Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Obama Staggers Amid His Own "Fog of War"

This is a curious debate we’re having here in America – whether, or not, to bomb Syria. Anti-war liberals are saying “Bomb”, while bomb-happy conservatives are saying “No.”  Many of the Republicans say “No” only because “Yes” is what they think Obama wants (and needs) to hear. Democrats say “Fight” for the same reason – to back their president. Both sides appear to be under the impression that Obama wants to bomb Syria. He does not.

Obama is a leaf caught in the currents of American history. He is bullied – not only by a conservative agenda that seeks to project military might at the drop of a hat, but by a nation whose very nature it is to bully (and bomb) lesser nations.

Obama did not help his cause when he spoke of a “red line” and said, “Assad has to go.” (Sounded very American.) But he said it at a time when the Assad regime was teetering – mass defections of top officials and military personnel, and amid rapid gains by rebel factions. Most pundits were predicting that Assad would fall within that year. Obama simply went with the flow; it seemed like the fashionable thing to do… that is, until Assad came storming back.

It reminds me of when I went to Vegas to witness the Holmes-Cooney heavyweight championship fight in 1982. Midway through the 2nd round, Holmes dropped Cooney with a big right hand. I leaped from my seat and yelled, “Kill the m-f!” Cooney got up off the canvas and, for the next ten rounds, waged a valiant battle, during which time I remained uncomfortably silent, wondering what would happen next. 

Obama should have stayed in his seat and kept his mouth shut. At least, that is what he is thinking now. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It Begins with a "Buzzing" Sound

If a terrorist is someone who terrorizes defenseless civilians, then President Obama is a terrorist operating in multiple arenas around the world. His drones must be one of the most frightening prospects Third World families can imagine.

Please, you mothers and fathers of America: Imagine sending your children out to play. Then, imagine hearing a "buzzing" sound, and shortly, an explosion. Now, imagine your children blown to bits. This happened to a group of nine young boys gathering wood in a village in Afghanistan. They were killed by a single drone strike. U.S. officials said, "We thought they were insurgents."

This is happening in villages in Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia (and Lord know where else.) In Yemen, the locals say "It begins with a buzzing sound." That means a drone is overhead. Over the span of three days (August 6-8), there were five strikes in Yemen, alone. Obama officials justify these strikes by saying, "We are forcing the terrorists to keep their eyes on the skies." (You are also forcing hapless mothers and fathers to fear constantly for the lives of their families. That's terrorism.)

The Obama administration always tells how many "militants" they have killed with each strike - 34 in the past two weeks. They rarely admit to the innocents killed.

This how a father in Yemen, a survivor of a recent drone strike, described what Obama will not talk about: He was walking with his six-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter when he heard a "buzzing" sound, and then the building he had just passed, exploded. He ran into the basement of the adjacent building, and it, too, was hit with a missile. As the dust cleared, he saw that his son's leg was bleeding badly, and his daughter had suffered a wound to the back of her head. He took his daughter in his arms and described how her "face turned yellow, her body began to shrink, and then she died."

I have an eight-year-old grandson and six-year-old granddaughter. Listening to the distraught Yemeni father, I could not help but wish that Obama might be hit with one of his own drones.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Ma Parole" (upon) my word)

Back in the old country, the prisoner would go before the magistrate and give his "parole" - his word of honor - that he would not commit another crime. The magistrate would release the prisoner early, or continue to detain him, based upon his assessment of that prisoner's parole.

On April 22, 2013, Michigan Parole Board member, Jayne Price, said to me - before I had a chance to speak - "I can tell you right now there is little chance of you getting a parole because you have not served enough time." In fact, according to the circuit court judge (Schma), and according to the law, I had served enough time to be released from prison. Later on in my interview, Ms. Price conceded, "It's true, you are eligible to go home, but we like to see you do more time."

"Ma Parole" is French for "(upon) my word." When Ms. Price aborted my hearing at the start by saying, "'re not getting a parole," she had literally said to me, "You're not getting a chance to speak." (Please pull the transcripts and see for yourself.) That is not how the citizens of Michigan imagine that their parole proceedings are being conducted. In a free society, they deserve to know when the institutions entrusted with the lives of fellow Americans lose their way.

During my 88-day hunger strike protesting the deterioration of prisoners' rights in the State of Michigan (May 18 to August 15, 2013), I wrote to understand what "parole" means, add this: The prisoner's life is not the only life at stake at a parole hearing. There are children - babies - wanting their dads and granddads home. These children have a stake. They must be considered in the parole discourse.

Add: The parole board should be held accountable. When the judge sentences a man, he gives a reason. When the parole board re-sentences that man, (which is what a 5 year continuance is), they are not compelled to give a reason. They can simply say, "We feel like it..."  That must change. If you are going to make a man do another five years in prison, you owe him a reason why.

Add: The parole board needs an attitude adjustment. When a prisoner has served his sentence well, and he goes before the parole board, that parole board member should be eagerly rubbing her hands together as she looks over that prisoner's record, saying, "Yes, we can get you out of here." Instead, they sharpen their knives, looking to further dismember prisoners from their families.

When the U.S. Supreme Court told California's Governor Brown that he must release 10,000 prisoners by year's end (due to over-crowding), Brown protested, declaring that would create a national crisis.

This country already has a national crisis: Too many Americans being satisfied with too many Americans being locked away for too long. It is a dark stain on the national conscience.

All human beings have a liberty interest - a God-given instinct to be free. Prison is not a viable life option - no more for the prisoner than for any other human being on Earth. Liberty is the only viable life option. It is the option this nation was founded upon. This nation's prisoner are Americans, too.

Today, this nation, too quickly, errs on the side of incarceration. More people languish in America's prisons than any other prison system on Earth. In the "Land of the Free," that arc must bend toward liberty. Once punishment has been meted out, Liberty must become the guiding light in this nation's pursuit of justice for all.