Sunday, September 15, 2013

Seething Discontent Revealed at Syrian Anti-War Vigil

I had the privilege of attending a September 9 vigil in a nearby Pennsylvania village to express opposition to the planned U.S. attack on Syrian military sites.  About 30 grey hairs and millennials joined together with candles at dusk near a Friends meeting house.  After opening the remarks, the organizers had us break into small groups and discuss why we were there.

Several spokespersons from each group shared with the gathering their motivation to give up an evening to join in a candlelight protest.  Groups like this were held in thousands of locations all over the U.S.A., as reported by Move-On and several other cooperating organizations.  I don't know if others had the same experience I witnessed but the outpouring of frustration was remarkable in our group.  In doing political organizing for the past several years I attended many group discussions and focus groups about the state of affairs of America, hearing activists and fellow organizers lament the state of our union.  But I was stunned to hear the outpouring of frustration from a random collection of non-activists.  Some identified themselves as professionals, partners at big three accounting firms and others workers at places like Wal-Mart. It was a cross section of the l% and 99 %ers.  Though the demographics were diverse, the statements made and the reactions of listeners was strikingly uniform.  The best descriptor I can come up with is disillusioned with their political leadership and condition of the country's institutions.

Very quickly after the first speakers expression of concern that the peace movement was being gamed by all our political leaders for the benefit of their own reelection or political legacy, this group of mostly idealistic liberals quickly bought into that assertion and the discussion expanded way beyond  Syria and impending attack.  It addressed the economy and education and political failure.  Clearly, from their comments, few came from backgrounds of political organizers or campaign workers.  They simply did not have a clue as to how to fix broken politics, international relations, public education or the economy which was not meeting the needs of their families.  The leaders they had elected or were stuck with through electoral loss they believed had the responsibility to know how to fix America were failing miserably.

The words flowed spontaneously and the frustration spewed out with amazing force.  One poor desperate soul said prayer was her only answer to deal with America's failure.  My spouse urged me to restrain which she knew my atheist reaction to that would be.  I did.  She was enough pain not to be amplified by some jerk like me.

My professional life has taken me to literally scores of focus groups.  I've run some myself.  I know how difficult it is to encourage a group of strangers to open up about their feelings and views.  This was a spontaneous explosion I've never seen before from a group of strangers who clearly were all on the same page.  And the book they were reading from wasn't just about yet another war to punish some nation unilaterally.  It was about the further deterioration of trust of our governmental leadership and a general feeling of helplessness in securing solutions.

So, how is this erosion of trust in the promise of America to be resolved, as expressed by these good people moved by events to gather in vigil and protest to yet another potential insult on our democracy?

The barriers to resolution are enormous.  And the solutions not implemented quickly.  But we know what the repair list is:
1. Short term, drive the Republican House leadership out of control now, retain and increase      
    the Democratic majority in the Senate and shift to liberal control of the Supreme Court. 
    Reelect a Democrat to the Presidency in 2016,  organize state Democratic Parties to take
    back most of the blue and purple state houses and governorships and reshape the leadership
    of the DNC to address the longer term tasks below.
2. Get money, especially corporate money, out of politics.
3. Mobilize and create grassroots activists from youth and the older upper and middle classes
    in blue and purple states to in turn mobilize.  As voters lower income people we know are
    too time deprived to do much more than get to the voting polls.
4. Reform our redistricting process and configurations of state and federal legislative districts
    to eliminate locked in, guaranteed career Republican and Democratic seats.
5. Reform the officeholder/lobbyist system to eliminate the revolving door and fund citizen
    lobbyists on basic issues of healthcare, education, consumer protection and the environment.
6. Support and drive to actuality the Move to Amend reformist agenda.
7. Overturn Republican voter suppression measures in key blue and purple states and fund
    massive voter registration, education and turnout to activate the huge share of
    non-participating citizens.
8. Restore civics courses in middle and high school curriculum so that all citizens have a basic
    understanding of  local and national government, its function and value and the imperative
    for citizen engagement.

Yes, I know, the above is virtually impossible.  But what is the alternative?  Incremental change hasn't worked. So, I guess the next option is a non-violent, peaceful revolution to transform our society into one that actually functions for the 99 Percent or at least something close to that.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

How Do Pipeline Politics Drive Our Syria Policy?

I've stated my case for staying out of the Syria mess.  It is a bottomless pit of nothing but bad stuff for the American people.  We've mostly avoided overthrowing despots around the world for very good reason; there are too many of them and when one goes away, others divide and multiply.  Our recent notable exception, Iraq did not end well, did it ?  Frankly, we have more history of overthrowing democratically elected or at least populist leaders than the former.  Evidence, Iran in the 50's, Chili and Nicaragua come to mind.

On every level, our intervention on purely moral or military grounds seems utterly stupid.  A limited attack will likely produce counterattacks.  Sucking us in to this morass more deeply.  It will more than likely engage Iran and Hezbollah.  Thus jeopardizing Israel and our own military forces. As Rep. Alan Grayson asks, why is any of this our business?  No other country among the world's 200 or so, excepting us and France, so far, appoints themselves world cops.  Who are we to self appoint in such a role.  We helped create the UN to take on such issues.
And why is diplomacy and exerting moral leadership as a peace/justice broker and peacemaker not even mentioned by either our pundit class or Administration officials as an alternative to killing for peace?

Lots of unanswered questions about Syria.  Who really launched the most recent chemical attacks?  The earlier ones investigated seem to implicate rebel factions.  The Russian investigation suggests that the latest was the responsibility of rebels too.  The Russians asked a really good question which seems beyond the capacity of our mainstream press.  Why would Assad launch poison gas against civilians in a newly regained territory controlled by his forces?
I don't know the answer but it is a helluva good question no one here is asking.   What would be the unintended but very likely consequences should we launch our killing/destruction machine?

But onto my main theme.  Two things are obvious but not publicly discussed by the chattering class nor the Administration.  First, natural gas is all the rage in energy capitalism  all over the U.S.  So it is also in the middle east, especially with countries fortunate enough to have abundant reserves in the ground to exploit or unfortunately, in need to depend on others for supplies.  The same phenomenon exists in Europe.   Second, economic relationships between countries are always a sub-text to political and military conflict.  They drive alliances and disagreements.  What is the economic sub-text in the case of Syria?  Why is this discussed nowhere in our media or the halls of Congress, at least publicly regarding the Syria situation ?

Economics are being discussed by investigative reporter for the Asian Times, Pepe Escobar.
He has discovered a recent Memorandum of Understanding between Syria, Iran and Iraq.  It deals with the creation of a gas pipeline to transport gas from fields in those countries to not only serve their needs, but also countries comprising the EU.  Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey are not part of this plan; in fact, their own plans for natural gas are competitive with Syria, Iraq and Iran.   Guess who aligns with the U.S. in the Syria crisis?  And are funding rebel factions in a big way?  You guessed it right.  Oh, and did I mention Russia's interests in supporting the current Syrian regime?  You guessed that right too.  They are all over the rush to exploit natural gas resources at home and abroad. 

This is complex and convoluted.  Way beyond my pay grade but one thing I've learned, there is always an economic agenda behind our military ventures.  I suggest you Google Pepe Escobar and make up your own mind how Pipeline Politics impact our response to the Syrian crisis.