Friday, July 28, 2006


DUI mug shots of ABC's "Lost" actress Cynthia Watros and actor Nick Nolte

The headline was all too familiar, although the names change:

Mel Gibson arrested on suspicion of DUI

MALIBU, Calif. - Mel Gibson was arrested early Friday for suspicion of driving under the influence, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said.

Gibson’s vehicle was speeding eastbound on the Pacific Coast Highway when officers stopped him at 2:36 a.m., Sheriff’s spokesman Steve Whitmore said.”


The list of those caught driving under the influence of alcohol or other substances includes those who sit in the highest offices in the land. Thirty year old George W. Bush pled guilty to DUI in Kennebunkport, Maine, in 1976. Long before he began shotgunning his hunting buddies, Vice President Dick Cheney was caught twice for DUI in Wyoming within an eight month period. American Pie actor Chris Klein blew a .20 after a California arrest (the legal limit is .08, and the presumption that you are sober ends at .04). ABC’s “Lost” television actresses Michelle Rodriguez, 27, and Cynthia Watros, 37, were both booked for DUI in Hawaii when police spotted their cars weaving on the Kalaniana'ole Highway one night. Nick Nolte’s mug shot from his DUI arrest is a classic.

Drinking used to be “cool”

Driving under the influence used to be a funny guy type story, as in “I was so drunk I couldn’t see straight, I don’t know how I ever made it home (chuckle, chuckle),” as his buddy claps him on the back and congratulates him on his good fortune. The past 30 or 40 years, it seems that America’s image of itself has been formed in part by one, long, faux happy, beer commercial. Drinking has been portrayed in movies, on television, and in commercials as fun, comedic, extremely cool, and sexy. Can you identify this famous line: “shaken, not stirred?” Or the cliched scene in Westerns where the dusty, tired cowboy steps up to the bar and utters one word: “whiskey!” Woe betide the tenderfoot who orders “sarsaparilla” (a carbonated soda sweetened with sassafrass).

“Responsible” Drinking and Designated Drivers

Every once in a while beer companies, most notably Coors, run commercials touting “responsible” drinking and designated drivers. In spite of the universal understanding about the dangers of driving drunk- and the penalties for being caught, which have increased in severity to the point that most second time offenders are spending time in jail and losing their licenses for a year- every night, and not just on weekends, there are hundreds of thousands of people driving their vehicles while over the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content. Most nights they make it home safe and don’t kill anybody. No one tries to stop them from pulling out their car keys and heading for their vehicles because their friends are either drunk themselves or afraid of offending them if they make an attempt to stop them.

The carnage from drunk drivers

If you’ve ever tried to stop a drunk person from driving, you will quickly find that you have a fight on your hands- verbal or physical, depending on the drunk. Because someone failed to stop a drunk driver with two previous DUI convictions from getting his keys into the ignition of his pickup truck, on June 28th on Ledo Road in Albany, Kelly Jean Caldwell and her husband Charles Caldwell were killed and a six year old in their car was seriously hurt. A 17-year-old passenger in the drunk driver’s pickup truck was also killed. As I write these words, it’s late on a Friday night, and I would bet my house that there are hundreds of drunk drivers on the road or about to hit the road after a night of hard drinking at local nightspots.

Madison Avenue certainly plays a part in this saga, and it’s not just beer commercials during baseball and football games. A magazine I’ve read since age 10, Sports Illustrated, regularly features beautiful women in full page ads curled around a bottle of vodka. My most recent issues of two popular sports magazines read by kids contain ads for Jim Beam, Jack Daniels, and Keystone beer. Not the kind of beverage most parents want their teenage sons fixating on.

They never show real life in those beer commercials. The actors and actresses are almost always handsome and beautiful, happy and friendly. In real life the tragedies never stop and never will so long as we continue to make it so easy for drivers to operate their vehicles after having a few belts. I’ve tried two vehicular homicide cases to juries in recent years and the lasting impression I came away with from each was that no matter whether the drivers were innocent or guilty (I won both cases, but I hope never to try another one), the victim’s fate remained unaltered by the jury’s verdict.

One DUI client used to come to my office every couple of years with a new charge. After his third case I told him not to bother retaining me anymore. He died a few years later- many years before he would have if he had been able to control his drinking. Statistics tell a story, but they lack the emotional impact of losing a son, daughter, wife or husband to a drunk driver. Drunk drivers annually kill the population of a small city- imagine a 9-11 attack killing 3,000 Americans every couple of months, year in and year out, and you get a sense of the devastation caused by drunk drivers.

Years ago, as a college student, I worked as a bartender, a job I had imagined (from television and the movies, naturally) was glamourous and fun. The trap and skeet shooting club I served in was located on a highway, which meant that every single driver to whom I served more than two or three drinks was leaving the club legally intoxicated. I finally quit the job in mid-summer and slept much better at night.

I don’t have anything against clubs and bars per se, even though I don’t drink alcohol, with the exception of an occasional glass of wine once a year on Passover. I met the woman I love at an historic Albany night spot, the P-2 Club, where she worked as a bartender at night to pay her college tuition. (She ended up graduating with highest honors from Darton and later Phi Beta Kappa from University of Georgia.) I was instantly smitten with her, as was every other male with a pulse who visited the club.

Ironically enough, she agreed to go out with me because I had an advantage over the other men who asked her out- I drank Sprite. She found that very attractive, and we married six months later.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

"FIGHTING FOR PEACE” Israel’s Self defeating War in Lebanon and Gaza

Lebanese civilians flee Israel's invasion

On a wooden fence surrounding a construction site at the University of Pennsylvania during the height of the Vietnam War was a piece of graffiti I never forgot: “Fighting for Peace is like F***ing for Virginity.” The metaphor is particularly apt, as recent events have made clear in both Iraq and Israel.

Growing up in a Jewish household with some knowledge of our people’s history, I learned that before the twentieth century our last wars were fought almost two thousand years ago. However, with the birth of a modern State of Israel things changed. European Jews bought land and settled in Palestine in the 1920’s and 1930’s in response to the call of the Zionist movement founded by Viennese Journalist Theodor Herzl. Frequently they had to repel attacks from some (not all) of the local Arabs who resented their presence.

After Israel became a state in 1948, it was instantly attacked by its Arab neighbors, but it prevailed and survived. In 1948 the nascent nation had virtually nothing to fight with- no air force, tanks, or modern weapons of war. The story of the survival of those first settlers and immigrants and survivors of the Holocaust was extraordinary, both for the remarkable odds surmounted to achieve their survival and the fact that in spite of the hostility of their neighbors, most Israelis sincerely sought a just and lasting peace.

Three other major conventional wars were fought by Israel, first in 1956 (after Egypt nationalized the Suez Canal and cut off Israeli access), then the Six Day War in June of 1967 (when Egypt told United Nations peacekeepers to leave as it prepared to attack and invade Israel), and finally in 1973 (the Yom Kippur War when Syria and Egypt attacked on the holiest day in the Jewish calendar). These wars were provoked by neighboring countries like Egypt and Syria, with active help from Iraq and, early on, Jordan (which stayed neutral after the 1967 war which cost its control of the Jewish Holy places in Jerusalem, from which Jews had been excluded from 1948 through 1967). Their clear and overtly expressed intent was to annihilate Israel as a country and drive the Jews into the sea.

After the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the dynamic changed. New generations of Israelis arose, many lacking the social conscience and sensibilities of their mostly European parents and grandparents. The Arab countries which bordered Israel made peace and two of them, Jordan and Egypt, normalized relations, while Syria, one of the state sponsors of terrorist groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon, used proxies to wage its battles. Instead of attacks by conventional Arab armies, the conflict became more of a low intensity pressure on Israel’s borders with shelling, guerilla infiltration, and, later on, suicide bombings. By 1982, Israel had achieved a dubious low point with a ground invasion of Lebanon, led by General Ariel Sharon, which resulted in massacres of Muslim Palestinians in Beirut refugee camps by Lebanese Phalangist Christians as Israeli troops stood by.

Not coincidentally, that ill fated invasion occurred under the regime of a right wing Israeli political party, Likud, led at that time by Menahim Begin. In subsequent years, Israel’s greatest efforts at achieving a de-escalation of conflict and workable peace agreements have come when more dovish parties, such as the Labor government under Yitzhak Rabin (tragically assassinated in 1995 by Yigal Amir, a right-wing activist who had strenuously opposed Rabin's signing of the Oslo Accords) and Shimon Peres. Although the greatest peace progress was made when Begin was Prime Minister with the Camp David accords in 1979, later on, when conservative governments were in power- under Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon, Israel tended to look for military solutions to essentially political problems.

If it were true that those problems could be solved by the use of air strikes, tank assaults, and uniformed soldiers seizing and holding ground beyond Israel’s borders, then Israel wouldn’t be engaged in the conflagration which has broken out in the last two weeks. The latest fighting was provoked by separate kidnappings of Israeli soldiers by Hamas near Gaza (which killed two and kidnapped one), causing the Gaza invasion and air strikes, and Hezbollah on the Lebanon border (kidnapped two soldiers) causing the present assault on southern Lebanon and air strikes as far as the Bekaa Valley and the Beirut Airport.

Unfortunately for the cause of peace and for Israel, Lebanese civilians who would have rejoiced to see Hezbollah disbanded and taken out of the country’s political equation are now so radicalized by Israel’s air strikes and the deaths of innocents that they are willing to pick up a gun and join the fight against the Jewish invaders.

Albert Einstein once famously said that the definition of insanity is repeating the same act, over and over, and expecting a different outcome. By that definition, both the United States and Israel are insane, and our intertwined foreign policies may as well have an overt objective of creating permanent instability and a violent hostility to our governments and our peoples. Perhaps in another 10,000 years or so we can evolve as a species to the point where we will heed Einstein’s admonition and try something different. Instead of killing tens of thousands of innocent civilians to avenge the deaths of 3,000 on 9-11-01 (the U.S.)- and instead of killing hundreds to respond to the deaths and kidnaping of less than 10 Israeli soldiers, perhaps we ought to try something more creative and non-violent, such as arresting those involved and putting them on trial, and sparing the innocents who had nothing to do with it.

If that sounds Pollyannish and ineffective, then ponder this for a moment: when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 innocent men, women, and children, we didn’t launch air strikes or a ground invasion at the nearest ragtag right-wing militia groups which had spawned McVeigh and Nichols. That would have been considered an insane policy- killing innocent Americans in response to the killing of innocent Americans. When Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated by an extremist Orthodox Jew, Israel didn’t launch air strikes or a ground invasion of the settlement from which he came, which surely contained many others who were like minded and may have even applauded the assassination. Using logic and reason, why should our conduct be any different when the perpetrators speak a different language, wear different clothes, and worship God in a different fashion? Why indeed.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Channel 10's Karen Collier and an undecided Albany State student attend the first Democratic gubernatorial debate in Albany

Last Wednesday night I went to a debate and a hockey game broke out! That’s a twist on an old joke: I went to a boxing match the other night and a hockey game broke out. The verbiage works, because the point of the joke is that many people go to hockey games just to watch the bloodbath when the players drop their gloves and sticks (some of the nastier ones keep their sticks) and go after each other.

But I digress. The Democratic gubernatorial primary debate in Albany on July 12th featured Albany’s Lt. Governor Mark Taylor and Bainbridge’s Cathy Cox, the Secretary of State of Georgia. I was anticipating a figurative heavyweight fight between Mark and Cathy, because their millions of dollars in campaign ads have been largely wasted on absurd attacks on each other’s integrity. Last week was the first time that Mark had even bothered to show up for a live debate, apparently deciding to sit on his lead and campaign via television commercial. I was sure that Cathy wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to land a few zingers.

After my guest and I settled into our seats in the Municipal Auditorium, I was surprised to see two extra podiums on the stage. Having the brilliant analytical mind that I do, it only took me about five minutes to figure out that those weren’t backup podiums in case Mark and Cathy wore theirs out with fist banging. Nope, there were two other warm bodies that would be up under the bright, hot television lights, putting in their two cents (or, as it turned out in William “Mac” McCarley’s case, about 10,000 bucks) worth.

It ain’t easy to live with a woman for 55 years

My first impression about the “other” Democratic candidates was that they would detract from the debate and that they would be lightweights of no consequence. I could not have been more wrong. Bill Bolton of Marietta and Mac McCarley of Henry County added what Mark Taylor and Cathy Cox couldn’t have brought to the debate in a million years- unselfconscious honesty. Time after time, when a panelist asked Mark or Cathy a question and they gave their polling tested, professional campaign manager designed, “safe” answers, one or the other or both of the unknowns would prick their balloons. At one point, McCarley’s response to a Cathy Cox statement about her introduction of electronic voting machines and her commitment to education was to characterize her answer as “a lot of hokey pokey.” The audience cracked up, but McCarley followed up with the kind of brutal honesty that is so lacking in politics today. McCarley pointed out that the electronic voting machines lacked the most elementary of electoral fraud safeguards- a paper trail. He also mentioned that Cox had twenty years of service in Atlanta, and Georgia still ranked 49th out of 50 in education.

When one panelist asked Mark Taylor about all of the mudslinging in the campaign, he came back with one of the funniest lines of the night. Decrying Cathy Cox’s personal attacks on his uncles, father, mother, wife, and sister- Taylor finished with: “we’ve even put the family dog on alert for the next attack”

But Mac McCarley brought down the house when he was asked by Russ Spencer of Atlanta’s Channel 5, why after being 78 years old, a WWII vet (McCarley lied about his age and enlisted at age 15), married to same woman for 55 years, and a 25 year cancer survivor, he decided to run for governor: Answer: “It ain’t easy to live with a woman for 55 years.” The audience, moderator Dawn Hobby, and the other candidates, completely cracked up, and the debate had to be halted until the laughter ended.

For my money both Mark and Cathy are good political servants. Neither has ever engaged in the politics of fear, of stirring up hatred and divisiveness, of scapegoating one group or another, that has become the hallmark of modern Republican politics. Unlike Republicans, they don’t target immigrants, gays, welfare recipients, or mythical flag burners to win electoral contests. But in spite of their obvious intelligence and sincere desire to leave Georgia a better place than they found it- especially in matters involving children- they have engaged in some of the silliest and most absurd attacks I’ve ever seen.

In one ad Mark said Cathy wasn’t for the Hope Scholarship in 1992 when the lottery issue was on the ballot. Well, duh. She’s for it now, and what difference does it make to any citizen of Georgia when she came to the party?

Cathy said Mark tried to engineer a bill through the State Senate that would have benefitted family members. She refused to name names, dates, times, or places, which left the charge somewhat suspect. Mark answered directly that there was an effort to return land seized from property owners, including his uncles, by eminent domain. But the land was never used for the public purpose. His explanation sounded innocent, and Cathy never followed up with a single detail that validated her attack.

Swift Boat becomes a verb and other mudslinging

By the time this column comes out, one will be a winner (unless there’s a runoff) but the mudslinging will be with us through November, without a doubt. However, this stuff isn’t new. The title of this column comes from the 1884 attacks on Democrat presidential nominee Grover Cleveland by Republican Stephen Blaine. Blaine’s crack campaign staff (Karl Rove’s great great grandfather?) dug up the fact that Cleveland had sired an illegitimate son while he was a bachelor. Their campaign ditty of “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa,” was decisively answered by Cleveland’s electoral victory over Blaine. Hence the poetic response: “Gone to the White House, ha, ha ha!”

In more recent times, we’ve had a convicted murderer, “Willie Horton,”used to make a racist smear without the candidate ever having to come right out and make an openly racist comment. In 1988, it was Republican presidential candidate George H. W. Bush who attacked Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis’ prisoner furlough program. Bush’s hatchetman, Lee Atwater, picked out a particular Massachusetts convict on furlough, one Willie Horton, a black man, who had committed rape and armed robbery during a weekend furlough program. When Atwater was dying of brain cancer in 1991, he repented the dirt and disgusting smears he had brought to campaigns for the highest office in the nation. By then it was too late. In 1988 Atwater bragged that "by the time this election is over, Willie Horton will be a household name." Republican Media consultant Roger Ailes was reported to remark "the only question is whether we depict Willie Horton with a knife in his hand or without it." Dukakis was effectively smeared with white suburban voters who feared violent black criminals.

In the 2000 Republican Presidential primary in South Carolina, it was another Bush campaigning, but the race card was played once again. This time, it was George W. Bush, and the part of Lee Atwater was played by Karl Rove. Rove used fake pollsters who telephoned South Carolina voters to ask them how the fact that Arizona Senator John McCain had a black baby born out of wedlock would affect their votes. The clear implication was that McCain had fathered an illegitimate child with a black woman, which, in hindsight, should have been a plus amongst racist South Carolinians who worshiped legendary nonagenarian Senator Strom Thurmond. Of course, in 2000, Thurmond was still alive and his black daughter by the maid he took advantage of was still a secret. The truth was that McCain and his wife had adopted a brown skinned orphan from Bangladesh, a fact that Bush’s campaign didn’t reveal to the voters.

2004 brought us the name of a U.S. Navy vessel designed to fight on the rivers of Vietnam. “Swift Boat,” is now a verb, as in “Candidate X Swift Boated Candidate Y in the recent Senate race, forcing him to answer spurious charges that he had falsified his resume.” And so it goes.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006


The Voter ID bill won't have any impact on the real problems which have plagued recent elections


“In the past 9 years, neither my staff nor I can recall a single case or complaint of a voter impersonating another voter at the polls — the issue sought to be corrected by mandatory photo identification. And had this been occurring, some voter surely would have complained upon finding that someone else had voted under their name. It hasn't happened....

The bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist while expanding the opportunity for fraud in the area that has long been the most vulnerable to this type of abuse — the mailed absentee ballot.”

Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox, in 2005 letter to Georgia State Senate.

The above paragraphs were the lead to my February 2, 2006, column, titled “The Real Fraud Behind the Voter ID Bill.” Well, not much has changed, except that now the very Democratic (as in “Party”) Attorney General of Georgia, Thurbert Baker, has filed an “emergency appeal” and asked the Supreme Court of Georgia to overturn a trial judge’s order blocking implementation of the latest version of the Voter ID law, the first of which was overturned by a federal judge in 2005.

So what’s the “emergency?” Why was one of the first acts of the newly Republican Georgia legislature, which first took control in January of 2005, to pass a Voter ID law? The answer is that it is an effort to win elections by suppressing likely Democratic voters. This is part and parcel of the same voter suppression effort that during in the past two presidential elections resulted in older voting machines likely to break down and cause long lines being put in use in heavily Democratic districts and precincts around the country, the same reason flyers were circulated in black neighborhoods “reminding” people to vote on Wednesday, the day after the election actually took place.

Historically, after the Civil War, it was the Democratic Party in the South that wanted to suppress voting- in that instance, among newly freed slaves and later, their descendants. Until the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1965- through the efforts of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson, himself from a former slave state (Texas), the Democrats in the South were the bad guys when it came to suppressing the vote. A white voter only had to show up at the polls, and he was handed a ballot. If he couldn’t read or write, no matter. He had the right color skin, so he got to vote. Black voters had to prove their worth- some were asked to recite the Constitution or Declaration of Independence from memory, to the amusement of the registrars who helped suppress their votes.

That all changed in 1965 when the Voting Rights Act was passed to implement the promise of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which went into effect February 3, 1870. Although the 15th amendment granted African American men the right to vote, that promise was mainly honored in the breach in the South. After 1965, the promise was kept, and for the last 40 years, no political party tried to suppress black voters.

That all changed when the Republicans took over the legislature in 2005. Until that time, Georgia hadn’t ever had a voter ID bill that would have suppressed the vote. The current bill will most likely impact the poor, the black, and the elderly, all groups which tend to vote for Democrats as opposed to Republicans. Why would the Republicans want to keep legitimate voters from casting ballots? For good reasons. Democrats, after all, weren’t the party that was going to put the elderly out of nursing homes in the summer of 2004 to save a few dollars in the State’s budget. Democrats didn’t engineer and pass a prescription drug law that has confounded and angered Medicare recipients while handsomely rewarding pharmaceutical companies. Drug companies are now reaping in billions more in profits, not least because the Republicans managed to stick provisions in the law preventing States and local governments from contracting for discounts on drugs for Medicaid recipients and preventing patient access to cheaper (and possibly safer) Canadian drugs. Democrats didn’t try to pass legislation allowing rich developers to use eminent domain to put the urban poor out of house and home. These were all Republican initiatives (although they backed away at 100 miles per hour from the eminent domain proposal when they realized it was political death to support that bill- even their rich white constituents hated it).

There obviously is no “emergency.” If the trial judge’s order, called a “stay,” is not lifted, then the July 18th primary election will proceed just like every other primary the last 40 years since the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed. The voters will show up, they will get to vote- and not a single voter will be voting under someone else’s name using fake identification. Not one.

The intelligent citizen (and we have a few, thank goodness) at this point should be asking the next Republican office holder he or she can buttonhole: what’s the deal here? Why are you wasting MY TAX DOLLARS to defend a law that is completely unnecessary? Why did you pass the bill in the first place? Whose ox is being gored here? Who profits?

The answer, which the daily newspapers forget to tell you, is that this is not a Georgia effort. This is a national Republican strategy to protect Republican office holders from defeat in a close election, of which we have had more than a few in recent years, and not just presidential elections. This is another Karl Rove (the President’s brain, he is called- more like the devil sitting on his shoulder, whispering in his ear, if a metaphor is needed) special, designed to disrupt and ultimately destroy democratic government- “democratic” with a small “d.”

As I pointed out in January:

“If the integrity of elections is so important to the Republicans who now control the legislature, why didn’t they require a paper trail for computer cast ballots? Weren’t they aware that many jurisdictions around the country had problems with computer voting in 2004, including one precinct in Ohio’s Franklin County which recorded 4,258 votes for Bush where only 638 voters cast votes?”

It all comes down to numbers. States with Republican legislatures, as far apart as Indiana and Arizona, have introduced similar or identical voter ID laws. Like Georgia, they have no instances of voter ID fraud. But for every poor person, every black person, every elderly voter, every likely Democrat who is a citizen of this country lawfully entitled to cast his or her ballot, whom they can turn away, they have increased their chances of winning the election.

Say what you will about modern Democrats- and even though I am a life long Democrat, I have some harsh criticism for the so called “leaders” of the Party- they have not attempted to destroy democracy. In the aftermath of the Civil War, it was the Republican Party which gave freedom and the right to vote to every former slave, with the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Since 1900, they have abandoned that role in politics, and every initiative to broaden the franchise- including the important 1965 Voting Rights Act, has come from the Democrats.

So shame on the Republicans who passed this law and shame on “in name only” Democrat Thurbert Baker who is fighting so hard to put this law back in place in time to turn away legitimate voters from the polls. If they cared so much about protecting our sacred right to vote, they would have come out and passed a law requiring a paper trail for every computer touch screen vote. And they wouldn’t have loosened the restrictions on absentee voting (always more heavily Republican) where real fraud has occurred. If they put in true election refoms, we wouldn’t have elections where George W. Bush can get 4,258 votes in a county with 638 voters. If that isn’t stealing an election and defrauding the voters, I don’t know what is.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Mel Gibson’s character in the 2000 movie, The Patriot, wreaked vengeance on the British after his family was murdered


It’s 1776. You are a South Carolina colonist whose friends and neighbors are fighting in the American War for Independence. You refuse to join the local militia and spend a week in the City of Charleston, arguing against the revolution and in favor of your King. Meanwhile, your oldest son joins the group hiding in forests and marshes, stalking British columns which are marching through the countryside, trying to pacify the locals.

You return home to find your house burned. The bodies of your wife, your small six year old child, and your indentured servant lay in the yard. Overcome with grief, you bury them. Your hatred for the British knows no bounds, and you vow to carry the fight to the death. After the burial, you visit one of your neighbors, an immigrant farmer from Bavaria, who informs you that British soldiers, German speaking Hessians, have been bragging about the murders in a local tavern, thinking that none of the locals would understand their language. One of them has proudly claimed that your wife was repeatedly raped before she was killed. The servant and your child were murdered to cover up the crime.

Later, you read in a local Gazette that British authorities denounce any criminal acts on the part of their soldiers. They remind the colonists that they are only there to put down the rebellion and shore up local colonists loyal to their King. They promise that the foreign Hessian troops will stay no longer than necessary to keep the peace and will leave once the rebellious colonists, only a small minority of whom oppose the British, lay down their arms. They also promise to investigate the alleged crimes by their soldiers and punish any who are found guilty. You take small comfort from that, and your rage does not lessen in the slightest as you plan to kill every British soldier you encounter, even if you lose your life in the attempt.


By now the astute reader is probably thinking, “Hey, I think I saw that movie six years ago! It was called ‘The Patriot,’ and was directed and produced by Mel Gibson, who also starred in it. I remember the scene when Mel, who opposed the war against the British, came home to find most of his family murdered, and he was instantly transformed into a fighting machine whose blood lust was only sated after he and his younger son killed an entire troop of British soldiers.”


Nope, not from The Patriot. Good guess, though, as the over the top Mel Gibson production created fictional British atrocities, the worst of which was when evil British Colonel Tavington, played by Jason Isaacs (the nasty blonde wizard dad of Harry Potter fame) herded men, women, and children into a church, locked the doors, and burned them to death.

However, before you read further, pause a moment and examine your emotions. If you will admit that you were even the slightest bit outraged as you read the story, or if you recall being outraged and angered when you saw the movie, and you cheered when Gibson's character shot and hatcheted about a dozen young British soldiers, none of whom had killed Gibson’s family, then I give you points for honesty. If you label yourself a patriot, if you agreed with Zell Miller in 2001 that we should bomb Afghanistan back into the Stone Age (not a long trip for Afghans, to be sure), if you wanted to rain down death and destruction on Iraq in 2003 because you wanted payback for the 9-11 attacks, if you sport a “Support the Troops” magnetic decal on your car while vilifying anti-war proponents, if you cheer on Republican Congressmen and Senators as they portray opposition Democrats as “cut and run” cowards, if you think the New York Times should be boycotted and stripped of their White House credentials for publishing stories about illegal NSA wiretaps and e-mail intercepts, if you think their editors and reporters should be in the dock charged with treason- if you fit any of the foregoing, then stop reading right now.

Because the above story, with the exception of a few dates (1776 was actually March of 2006) and places (South Carolina was actually Beiji, Iraq) and nationalities (the victims were an Iraqi family, including a small child and a young woman who was raped; the rapists and killers are alleged by fellow U.S. soldiers to be American soldiers), was true.

Now examine your feelings? Still outraged at the killers and rapists? Still want to kill everyone else who shares their uniform, regardless of whether or not they participated in the killings? Are you angry at me because you think I manipulated your feelings? Do you think the story was exaggerated by Iraqis or Al Qaida bent on destroying America? Tough luck, because the allegations reported came from members of the same platoon which committed the crimes. They came forward out of guilt and remorse.

If you can put aside your emotions for a moment, consider that these atrocities are common to all wars. They are inevitable. The minute a decision is made to go to war against another country, to invade it, then occupy it, these incidents are certain to occur. The only variables are how many innocents will die and which occupying troops will crack under stress and commit these awful crimes.

To Iraqis whose family members and friends have been killed by Americans- like the relatives of the two women, one pregnant, who were shot and killed as they approached a checkpoint, it is no solace to hear Americans claim that their troops were only following rules of engagement and intended no harm. The dead Iraqis were without question innocent human beings, in their own country, going to a hospital to deliver a baby. The Americans who killed them are foreign, speaking a different language, with a different religion. And they rule the country by force of arms.

By now the intelligent reader (and, I have discovered to my pleasure, I have more than a few) realizes that we can’t possibly win the “war” in Iraq. First, you can’t win a fight to change people’s attitudes by force of arms. Second, there is no war being fought- not in a military sense. As astute American commanders on the ground in Iraq have observed over and over, you can’t defeat an insurgency by killing, because for every one you kill, you have just created many more who were family or friends of the deceased. As Tom Lasseter, of the Knight Ridder Newspapers, reported on June 12, 2005:

“Lt. Col. Frederick P. Wellman, who works with the task force overseeing the training of Iraqi security troops, said the insurgency doesn't seem to be running out of new recruits, a dynamic fueled by tribal members seeking revenge for relatives killed in fighting.

'We can't kill them all,' Wellman said. 'When I kill one I create three.'“

So this holiday, as the remnants of the July 4th celebration are cleaned up, do something really patriotic to support the troops in Iraq. Tell your friends to vote out the cowardly chickenhawk gasbags who lie to the American people every day while dining at night in French restaurants with their meals paid for by lobbyists who are their true constituents. Return Congress to The People, and bring all of our troops out of harm’s way.