Viewpoint Page 6 Saturday, December 16, 2006 W ith the whole world watching, George W. Bush is looking like a man who has just figured out what most of us saw long ago — that he got himself cornered in an Oval Office. Never mind that Geometry 101 says it can’t happen. Washington 101 says it can — and Bush now knows that it did. Deep down, he also knows why: Everybody he trusted to get it right in Iraq got it wrong. Perhaps he did, too — by failing to ask the right questions of those he so blindly trusted. Now, when the TV lights and microphones click on, we see that his eyes reflect not just determination, but desperation. It becomes unsettlingly obvious in those semi-unscripted moments such as last week’s joint press conference with his equally beleaguered ally, Tony Blair. While Britain’s prime minister maintained a tone of statesmanlike defense, America’s president sounded increasingly impatient, even whiny, as he repeated his tired Iraq mantra: Defeat is not an option, success is the only option. Meanwhile, the president is doing now what he should have done four years ago. He is talking to those outsiders. Among them are some of those he once sneeringly shunned (including confidants of his father) because he knew they wouldn’t push the hard-line he wanted to hear. They wouldn’t promise a “Slam dunk!” for finding weapons of mass destruction, wouldn’t promise flowery welcomes, a postwar cakewalk paid for by Iraq’s oil revenue. In short, they wouldn’t parrot Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and George Tenet. And that meant they weren’t on The Team. Even if the president had seriously con- sulted them it is doubtful that they could have saved Bush from his Team. Because this is a president whose only depth is loyalty. Which means he would have listened, but not really heard. Now, according to some of those he has consulted, the president appears to be both listening and hearing. And he is finally even asking at least some of the right questions. On Monday, at the White House, Bush heard from three retired four-star Army generals and two historians. The next morning, two of the generals gave Americans watching “NBC News Today” show” at least a glimpse of the varied views that exist among top military officers concerning the 79 recommendations presented by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group. “There was one recommendation that gave me the willies, to be blunt,” said retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey. “The notion that in a year you can pull most of the combat brigades out ... and imbed 20,000 or more advisers (in Iraqi army units) all over Iraq. I don’t think that’s a solution.” But retired Gen. Wayne Downing, whose army expertise was in special operations, offered a different view: “I didn’t recommend that we keep the combat troops there. I think at some point we’re going to have to draw down. ... The advisers are absolutely crucial ... but it doesn’t take large numbers. These have to be quality professionals and they have top be properly trained.” (It is a most dangerous mission, because in an urban setting such as Baghdad, the American advisers will be in situations where danger can always be around the next corner.) The interview seemed destined to provide a newsworthy discussion by two respected generals on just what they told the president about the pluses and perils of troop reductions and imbedded advisers — and maybe what he had asked or even told them. Unfortunately, the new “Today” show anchor, Meredith Vieira, apparently missed the difference in the two generals’ perspectives and never followed up. The president is right every time he asserts that in Iraq, defeat is no option and success is the only option. But he will likely remain cornered in his office of round walls until he comes to grips with this bottom-line truth: There is no option that can guarantee success in Iraq or even make it likely. The question this president must ask — and then answer — before announcing his new plan for Iraq is this: “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?” If the question rings familiar, it is because it was asked in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, way back in 1971 — with the word “Vietnam” spoken instead of “Iraq.” The speaker? A young veteran who had returned from the war with impressive medals but major concerns, a Massachusetts fellow named John Kerry. Indiana Gazette MICHAEL J. DONNELLY President and Publisher JOSEPH L. GEARY Vice President and General Manager R. Hastie RayLucy R. Donnelly Joe Donnelly Publisher, 1913-70Publisher, 1970-93 Publisher, 1970-2000 HASTIE D. KINTER Secretary and Assistant Treasurer STACIE D. GOTTFREDSON Treasurer and Assistant Secretary Established in 1890 Published by The Indiana Printing & Publishing Company “The Gazette wants to be the friend of every man, the promulgator of all that’s right, a welcome guest in the home. We want to build up, not tear down, to help, not to hinder; and to assist every worthy person in the community without reference to race, religion or politics. Our cause will be the broadening and bettering of the county’s interests.” The Ruining our future E ast of Atlanta, an outcropping of granite rises 863 feet above the Georgia plateau. It is rounded and about five miles in circumference. Today, Stone Mountain is owned by the state of Georgia, and there is an amusement park. In earlier years, however, visitors who climbed to the top would sometimes walk toward what they thought was the edge. Because of its rounded shape, there was no edge; there was only an ever-receding illusion of an edge. Sometimes people would realize too late they had walked too far and, unable to go back, would fall to their deaths. I believe we Americans have walked too far from our original constitutional republic, and it’s now impossible to restore it. I say this because I like to profess my belief in the early republic just to aggravate the politically correct. But there is a big difference between what one wants and what is possible. We are stuck with a big central government with imperial ambitions abroad. There are far too many Americans who benefit financially from government — from paychecks, purchases or subsidies — to muster the political will to trim it down to size. Moreover, most Americans have learned to love government. They are content for the only debate to be about patronage and who gets it. They are content with national political conventions that are nothing more than scripted TV shows without a scrap of debate about issues or candidates. This contentment, however, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be politically active. We still must put pressure on Congress to get our financial house in order; to pass logical and sensible laws; to curb the government’s inclination to erode personal liberty; and to restrain the executive branch from involving us in useless wars. We can’t recover our past, but we can darn sure ruin our future if we fall asleep at the political switch. About 52 percent of our massive public debt is now held by foreigners. This is dangerous. Either because of spite or loss of faith in our fiscal responsibility, this massive amount of U.S. bonds could be dumped on the market and cause a financial catastrophe. Trade policies have to be revamped, because no American, no matter how well- educated or -trained, can compete with people who will work for half or less than what an American makes. The theory of The New York Times’ self-appointed sage, Tom Friedman, about a flat Earth is a prescription for turning America into a Third World country. That’s not far-fetched. An article in the Dec. 5 edition of the Financial Times reports that 10 percent of Americans own 70 percent of the nation’s wealth. That leaves only 30 percent to be divided by the remaining 90 percent of the population. The government loves to use statistics to disguise the truth. The claim, for example, that 69 percent of the people own their homes includes people who are making mortgage payments. Paying on a mortgage is not ownership. Read the fine print in your mortgage contract if you doubt this. The war in Iraq is an insane endeavor for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the stupidity of spending billions of dollars to destroy the country and more billions to reconstruct what we just got through destroying. Yes, we are stuck with a huge central government with imperial ambitions. Nevertheless, we had better do all we can to see that this leviathan is run by honest and intelligent people, lest we follow all the previous empires into the sanitary landfill of history. We can’t afford any more boy emperors or chicken hawks anxious to prove their manhood at the expense of other people’s lives. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446,Orlando,FL 32802. Bush is cornered in the Oval Office L oyalty oaths in America have their roots in the Civil War era, but in the ’50s, they were an ugly product of the “Red Scare.” Some people, including university professors, were asked to sign them as testimony to their not being a communist, or a communist sympathizer. Now comes a proposal for a different type of loyalty oath, which may help answer the question: How do we tell the difference between a peaceful Muslim and a non-peaceful Muslim who wants to kill us? Granting that the majority of Muslims are not terrorists, is there a method by which we can do a better job of exposing those who are? This week, the “Proposed Charter of Muslim Understanding” is being presented to the European Parliament. According to Gerard Batten, a member of the European Parliament from London, who contributed the foreword, and the charter’s author, Sam Solomon, a Sharia law expert, the charter will “enable Muslims from all strands of belief to make it plain that they reject those extremist interpretations of their religious texts that promote or excuse violence and bring Islam into conflict with the modern world.” The Charter calls upon Muslims to: ■ Respect non-Muslim religions and issue a fatwa (an Islamic religious decree) prohibiting the use of force, violence or threats to their followers. ■ Respect all civilizations, cultures and traditions and promote understanding of the precedence of national laws over Sharia law. ■ Respect Western freedoms, especially of belief and expression and prohibit violent reaction against people who make use of these freedoms. ■ Prohibit the issuing of any fatwa that would result in violence or threat against individuals or institutions. ■ Request Islamic institutions to revise and issue new interpretations of Qur’anic verses calling for Jihad and violence against non- Muslims. Solomon says, “We call on organizations representing the Islamic faith ... to endorse and sign this Charter as an example to all European Muslims.” By doing so, they will make it clear that “Islam is a religion of peace ... and that acts of terrorism committed in its name are the acts of misguided individuals who have misunderstood and misinterpreted its teaching.” In the charter’s foreword, Gerard Batten (MEP) writes, “The Western European view of religion, achieved after centuries of bloodshed, conflict and division, is that religion is a matter of private belief and conscience. Islamic fundamentalists do not share this view. ... They believe in Islamic theocracy. ... Such views are simply incompatible with Western liberal democracy. ... The vast majority of Muslims that non-Muslims meet in everyday life are decent, respectable, law-abiding and hardworking. Western governments and societies have to offer them their support while standing firm against the extremists.” The charter is “a great step forward in this process.” It certainly is, but what if someone signs it and doesn’t mean it? Some Muslims claim the Koran allows them to lie to “infidels.” What happens then? What would Solomon suggest be done to those who refuse to sign the charter, as many refused to sign earlier loyalty oaths? How does one encourage compliance? Sam Solomon answers that question via e-mail: “This charter is like a passport application. If someone lies, he will be prosecuted. Once agreed upon, it would give power to the authorities to bring them to justice. Though we know they can lie, this time it would not be an individual, it would be their leaders, and would be like putting their noses in the dust, and accepting it for what it is worth, that the real cause of terrorism is the interpretation of Qur’anic verses by certain factions of their religion. One way or another, they have never been challenged like this ever before.” As the European Parliament is often much slower than the American Congress, the charter begins first as a discussion document. Sponsors hope it will create interest and discussion among the European public, as well as in the European Parliament. They are hoping one of the MEPs, possibly Gerard Batten, will put forward a proposal to introduce this charter as a bill. Batten and Solomon see this as a “no lose” proposition. If the bill passes with an enforcement mechanism, Muslim leaders who sign would be held accountable under the law for any violation. If they don’t sign, the law and public opinion may have something to say about their refusal. Does anyone have a better strategy for sorting out the violent Muslims from the peaceful ones among us? Chartering in uncharted waters Thanks be onto this newspaper and its staff for causing public awareness of John Minda’s plight with his little effort around marketing hot dogs on Indiana’s main street. Had that not occurred, Minda and his marketing cart equipment would have quietly disappeared as does a summer evening sunset. If you want to raise the ire of the average American, present to that person an image of a bully lording over and beating up on a seeming underdog. There are few things to be witnessed that can more readily cause an American to fight. Fight for the underdog — that tendency’s probably wired into our genetic structure. We’ve had to fight since this nation’s inception. With Indiana Borough Council’s exclusionary action toward Minda’s little hot dog pushcart, the council has manifested and projected itself as a bully, with the council probably being unaware of that aspect of its decision making. Such action by council reflects a kind of “strong- arming.” Exclusionary action targeting one of us is interpreted as targeting all of us. Time was on Indiana’s main street and on a Saturday afternoon, sidewalks were near to crowded with pedestrians. It was a time before our present- day numerous shopping malls. Also it seemed a time of far fewer people having a ready access to vehicular travel. Those times are but memory and will probably remain so. There’s some real possibility of how Minda’s little vendor- ing exercise might only increase a part of that lost horde of main street pedestrians. How could that hurt? Minda’s venture is around an easy, open-air atmosphere where a consumer can easily acquire one good ol’ American contrived foodstuff without closed doors, seating, checkout lines or surveillance cameras. It’s simple, it’s informal, no frills and straightforward. Now, what’s wrong with that? Lynn Hankinson Chambersville Standing up for the underdog LETTER TO THE EDITOR All letters to the editor must be signed and should include the writer’s full address and telephone number so the authenticity of the letter can be verified. No letters will be published anonymously. Letters must be factual and discuss issues rather than personalities. Writers should avoid name-calling. Overall, short letters are more effective than long ones. Generally, letters should be limited to 350 words in length. All letters are subject to editing. Letters from active political candidates will not be accepted until after the November general election. Send letters to Mike Petersen, editorial page editor, The Indiana Gazette, 899 Water St., Indiana, PA 15701. Letters may also be e-mailed to mepetersen @indianagazette.net. Guidelines for letter writers COMING UP JOHN HALL: So long and good luck: It’s Hall’s last column. SUNDAY THOMAS FOREMAN: The suspension of disbelief. CHARLEY REESE Charley Reese’s column is distributed by King Features Syndicate. MARTIN SCHRAM Martin Schram writes political analysis for Scripps Howard News Service. CAL THOMAS Cal Thomas writes a column distributed by Tribune Media Services.
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