“Canada! Canada! Canada!”

The year is 1810 and Henry Clay of Kentucky is elected to the House of Representatives.  He has just finished serving two terms in the Senate.  He is also immediately elected Speaker of the House which is unheard of these days… a newly elected Congressmen to hold such a high office.  At that time, there were ongoing problems with Great Britain and war hawks were beginning to circle.  Clay formed a close-knit circle of allies.  The issues of the time were impressment of US sailors, seizing US ships, and the British encouraging Native American unrest.  The war hawks also wanted Great Britain kicked out of North America for good.  What did Britain still have that the US wanted?  Canada.  The  phrase “Canada! Canada! Canada’ became the rallying cry for war, and the war hawks were determined to achieve that goal by any means necessary.  As events unfolded, war was officially declared in 1812.  Though the US invaded Canada several times, each campaign usually ended in disaster or just a simple retreat.  In the end, Canada stayed British.  As for the other issues, they became mute points, and the Native American uprisings were put down. (1812)

Now, let’s forward to today’s time.  The war hawks are beginning to sharpen their claws once again and starting to circle.  The public is war-weary after the Iraq War and the ongoing war in Afghanistan.  Yet, they don’t seem to be hearing it.  The war hawks (which are mostly Republicans… listen to some of the Republican candidates for President on this issue) have the eyes set on Iran.  So instead of “Canada! Canada! Canada!” becoming the rallying cry for war, it’s now “Iran! Iran! Iran!” for these politicians, and they could care less about the consequences of such acts.  The US and other western nations (along with Israel) are worried (and possibly scared) about Iran getting a nuclear weapon.  Israel has threatened a preemptive strike in order to stop it from happening.  It is difficult to believe it would be successful since Israel does not possess the proper equipment to reach the main facility in Iran… some of it lying far below ground.  President Obama has told the Israeli government not to launch a preemptive strike though has sent a message saying the US and the western nations would stand firm against Iran having a nuclear weapon that it could use on Israel or any other nation (including the US).

New, tougher sanctions are in place to deter the Iranian leaders from developing a nuclear weapon.  This is all part of the larger tensions we’ve been having with Iran in the nation.  (Previous entry)  Going to war should always be used as a last resort instead of a first.  All options should be considered, and we must determine what would determine success.  We must also think in terms of the future and about our security at home.  Would it help strengthen anti-American sentiment around the world by having us invade another sovereign nation?  It might do more harm than good by the end of the ordeal… even if we were successful in reaching whatever our goal is.  And it’s not the politicians that would be fighting this war.  They just get to make the decision and then send others off to do it for them.

There is a generational-gap in place in Iran.  There’s the generation of my parents… who basically led the 1979 Revolution which overthrew the Shah (which we placed in power in the 1950s) and brought about the Iran we know today… which is isolated from the rest of the world except from groups like Hamas and Hezbollah.  With sanctions having been in place, Iran’s economy hasn’t grown much at all.  A new generation is now coming up… that of my generation… and with the advent of technology, these people are seeing what else is in the world and they can get news and information from other sources than state-controlled media outlets.  Yes, Iran is one of those countries that tries to stop/block the internet and others forms of western-media from getting into the country, but they aren’t always successful at it, and it does seep in.  The younger generation does want to peacefully coexist within the rest of the global community.  President Obama recently went so far as to send a message to reach out to the actual people of Iran saying that the US is with them and they want them to be part of the global community under peaceful terms rather than me at war with each other and that the Iranian government needs to tear down the “electronic curtain” that it has in place to try to keep out outside media information/outlets.

With the tensions running higher than normal between Israel and Iran, a man decided to do something about it.  He decided to make a message to the Iranian people and sent it to them using the internet.  He got immediate responses to his message of peace and love.  (CNN article)  His overall message “Iranians, we will never bomb you, we ‘heart’ you.”  A simple yet powerful message.  His message has been mostly received by kindness from Iranian citizens and even from other Israelis though there have been a few negative responses, as well.  It was a step in the right direction, in my opinion.  The political leaders can’t seem to make headway, but maybe just the average people can do it.  In their country, they don’t get a say in who controls their government.  Sure… they “elect” a President, but he has no real power there.  The Ayatollah has all the power and does what he wants to do.  But the people of Iran are getting unhappy with the way their government rules over them and has basically isolated them from the outside world.  During the Arab Spring in 2011, the people of Iran attempted to stand up to their government, but they were thwarted by the military.  Though President Obama says that we stand with the Iranian people, he wasn’t making that type of bold declaration or trying to help them at that time when they needed it more than ever.

So as I sit here and continue to read the book on the War of 1812, and keep seeing the war cry “Canada! Canada! Canada!”, I can’t help but to hear the same type of cry now from today’s war hawks.  “Iran! Iran! Iran!” should not be a cry for war.  It should be a cry to the people of that country that we will not turn a blind eye to them and that their future is in their hands.  If their own parents could overthrow a government, why can’t they do it?  Maybe… or hopefully… we’ve learned from our past mistakes.  And I’m not just referencing the War of 1812, but also with not supporting them last year when they tried to rise up against their authoritarian government.

By the time the War of 1812 was declared by the US, it’s main reasons were already nullified.  But because of the slow communications of the time, no one here knew about it until after we had declared war.  Today’s communications are a lot faster, so hopefully we can use that to our advantage this time around.  Talks between Israel and Iran have started, but are only at the beginning.  The US should get involved with them, as well.  At least try to start a dialogue to open the lines of communications so that maybe we can avoid a war over something that is misunderstood.  Even during the Cold War (especially after the Cuban Missile Crisis), there were direct talks between the US and the Soviet Union so that war could be avoided… especially nuclear war.  I also find it interesting that only one country has used a nuclear weapon for offensive reasons… the US when it dropped the bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  Out of all the other countries that have nuclear capabilities, none of them have ever even used them.  Pakistan and India have come close a few times over their history, but have backed away from the brink.  Cooler heads must prevail in this situation.  The war hawks need to be silenced (unlike 2003 and the war in Iraq).  This is not the time to launch into anything without thinking it through.  Sure, Iran should not have a nuclear weapon, but an outright war probably won’t accomplish the end goal.  It would probably just fuel their reasons for needing it all the more.  If we don’t learn from our own history, that war cry from 1812 is going to be heard again, and though the nation might be different, the end result could be the same.

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Persian Rug

LINKS:
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“1812: The War That Forged A Nation”

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Stare decisis

This entry really isn’t “for” or “against” anything.  Rather it’s to pose some deeper questions for you to consider.  These questions came to me after I had finished watching the movie “The Conspirator” which is based on the military trial of Mary Surratt.  For those who don’t know history (or at least don’t know American History that well), Mary Surratt was one of those found guilty of conspiring to kill President Abraham Lincoln, Vice President Andrew Johnson, and Secretary of State William Seward.  She was the first woman to be publicly executed in the US.  Her rights as a US citizen were violated.  She was not given a fair trial or a jury of her peers.  Instead, it was a military tribunal that would bring about her demise despite their being enough evidence for reasonable doubt.  But she was ruled an enemy combatant, and those in charge wanted to make sure people paid the price in the assassination of Lincoln.  Mostly, the only thing Mary Surratt was guilty of was that the conspirators (her son accused of being one as well… later found innocent in a civil trial by a jury of Northerners and Southerners) was that they convened at her boarding house.  Whether she actually knew what was being discussed is anyone’s guess.

That all happened in 1865.  Now let’s move up a year to 1866.  The Supreme Court ruled in Ex Parte Milligan [71 U.S. (4 Wall.) 2] that the application of military tribunals to citizens is unconstitutional when civilian courts are still operational.  (click here)    By this ruling, Mary Surratt should have had a civilian trial and not been subjected to a military tribunal at all.  So why is all of this relevant to anything?  Let’s flip up now to the 21st century and the War on Terror.  Since this began after the attacks on 9/11, we have arrest and imprisoned countless individuals that have been suspect in being tied to terrorist organizations (such as al Qaida).  I’m not going to place innocence or guilt on any of them as I do not know the circumstances of their arrests and whatnot; however, it is plausible that some were accused of terrorist activities by others (especially in Afghanistan where tribal allegiance is key).  Under the administration of President George W. Bush, these individuals were subject to trial in a military tribunal by reason that they were terrorists… enemy combatants.  Then-Senator Barack Obama campaigned against the use of military tribunals and suggested civilian courts; however, since becoming President, he has upheld the strategy used by President Bush.

So why military tribunals and not civilian court as per the 1866 ruling?  One could argue that because most of the terrorist are from other countries that the 1866 Supreme Court ruling doesn’t apply to them.  But what about those that have been arrested that are US citizens (yes, there have been some over the years)?  A military tribunal is a way to “railroad” the case since it plays by different rules than a civilian court would do.  One major thing comes into play when talking about civilian courts… a trial by a jury of peers and human fallibility.  I consider it one thing since they both go together.

A couple of years ago, I was selected to sit on a jury in a case involving attempted armed robbery.  The jury needed a unanimous verdict to send the defendant free or to convict him.  After hearing both sides of the case, we began to deliberate.  Remember that under US law (US Constitution… referenced in Amendments 5, 6 & 11), a defendant is innocent until proven guilty.  When we first took our vote in the jury room, some of us voted innocent and some of us voted guilty.  We began to discuss the evidence that was presented to us in the trial, and by the end, we were one vote short of convicting the man.  The one person who still thought that he was innocent held firm.  As a result, we were a hung jury and the trial had to go through again with a different jury.  Was he guilty or innocent?  To me, the evidence seemed to think that he was.  Does that mean he was?  Not at all.  Innocent people have been found guilty of crimes they haven’t done before and are let out of jail years after they were incarcerated.  In some cases, a person’s innocence is found out after they have been put to death by the state even.  The opposite has also happened where a guilty person has gone free for one reason or another.  This goes back to what I called “human infallibility” that I mentioned earlier.  Military tribunals have a different code of conduct than a civilian trial and no jury of peers.  Human infallibility still exists but only to the extent that those presiding over the tribunal have already made up their minds… and if the person is seen as “evil” enough, the entire proceeding could be weighted to find a guilty verdict… whether the person actually is or not.

So now a two-pronged question.  Should those accused of being terrorists (or links to terrorist organizations) from other countries be subject to the 1866 Supreme Court ruling?  And what about those that are US citizens?  Concerning the latter question, the answer would seem to be quite simple.  The ruling in 1866 would seem to apply that if they are US citizens (even if deemed an enemy combatant) that they are still to be guaranteed a trial in a civilian court.  The more complex answer comes to the former question.  When we, as civilians, travel to a foreign nation, we are subject to their laws and their justice system.  The same goes for any person that travels to the US from another nation.  And I do realize that there is a difference between speeding on a highway, murdering someone, and committing an act of terror.  This goes to a question that I raised in a couple of blog entries (here and here) … What constitutes an act of terror?  Going beyond a dictionary definition, there gets to be several muddled interpretations.  What can history teach us in this situation with this kind of question?  How far (if at all relevant) does the 1866 Supreme Court ruling go?  Where is it that we draw the line as a society?

SITE NOTE:
I want to wish all of you a happy and safe new year.  We are already geared up for the 2012 elections and ready for things to begin in earnest. Make sure to check out those pages as they will be updated as things unfold.

Remember Me

“The weak can never forgive.  Forgiveness is the attribute to the strong.”  Gandhi~

The images and the video are still fresh in my memory.  I can still picture the blue sky without any clouds that morning when I was walking into class ten years ago.  Events were already unfolding, but I still did not know yet as to the overall devastating affects.  Even today, a tear still comes to my eye as I think back to that day, and it’s immediate aftermath.  Shock and tears were all that I could find.  The entire day just seemed completely surreal.  And as shock wore off, the anger began to show.  I, like many Americans, wanted heads to roll.  We wanted those who had any part of that awful day.

But here I sit 10-years later as a changed man.  I was but a young man when this all happened, and I knew not of the world that I existed in.  In the past decade, I have broadened my understanding of the world and of the various peoples that inhabit it much like I do.  The animosity that I once held has dissolved though still always questioning and always vigilant.  All that exists now are the tears that come whenever I still see footage from that day and the memorial services that are done every year.  Back in 2001, the emotions were raw and frayed as we came together as a nation and as a people.  We huddled together near any television we could and watched the events unfold before us.  We were there for each other.  We comforted each other.  And we hugged each other just a bit more.  I don’t think I had ever heard my college campus so quiet as I did that day.

“We must become the change we want to see.” Gandhi~

Our lives have moved on, but we haven’t forgotten.  And for those of us who lived through it, we never will.  We will not forget the people who were killed instantly, or the people that were trapped and had no way to escape.  We will not forget those that rushed into the buildings to help people out though they, themselves, never did.  We will not forget those at the Pentagon who rushed to the aid of their fellow coworkers.  And we will not forget the passengers of Flight 93 who fought back for control of their plane before letting it do any more harm.  These aren’t just names or a picture of a pretty face.  These are our countrymen.  These are our neighbors, our coworkers, our family, and our friends.  And in every instance that day, we proved what it meant to be an American.  We showed that our sense of community ran deep and out weighed anything that was taking place.

As we pass this 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, we must look toward the future while always remembering the past.  The events of that day should not consume us, but motivate us.  We should be more civil with each other and more tolerant of other cultures.  It is not an “us vs them” mentality that should define how we think and view the world, and stereotypes should be forgotten.  We are all one with the planet that we call home.  Let us bring about positive change that we so yearn to see.  Let us remember the unity that we shared for it shouldn’t be fleeting but something more permanent.

Our nation was attacked ten-years ago.  The events of that day have been burned into our minds and can always evoke an emotional response.  But as we set foot from this time and place, we must not lose faith in ourselves and each other.  The extremists that want to do us harm would like us to be against each other.  Maybe it’s time that we show them how their actions bring us closer together.  We should always believe, deep within each of us, that tomorrow will be better than the day before.  And as we get farther and farther away from that day, this unity must get stronger and stronger.  We will always remember what happened, the emotions we felt, and the lessons we learned.  But we must not forget who we are deep within our souls.  And as we pay solemn tribute to the lives that were lost, let us take pride in their actions… in their courage.

We will always remember…

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.”Gandhi~

Radicalism

As the week draws ever closer to the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, it is not difficult for me to sit and ponder.  The main problem is that there seems to be no answer to the questions I seek answers to.  In the aftermath of the attacks, we launched a war on terrorism and now find ourselves embroiled in conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and several other places around the world.  This is all in the name of fighting terrorists.  And any time there is an attack of some kind here at home…. whether it be a shooting rampage or something even more severe, we immediately start asking if this was an act of terrorism.  I find it interesting how are mind jumps to the conclusion immediately and then settles back into other possible answers as more information usually becomes available.  Even in the immediate aftermath of the shooting that injured Congresswoman Gabriel Giffords (D-AZ), the media was already wondering if the shooter was linked to al Qaida.  Now this isn’t to say that there haven’t been times when there has been a domestic terrorist attack in the US.  I’m sure most of us remember the Fort Hood shootings.

In the wake of the 9/11 attacks (and it still takes place today), Muslims and Muslim Americans face discrimination based on nothing more than stereotypes.  As if they all had something to do with it or even condone it.  They seem to have had the stereotype fall upon them that we would put on the radical fundamentalists that carried out the attacks.  But I don’t believe in such stereotypes, and it still amazes me how many people can just toss out rational, logical thought and believe in such things.  That would be the same everyone thinking that all Christians are terrorists out to destroy those who don’t agree with them because of The Crusades.  And has anyone stop to think for a moment that the guy who blew up a federal building in Oslo, Norway and then went to an island full of kids and starting killing them unmercifully was an extremist Christian? Yeah… the extremes go both ways.  But you don’t manage to still hear the same rancor that came after the attacks on 9/11.  Maybe that’s because it was done in another country.  But what about the Oklahoma City bombing?  That was done by an American on American soil… and had no religious affiliation to it whatsoever.

Most people in the world hold their personal religious beliefs close to themselves.  And most people with even half a brain don’t follow every word to the last letter of their religion.  There is usually some discrepancies when it comes to each individual.  And most are willing to let others have their beliefs so long as it doesn’t inflict upon anyone else.  Sadly, though, it’s the radical fundamentalists on the extreme wings of the religions that have the loudest voices and have the ability to manipulate those parts of the population that are not educated or at least not wanting to think for themselves.  And as a result, all people that follow that religion are grouped into that stereotype even if they haven’t and never would do anything to the extreme and just want to live the simple lives with their neighbors as they have been doing.

Does that mean their aren’t religious fundamentalists out there that are willing to harm us?  Not at all.  We must always remain ever vigilant, but we must also remember that it’s usually not the average person that we must watch out for.  Rather, it’s those that can’t think for themselves and must be told what to think and when to think it… and how they should feel.  Yes, it is hard to identify such people from the average person, but that still does not give us the right to treat any group of people under an umbrella stereotype.  We all know that we wouldn’t like it if it was done to ourselves, and it’s always possible for us to be lumped into something simply because of an overreaching stereotype.

Hate can be a powerful tool… and even more so with the tools of religion.  Anything can be drastically warped to fit into the minds of those people who are looking for someone to blame their problems on.  The problem is that the population has to be willing to step up, ask questions, and not believe everything that they hear and read.  The radical fundamentalists that are trying to hijack people’s minds and use it then to terrorize the general population are betting on us not being able to do it.  When we lose the ability to think for ourselves… when we lose that ability to ask questions… when we succumb to grouping an entire group of people (based on religion, race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, etc) into one generic, overreaching stereotype, then we have fallen into the abyss that the extremists have wanted us to fall into.  And it’s at the moment that the leaders of those movements can warp minds and bend any information to fit their overall goals.

So let me ask you this as we are now in our tenth year in our ‘war on terror’.  Is it actually possible to win this war or is it just to make the general population feel good that something is being done?  And how do we know that we’ve won or lost?  Is it possible to root out and defeat all terrorism in the world?  Is the previous question a sign that we are bringing terror to a part of the world?  And this leads to the ever-bigger question… What is terrorism and a terrorist?  How do we define these two broad words?

As we approach the tenth anniversary, we need to take a good long look at how the past ten-years have unfolded.  Are we a fair and just people?  Have we made the right decisions along the way (even if we have killed the al Qaida leader that orchestrated the attacks)?  Have we developed our communities and our society in a way that we are inclusive of those that aren’t just similar to us but to also those that are different?  Do we attempt to broaden our understanding of those things that are different from our own… whether it be other religions, other countries, or other cultures?

And though we must remain ever vigilant against those that would do us harm, I still feel that it is important to not lose our overall core values.  Each of us has the right to be judged on the person we are and not by the actions of others.  The radical fundamentalists want to group everyone into two categories… for or against.  There is no middle ground.  In regards to religious fundamentalists, this doesn’t just come from those that are Muslim.  It also comes from Christians and Jews.  Fundamentalism is never based with one group and not another.  All groups have their fundamentalists that are willing to go to the extremes to get what they want.  It’s up to those of us that can think for ourselves… those of us they consider moderates (or just the average person) to make sure that our voice gets louder so that their evil messages can’t gain any ground.

So let me leave you with one last question through all of this.  How can we protect ourselves from any and all radical fundamentalists, or is it even possible?  As I said at the beginning, there are no easy answers to the questions that I am asking.  But then again, maybe there aren’t supposed to be easy answers in this situation.  For there to be then there would be no overall conflict and no reason for this entire entry.  As we continue to move forward, we must always be willing to ask ourselves the tough questions, to not follow blindly, to shape our society in a way that we can be inclusive, and we must not hate.  For as it has been said by Buddha, “Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule.”

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