Friday, September 23, 2005

I am just not seeing the connection.....

Bush: Iraq withdrawal would equal defeat
President defends war in Iraq as a terror deterrent while anti-war protesters gather for weekend rally
By Ken Herman


Friday, September 23, 2005

WASHINGTON -- President Bush said Thursday that withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, a course to be urged by tens of thousands of anti-war protesters gathering in Washington for a Saturday rally, would amount to a victory for terrorists.

"Withdrawing our troops would make the world more dangerous and make America less safe," Bush said after a briefing at the Pentagon. "To leave Iraq now would be to repeat the costly mistakes of the past that led to the attacks of September the 11th, 2001.

"Our withdrawal from Iraq would allow the terrorists to claim a historic victory over the United States," he said, adding that it would embolden terrorists and allow them to "dominate the Middle East and launch more attacks on America and other free nations."

Bush's comments came as anti-war protesters prepared for a weekend rally. On Wednesday, Cindy Sheehan, who became a focal point of the effort when she spent the summer near Bush's Crawford ranch, delivered an anti-war message at the White House gate.

On Thursday, an anti-war group used a two-page Washington Post ad to bring attention to its message. One of the pages, titled "They lied," included war-related quotes from Bush and other administration officials that proved wrong. The second page, titled "They died," included the names of U.S. military personnel killed in Iraq.

Rep. Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the senior Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee, questioned Bush's upbeat assessment of efforts to fight terrorism.

"Seeing is believing, and the evidence strongly suggests that terrorists continue to perpetrate devastating attacks against our troops and civilians around the world," Markey said.

Bush acknowledged the national divide over the war.

"There are differences of opinion about the way forward. I understand that. Some Americans want us to withdraw our troops so that we can escape the violence. I recognize their good intentions, but their position is wrong," he said.

Bush, reeling off a history of terrorist attacks, said that those Americans calling for withdrawing troops are inviting more such attacks.

"The terrorists saw our response to the hostage crisis in Iran, the bombings of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the first World Trade Center attack, the killing of American soldiers in Somalia, the destruction of two U.S. embassies in Africa and the attack on the USS Cole. The terrorists concluded that we lacked the courage and character to defend ourselves, and so they attacked us," he said.

Terrorists, Bush said, can win only "if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission."

"That's not going to happen on my watch," he said.

Bush didn't mention any events during the first President Bush's administration, such as his father's decision to end the 1991 Persian Gulf War without toppling Saddam Hussein.

In a fundamental split with anti-war protesters who see no reason to lose more American lives in Iraq, Bush said the war must continue in the name of those already killed: "We'll honor their sacrifice by completing their mission and winning the war on terror."

Bush offered an upbeat assessment, combined with the usual caution about violence to come. In Afghanistan, he cited last Sunday's legislative elections as the most recent progress toward democracy. But he warned: "There are still terrorists who seek to overthrow the young government."

Bush offered a similar assessment for Iraq, where he said Iraqi troops are "increasingly taking the lead in joint operations."

"By leaving Iraqi units in the cities we've cleaned out, we can keep the cities safe while we move on to hunt down the terrorists in other parts of the country," he said.

But Bush also said the United States has temporarily increased its troop levels in Iraq for upcoming Iraqi elections, which he predicted will spark more insurgent activity.

"We must be prepared for more violence," he said, reiterating that it will be a long-term effort. "It's going to take time, just like it took time to defeat other struggles we had . . . like communism."

I think president Bush's claim of the connection between Iraq and 9/11 was never clearly defined in the first place. (I'm not even going to go into the whole WMD fiasco) Yes, I do believe that we should send the terrorists a message that we won't be defeated, but do it covertly, and not the war "made for cable news" that we've been seeing so far.

Houston awaits the incoming of Hurricane Rita, and I really hope that lives would be spared. I'm keeping a neurotic watch over live streaming tv on the net, and just hoping.

How are we, as a nation, going to pay for everything? The war, the disaster relief,etc.?

What's goin on lately

My job is kind of hanging in the balance, but it's probably not as bad as first perceived.

My folks are still stuck in Houston, I'm really worried for them. I've got this really useless aunt who either could not or did not want to evacuate the whole family (she's the only person in the household, as of today, who could drive.) My sister thinks that I'm worrying too much, and I can't believe that she has been so non-chalant about everything. I almost lost both of the folks over the past two to three years ago, I'd be damned to have them hurt or God forbid, lose them in natural disaster.

I don't think my sister is very good at comforting people, and I'm not very good at telling others how I feel.

So I'm going to try to calm down, drink some tea, hope/pray for the best.

Thank God for the pets, petting them helps me forget people troubles.

Most of all, thank God for the GF, who tries to comfort me!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

One year anniversary

I've been back from Iraq now for a year, and to tell you the truth, I haven't really thought about it too much lately. Occasionally, I'd skim through articles about what's happening in Iraq, mostly, I'd surf the blogs of Iraqi vets or those who are still there.

I can't really say that I'm at that point yet where I feel glad that we've helped the Iraqis to liberate themselves. There are still lots of problems with border issues, the insurgency, and all the growing pains of democratization of a nation. To me, it seems like that the current administration, while it might have meant well, did not bother to make a plan B.

I'm still in touch with some of the folks who were there in Iraq with me, and the common theme is that we are all trying our best to keep on keeping on, with Iraq in our backpockets.

I'm not sure that if the brigade that I was deployed with would have these reunions in the future, it'd be nice, but it doesn't really matter if it doesn't happen. What mattered to me was that having gone to Iraq was like the chance of a lifetime, the most exotic and dangerous trip that I've ever taken. All the blunders which happened back there because of personalities were embarassing but they were like those "one to grow on" experiences.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

What's my age again?

You Are 19 Years Old

Under 12: You are a kid at heart. You still have an optimistic life view - and you look at the world with awe.

13-19: You are a teenager at heart. You question authority and are still trying to find your place in this world.

20-29: You are a twentysomething at heart. You feel excited about what's to come... love, work, and new experiences.

30-39: You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!

40+: You are a mature adult. You've been through most of the ups and downs of life already. Now you get to sit back and relax.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

I am not the only cowboy

And it starts like this
We crave to be kissed by a moment complete in its happiness
Far away from the things that we wish to escape
That lead us to think that we are not awake
We are ourselves despite ourselves
This place gets smaller as the universe swells
We come to terms eventually, eventually, eventually

I am not the only cowboy in this one horse metaphor
And I am not the only lifeguard who's washed up on the shore
Wake me up, take me out
Call me down when I'm in doubt
And I'm in doubt every day

Words are like weight with density and shape, modifying forms they evaporate
You can choose the truth, you can listen to light
You can lead the charge and still lose the fight
Far be it from me to claim anything
For I am just one in a state of being
I come to terms eventually, eventually, eventually

I am not the only proverb that never really fits
And I am not the only Caulfield who's catching more than kids
Wake me up, take me out
Call me down when I'm in doubt
And I'm in doubt

And so it ends as it begins as everything that is infinite ascends
Into its time all things pass
All things fade, all things last
You are yourself despite yourself
This world grows smaller as the universe swells
We come to terms eventually, eventually, eventually

And I am not the only boxer that hasn't words to write
And I am not the only poet who's much too scared to fight
Wake me up, take me out
Call me down when I'm in doubt
And I'm in doubt every day

na na-na na-na
na na-na na-na
na na-na na-na
na na-na na-na

And it starts like this
We crave to be kissed by a moment complete in its happiness
We are ourselves

*By Josh Joplin

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

The One and Only

I am the one and only,
Oh yeah!
Call me, call me by my name or call me by my number,
You put me through it,
I'll still be doing it the way I do it,
And yet, you try to make me forget,
Who I really am, don't tell me, I know best,
I'm not the same as all the rest,


I am the one and only,
Nobody I'd rather be,
I am the one and only,
You can't take that away from me

I've been a player in the crowd scene,
A flicker on the big screen,
My soul embraces, one more in a million faces,
High hopes and aspirations, ideas above my station
maybe but all this time I've tried to walk with dignity and pride


I can't wear this uniform without some compromises,
Because you'll find out that we come,
In different shapes and sizes,
No one can be myself like I can,
For this job I'm the best man,
And while this may be true, you are the one and only you!

Chorus - repeat to fade out

By Chesney Hawkes, from the soundtrak to the movie "Doc Hollywood".

Monday, September 12, 2005

This Weekend....

..I flew down to Dallas to hang out with the GF, her family, and the adorable nephew. He's four years old now and all boy, and always glad to see me and the GF, I felt very redeemed! It's unfortunate that his mom and dad are not the most practical people, and I only hope that one day both of them will have their heads screwed back on correctly. (Custody issue, et., trust me, you don't want to know.)

It was warm in Texas but not too bad, the weather has cooled down quite a bit. The GF and I took the nephew out ot eat, and play at the elementary school playground that the GF also used to play at, it was so neat watching his little body swing back and forth on the swing! He's always quick with a kiss and a hug, I hope our kid will at least be half as cute and well-behaved as him!

I could have gone with the GF to see the shelter that she was volunteered at, but opted not to since I was still under the weather (sinus infection),and my brain's so saturated with hurricane Katrina news that I was ready to not hear about it for a while.

The GF asked me about what I felt on 9/11, I told her that I felt angry and that it was the event that changed just about everything as we know it.(Even if I didn't show it in a dramatic way.) Yours truly got sent to Iraq ( aside from believing that the Iraqis should be free...I don't really subscribe to the WMD and the "Axis of Evil" bullshit.), and we as a nation are more neurotic than ever, about everything. She told me that she's still not over 9/11, but what can we really do to honor the dead? Since nothing that anyone can do can bring them back, including nuking Iraq, Central Asia, and North Korea.

I don't propose to speak for the dead, but I think they'd probably prefer for those of us who are still alive to get out of our perspective funk and go on living. Do maybe something constructive with our lives and try not to worry about what we can't control, I guess that's the purpose.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The pets really miss the GF

The GF is still doing good things in Dallas, and so far, she has been seeing a lot problems with the incompetence of the Red Cross and most of all, FEMA, which doesn't even have a fully functional workstation set up yet in Dallas. I always knew that I didn't want to donate $ to these agencies, I mean, they never really inspired much confidence from me, even with the cheesy ads.

The pets, on the other hand, have taken to just being by themselves, and sort of avoiding contact with me, except during feeding time. I think they miss her a lot, and just consider me as not even a cheap substitute for their other mother. Maybe one day, my real kids will do the same to me, only listening to the GF and not me. When your pets don't really listen to you, life can be kind of depressing. People can be tricky too sometimes.

It's weird living alone in this two bedroom apt., but I know that the GF is doing good things so the weirdness is okay, for now.

But anytime that she feels ready, we are ready for her to run the house again!

Monday, September 05, 2005

A very sobering fact.

The U.S. Treasury is paying out more each month to sustain the war in Iraq than it did during the Vietnam War, according to a new report that calls the ongoing conflict "the most expensive military effort in the last 60 years."

The 84-page report, "The Iraq Quagmire: The Mounting Costs of the Iraq War and the Case for Bringing the Troops Home," says that the total bill for the war in Iraq has come to some $204 billion, or an average of $727 per U.S. citizen, not counting an additional $45 billion which is currently pending before Congress.

The report, which comes as Congress braces itself for the multi-billion costs of cleaning up after the unprecedented devastation inflicted this week on New Orleans and the broader Gulf Coast by Hurricane Katrina, also does not include at least another $25 billion request that the Pentagon is believed to be preparing to sustain operations in Iraq and Afghanistan into next year.

Released by two think tanks, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and the International Relations Center, that have strongly opposed the Iraq war, the new study is their third since mid-2004 to attempt a comprehensive accounting of the human, social, and international ? as well as financial ? costs of the war on the U.S. and Iraq.

The new report also includes a plan by IPS Fellow Phyllis Bennis for an "immediate and complete withdrawal of troops, military contractors and U.S. corporations backing the U.S. occupation."

The plan calls for U.S. troops to cease all offensive actions, withdraw from population centers, and redeploy to Iraq's borders to help Iraqi forces secure them, and for Washington to reduce the size of its embassy in Baghdad, and announce that it has no intention of maintaining either permanent bases in Iraq or control of its oil.

Similar steps have recently also been advocated by conservative critics of the war, such as the former director of the National Security Agency, ret. Gen. William Odom.

Bennis also called for Washington to negotiate with Iraqi insurgents over the mechanisms of withdrawal and endorse talks between them and U.S.-backed Iraqi leaders.

The Pentagon, according to the report, is currently spending $5.6 billion per month on operations in Iraq, an amount that exceeds the average cost of $5.1 billion per month (in real 2004 dollars) for U.S. operations in Vietnam between 1964 and 1972.

"While fewer troops are in Iraq, the weapons they use are more expensive and they are paid more than their counterparts who served in Vietnam," according to the report, which noted that at current rates, Washington could spend more than $700 billion over 10 years ? $100 billion more than the total cost of the Vietnam War.

If the $204 billion appropriated for the war so far had been used instead for social programs, according to the report, it could have paid for the health care of the more than 46 million citizens without medical insurance, the hiring of 3.5 million elementary school teachers, or the construction of affordable housing units for nearly two million people.

The same amount of money would also be enough to effectively cut world hunger in half and still cover the costs of life-preserving anti-AIDS medication, childhood immunization, and the clean-water and sanitation needs of the world's developing nations for almost three years.

Those costs do not include long-term costs on the U.S. economy, including interest payments on that portion of the record federal budget deficit that is related to the war or the economic impacts on the families and small businesses of thousands of reservists and National Guard who have been called up to serve in Iraq.

Nor do they include the health-care and other benefits and disability payments to Iraq war veterans, which, according to a recent estimate published in the New York Times by Linda Bilmes, a public-finance expert at Harvard University, will likely cost $315 billion over 45 years.

Bilmes also estimated the potential impact of the war on the price of oil at five dollars a barrel, which, if sustained until 2010, will cost the U.S. economy some $119 billion.

But the economic costs to the U.S. are not the only measure of the war's costs.

Nearly 1,900 U.S. military personnel have been killed in Iraq since the March 19, 2003, invasion and more than 14,000 have been wounded.

Iraqis have borne a much higher toll, however. The new study quotes records of the number of Iraqi civilians killed as a direct result of the war and ensuing occupation at between 23,489 and 26,706, and the number of wounded at between 100,000 and 120,000.

Those figures do not take into account the death toll arising from indirect causes of the war and occupation, such as crime and infrastructure breakdowns. According to one study published last October by the British medical journal The Lancet, Iraq had suffered nearly 100,000 "excess deaths" between March 2003 and September 2004.

A joint Iraqi-UN report released last May found that 223,000 Iraqis are suffering from a chronic health problem directly caused by the war.

In addition, the new study cites reports that up to 6,000 Iraqi military and police units have been killed since the war started, with the vast majority of those casualties incurred over the past year.

Despite these tolls, as well the reported killings or arrests of 40,000 to 50,000 alleged insurgents, the number of resistant fighters in Iraq, according to the Pentagon's own estimates, has risen from 5,000 to 20,000 over a two-year period.

Meanwhile, electricity generation in Iraq, which finally surpassed prewar levels in July 2004, has not increased, while unemployment is estimated at between 20 to 60 percent, according to the report.

U.S. national security has also been degraded, according to the report, which cited recent State Department figures indicating that the number of "significant" international terrorist attacks has more than doubled since 2003, while terrorist attacks in Iraq has increased nine-fold.

Army recruitment this month remained at 11 percent behind its annual targets, while the Reserve and Army National Guard shortfalls are running twice as high. In addition, roughly 48,000 members of the National Guard and Reserve, a disproportionate number of whom are police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical personnel in their home communities, are currently serving in Iraq.

The absence of these "first responders" back home has become a major preoccupation for local and state governments, including those in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama hardest hit by Katrina.

Sunday, September 04, 2005


With the ongoing war on terror, result yet to be seen, the tragedy of hurricane Katrina, political extremist using these scenarios to incite friction, people who cared enough to volunteer, donate, then people who are too stuck in their own merry lives to care about any of these, the biasedness of the media, our daily lives, frustrations, and love and confusion about a God that has so far allowed all this to happen, is it any wonder that it's all very distant and almost numbing?

Nobody could have said this better.

September 4, 2005
Do You Know What It Means to Lose New Orleans?

La Jolla, Calif.

WHAT do people really know about New Orleans?

Do they take away with them an awareness that it has always been not only a great white metropolis but also a great black city, a city where African-Americans have come together again and again to form the strongest African-American culture in the land?

The first literary magazine ever published in Louisiana was the work of black men, French-speaking poets and writers who brought together their work in three issues of a little book called L'Album Littéraire. That was in the 1840's, and by that time the city had a prosperous class of free black artisans, sculptors, businessmen, property owners, skilled laborers in all fields. Thousands of slaves lived on their own in the city, too, making a living at various jobs, and sending home a few dollars to their owners in the country at the end of the month.

This is not to diminish the horror of the slave market in the middle of the famous St. Louis Hotel, or the injustice of the slave labor on plantations from one end of the state to the other. It is merely to say that it was never all "have or have not" in this strange and beautiful city.

Later in the 19th century, as the Irish immigrants poured in by the thousands, filling the holds of ships that had emptied their cargoes of cotton in Liverpool, and as the German and Italian immigrants soon followed, a vital and complex culture emerged. Huge churches went up to serve the great faith of the city's European-born Catholics; convents and schools and orphanages were built for the newly arrived and the struggling; the city expanded in all directions with new neighborhoods of large, graceful houses, or areas of more humble cottages, even the smallest of which, with their floor-length shutters and deep-pitched roofs, possessed an undeniable Caribbean charm.

Through this all, black culture never declined in Louisiana. In fact, New Orleans became home to blacks in a way, perhaps, that few other American cities have ever been. Dillard University and Xavier University became two of the most outstanding black colleges in America; and once the battles of desegregation had been won, black New Orleanians entered all levels of life, building a visible middle class that is absent in far too many Western and Northern American cities to this day.

The influence of blacks on the music of the city and the nation is too immense and too well known to be described. It was black musicians coming down to New Orleans for work who nicknamed the city "the Big Easy" because it was a place where they could always find a job. But it's not fair to the nature of New Orleans to think of jazz and the blues as the poor man's music, or the music of the oppressed.

Something else was going on in New Orleans. The living was good there. The clock ticked more slowly; people laughed more easily; people kissed; people loved; there was joy.

Which is why so many New Orleanians, black and white, never went north. They didn't want to leave a place where they felt at home in neighborhoods that dated back centuries; they didn't want to leave families whose rounds of weddings, births and funerals had become the fabric of their lives. They didn't want to leave a city where tolerance had always been able to outweigh prejudice, where patience had always been able to outweigh rage. They didn't want to leave a place that was theirs.

And so New Orleans prospered, slowly, unevenly, but surely - home to Protestants and Catholics, including the Irish parading through the old neighborhood on St. Patrick's Day as they hand out cabbages and potatoes and onions to the eager crowds; including the Italians, with their lavish St. Joseph's altars spread out with cakes and cookies in homes and restaurants and churches every March; including the uptown traditionalists who seek to preserve the peace and beauty of the Garden District; including the Germans with their clubs and traditions; including the black population playing an ever increasing role in the city's civic affairs.

Now nature has done what the Civil War couldn't do. Nature has done what the labor riots of the 1920's couldn't do. Nature had done what "modern life" with its relentless pursuit of efficiency couldn't do. It has done what racism couldn't do, and what segregation couldn't do either. Nature has laid the city waste - with a scope that brings to mind the end of Pompeii.

I share this history for a reason - and to answer questions that have arisen these last few days. Almost as soon as the cameras began panning over the rooftops, and the helicopters began chopping free those trapped in their attics, a chorus of voices rose. "Why didn't they leave?" people asked both on and off camera. "Why did they stay there when they knew a storm was coming?" One reporter even asked me, "Why do people live in such a place?"

Then as conditions became unbearable, the looters took to the streets. Windows were smashed, jewelry snatched, stores broken open, water and food and televisions carried out by fierce and uninhibited crowds.

Now the voices grew even louder. How could these thieves loot and pillage in a time of such crisis? How could people shoot one another? Because the faces of those drowning and the faces of those looting were largely black faces, race came into the picture. What kind of people are these, the people of New Orleans, who stay in a city about to be flooded, and then turn on one another?

Well, here's an answer. Thousands didn't leave New Orleans because they couldn't leave. They didn't have the money. They didn't have the vehicles. They didn't have any place to go. They are the poor, black and white, who dwell in any city in great numbers; and they did what they felt they could do - they huddled together in the strongest houses they could find. There was no way to up and leave and check into the nearest Ramada Inn.

What's more, thousands more who could have left stayed behind to help others. They went out in the helicopters and pulled the survivors off rooftops; they went through the flooded streets in their boats trying to gather those they could find. Meanwhile, city officials tried desperately to alleviate the worsening conditions in the Superdome, while makeshift shelters and hotels and hospitals struggled.

And where was everyone else during all this? Oh, help is coming, New Orleans was told. We are a rich country. Congress is acting. Someone will come to stop the looting and care for the refugees.

And it's true: eventually, help did come. But how many times did Gov. Kathleen Blanco have to say that the situation was desperate? How many times did Mayor Ray Nagin have to call for aid? Why did America ask a city cherished by millions and excoriated by some, but ignored by no one, to fight for its own life for so long? That's my question.

I know that New Orleans will win its fight in the end. I was born in the city and lived there for many years. It shaped who and what I am. Never have I experienced a place where people knew more about love, about family, about loyalty and about getting along than the people of New Orleans. It is perhaps their very gentleness that gives them their endurance.

They will rebuild as they have after storms of the past; and they will stay in New Orleans because it is where they have always lived, where their mothers and their fathers lived, where their churches were built by their ancestors, where their family graves carry names that go back 200 years. They will stay in New Orleans where they can enjoy a sweetness of family life that other communities lost long ago.

But to my country I want to say this: During this crisis you failed us. You looked down on us; you dismissed our victims; you dismissed us. You want our Jazz Fest, you want our Mardi Gras, you want our cooking and our music. Then when you saw us in real trouble, when you saw a tiny minority preying on the weak among us, you called us "Sin City," and turned your backs.

Well, we are a lot more than all that. And though we may seem the most exotic, the most atmospheric and, at times, the most downtrodden part of this land, we are still part of it. We are Americans. We are you.

True that.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

My GF is the sh*t!

My GF and I originally had plans to spend the long weekend chilling, maybe going to see a movie and going to the Julie Roberts concert. However, in light of the recent huricane and the mess that it had left behind, she has decided to drive down to D-Town (Dallas) and volunteer at Reunion Arena, one of the designated shelters for the flood victims.

I cannot go with her right now, there are a lot of things to do at work and otherwise, and it'd be costly to put up my dog at the kennel. I will join her later on, depending on the situation. She has been quite affected by watching people suffer and feels strongly about contributing what she can, I don't know how many people knows this, but she's one of the most compassionate people that I've ever met.

I will hold down the fort while she's gone, I don't know how I'll handle all three kids (mind you, they are pets), but I will try my best and even do laundry!

I will update to you on how she's doing, she's set to depart tomorrow morning.