, he must have quite a stack. By the way, many families believe that Bush hasn't signed his condolence letters either. My sister asked me if I thought Bush was afraid he would be found out. I said 'I doubt it, he doesn't even know he's signing them"

We didn't know back in December 2004 how badly Rumsfeld would bungle the job in Iraq. We didn't know how many soldiers would still be dying. But we know that Rumsfeld doesn't listen to the military, he went in with inadequate forces and he still has no exit plan. And we know that 2378 soldiers have died in this illegal and immoral war.

The military and our country deserves better. Yes, it is time for Rumsfeld to resign.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Georgie is Bored

George Bush is like a kid at Christmas time. As one of the leaders of the free world, he has lots to keep himself occupied, but this president has too many toys to play with and he's bored again, so he's looking for something new to break.

4 years ago he rolled the dice and he landed on Iraq. One of the of the game pieces he found most interesting was the actual country of Iraq, and possibly the leader of that country, Saddam Hussein. Despite being told not to (Don't touch that Georgie!), he sent our military into Iraq in an illegal invasion and that country is now very broken. You could probably make a good case that Iraq was weakened by many years of sanctions, but for the sake of this discussion, let's just say it was the war that broke Iraq. But Georgie is bored with Iraq; he has a good old case of Iraq fatigue and he needs something new to entertain him.

Thankfully, there are several generals that aren't bored and are calling for the resignation of the Secretary of Defense. Bush has previously said that he listened to the military, but he isn't listening now. CNN reported that

Despite a practice of not usually commenting on personnel moves, the president told reporters Tuesday that his vote of confidence for Rumsfeld was an effort to stamp out speculation about his status. "You can understand why, because we've got people's reputations at stake," Bush said of his usual aversion to speculation about personnel matters.
No, Georgie, we have lives at stake who are fighting your war. PAY ATTENTION!

"And on Friday I stood up and said, 'I don't appreciate the speculation about Don Rumsfeld; he's doing a fine job; I strongly support him.' " Pressed to respond to critics who say he is ignoring the advice of respected former military commanders, Bush vigorously stood by Rumsfeld. "I listen to all voices, but mine is the final decision," he said. "And Don Rumsfeld is doing a fine job. He's not only transforming the military, he's fighting a war on terror. He's helping us fight a war on terror. I have strong confidence in Don Rumsfeld. "I hear the voices, and I read the front page, and I know the speculation. But I'm the decider, and I decide what is best. And what's best is for Don Rumsfeld to remain as the secretary of defense."
Note the president of this country says he reads only the front page, maybe because it's got BIG writing and that's all he can comprehend, maybe he gets bored when he gets past the front page. If I was a betting woman, and I am, I'll give you odds that he never misses the comic section. Bet he gets a giggle out of Doonesbury.

Bush could have engaged in rebuilding the Gulf Coast of our country after the destruction of hurricane Katrina, and he promised to do just that, but that got boring, too. There are too many poor people who were in dire need of support from their government and it still hasn't come nearly 8 months later. That area is still very broken. Georgie's looking for a new toy to break.

Bush's new toy is Iran and that is downright scary. In the
current New Yorker magazine, Sy Hersh quotes a member of the House of Representatives:

No one in the meetings "is really objecting" to the talk of war (in Iran). "The people they're briefing are the same ones who led the charge on Iraq. At most, questions are raised: How are you going to hit all the sites at once? How are you going to get deep enough?" (Iran is building facilities underground.) "There's no pressure from Congress" not to take military action, the House member added. "The only political pressure is from the guys who want to do it." Speaking of President Bush, the House member said, "The most worrisome thing is that this guy has a messianic vision."

Messianic? That's frightening when it is in the same sentence as the president of the United States. I don't think he has ever used that word in describing the axis of evil, but that's what I think of when I hear the word. This is the same leader who has failed miserably in Iraq and who is failing the people of his own country in terms of education and healthcare and every other sector.

Maybe someone can put some Ritalin in Georgie's purple koolaid so he can pay attention to the needs of this country as the Presidential job description requires him to. Our country needs a leader, not a distracted child.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Peeps Rule!

Easter wasn't the biggest holiday when I was raising my son, Ken, but we always did the Easter basket thing. We had the mandatory chocolate bunnies, jelly beans (I like Starburst brand the best), and Ken's favorite creme eggs. Ya gotta have marshmallow peeps at Easter time, and they became a particular curiosity to Ken and me.

Peeps are now made year round, you've got the peeps chicks, the peeps
bunnies, creamy Easter eggs, Halloween ghosts and cats, Christmas trees and snowmen and for Valentines Day, peeps hearts. It's become a tradition to leave peeps at Ken's grave in Arlington when I visit. When I was in Virginia in February, I left some Valentines peeps for Ken along with some tulips and I went on my way. A couple of hours later, I received a phone call from one of Ken's friends who had missed me by about an hour. She saw the peeps so she knew I had been there. We had a nice conversation catching up after her deployment to Kuwait. I like it when people visit Ken's grave.

Peeps have been around since 1953 and are the favorite Easter candy, it says so on their official There are over 200 unofficial peeps websites. As a peep aficionado, I care about the health and welfare of peeps. One of my favorites is, with over a million visitors since 1998. The research includes experiments to test the reactions of peeps to cold, heat, solubility testing and low pressure environments. One of the most under-represented areas of study worldwide, issues of Peep well-being are only now making their way into the mainstream consciousness. This student group did a risk analysis on the effects of smoking and drinking and investigated whether these same health risks apply to Peeps. Their conclusion on this experiment? The synergistic effect of smoking and alcohol in Peeps produces a rapidly exothermic oxidation reaction, leading to a chemical and morphological divergence from the wild-type Peep phenotypes. And they give a strong recommendation to JustBorn Corporation that they supervise young Peeps and educate them of the risks associated with smoking and alcohol. Good advice for all of us!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Blue Funk

I'm in a funk, a big, fat, blue funk. Maybe others would say I've got the blues. Whatever. I don't like it, but there's not much to like these days.

Maybe it's the rain we've been having in California, it is relentless. I know we Californians are usually so chirpy about our weather, and we admit we are spoiled and we pay good money to live here. My favorite game in the winter is to call friends and relatives back east and ask, oh so sweetly, "so how cold did you say it is? And snow, too? nooooo, you can't be serious...." But we're just downright grumpy about the state of our skies today. When will this rain end?

Maybe it's the stories from the White House that are downright scary. I can't decide if they are laughing their asses off at us or if they really just don't care. Maybe both, probably both. If you don't hear the deafening sounds of the drum beat of war in Iran, you're just not listening. PAY ATTENTION! Bush said the idea that Iran would be the next U.S. military target as "pure speculation" Listen folks, that's what he told us even as they were drawing up war plans for Iraq. Thankfully,
54% said they did not trust him to "make the right decision about whether we should go to war with Iran

Retired Generals & Colonels are finally crawling out from under their rocks and are speaking up about how how badly it is to going in Iraq and calling for Rumsfeld's resignation. Retired Major General John Baptiste, who commanded the Big Red One, the Army's 1st Infantry Division in Iraq until November,said:
"You know, it speaks volumes that guys like me are peaking out from retirement about the leadership climate in the Department of Defense," Batiste told CNN. "I believe we need a fresh start in the Pentagon. We need a leader who understands teamwork, a leader who knows how to
build teams, a leader that does it without intimidation," said Batiste, a West Point graduate who also served in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"When decisions are made without taking into account sound military recommendations, sound military decision-making, sound planning - then we're bound to make mistakes," he said.

Rumsfeld has offered to resign more than once, but Bush won't think of it. Bush is telling us Rummy's doing a heckuva job and we know what that means! When Bush spoke to the country back in December,2005 he said We will continue to listen to honest criticism, and make every change that will help us complete the mission. Yet there is a difference between honest critics who recognize what is wrong, and defeatists who refuse to see that anything is right about He's not listening, he never listens. I don't mean to be disrespectful to these Generals but where were they 4 years ago? Why didn't they fall on their swords then? How many lives would have been saved if they cared more about their soldiers instead of their retirement?

The news out of Iraq isn't getting any better. Baghdad is not safe for anyone these days and murder,assassination and kidnapping are the words of the day. There have been 3 times as many American casualties half way through April than ALL of March. Bush tells his audiences, the handpicked ones, he's optimistic about Iraq, we've also seen signs of a hopeful future. The sad thing is he's lying again or he really believes what he's saying and that means he's terribly out of touch with reality.

Maybe it's the voices on the tapes from the cockpit recorder from Flight 93 to SFO on 9/11 that are so gutwrenching, more in hindsight than what we knew then. But if these guys are repeating "Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest, Allah is the greatest" as they prepare to take down an airliner with 44 people aboard, including the 4 hijackers, do they really think that Allah will greet them with open arms? Not any religion I know about. Love thy neighbor works for me, even if you don't like someone very much. There's a bumper sticker going around that says "When Jesus said, "Love your enemies", I think he probably meant don't kill them.

Maybe it was 2 years ago that my only child, Lt Ken Ballard was ready to come home from his hellish year in Iraq. He had done his job, and just when we were putting on those final touches to the Welcome home party, 1st Armor Division was extended for 120 days more of hell. Except, I didn't know at the time the meaning of hell. Everyday from now until May 30, I can tell you this was the day Ken was in battle here or there, this was the day when he sent this photo, this was the day we talked about his 1 month of block leave, this was the day I got that letter. So all these milestone days are coming up on me, more like a tsunami than a flood. Your mind can't control it and your heart doesn't want to. Because as painful as those memories are, Ken is not forgotten. On Memorial Day this year I will be at Arlington National Cemetery again with family & friends to celebrate Ken's life and the 26 years that we had him in our lives. Ken will not be forgotten.

I spent a few hours last night looking at Ken's website,, looking at photos and reading comments people have left from all over the world. Ken's website is my project to insure that people will know who he was. Some nights the tears won't stop.

Maybe it's that I just read that one of the soldiers from Ken's unit was killed last week. I have been in fear of that since I heard they were back in Iraq back in January.
Pvt. Jody W. Missildine, 19, of Plant City, Fla., died in Tal Afar, Iraq, on April 8, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his HMMWV during convoy operations. Missildine was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 37th Armored Regiment, 1st Brigade, 1st Armored Division, Friedberg, Germany.
Jody's family doesn't know what has hit them yet. Jody's body will be getting home to Florida this week, but they won't see a photo of his flag covered casket arriving at Dover AFB, because the Department of Defense has regulations that prevent those photos from being taken. It's for the privacy of the families they say. Another lie that they keep repeating hoping that we will believe it.

Yeah, I'm in a testy mood today, but I've earned it. We all have!

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Hope Springs Eternal

Senator John McCain says he respects DeLay's decision to step down So do I but why did DeLay wait so long? When you've been indicted on money-laundering charges, thats the bidness you should be attending to, NOT re-election. Don't you think the good folks in Texas deserve a break from those evil ways? Some people have said they are going to miss DeLay. Miss him? Like a splinter removed from your finger? Yeah, the splinter is gone, but there's likely a messy mess left while the healing is going on. No, I will not miss DeLay and his corruption and hate. Let's move on!

He says he doesn't want to be a hindrance to his party. Too late! "I refuse to allow liberal Democrats an opportunity to steal this seat with a negative personal campaign," DeLay said. He took care of that negative personal campaign by leaving the race. Without him there is a nice chance for decorum. With a well-earned nickname like Hammer, it's fair to say that "decorum" is not part of his vocabulary.

If I'm appearing a bit giddy about this bit of news, why, yes, I guess I am! There's not alot of good news these days, what with the Iraq war now into it's 4th year. This month the death toll is already nearly tripled from last month, and honestly, things in Afghanistan aren't going any better. So when one of the bad guys takes a tumble, and that is what DeLay is, there's no denying this is good news and hope springs eternal.

When I was in Crawford, TX, right outside the president's ranch last summer, one of the things we talked about was our political fantasies. I was waiting to see Bush & Cheney fly off in a helicopter a 'la Richard Nixon. Another wanted to watch the whole bunch of them do the perp walk out of the White House. There were others that are not fit for printing here, so I'll hold back, but suffice to say, in the end we all agreed we could live with any of those outcomes.

So farewell Tom DeLay, your party may miss you, but the rest of us won't.

The Art of War

I'm going to let Scott Ritter's words have this space today. Scott holds the bar high for those who question the path to war and the incompetence that continues. He earned that right as a Marine Intelligence Officer and then as a UN weapons inspector.

There is some controversy that Scott has changed his tune, or has gone from red to blue in support of this war. There are some who say "you voted for the war" and that stops the accused in their tracks. They did vote for the war based on a stack of information that we now know was manipulated to make a case for this war. We have document after document and personal accounts that Bush & his neocon buddies were making a case for this war since at least day one of this administration. So cut the crap! We were lied to and now based on the information that is now available, we want to bring the troops home. And if you supported the war, and you haven't changed your mind, then you haven't been paying attention!

Read Scott's words and take some time to see if you agree or disagree. It's worth a few minutes of your time.

The Art of War for the anti-war movement March 31, 2006.

It's high time to recognize that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue.

In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq by a US-led coalition, and for three years since, I have spent many hours speaking to numerous anti-war forums across the country and around the world. I have always been struck by the sincerity of the vast majority of those who call themselves anti-war, and impressed by their willingness to give so much of themselves in the service of such a noble cause.

Whether participating in demonstrations, organizing a vigil, conducting town-hall meetings, or writing letters to their elected officials and the media, the participants in the anti-war movement have exhibited an energy and integrity that would make anyone proud. For myself, I have been vociferous in my defense of the actions of the majority of the anti-war movement, noting that the expression of their views is not only consistent with their rights afforded by the Constitution of the United States, but also that their engagement in the process of citizenship is a stellar example of the ideals and values set forth in that document, and as such representative of the highest form of patriotism in keeping with service to a document that begins, "We the People."

Lately I have noticed a growing despondency among many of those who call themselves the anti-war movement. With the United States now entering its fourth year of illegal war in and illegitimate occupation of Iraq, and the pro-war movement moving inexorably towards yet another disastrous conflict with Iran, there is an increasing awareness that the cause of the anti-war movement, no matter how noble and worthy, is in fact a losing cause as currently executed. Despite all of the well-meaning and patriotic work of the millions of activists and citizens who comprise the anti-war movement, America still remains very much a nation not only engaged in waging and planning wars of aggression, but has also become a nation which increasingly identifies itself through its military and the wars it fights. This is a sad manifestation of the fact that the American people seem to be addicted to war and violence, rather than the ideals of human rights, individual liberty, and freedom and justice for all that should define our nation.

In short, the anti-war movement has come face to face with the reality that in the ongoing war of ideologies that is being waged in America today, their cause is not just losing, but is in fact on the verge of complete collapse. Many in the anti-war movement would take exception to such a characterization of the situation, given the fact that there seems to be a growing change in the mood among Americans against the ongoing war in Iraq. But one only has to scratch at the surface of this public discontent to realize how shallow and superficial it is. Americans aren't against the war in Iraq because it is wrong; they are against it because we are losing.

Take the example of Congressman Jack Murtha. A vocal supporter of President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, last fall Mr. Murtha went public with his dramatic change of position, suddenly rejecting the war as un-winnable, and demanding the immediate withdrawal of American troops from Iraq. While laudable, I have serious problems with Jack Murtha's thought process here. At what point did the American invasion of Iraq become a bad war? When we suffered 2,000 dead? After two years of fruitless struggle? Once we spent $100 billion?

While vocalizing his current opposition against the Iraq War, Congressman Murtha and others who voted for the war but now question its merits have never retracted their original pro-war stance. Nor have they criticized their role in abrogating the Constitutional processes for bringing our country into conflict when they voted for a war before the President had publicly committed to going to war (we now know the President had committed to the invasion of Iraq by the summer of 2002, and that all his representations to the American people and Congress about 'war as a matter of last resort' and 'seeking a diplomatic solution' were bold face lies). The Iraq War was wrong the moment we started bombing Iraq. Getting rid of Saddam Hussein is no excuse, and does not pardon America's collective sin of brooking and tolerating an illegal war of aggression.

The reality is, had our military prevailed in this struggle, the American people for the most part would not even blink at the moral and legal arguments against this war. This underlying reality is reflected in the fact that despite our ongoing disaster in Iraq, America is propelled down a course of action that leads us toward conflict with Iran. President Bush recently re-affirmed his embrace of the principles of pre-emptive war when he signed off on the 2006 version of the National Security Strategy of the United States, which highlights Iran as a threat worthy of confrontation. This event has gone virtually unmentioned by the American mainstream media, un-remarked by a Congress that remains complicit in the war-mongering policies of the Bush administration, and un-noticed by the majority of Americans. America is pre-programmed for war, and unless the anti-war movement dramatically changes the manner in which it conducts its struggle, America will become a nation of war, for war, and defined by war, and as such a nation that will ultimately be consumed by war.

It is high time for the anti-war movement to take a collective look in the mirror, and be honest about what they see. A poorly organized, chaotic, and indeed often anarchic conglomeration of egos, pet projects and idealism that barely constitutes a "movement," let alone a winning cause. I have yet to observe an anti-war demonstration that has a focus on anti-war. It often seemed that every left-wing cause took advantage of the event to promote its own particular agenda, so that "No War in Iraq" shared the stage with the environment, ecology, animal rights, pro-choice, and numerous other causes which not only diluted the anti-war message which was supposed to be sent, but also guaranteed that the demonstration itself would be seen as something hijacked by the left, inclusive of only progressive ideologues, and exclusive of the vast majority of moderate (and even conservative) Americans who might have wanted to share the stage with their fellow Americans from the left when it comes to opposing war with Iraq (or even Iran), but do not want to be associated with any other theme.

The anti-war movement, first and foremost, needs to develop a laser-like focus on being nothing more or less than anti-war.

The anti-war movement lacks any notion of strategic thinking, operational planning, or sense of sound tactics. So much energy is wasted because of this failure to centrally plan and organize. As a result, when the anti-war movement does get it right (and on occasion it does), the success is frittered away by a failure to have planned effective follow-up efforts, failure to have implemented any supporting operations, an inability to recognize opportunities as they emerge and a lack of resources to exploit such opportunities if in fact they were recognized to begin with. In short, the anti-war movement is little more than a walk-on squad of high school football players drawing plays in the sand, taking on the National Football League Super Bowl Champions.
In order to even have a chance of prevailing with the American people, the anti-war movement is going to need much more than just good ideals and values. It needs to start thinking like a warrior would, in full recognition that we as a nation are engaged in a life-or-death struggle of competing ideologies with those who promote war as an American value and virtue.

The anti-war movement needs to study the philosophies of those who have mastered the art of conflict, from Caesar to Napoleon, from Sun Tzu to Clausewitz. It needs to study the "enemy" learning to understand the pro-war movement as well as it understands itself. It needs to comprehend the art of campaigning, of waging battles only when necessary, and having the ability to wage a struggle on several fronts simultaneously, synchronizing each struggle so that a synergy is created which maximizes whatever energy is being expended. The anti-war movement needs to understand the pro-war movement's center of gravity, and design measures to defeat this. It needs to grasp the pro-war movement's decision-making cycle, then undertake a comprehensive course of action that learns to pre-empt this cycle, getting 'inside' the pro-war system of making decisions, and thereby forcing the pro-war movement to react to the anti-war agenda, instead of vice versa.

There is an old adage in the military that “intelligence drives operations.” The anti-war movement needs to develop a centralized intelligence operation, not a spy organization, but rather a think-tank that produces sound analysis based upon fact that can be used to empower those who are waging the struggle against war. Far too often the anti-war movement dilutes its effectiveness by either being unable to produce facts during a debate, or when it does, producing facts that are inaccurate, incomplete, or both. The mainstream media treats the anti-war movement as a joke because many times that is exactly what the anti-war movement, through its lack of preparation and grasp of the facts, allows itself to become.

The anti-war movement lacks organization. There is no central leadership, or mechanism to effectively muster and control resources. The anti-war movement takes pride in its “democratic” composition, but in fact it operates as little more than controlled chaos, creating ample opportunity for the pro-war movement to effectively execute a “divide and conquer” strategy to minimize and nullify whatever good the anti-war movement achieves through its efforts. The anti-war movement would do well to take a page from the fire service and implement a version of the Incident Command System (ICS) that firefighters use when fighting complex fires involving the integration of several departments, organizations and jurisdictions. The anti-war movement needs to develop its own “ICS for the anti-war” that is universally applied throughout the movement, so that an anti-war effort in Seattle, Washington operates the same as an anti-war effort in New York City, and as such can be coordinated and controlled by an overall command staff operating from Denver, Colorado.

Complex problems, such as faced by the anti-war movement, require complex solutions, which in turn dictate a flexible control mechanism that can coordinate and synchronize every effort to achieve the desired result at a time and place of the anti-war movement's choosing, and then be prepared to follow up on successes as they occur and sustain the movement over an extended period of time. It is not enough to win a battle against the pro-war movement; the anti-war movement needs to win the war of ideologies. As such it must not only prepare to win a particular fight, but to exploit that victory, massing its forces against any developed weakness, and drive the pro-movement into the ground and off the American political map once and for all.
I have indicated my willingness to apply my training and experience as a warrior in a manner which helps teach the principles of the art of war to those who call themselves part of the anti-war movement. There seems to be not only a need for this sort of training, but also a desire among the myriad of individuals and groups who comprise the anti-war movement for an overall coordinated strategic direction, operational planning, and tactical execution of agreed upon mission objectives. One can be certain that the pro-war movement is conducting itself in full accordance with these very same organizational principles and methodologies. And let there be no doubt: the pro-war movement in America is prevailing. In order to gain the upper hand politically, and actually position itself to stop not only those wars already being fought (Iraq), but also prevent those being planned (Iran), the anti-war movement will need to re-examine in totality the way it does business. I for one am ready to assist. However, in writing this essay, I am constantly reminded of the old saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink." One can only hope that the anti-war movement is thirsty.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

It's Just a Game

On a trip to England this week, Condoleezza Rice recently said the United States had probably made thousands of errors in Iraq, but defended the overall strategy of removing Saddam Hussein. Gee, when the U.S. Secretary of State starts confessing like that, it makes me feel so much better that my only child, Lt Ken Ballard was killed because of these thousands of errors. But, it's okay because we had to get Saddam.

I guess Condi had time to think about what she said, those thousands of errors, because she came back the next day to clarify, when she said that the U.S. had made "thousands" of mistakes in Iraq she meant figuratively, not literally. So it wasn't really thousands, maybe alot, maybe some, but not thousands of errors, right, Condi? And the thousands of American soldiers that have been killed? And the thousands of Iraqi civilians that have been killed? Were they just symbolic, too?

You'd never know that this country was at war with the flippancy that the adminstration treats these kinds of discussions. Like the backdrop on Bush's landing on an aircraft carrier with a banner that stated Mission Accomplished on May 1, 2003. Ken hadn't even arrived in Iraq and anyone who knew anything knew that this war had just begun. There had been no sign of flowers or chocolates and there never would be. That was flippant, too. So was Bush's taunt to those tempted to attack U.S. forces, "Bring them on." on July 2, 2003. Ken had been in Iraq for a little more than a month; he had just been notified that he would be in charge of a platoon of tanks instead of traveling in a HUMVEE. He was so proud of his guys and he was going to be a great platoon leader. I cannot say how offended and horrified I was to hear the president say those words. It still haunts me to hear those words, as if his macho rhetoric would scare anyone off.

It's all just a game to this administration. Despite what they say, they don't care about my son's death or any of the 2332 American casualties or the 17,000 American injuries and they certainly don't care about the "30,000 Iraqis, more or less, who have died as a result of the initial incursion and the ongoing violence against Iraqis." 30,000 more or less....that's what Bush said, more or less. As if he was talking about buying salami at the deli...a pound, more or less.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Presidential Amnesia

Perhaps the President has amnesia, perhaps it's something more sinister, but it is obvious that his holier than thou attitude overrides reality. I'd like to remind the President of the oath of office he took, not once but two times as he became the President of the United States.

I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

I'm wondering if we haven't gotten the Bush translation for those sacred words, but his actions are speaking louder than those words he spoke and swore on a bible. I dunno, maybe I'm holding the bar too high. Maybe the President *is* performing to the best of his ability, but he's doing everything he can to NOT preserve, protect or defend the Constitution.

I know the oath of office for the Presidency is much shorter, and therefore easier for Bush to read and remember, than the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance that is taken by new citizens, but we might want to get someone from the administration to read this document and then give the Cliff Notes version to the President. If it's good enough for new citizens, shouldn't the president of the United States at least be held to the same principles?

"I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God."

There is something about supporting and defending the Constitution that keeps coming up. I know the President says he doesn't read the news, but this document, the Constitution studied in 8th grade! You could make a good case that the junior high set is more informed about this precious document that is the written set of fundamental principles by which the United States is governed.

We know now Bush's attendance record in his service in the National Guard, perhaps he played hooky in 8th grade, too. For all the aides that serve the president, couldn't one of them give him a primer on Constitutional principles?