Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Rust to Renewal: Churches & Third Wave Change

Rust to Renewal:
A Case Study of the Religious
Response to Deindustrialization

Joshua D Reichard
Vision Publishing, 2007
180 pp, pb $12.99

Reviewed by Carl Davidson

"Rust to Renewal", as this book’s title implies, is about the decline of American steel towns in the 1970s and 1980s, the responses of their communities—most importantly, their churches—and whether there is still hope for the future in these places.

These are critical topics even in 2008, especially with an economic recession and growing unemployment on the horizon, along with debates over what does or does not constitute a proper ‘stimulus’ to the economy.

Author Joshua Reichard uses Youngstown, Ohio and the surrounding Mahoning River Valley as his case in point; and the story he tells may seem old news to many people still residing there. The Youngstown area, moreover, was only part of a wider region, stretching from Wheeling, W VA, through Pittsburgh, PA to Cleveland, OH. This was the country’s steel heartland, and by the end of the 1980s, some 100,000 steel mill jobs were permanently abolished, with great distress to those concerned..
Back in 1977, on ‘Black Monday,’ after being told repeated lies and given false hopes, thousands of Youngstown area steelworkers were summarily fired. The mills were shut down, and a community lost what it perceived as a decent future.

The workers, however, and their community allies, mainly churches, were hardly passive. During a series of protests, they formed the Ecumenical Coalition, which, together with the local Steelworkers Union, had considerable clout, at least for a time, and they forced the owners into negotiations. To make a long story short, they tried to buy out the failing mill, take it over, reorganize production, and run it themselves. They took the battle all the way to Jimmy Carter’s White House, but abruptly lost, sabotaged mainly by Beltway federal bureaucrats and rival steel bosses.

If you’re looking for a detailed critique of where the Ecumenical Coalition and the steelworkers went wrong, settling old scores, you won’t find it here. But if you think it important that workers and community allies waged a valiant battle, and want to look to the future with some fresh ideas to deal with ongoing problems, this slim volume is a good place to start.

It needs to be said that Reichard has been bitten by the ‘Toffler bug,’ a condition this reviewer shares. He’s read ‘The Third Wave’ by Alvin Toffler, a book published in 1980 but still reading like it was written yesterday about today. Toffler has analyzed modern society from the perspective of the revolution in the means of production wrought by microprocessors, where he posits a ‘second wave’ era of smokestack industry in decline, while a ‘third wave’ society based on high-technology is on the rise. That’s very condensed, but suffice it to say that, according to Toffler, smaller numbers of ‘knowledge workers’ replace larger numbers of unskilled and semi-skilled industrial workers, even in the new high-tech manufacturing firms that survive and thrive in the ‘third wave.’ Reichard explains:

“While the American steel industry lost 350,000 jobs in the 1980s and 1990s, it was simultaneously technologically advanced and more productive. (Youngstown Vindicator, 11/11/2003). Manufacturing productivity was $7634 higher per worker in 1998 than it was in 1979 and nonmanufacturing productivity was $461 per worker lower…” (‘Ohio’s Competitive Advantage’, E. Hill, Cleveland State University, 2001).

Finally, Toffler doesn’t just apply this revolution in the productive forces to the world of work, but broadly, against the entire culture of second-wave civilization.

As a sociologist as well as a faith-based activist, Reichard tries to apply a wide range of Toffler’s hypotheses to the Youngstown case, not only about the old battles, but mainly looking forward. What’s of particular interest is his application of the ‘third wave-second wave’ analytical tools to the city’s churches. Here he breaks some original ground in his discussion of Catholics and main-line Protestants as second wave and in decline, while Protestant evangelicals are third wave, dynamic and rising. Briefly, according to Reichard, looking at evangelicals as simply right wing and opposed to economic and social justice misses the mark, at least in the story of Youngstown and the Rust Belt. He elaborates, quoting J Straub in the March 23, 2006 Monthly Review:

“The left has all but abandoned these places where the factories closed and unions died…a right-wing network of churches and businesses offered exactly what the CIO once did: both short-term material gains for members and a militantly transformative vision of the world.”

Reichard’s perspective contains a number of benchmarks. First, he understands that unions and employees can’t win these battles, or even advance their interests, on their own, isolated from allies. Second, he understands that ‘the church’ is not just buildings and sermons divided up by creed and congregation. It’s the community of the faithful throughout the locality, and that community includes union members and their neighbor’s side-by-side with many others in the community. The church, then, can provide both common ground and a launching pad for broad alliances.

What vision and values hold sway among the community of the faithful thus becomes a matter of critical importance. Digging deeply into this, and trying to provide some guidance, makes up the heart of the book. To see where Reichard’s strengths and weaknesses lie, it helps to take a step back, and raise some broader questions.

Reichard sees a transition to third wave civilization as inevitable; what he wants to do is make it as harmonious and painless to the greatest numbers as possible. That’s fine, but the devil is in the details. Third wave civilization, like those before it, has a range of interests and views, running the gamut from far right to far left. Class struggle still exists, even if it’s manifested in odd and different ways.

In today’s policy discussions, it’s helpful first to segment the business community into two camps, ‘low road’ and ‘high road,’ or roughly, speculative capital vs. productive capital, regardless of their ‘wave’ status. Low roaders are focused only of the quarterly bottom line, are anti-union, and usually don’t care much for the environment, their community or even their customers. They would buy stressed industries to gut them, and then use the proceeds to gamble in derivatives. High roaders make money the old-fashioned way: they produce a quality product for satisfied customers, and reward their workers, and raise their skills and input, so they’ll continue doing the same, and part of the reward is everyone gets to live in a healthy, sustainable environment.

Reichard hints at this distinction early on, when he raises the competing development models of Youngstown, OH versus Allentown, PA. Allentown is the more successful by far, and the quote on the topic cited by the author even uses the ‘high road’ terminology.

“Allentown can be characterized as having adhered to the high road which has involved the transformation of existing companies to make them competitive on a global scale, attracting inward investment of high-skill jobs and the emergence of a strong entrepreneurial sector. Youngstown, on the other hand, has suffered from an inability to develop a coherence approach to attracting inward investment, a lack of entrepreneurship, and the inability of major local employers to transform in ways that benefit the community.’ (‘Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown, S. Safford, MIT, 2004, p. 27)

Reichard really doesn’t elaborate on this, even though it’s critical to where he wants to go. He wants more than worker-run or community-run second wave industries; he wants ethical concerns to be a component of the new and emerging marketplace.

But this is why the ‘high road-low road’ approach is so important. The distinction is drawn exactly by making wider human values central to economic development. Economies, after all, are made up of people, and it would be distorting and self-defeating to push human values out of the picture as some annoying ‘externality.’ ‘High Road’ values are rooted in respect for the environment (economies as subsets of the ecosystem), solidarity, democracy, community citizenship—all these form the core of the ‘solidarity economy’ emerging as a new development model, locally, nationally and globally. Reichard is entering this arena by a different door, as a pastor seeking to meet the economic justice concerns of his flock within the framework of the spiritual mission of the church. To do so, he has to identify and first do battle with a number of theological trends that block the way, rather the competing economic models others have to deal with.

Applying Toffler as a starting point, Reichard’s analysis of Mainline Protestants and Catholics as ‘second wave’ and Evangelicals as ‘third wave’ contains more than a grain of truth, but also has some serious limitations. Most established religions, for instance, rest on a value that reaches back to the ‘first wave,’ to feudalism and even earlier—the value of submission. With the Protestant revolt, the values of self-cultivation, self-salvation, or, to use Reichard’s term, ‘individualistic piety’ began gaining the upper hand over submissiveness. The practice of early Scots-Irish Presbyterians staying on their feet while praying, refusing the ‘papist’ practice of kneeling, comes to mind.

But the mainline churches do largely reflect the corporate structures and hierarchies of smokestack industrialism, even in their ‘collective bargaining’ and ‘electoral’ approaches to gaining any implementation of the social gospel of reform. Likewise, the evangelical movement would be nowhere near as strong as it is today had it ignored the revolutions in mass communications. Radio, television, the internet, computerized direct mail—all these are tightly integrated into the evangelical ministries. They make use of third wave technologies far more than their mainline rivals. Personal salvation, likewise, dovetails neatly with hacker libertarianism.

What’s missing here, however, is a broader picture of third wave religion and spirituality in the U.S. Taken as a whole, third-wave spirituality also has a substantial left or liberal wing in the rise of the New Age. This trend has self-cultivation at its core without the older dualist feudal trappings of a Creation submitting to a Creator. Overlapping with this is the multiculturalist rise of practices in the U.S. of Hinduism, via yoga, and Buddhism, via meditation and the ecological politics of its ‘socially engaged’ trend. The several organized centers of secular humanism also belong in this ‘left wing’ of third wave spirituality.

Reichard doesn’t have to go too far from Youngstown to see this up close. Cleveland’s favorite son (or problem child, depending on your viewpoint) is Congressman Dennis Kucinich, raised a Catholic, but now clearly influenced by the New Age, and a staunch fighter for the rights and concerns of the Rust Belt working class nonetheless.

The reason this is problematic in this context is that Reichard wants to make ‘Transformational Christianity’ the centerpiece of his resolution of tension between second wave and third wave Christians. This may be proper within that realm, but that’s only one sector across the whole range of the culture and religions of the third wave. The ecumenical alliances he projects would do very well to look beyond Christendom for partners.

Reichard uses a number of sociological instruments to explain the possibilities and obstacles to his faith-based coalition building. These are at once very useful and a little distracting; it’s evident that the book started as an academic document, and all the citations sometimes get in the way of easier reading. Suffice it to say that hardly anyone is written off; it’s mainly a matter of finding the right approach to win them over

But getting a keener grasp of today’s solidarity economics would serve his project well. The regional success of tens of thousands of workers taking control and ownership of 200 firms in the Mondragon region of Spain is the obvious place to start, but there are others in North America and elsewhere around the world. Likewise with the political depth and toughness required to build what the Gramscians call the ‘counter-hegemonic alliance.’ This is actually what Reichard is calling for, even if he’s not aware of it, and it would help considerably in not repeating the outcomes of an earlier era.

[Carl Davidson is a veteran activist and writer with the peace and justice movement, and currently working with the US Solidarity Economy Network (www.ussen.org) His daily blog and other links are at http://carldavidson.blogspot.com. This book can be purchased at http://www.rusttorenewal.com/buy.htm
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Monday, January 14, 2008

Debating Iraq In Blue-Collar America

Beaver County Times

Letters on the War

Painting: 'Night Shift, Aliquippa'


[This is a lightly edited selection of a thread of letters over several recent months debating 'Bring the Troops Home' in the main newspaper of Beaver County, PA. Situated on the border of West Virginia and Ohio, in 1960 it was noted as the most 'blue-collar' county in all of the U.S. It still is in many ways, although now it is the poster child for unstrained globalized deindustrialization. Many of its mill towns are now nearly ghost towns, which has done wonders for the environment, but has taken its toll on the people. As the last letter notes, the County is solidly against the war, but not necessarily for the same reasons as a college town. I have my home base here now, and jump into the debate about a third of the way down --CarlD ]

Bringing the Troops Home

Lonzie Cox - Thursday, December 27, 2007 7:15 AM EST

In March 2006, The Times printed a letter from an officer who was writing from Camp Victory Iraq.  He was writing to express his feelings toward those of us who were against the invasion of Iraq and would go so far as to demonstrate against the resulting war.

He felt that not supporting the war was the same as not supporting the troops.

I responded that the best way to support the troops was to bring them home safely as soon as possible.Last week, I saw a letter to the editor from him and noticed he's back home from Iraq.  Great.  That's all anyone wants - to get the troops home and the war over.

+++ SWV wrote on Dec 27, 2007 8:38 AM:

" We all want the troops home and the war won.  Unfortunately, Iraq is only one battle in the war on terror.  It won't be over for many, many years.  "

+++ Gary Seevers wrote on Dec 27, 2007 8:49 AM:

" I agree!  It's time to bring home the troops!!  The U.S cannot win this war!  Iraq is infested with Muslim terrorists!  It will never end.  If the U.S kills 5,000 terrorists, there will be 5,000 more coming at them!  If the U.S kills bin Laden, someone else just as wicked will take his place.  It's a never ending war!  BRING THEM HOME

+++ LMAO wrote on Dec 27, 2007 9:23 AM:

" Gary Seevers,  go hide from your fears and those you feel you can not beat.  Your defeatist attitude demonstrates why you probably have achieved so little in life.  If it is too hard for you your probably quit and run.  I am guessing your parents made excuses for you everytime things got tuff for you as a kid.  Now and more importantly you have probably created coward children that you probably make excuses for, and teach them it is easier to run and hide from things that are too tuff to take on.  What a baby.  If I was your kid I would be ashamed but fortunately I am not, I simply see you as a coward.  "

+++ Gulf War Vet wrote on Dec 27, 2007 11:52 AM:

" Bring the troops home after crushing the insurgents and organized terrorism?  Absolutely.  Bring them home before that, and the war will come home with them.  "

+++ Ron wrote on Dec 27, 2007 3:17 PM:

" Ok Mr Democrat a little history: WWII FDR (Democratic) began our involvement in that war by attacking Germany, Germany did not attack us, Japan did.  Truman(Democratic) ended that war and began another in Korea.  North Korea never attacked us.
John Kennedy(Democratic) began our involvement in Vietnam, Johnson turned it into an unmanageable mess.  North Vietnam never attacked us.  Clinton(Democratic) began our conflict in Bosnia, Bosnia Never attacked us. Janet Reno(Democratic) spent far more time liberating the Branch Davidian Compound in Waco that the 3rd ID did to take Iraq.  George Bush took less time to liberate two countries that it took Hilary Clinton to find financial records pertaining to her involvement in the Rose Law Firm. So when you want to point fingers,  look in the mirror and the finger is pointed back at you.  "

+++ Tommy S.  wrote on Dec 28, 2007 1:19 AM:
" Bring them home and don't stop there, bring ALL the US troops home from every foreign country and shut down the bases there.  Our involvement overseas gets us into trouble and its bankrupting us.  Our government is too big, too expensive and too dangerous.  "

+++ Rich wrote on Dec 28, 2007 3:29 AM:
" This blog has become infested with deranged Righty cranks since the new format was started.  There were Righty cranks on here before the change for sure, and they were wacky enough, but these new guys seem positively delusional.  By the way Ron, for your info Hitler declared war on America.  Read up on it sometime.  And are you referring to the day that idiot stood on the aircraft carrier and declared "Mission Accomplished" as the day he won the Iraq war?  Shame on you schmuck.  "

+++ James Lucci wrote on Dec 28, 2007 1:05 PM:
" Way to go Cox, keep spouting the party line.  I guess during the Cold War, your motto was better Red and than dead.  We all want to see our troops home but we want them to be victorious.  I believe the surge is in Iraq is working although you don't know it by the media reporting and we need to give Gen Petreous a chance.  I understand that Iran has cut back on the terrorists they were supporting.  I also believe there are troops now returing.  Thepictures I see on local TV when a unit comes home is one of gladness and never have I heard an interviewee say anything bad about the war.  In fact, since the army raised the age limit, I have an acquaintance who is a preacher that has applied for a commission to go to Iraq as a chaplain and his family supports him.  How much longer do you think the Vietnam war last ed thanks to the efforts of Hanoi Jane, Kerry, et al?  "

+++ Digger wrote on Dec 29, 2007 2:52 AM:
" Enlistment in our selective service is way down since the war began.  Our soldiers have not openly disgraced this war because it is their duty to serve our country.  I disagree with the involvement of our troops in this unjustified war declared by a fruitcake who falsified his facts.  I do not see any of you supporting our veteran's claimants demanding full medical benefits for your veteran.  As diligently as you so claim to be why are you not demanding your president & congress issue full medical insurance policies for life to our veterans?  No guts but love the glory as long as you don't have to fight.  I've supported full medical from day one; an excellent savings for any employer to hire a VET.  They are fighting for our freedom; it is the least we can demand our politicians give back.  The fruitcake attempting to show how knowledgeable he was in history: Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, Roosevelt answered the attack with his "a date which will live in infamy" speech and a formal declaration of war.  Germany then declared war on us not us on Germany.  "

+++ Russ wrote on Dec 29, 2007 12:40 PM:

Rich: RE: " This blog has become infested with deranged Righty cranks..." - to you, EVERYONE who doesn't accept every word of yours as Gospel is a neo-Con, Dittohead, etc., even if their only crime is NOT hating Bush as much as you do.  RE: "And are you referring to the day that idiot stood on the aircraft carrier and declared "Mission Accomplished" as the day he won the Iraq war?" - The original mission, driving Saddam from power, WAS accomplished.  The new mission began when al Quaida started the civil war, by blowing up Shiite and Sunni mosques to turn the rival factions against each other.  Neither Bush nor anyone else were prepared for that, which was a big mistake.  RE: " Shame on you schmuck." - I see you haven't lost your flair for name-calling in lieu of actual debating skills.  Happy new year!  "

+++ Carl Davidson wrote on Dec 30, 2007 10:00 AM:
" 'Victory' is Iraq is a delusion, held by Bush and the NeoCons, to justify a war for oil.

The bin Laden crew entered Iraq AFTER us, to torment both the people there and our troops.  The people of Iraq can deal with them, but AFTER we leave.  And we can deal with the criminal enterprise of theocratic terrorism best through global collective security, not endless 'wars on terror' that produce the opposite of their proclaimed aim.

The longer we stay, the worse is will get and the harder we'll fall.  Bush has sold enough lies; don't buy any more.  Bring all the troops home now.  "

+++ Duke wrote on Dec 30, 2007 10:23 PM:
" I laugh at these "patriotic" Republicans waving their Chi-com made American flags saying they support the troops.  If Republicans really do support the troops then they would demand a draft to give those serving a needed break from that hell hole.

But asked why no member of their family is serving, they'll say "but my child has a good job." Yes, in a Republican's eyes, serving in the military has nothing to do with obligation or duty to one's country, but an employment opportunity for the middle class.

Yea, Republicans support the boys over there, but not one would be good enough to date their daughter.  "

+++ Rich wrote on Dec 31, 2007 11:23 AM:
" Russ.  You must have lost track of the sequence of official lies put out by Bush and the Neocons to excuse their pointless, preventable war.  The "Original Mission" as you call it, wasn't specifically to topple Saddam; the original reason they gave for the invasion was that Iraq had WMD's and nuclear materials and had ties to el Qaida, and that there was no alternative but to invade immediately.  It wasn't until after the invasion, when those reasons were found to be untrue and had actually been fabricated by the Bush administration, that they decided the actual reason we invaded was to rescue the Iraqis from a ruthless dictator and to spread democracy. 

That's been pretty much the standard operating procedure of this administration; to lie, then blunder, then lie your way out of the blunder.  If Bushies like you and Ron are going to persist in defending that indefensible buffoon for the damage he's done to this country, at least try to get basic historical facts straight.  And don't complain when you earn only contempt from others for your dogged devotion to the worst president in US history.  Happy New Year.  "

+++ Jonathan wrote on Jan 2, 2008 10:43 AM:
" AMEN Big Dah...The DUMBOCRATS can't accept the fact that the Iraq war is going good and success is being seen.  They will bash Bush for everything under the sun.  This war will go down as one of the biggest successes' this country has ever had.  These dumbocrats won't say 2 cents when their dumbocrat leaders like Onorato [local pol] solves problems by raising taxes instead of controlling spending.  i.e.  drink tax and rental car tax.  Typical liberal policies tax and spend, tax and spend and tax and spend.  Wake up you DUMBOcrats "

+++ Russ wrote on Jan 3, 2008 4:30 PM:
" Rich - I stand by my statement.  The "Original Mission" WAS to topple Saddam.  The RATIONAL behind the mission was the WMD threat, which pretty much everyone agreed was real (including the Clintons, Kerry, Kennedy, Biden, etc.).  France, Russia, the UK and the UN concurred, based on their separate intelligence (are you going to accuse Bush of doctoring THEIR intel too?).  Saddam had WMD, and used them to massacre the Kurds and Iranians.  It was NOT up to us to prove he still had them - IAW the '91 cease-fire terms that HE agreed to, it was up to HIM to prove he'd destroyed them.  Meanwhile, while it's true the Shiites and Sunnis have had bad blood for eons, work on a power and revenue-sharing deal among them and the Kurds was underway until al Qaida successfully ignited the civil war with their bombings (remember when they started, how Sunni and Shiite leaders appealed to followers NOT to react with violence?).  Finally (one more time), people might take your "Daily Kos" opinions more seriously if you'd quit calling everyone who disagrees with you a "Bushie"!  "

+++ Carl Davidson wrote on Jan 3, 2008 6:51 PM:
" Russ, how do you prove you don't have something?

The bottom line is you can't.

'Proof' of a negative is practically impossible, especially if its of a fact, as in 'the WMD could have been taken elsewhere, and hidden anywhere on the planet...and so on, which we've all heard.

Listen to Alan Greenspan if you don't believe me.  This war is about oil, and the strategic control of the proceeds from it.  All the convoluted analysis you present is beside the point.

If it was about going after the perpetrators of 9/11, we'd have a completely different policy focused on the Afghan-Pakistan border region, but our macho bigwigs are rather impotent there, since the Pakistanis have nukes.

No, the invasion of Iraq was a big Neocon diversion, and, thank goodness, most people now see through it.  Bring all our troops home now.  "

+++ Russ wrote on Jan 3, 2008 9:04 PM:
" Carl - Great letter with great points!  You're a far better debater than Rich, who presumes anyone who dares defend Bush is a "Bush lover" (hey, I sometimes defend the Clintons too; does that make me a "Clinton lover"?).  Anyway, I agree with Greenspan's comments, specifically his later ones to clarify the one you cited: it IS largely about oil, and the need to keep control of it from those who hate us.  Imagine if Hugo Chavez were appointed Prime Minister of OPEC, or if al Qaida toppled the Saudi royal family.  We'd be in a world of hurt, and Rich would be blaming Bush (who you'd think was running for re-election, to hear some of these Democratic presidential candidates!).  As for bringing the troops home now, they probably would've been home months ago if al Qaida hadn't started their bombing campaign.  If they were smart they would've laid low until we left, THEN started their rein of terror.  As for the current high oil prices, which even OPEC wants to be lower (more long-term profits for them), we seem to be at the mercy of weasel Commodities speculators.  Cheers!  "

+++ Russ wrote on Jan 3, 2008 9:22 PM:
" Carl - Regarding "proving we don't have something", that's easy.  Russia and the US having been doing it for years, as part of our bilateral dismantling of our nukes and chemical weapons under supervision of inspectors.  All Saddam had to do was cooperate with the UN inspectors and he'd still likely be in power.  Instead he played his stupid shell games, trying to show the Arab world he was still the Big Man there.  He very possibly DID destroy the WMDs (which would've been easy for him to prove), but he still wanted Iran and the other neighbors to fear and respect him (per his alleged confession during his final incarceration).  In the end his bluff cost him his sons' and his own life, and cost us thousands of Coalition military members and untold Iraqi civilian lives.  Still, if al Qaida hadn't thrown their monkey wrench into the works, our troops would pretty much all be home, thousands of lives would've been spared and Iraqi oil revenues would be rebuilding the country (let's NOT get into Halliburton, please!).  Cheers!  "

+++ Carl Davidson wrote on Jan 4, 2008 9:09 AM:
" Russ, you forget that the inspectors concluded there was no evidence of continuing WMDs, and that invasion was unwarranted, Ask Hans Blitz or Scott Ritter, or read their books.

As for al-Qaeda, I think they want us there.  They came in afterwards, to wage 'the war of the flea' against us, using our troops for training, target practice and propaganda purposes.  They don't have much support in Iraq otherwise.  If we leave, the Iraqis themselves will be in a better position to toss them out.

That's why this war has been such a disaster.  It's never had a 'just cause', which means, in the Islamic world at least, a world of 1.2 billion people, the just cause is seen as resisting us, and bin Laden and his crew win that political point, even with any ups and downs on the battlefield.

If you think these guys are losing, just look at Pakistan, and ask what happens if their allies come to power their.  Once that was a remote possibility, now not so remote.

And I'm not the only one making these points.  One former top CIA guy, tossed by Bush, did so in Foreign Affairs recently.  "

+++ Gary wrote on Jan 4, 2008 9:12 AM:
" LMAO, Everyone knows the United States can't win the war in Iraq.  Do you realize how hard it is to go into someone else's land and try to defeat the bad guy?  American soldiers are committing suicide just to escape this misery George W.  Bush has created.  If you think it is bad now..  Just wait until the United States gets involved with Iran.  Then we are heading for a whole new trouble.  And the war would not follow us home if we had tighter boarder security!!!  Start with (A) before you go to (B) "

+++ Rich wrote on Jan 4, 2008 9:16 AM:
" Anyone reading this blog who still wonders if there's any doubt that Bush's invasion of Iraq was a terrible mistake should Google the title "Iraq war timeline".  You'll find accounts from a wide variety of news and media sources which all tell the same basic story; that Bush rushed us into an unnecessary, preventable war.  Russ.  You ignore too many hard facts while drawing your revisionist picture of events. 

The UN weapons inspectors said in early March 2003 that they would need a few more months to confirm that Iraq had no WMD's, which would rule out the need for an invasion.  Bush used the absurd excuse that it would be too hot for the troops if we waited until summer to invade.  As for the chaos that ensued post-invasion, it's well known that Bush ignored the General's advice that a much larger US force would be needed.  With no plan by the US in place to consolidate a military victory, Iraq fell into rioting and mob rule.  The idea that everything was coming up roses until el Qaida showed up is ridiculous.  PS.  Anyone who supports or excuses Bush gets my contempt, not a debate.  "

+++ RR wrote on Jan 7, 2008 9:26 AM:
" One of the biggest decisions Bush got right was going on the offense against terrorism.  Every one of the current Republican presidential candidates give Bush credit for going on the offense against terrorists except for Ron Paul who is really a Libertarian.  When terrorists attack the U.S.  they can expect a response.  No President is perfect as there was some mismanagement and not enough troops initially but Bush adjusted and now conditions have improved dramatically in Iraq and our troops will come home victorious.  We have had no further attacks on U.S soil since 911.  The best defense is a good offense and Bush got that right.  "

+++ Russ wrote on Jan 8, 2008 1:19 PM:
" Rich - Anyone can Google "Iraq war timeline" and find revised timelines to support both our viewpoints - just pick and choose.  My position is based on following events in real time, as they happened during my former day job (where I had a vested interest in the outcome).  RE: your comment "Anyone who supports or excuses Bush gets my contempt, not a debate." - Please re-read the Comment Rules below.  This is a DEBATE forum, not a CONTEMPT forum.  I recommend you check three of my favorite far-Left sites, 'Daily Kos', 'Huffington Post' and 'Democratic Underground'.  There you'll find many people like yourself, united by a blinding hatred of Bush that renders them incapable of any objective reasoning.  There's more bile and hatred there than ANYTHING I've ever heard from Limbaugh, Coulter or Savage!  My favorite line from one DU poster: 'Even if (Bush) finds a cure for cancer I'll still hate him!'.  Meanwhile, to CPT Matt - Thanks, and may God be with you and your colleagues!  "

+++ Russ wrote on Jan 8, 2008 1:30 PM:
" Carl - I HAVE read Hans Blix and Scott Ritter, with all their self-contradictions.  I remember being especially baffled by Ritter's abrupt 180-degree reversal, until it was revealed he'd accepted $400,000 in laundered Iraqi 'Oil for Food' money.  It's obvious you and I will always disagree on this topic, but at least we agree we want the troops back ASAP.  The only difference is if we do it "your" way, the terrorists can once again claim the drove us out (as in Lebanon and Somalia), and all our troops would've died in vain.  Let's not give up just yet - I've got too many friends still over there who want to win this thing, without having their hands tied behind their backs by politicians!  "

+++ Rich wrote on Jan 8, 2008 5:09 PM:
" Russ.  Any US president who sends this country into a preventable war deserves to be hated, and should be held accountable for committing such an offense.  Our troops started dying in vain the day Bush sent them into that quagmire with a bad plan, inadequate equipment, and no justifiable reason for being there.  Leaving them there now, still in harms way, doesn't justify anything.  As for your claim of having a position based on actual events, I'd like to know which events those were.  They couldn't include anything about the reasons Bush gave for his blunder, which all turned out to be lies.
Concerning your displeasure with my lack of civility when dealing with people like you...  too bad.  You enable that abomination with your support of his crimes, and deserve the contempt you get.  "

+++ Carl Davidson wrote on Jan 8, 2008 8:46 PM:
" You make my point, Russ, that it's impossible to prove a negative, since you believe even the inspectors can't be trusted, Ritter or Blix.

But you have an assumption that you would do well to question, that our military is omnipotent, ie, it can win any war, any time any place -- so long as it's not stabbed in the back by politicians.

I'm looking at things differently.  Everyone has their limits, including our military.  That's why is important that the politicians use them wisely, in self-defense and for a just cause.  Bush squandered them for an unjust cause that had nothing to do with self-defense, and we're still paying the price.  A positive outcome in Iraq is the Iraqi peoples' national independence and their control of their own wealth, including their oil.  As long as that's not our goal--and it's not, read the oil law we're trying to impose on them--there is no victory to be had.  That's why we need to yank them out now, before it gets worse, and dump the bill on the politicians who really sold us out and stabbed our troops in the back, Bush, the Neocons and their oil buddies.  "

+++ Rich wrote on Jan 8, 2008 10:51 PM:
" Russ.  Thanks for sparing me any more of your disjointed reasoning and cockeyed rationale for condoning Bush's blunder.  You must have applied that same style of thought to your last comment, seeing my comment as somehow proving your point.  Yikes!  Anyhow… FYI.  I did two tours in Vietnam, so you can also spare me the snotty remarks about who did or didn't serve their country.  "

+++ Russ wrote on Jan 9, 2008 9:49 AM:
" Rich - First, I stand corrected.  My apologies, and kudos for your service!  Second, why do you have so much trouble understanding that I've been trying to help you gain some credibility around here, instead of being branded a "troll" (someone who refuses to participate in civilized debate, and engages in name-calling and verbal grenade-tossing instead)?  Also, you consistently call anyone who remotely defends ANYTHING Bush (who I have major issues with, BTW) does a "Bushie" or "Bush Lover". 

Okay - Clinton defied the UN and dragged NATO into Bosnia.  Millions around the globe took to the streets, calling Clinton a tyrant and chanting "Death to America".  Our troops died, and many are still there.  It turns out the "genocide" numbers were WAY overstated, and that the real motivation might have been poll numbers (a "Wag the Dog" scenario).  Yet after some initial skepticism (as with Iraq), I ultimately concluded our going into Bosnia was a "just" cause.  Now, does this make me a "Clinton lover" deserving of your contempt?  Or are all of your opinions affected by your seething hatred of Bush?  "

+++ SSgt Aaron P.  wrote on Jan 9, 2008 7:10 PM:
" I am a Staff Sergeant of Marines and a three time Iraqi War Veteran.  Personal opinions are personal opinions, but I have walked by a war protest in my uniform and.....believe me, they are definitely against the troops.  Most of them are either hippies who miss the 60's or wannabe hippy kids that wish they were born early enough to burn a flag and spit on a troop.  I want us to all come home when the job is over, and judging by my last tour to Western Iraq it will not be too much longer.  Then what will the Democrats cry about when we win?  "

+++ Rich wrote on Jan 9, 2008 9:45 PM:
" To Russ.  No need to apologize to me because I happen to be a veteran.  Any negative feedback I get on here for my caustic approach is deserved.  As far as engaging in a civil discussion with those who still agree with Bush about his war… or anything else about his presidency, there's no point.  We are polarized, period.  There are 70% of us who see him as the worst president in US history and can't stand the sight of him, and the other 30% of you who apparently are blind to reality.  I figure calling names makes sense under these circumstances.

To Staff Sgt Aaron P.  You got it way wrong if you think your welcome home from the Iraq war in any way resembles what Vietnam vets got in the sixties.  I see only praise, gratitude, and positive attitudes from all sides, both pro-war and anti-war, concerning returning troops.  Stop complaining about those who want to see this unnecessary war brought to an end and your fellow Marines returned home safely.  Find out that your real enemies are those who sent you into harm's way for no good reason.

+++ Carl Davidson wrote on Jan 12, 2008 8:17 AM:
" To SSgt Aaron: You'll find all sorts of people, including Iraq vets and Vietnam vets, at antiwar protests.  At the last vigil at the Beaver Courthouse, we had 'Vets for Peace' there, but not one hippy, unfortunately, since they're welcome, too.

By the way, no antiwar hippy, or anyone else, ever spit on any returning GI in the 1960s.  It's a right wing myth, an urban legend.  A friend of mine, the national chair of Vietnam Vets vs the War, has offered $500 out of his own pocket to any vet who will tell him when and where he was spat upon.  He's done this countless times on mass media, and never had a taker.  Just think about it--when returning, where did the GIs actually disembark from, and wasn't the first thing they did was to jump into their civvies?

Military families are an important part of this antiwar movement.  They hate the lies even more than the rest of us.  People understand service and sacrifice for a just cause, but for control of oil?  "

+++ AOL wrote on Jan 12, 2008 10:51 PM:
" I have a nephew who is currently serving his 2nd tour in Iraq.  He is a Sergeant for the Army.  He himself has said that this war is a waste.  But is we are going to bring the troops home..  we need to bring them ALL home.  Leaving minimal troops there will be like signing their death warrant.  He has told us stories...  and some are pretty gruesome.  He stated to us several times how him and his army buddies HATE Bush and feel they are fighting a loosing battle.  However he said he will do the job that he was sent there to do.  We are VERY PROUD of our SOLDIER....  I hope they ALL come home...  I feel we are making the Iraqi's madder the longer we stay.  We can stay there for another 100 years and the war will still not have been won.  Come on guys...The Iraq's did not cause 9-11.  Bin Laden did...  he is an Iranian.  So WTF...  Bush is making good on the promise he made to his dad.  Something he couldn't finish himself.  "

+++ Majority rules wrote on Jan 13, 2008 9:42 PM:
" This is not a military state.  The majority of Americans want the troops home now.  Case closed.  "

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