Blaming our troops? The real cause for the spread of intolerance in the Middle East

“Speak when you are angry – and you will make the best speech you ever regret”
Lawrence J Peter

If these links don’t make you angry, nothing will:

Blaming our Troops

Soldier had to apologize to the Afghan who eventually killed him

I am very angry, but I hope this isn’t a post I will regret. Paul Sperry, posting for the New York Post writes that Pentagon officials are blaming our troops. While Mr. Sperry only goes on to quote Joint Chiefs Chairman Martin Dempsey as saying “There’s a percentage [of attacks] which are cultural affronts”, he does not provide any real substantiation of his claim that the Pentagon is blaming our troops. He does state that the Pentagon has “stepped up Islamic sensitivity training” for our troops. And that is what really gets my goat. I am not certain that this or even Chairman Dempsey’s quote means the Pentagon is really blaming our troops. What I do know is that the so-called sensitivity training is indicative of this current administration’s approach to foreign policy and the Middle East and is wrong beyond comprehension.

I need someone to help me understand why we are tiptoeing around on eggshells. The last I checked we are in Afghanistan because they hosted, aided and abetted a terrorist group that pulled off the most horrific attack to occur on our soil. I think that gives us a free pass to not have to submit to their customs, especially if these beliefs are a direct affront to our own beliefs and freedoms. Again, I will point out that the United States has a presence in Afghanistan because their country hosted the attack I noted above. I don’t have an issue with being respectful of others. I am fortunate to work in a multi-national organization. I have friends and co-workers from Germany, Italy, India, Indonesia, Belgium, Spain, Brazil, the Dominican Republic and other locales spread across the globe. We all get along with each other. We all respect each other and many of us are friends outside of the workplace. We don’t demand that others give complete deference to whatever our own personal beliefs may be. Complete deference to others beliefs is obedience, not respect. We certainly don’t kill each other or advocate murder as an appropriate response to perceived affronts.

Instead of forcing our troops to submit to the religious customs of the country that hosted our attack, perhaps we should be spending time teaching the Afghans tolerance. Instead of making our troops put aside their own beliefs and forcing them to treat with deference customs that include oppression and humiliation of women, violence, classification of our troops and citizens as infidels to be slain, we should be demanding that they respect the customs of our men and women. Instead of promoting a society and beliefs that entail looking for a multitude of reasons to find and react to any affront, perhaps we should help them to understand how respect the views of others. Is that too much to ask?

Paul Sperry quoted General Sher Mohammad Karimi, the Afghan National Army chief of staff earlier this month as stating “both sides need to do more to teach foreign troops Islamic traditions and values to reduce the chance of violent reactions to cultural slights. It is our duty to teach this to them. Our indifference causes the incident.” Maybe someone should teach the Afghans that “violent reactions to cultural slights” are unacceptable behavior that will not be tolerated.

It is an absolute travesty that we are forcing our own men and women who put their lives on the line to submit to the teachings of Islam, and forcing them to give up their own freedoms. What happened to what we stand for – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equality for all? While our troops can’t be seen with a bible or wearing a cross, they have to handle the Koran with surgical gloves? Does the soldier doing repairs on a piece of equipment have to worry that while kneeling down to do repairs someone might see the bottoms of their shoes and thereby have grounds to kill them? The Muslims choose to fast, so I must fast as well or I am offending them? Our troops ought to be able to eat a full course meal whenever they want. Is it so farfetched to think that we are over there for no other reason than we were attacked without provocation and you know what, it offends us when you engage in practices representative of the bloodthirsty killers that came to the United States and slaughtered thousands of civilians? We can be considerate, but we should not put their beliefs in any way ahead of the freedoms and beliefs that we and our troops hold dear. Anything less is cowardice at best.

This type of wrongheaded, apologist thinking is rife in our current administration and puts people’s lives and loyalties in jeopardy, and is the kind of approach to diplomacy that has spread ever more intolerance in the Middle East and brought the entire area to the brink of a monumental war. We can not afford four more years of this blundering, inept attempt at diplomacy through capitulation. The only apology that should be required here is one from the President of United States to our troops and our people.

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“Two Different Paths For America”

Even the President agrees that the choice in the election is more than just political parties and candidates. He stated in his acceptance speech at the democratic convention that it will be a choice between two different paths for America. It is interesting that he followed that pronouncement by claiming that, “Ours is a fight to restore the values that built the largest middle class and the strongest economy the world has ever known”. Wow. Great rhetoric. I can only assume he is talking about the values of the WWI and WWII generations – one of which has famously been labeled “the Greatest Generation”. So here is the part that is challenging. I am pretty certain that generation doesn’t share any of the same “values” that the current administration and the Democratic party are touting.

Now, the President, as well as some of the earlier speakers went on to talk about sharing in pride and success, hard work and responsibility that gets rewarded – actually for a brief moment I thought the President was going to confess he had become a Republican, or at least a conservative. Heck, I thought, next he will start invoking God or the creator. Of course, we all know to our astonishment, he actually did. However, just saying something and believing, or acting on it are two different things. Ultimately, it was about the same old rhetoric, the same empty words, and the same tired arguments as always. In fact, if you take the time to look at this speech, it really is the same – the same as his other speeches in past elections, with the few added phrases noted above sprinkled in at a weak attempt to manage the poll results without totally abandoning the message of “from each according to their ability and to each according to their needs.”

Every election comes down to choices. And in this one, perhaps more than any other election I have experienced, the direction between candidates could hardly be more different. The Convention made it very clear that this election is a choice between a party led by President Obama that wants to keep on the same path, is delusional about whether we as a country are better off and wants to consolidate and centralize power and build dependency, and a party led by Mitt Romney who believes that our country needs a drastic change in direction including fiscal reform, a robust private economy and a democratic process.

Mitt Romney has a track record of success in the private sector, as a governor and his work with the Salt Lake City Olympics. Ironically, this seems to be one of the biggest issues that the democratic party has with him – success. I am not sure about you, but since one of the largest issues confronting us is the economy and jobs, I would very much prefer to see someone in a leadership position with both some experience and success in how business works. Say what you want, but Mr. Romney helped start a very successful business, and Bain Capital has a pretty darn good track record of success with the businesses that they have been involved with. This is a guy that fixes things. And I don’t believe that Mitt Romney is the kind of person who is running for office because he needs a career in Politics – he has a successful career. I believe Mitt Romney is running for President because he wants to make a difference and be a public servant. I think it also says a lot about the man to note that he didn’t take a salary from the state of Massachusetts while he was governor.

Contrast that with President Obama. The President has a record of success in …. well…. I guess he has been successful at getting elected and spending other people’s money. This is a man who has lived out the rock star life as President, making sure he has plenty of time for golf and work-life balance, while the first lady pays an entourage of planners almost $1.6 million of tax payers money. That is million in case you missed it the first time. Honestly, ask yourself, how concerned can this man be? $1.6 Million for people to arrange the first lady’s schedule? And he is screaming about income disparity and perks of the wealthy? I wonder how much we are paying for gardeners to maintain the first garden and brewers for the “home brew” the President is so proud to note is being brewed in the White House basement? This is a person that prior to his roles as President has never in his career been in a position where he was in charge of anything important, and certainly not where he has the all critical, “final word” – and unfortunately, he acts like he still isn’t. This President has spent the better part of his career spending and living off of other people’s money. A life that is worlds away from the lives of the job creators and business people of the country. No wonder the Republican Party has taken him to task over his position on small business and his ability to create job growth. No wonder almost any small business person you talk to believes the President places no real value in what they do, nor places any value in the business sector except as a source of income to be redistributed. Especially after his public position regarding who actually built the successful small businesses in this country.

President Obama is trying desperately to recover from his gaffe – “you didn’t build that” – and position himself as a friend of small businesses I have watched the “you didn’t build that” speech a number of times. The democrats claim it was a line taken out of context. Look, every small business owner out there worth his or her salt understands that you need raw materials and roads, and a population to sell to. To try and state that the road is what built the business is ridiculous at best. Every business owner out there also knows that you really need a product or service that is valued by customers, you need a plan on how to get that product or service into the hands of customers, you need the expertise to create an organization and the processes to support that product, and an almost unlimited drive for success and then most importantly; funds. You need financing to work the dream. I can not think of a single business owner I know who started off rich. The story is usually the same – an idea, long hours, borrowed money and low wages. And while the business is growing and paying suppliers and employees, the owner is working tirelessly and for next to nothing. When you watch the President work himself up before his infamous line is delivered, you see a man driving home a point he wanted to make – “you didn’t build that.” I have seen enough public speakers in my day to know this was not a line taken out of context, this was the President making a point. A point, that I do truly believe he would like to retract – not because he doesn’t believe it; on the contrary, because he does deeply believe it and has given us a glimpse at “the man behind the curtain” and what he holds in esteem.

Some other key points from the President’s address I want to touch on:
• The President indicates his budget proposal will reduce the deficit by $4 trillion. According to who? The Congressional Budget Office claims the President’s budget will add trillions to the deficit. Which is probably why it was voted down unanimously by both parties
• Europe’s Crisis must be contained – by spending beyond our means? Walter E. Williams noted on Townhall.com that the debt to GDP ratio of Greece is 160, Italy’s is 120 and Ireland is 104. The United State’s? 106. Higher than Ireland. That’s a little uncomfortable, isn’t it?
• Saving the auto industry – First it is a global industry in a global economy. He certainly didn’t save the entire auto industry. He let GM and Chrysler go bankrupt and then gave them a boat load of money. So they are still afloat and undoubtedly in a better position financially than before bankruptcy. And now the US citizens own $27 billion of GM stock that is worth roughly $10 million. So he allowed GM to restructure their debt, gave them tax payer dollars to work with and in return we own stock at a loss. Sorry, I am not very impressed.
• Romney isn’t ready for diplomacy because he insulted “our closest ally” by expressing some concerns over reports of readiness for the London Olympics. I am not sure that is all that insulting, first of all, especially from someone who happens to have some experience at pulling off the Olympics. An insult is to speak with contemptuous rudeness or insolence, or to affront. Once again, I am sorry, I am not seeing that.

But perhaps the most telling information that came out of the democratic convention was the now infamous vote to put God back in the democratic party platform. Not for the reasons most of you are thinking. This particular vote at the convention was an unvarnished look what democracy looks like to the President and the democratic party . They asked for a vote three times, and when the vote was clearly short of the 2/3 majority required, the party just went ahead and did whatever they wanted anyway…despite the expressed will of their own party.

The President was right about one thing last week – it will be a choice between two different paths for America. I know which one I will choose. It won’t be for the party that chose the old communist and Marxist slogan “Forward” for their own.

Republican Values? Or American values?

Thought that might get your attention. The message coming out of the ruling party’s camp in recent days has been that we should all be dismissive of the individuals that spoke at the Republican Convention. Think about that for a moment. What is it exactly that is so “bad” about all these people?

• That they are “successful”?
• That they are articulate?
• That they seem to be caring and involved?
• That they are daughters and sons of immigrants – some first or second generation?
• That they had strong supportive words for family and the family members that positively influenced them?
• That they are fiscally responsible and in case after case, righted budget deficits. Many times without raising taxes?
• That they are polite?
• That most, perhaps all, have a religious affiliation?
• Many were businessmen and women, or were sons and daughters of entrepreneurs?
• That the messages they received from family and mentors when growing up was one of hope, dreams, drive and accomplishment?
• That they have held jobs and earned incomes?
• A positive attitude that we can make things better?
• That many were minorities?

Am I missing something here? These would seem to me to be qualities to emulated, not to be embarrassed of, right? I mean really, who among you thinks, “You know, I really hope my child doesn’t have any economic success when they grow up?” Or perhaps, “I hope my child grows up to be a self- centered jerk and I sure hope they are rude. And, wow, that whole optimism thing really gets on my nerves, you know? Actually, I hope they never have job – I mean really, the dream is to have someone give you the money. You know, someone who actually cares about us?”

For three days, I heard people relate positive vision, inspirational stories. Not how “someone” is trying to keep you down. I heard intelligent young people telling me how they took action to make things better in states and districts where they come from. I heard about people who came from humble backgrounds and through the efforts of grandparents and parents and family made their way to success and that wanted something more for their children and were willing to work for it. Not the language of hate and division. I heard stories of people that were not defined by race, gender religion or social class, but by the visions they had and the passion in their heart to achieve.

I surely can’t imagine the Democrats they would have issues with the fact that many speakers were of a differing ethnicity or female, right? I would hope the fact that it was a diverse group would be uplifting to everyone. Where else in the world could we see something like that?

Or is the issue simply that they are all Republican? Ok, stop hooting and hollering here. The point isn’t that they are Republicans. The point is Republican or Democrat is simply a political viewpoint. The point is that if you do accept all those qualities I listed at the beginning of this discussion – success, caring, responsible, and so on – as “positive”, and further, if you accept that those are qualities we would hope to see in our children, then really the only thing that is “bad” about this individuals, is that they are “Republican”. So does the sum of whether you are a good or a bad person, whether you lie or tell the truth, comes down not to content, not to the “body of work” of your life, but simply, which political party you belong to?

A number of news sites and political wonks have denigrated the group of individuals that participated in the Republican Convention, being so crass as to use terms like “trotting out brown faces” and other racially charged statements to try to take away from the accomplishments of these men and women. Suggesting that they accomplished nothing, and that only through tokenism are they in the position to speak. Essentially suggesting that they “didn’t build that”. Really? That is the legacy you want for your party? If you are diverse and a success, but you don’t vote for my party, you only got to where you are because of “special favors”, not because of your abilities. That is pretty offensive.

The news we have been getting from the Democratic Party is dominated by language divisiveness and of meanness. Ok, let me say there are some jerks out there on the left and right. I think we all know that, and most of the people out there tend to try to filter out those on the far left and the far right. They are extreme views, and yet they can be jerks. But I think a party chairperson is selected for the purpose of being representative of that party. These aren’t accidental; there is some deliberation that goes into this selection. The individual selected by the Democrats is one of the meanest, nastiest people I have heard in a long while. This individual is so far to the fringe, she has been taken to task by CNN media for her views and citations. If you haven’t already seen this clip from CNN, check out this link of Debbie Wasserman’s view for a very interesting view as to why accurately quoting someone or telling the truth doesn’t matter. Really?! The types of appointments can tell you a lot about the person. What does this tell you about our current President and the administration? I have yet to hear this person say a kind word about anyone. And the same goes for a positive word – everything is negative.

Ultimately, I hope everyone makes informed decisions about candidates during something as important as a national election for our President. But there is a huge volume of how much a candidate represents me, which in the media speak of the day means how much the candidate seems to be like me. Go back and look at the qualities I listed at the top. Do those feel like qualities that represent you? I know that they resonate for me. My spouse and I are the children of immigrants. There are entrepreneurs and employees in our family. My own grandfather started as a janitor and studied chemistry books in the evening so he could learn enough to work his way up to a Plant Superintendent position so my family would have some of the opportunities that we have today. I hope that next generation has that sort of opportunity and our children exhibit those very qualities demonstrated by the speakers.

I would love to hear the stories of your families and positive influences they have had on you.

The American dream is worth saving – together we can still fix it …

Ok, you know I am wound up if you are getting something like this from me. In general, for quite some time I have avoided getting into what I felt were often, heated, emotional, non-logical arguments over political parties and candidates. Let’s face it – I, like hopefully most people, cannot be adequately or accurately portrayed by a single party line. However, this year something happened. Actually, the “something” has been happening for some time, gradually creeping into our lives as we were seduced by the apathy brought on when things are pretty darn good. I am actively, vocally involved this campaign, because I believe this particular election is the most critical; the most important, election in 150 years. I am convinced we are at a crossroads. The economy is important, and a fundamentally powerful part of the overall equation. But this is about more. This about whether we remain a free, democratic country. Whether we will continue to be a land of opportunity for all people regardless of their social status or demographics. A country that values hard work and families and caring. This is about whether the American dream is finally placed in a box and buried out back.
Four years ago a new President was voted into office with the promise of “hope” and “change”. He was not my choice, but he was the President of the United States of America. I am first an American. As I mentioned above, I am not described by a party. Believe it or not, I have been a registered Republican, Democrat and Independent at different times in my life. So regardless of whether I voted for the new President , after the election I was going on with my life, with some hope, however slim, that maybe, just maybe, some of the promise and rhetoric about “reaching across the aisle” and bi-partisan approaches would actually be realized. Perhaps progress to reign in a financial sector ruled by cronyism would be made. Lip service to small businesses would give way to positive actions. Because only through bi-partisan discussion, agreements and lawmaking can you truly solve problems that unite a country instead of divide it. This is important.
Results and actions speak for me far louder than words and always have. What is clear to me is we have a government that is more divisive than any other we have seen. A ruling party that spews such hate and vitriol, and lives under a double standard for appropriate behavior. That promotes such a general meanness and pettiness. A ruling party that derives its power from cronyism, fear and dependency. A ruling party that promotes resentment of success and hard work, and thrives on and encourages the divisions that occur when fanning the flames of misunderstanding. A ruling party that despises the thought of a family or a community working together. A ruling party that drives censorship of thoughts and opinions. They will decide what we should think, who should get what and how it should be distributed.
I believe this strongly. So strongly, I am breaking my code of silence and privacy. I am joining the local Republican Party Office and I don’t know what all I can do, but I am going to do so something. Yes, I have long working hours. I travel a lot and don’t get to spend enough time with my family. But for the next two months I am going to do something – stuff envelopes, make coffee, answer questions. And since I am breaking my silence, I am going to go so far as to ask each of you to do the same. This is too important to sit back on a sofa and bellyache about what is happening – we have to do something constructive. And I will try to do it in such a way as to be inclusive. To spout insults and vitriol back is a losing, partisan proposition. To get people to come together on the issue of a United States of America is our objective, not to get a quick “feel good” over having a better insult than the “other guys”.
The Republican Party set the right tone at the convention, and we heard from a number of exciting, articulate, successful and yes – inspirational – young governors, senators and congressmen, and finally – businesspeople! I watched this group of people and was encouraged and energized. There are people out there like me. That believe in the things I do. Which raised the question – what am I going to do about it? Sit back and watch, complain and hope “they” all go out and fix things? I don’t think so. I have to do my part, and here is why. If in each city, suburb, or community in America, there is one person as concerned as I am, and we can fire up 10 or 12 people to take up the cause, we can keep the American Dream from dying before our very eyes. And I am convinced that if I do nothing; if we do nothing; and this ruling party is re-elected, all the hopes and dreams I have worked so hard for, all dreams I have for a better life for my child, for a good life for my family….all of those die. We can’t let that happen. And, to parody Patton’s quote about “at least you won’t have to say, I shoveled shit in Iowa”; when my grandchildren ask me “grandpa, what did you do in the great election of 2012”, I won’t have to say, “Well, I drank Lite beer on my sofa and complained about how bad things were”.
It is easy to find your local offices. Just type in “find my local Republican headquarters” into a search browser. Or start at the state level by your state plus “gop.org” (E.g. http://www.pagop.org or http://www.azgop.org and so on). Give them a call and get started.
I hope you are with me.