Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Afghan War enters 10th Year

The U.S. took an elephant gun to shoot a flea ! ! !

Another look at the Afghanistan War

The New Year of 2011 has us entering the tenth year of the U.S. military blitzkrieg-like invasion of Afghanistan continues to be a curse with no light at the end of the tunnel. The high cost in lives and borrowed money is obscene. Enough is more than enough!

The on and off forays to free a village or a valley against the Pakistan and Afghanistan Talibans only make the locals more upset with our being there. The corruption on all sides is as normal as a walk in the park.

To make these far-away peoples and their trials more human to me I went through some dusty old books for a mental trek of Central Asia. By understanding a small portion of the past they become more real to me. This present conflagration must end long before President Obama’s summer of 2014. If not, the next president might extend it to 2024.

The Central Asian experience has not made its way into Western school studies. Little of its history and literature are known in American schools except for specialists, linguist and scholars. Only in the last few years have modern translations of ancient and modern “stans” poetry become available in English.

Present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan are the best known of the six “stans” in Central Asia: Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan (formerly Russian Turkistan). In the 1800s there was a Chinese Turkistan that is now the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of western China.

Afghanistan had been the center of great empires ruled by foreigners and numerous tribal monarchies. Such a history magnifies today’s difficulties of tribal differences, dialects and thought processes. Add into that mix foreign armies and total chaos results.

Afghans are Indo-Iranian, possibly originally Tajiks of the Persian race. The area only became a separate and independent state named in English by colonists as Afghanistan in 1747.

Less than three hundred years before Christ, Alexander the Great came on the scene and changed that world with his conquests. From Egypt to Persia and India he led in the eventual foundation of Greek dynasties. His Greek influence in Afghanistan waned and the Parthians arose to power and adopted the Buddhist religion.

During the 6th century the Moghul Empire out of India divided Afghanistan in two parts, India ruling Kabul and the Persians held the province of Heart.

The Arabs of the 7th century had their day in the spotlight before various Indian despots ruled much of the area. In between were the Turks and Persians who took several swings at being the potentiate. To use a poor analogy, no one got a home run.

In the 13th century the people probably thought the end of the world had arrived. The Mongols of Genghis Khan invaded most of Central Asia on their way to a bloody world conquest.

In the 19th century Great Britain was the world’s only super power. They lost to no one in their day. When it came to Afghanistan they had the ignoble honor of being massacred and driven from the country.

The last days of 1979 the Russian Soviets invaded Afghanistan attempting to make it another of their subservient satellites. Ten years could not control the Afghans and was a major reason the Soviet Union came to an end.

This is where the movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” comes into the picture. Fiction, with a few facts, it reminded us of some of the background of how the United States got involved in Afghanistan’s war with the Soviet Union. The U.S. sent money and supplies to our present enemies, which helped throw out the Soviets.

When in early October, 2001, the U.S. military, to get revenge and justice for Osama bin Laden’s crimes against humanity, began bombing the caves and valleys of Afghanistan. We took an elephant gun to shoot a flea.

Our leaving the battlefield will definitely bring on a civil war that will kill hundreds of thousands. That will happen if we leave now or fifty years from now. My study tells me Enough is ENOUGH.


Saturday, December 11, 2010



Christmas is what we choose to make it

As you read this it is Christmas Eve. Some are glad the whole exciting season is almost over, when, in truth, it has actually just begun.

So many distractions come every Christmas season. Every Christmas we tell ourselves it will be different this year; we’ll even attend church. Enjoy the choirs and hymns and remember it is all about the coming to earth of the Prince of Peace.

Year to year, there are those without a Christmas tree, wreath or gifts for their children. Or as in this war, loved ones unable to be together for Christmas. When it is the first Christmas without a loved one for the first time, the time can easily becomes a painful experience.

For the many who are lonely and even unhappy this Christmas, for any number of reasons, pause --- pause and reflect. At home or church, hospital or retirement home, pause – reclaiming the “now” of life instead of repeating “what if---?”

The Advent, or coming of the Christ to earth, is an event in itself. The days of preparation (after Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday) have a special meaning and preparation for Christmas. Seldom considered is the fact that day Christmas Day is the beginning, not the end, of the celebration. As a boy my mother never took the tree down until mid-January. Keeping alive the spirit of the season.

In a perfect world, after the 25th of December has passed, the parties and good deeds begin. We celebrate after, not before, the traditional event of Christ’s birth. Just as Christ brought the promise of hope, the season should be the revival of more hope for the future.

A colleague from Denmark told of his family putting up a Christmas tree or wreaths late on Christmas Eve. I identify with that custom. It announces something big and important is about to take place. The family enters the next day, thankful for the suddenness of, as well as the glory of Emmanuel, “God is with us”.

Lest this is too “sermony,” keep in mind that materialism is not going away. Don’t let commercials interfere. Think of the joy a Santa Claus means to many children. The simple poem ‘Twas the night before Christmas, helped make Christmas a commercial success. But it is also one of the most moving ditties of the season.

The commercial aspect is a significant part of the traditions of the season. Some thoughtless individuals tell us there is a “war on Christmas.” Not so! Except for disbelievers and people of other faiths, Christ is never left out of Christmas or Xmas.

My Aunt Mae Johnson was generally upset at Christmastime by the use of “Xmas” for Christmas. The use of Xmas in English is not an attempt to secularize the holiday. It actually puts Christ at the very center of Christmas.

The “X” and “P” are the first two letter of “Christ” in the Greek language of Jesus’ day. Since X in English has a different meaning and use, English speakers have mistaken Xmas as leaving Christ out of Christmas. The abbreviation Xmas expresses ideally the heart of the celebration.

John Calvin, a great 16th century Protestant reformer, was opposed to the bad things that were associated with Christmas. And there were many appalling observances in many cultures and countries. But John Calvin kept the holiday as celebration of the birth of Christ and saw it as a matter of liberty for the churches and the individual.

It is well known that the Puritans, in England and later New England, opposed Christmas. Puritan pastor Cotton Mather felt there was no biblical or historical evidence for it representing the birth of the Christ. There is no evidence, biblical or historical for a Christmas holiday. Traditions, even if tainted with myths, are what we make of them..

Christmas is what we choose to make it. Make it such a good season of peace and love that it carries on into the New Year and all the remaining years we have. Choose well.

Towery Column for Christmas Eve, Friday, Dec. 24, 2010
(Brownwood Bulletin; San Angelo Standard-Times) (672 words)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Julian Assange Phenomenon

The WikiLeaks Phenomenon

Julian Assange, the creator of WikiLeaks, and the man most people in power hate, awaits in a London jail while the rest of us try to figure out what all the fuss is about.

Not in a long time has someone come along who believes in transparency and truth as much as this Swede and his associates. Julian Assange first released cables and notes, with some stuff blacked out, on Iraq last Spring. Pundits knew it would cause America’s work in the Middle East to crumble. Nothing happened. Just a little insight of how much our government lies and works in the dark.

The stuff Assange released on the world wide web this summer and fall really go under the skin of the Pentagon, embarrassed ambassadors, war hawks, friends and foes alike. Still the release did not set off World War III in Afghanistan. Our deadly drones, directed from Florida, keep flying raids over “neutral” Pakistan and our soldiers continue looking for the evil enemy. From sand dune to mud brick villages, rugged mountain and dangerous valleys, our volunteer military and mercenary soldiers the government calls “civilian contractors,” continue looking for Osama bin Laden---the reason we went to Afghanistan in the first place.

The Pope employs hundreds of mercenary soldiers, but calls them Swiss Guards. The French and the British did the same in their colonies. Americans call them “contractors.” Through the ages, many mercenaries have been ex-soldiers.

And it is extremely difficult to tell who is who
. Like the old slur about another races: “they all look alike.” Who is the enemy? Maybe a body guard for President Hamid Karzai; a Pakistani soldier or peasant; a Taliban or just a simple goat herder; or an Afghan policeman or trainee? It is a scary place. It is a corrupt place that corrupts all involved.

Add to our soldiers dilemma, the vast majority of people in the Middle East loathe our military presence. The more devoted the war hawks are for what George W. Bush started, the more at odds they’ll be with any kind of democracy.

President Obama’s offensive of understanding each other instead of making them the enemy of the world has been successful. Before any right-wingers blow a gasket over that sentence. Read on. It was President Obama that convinced the Russians into the START treaty and for them to put more pressure on Iran. The proposed treaty is having a hard time in the Senate.

I am on record of not understanding several members of the GOP – the party of “NO”. Men in congress like Mitt Romney and Jon Kyl only enrage the Russians by doing their dead level best to sink the START treaty.

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice came out last week in favor of the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty with Russia. She joined other Republican ex-Secretaries of State -- including Colin Powell, George Shultz, and Henry Kissinger -- in endorsing the proposed treaty.
Getting back to the uproar of Wickileaks bringing some truth out of the closet it has only begun. Julian Assange is doing what the American press has quit doing: Investigating and keeping our leaders honest.

Apparently he is threatening to out an American mega bank. Today our branches of government are controlled by the mega Banks. (Called “bankesters” by some disenchanted citizens.)

As someone said Assange is a hero of the people and for that reason alone the powerful want him stopped. A blogger wrote, “I wish George Carlin and George Orwell were alive to see this!” It was Orwell who said: “In time of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

The government of Sweden called for his arrest. Two women are claiming rape. One of the women is tied to the CIA. As of this writing he was safe in a British jail, from women, offended power-brokers and some hit men.

Government goes after the whistleblower rather than the crooks.


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dubious Honor plus FreeSpeech TV

Free Speech Television is an eye-opening channel

During these three years of writing opinion pieces for the San Angelo Standard-Times, I have been amazed with the depth of insight and understanding of many of my readers.

Or in the words of one reader: “Britt, you have got to be the most intellectually dishonest contributor to these pages, hands down.” Or another who wondered why I evidently write with “half a brain.”

Having risen to become the most intellectually dishonest contributor to this newspaper, there is little for me to strive for in 2011 unless an extra column on Sundays is suggested. Once you are at the top of your profession, what’s left to do? Where are the challenges after having attained such a distinction?

Today I must not only note, but accept this excellence in “opinion” writing in the spirit in which it was given (whatever that was). I will wear this dubious honor proudly as I did when I once passed a third grade school arithmetic test at old Coggin Ward.

Breaking away from all these plaudits and praise, it is time to use the rest of this space for more worthy and new “opinions.”

One of Congress' most likable veterans, Rep. Charles Rangel Democrat of New York City became the 23rd House member in the nation's history to be censured. Why did it take so long? What about the rest of the “people’s servants” who find it difficult to walk the line? Most of them enter Congress as paupers and leave as rich as Croesus.

Since Bro. Rangel is not from our district, or our concern, I will write about satellite televison. Last year Jody and I subscribed to the satellite DISH Network. We did it primarily to obtain a couple of Chinese language stations. One turned out to be inlaid with Spanish but occasionally has Mandarin programming.

In the process we soon discovered a number of interesting stations not found on local cable outlets. (Full discloser: These satellite network promise 200 great channels. That is misleading advertizing --- half the channels only sell what you don’t need or want.)

But they relay news and opinion the corporate media (ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC for example) has difficulty finding or sharing with America’s viewers. One of these is FreeSpeech.org which is channel 9415 on the DISH Network and channel 348 on DIRECTV.

Cable affiliates that carries FreeSpeech.org programming are growing in number. Newscasts from German’s Deutsche Welle (www.dw-world.de) and South Asia, South America, Israel and the Middle East. Documentaries seldom seen in West Texas remind us how the rest of the world lives. Foreign and classic films that never get to our town are special entertainment.

They present a variety of programming for the mind and soul (even those with half a brain). Inspirational and eye-opening, informative, helpful talks, lectures and stimulating discussions, Add to that music of all kinds and great opera or symphony. They distribute their programming (Doctumentary.org, LinkTV.org, GRITtv.org), to over 35 million US homes. Over 100 US cable affiliates air these programs. Suddenlink could improve their product by adding this content.

Suddenlink cable has 12 HBOs but no not-for-profit FreeSpeech or LinkTV channels. Write them a note requesting FreeSpeech TV channel be added as most modern cities have done.

(One more word of full discloser: I was not requested nor paid to write these good words for DISH Network or DIRECT TV satellite companies.)

This sort of programming may not be your television cup-of-tea. It is non-profit and not dictated by or owned by one of the huge media corporations.

The viewing is so good it could be called “fair and balanced” (in their own way). Since one of the richest media corporations already claims the “fair and balanced” slogan, I’ll just call their programs “True and Honest.” The “fair and balanced” network has four staffers running for U.S. president and a self-made president of his own un-credited university.

(First published in West Texas dailies Brownwood Bulletin and San Angelo Standard-Times)