2005-12-02 / Columnists

The Progressive

Random Ideas
By John Paul Culotta

When I began to reflect on what topic to pursue for this column, the number of issues of the day overwhelmed me. It was difficult to select a topic to explore. There have been numerous issues in the media these past few months. The war in Iraq, the elections in November, relief efforts in Pakistan and New Orleans, the fiftieth anniversary of the AFL-CIO, the riots in France, Supreme Court selections, and evolution have been receiving attention. How does a political and social analyst select? My solution is to give my thoughts on many topics.

Our president has answered the American people and congressional leaders who are opposed to our military conflict in Iraq. He states that Democratic politicians opposed to the war are rewriting history because they were made privy to the same intelligence reports that he was and supported him in his incursion into that bloodstained nation. This is partially true, however. No congressional leader was privy to the President’s daily intelligence reports. Faulty intelligence is a poor excuse for the mistake in the invasion of Iraq. Many of our European allies warned of the dangers. It is the President’s responsibility to have an efficient intelligence gathering apparatus.

After September 11, it was imperative that any deficiency in the agencies supplying information be corrected. President Bush’s actions based on faulty intelligence are not excusable. President Truman once said as he pointed to his desk “the buck stops here.” When our nation invaded Iraq, the Pentagon claimed no incendiary weapons were used against civilians. At the time, French and Italian media reported that the United States used incendiary weapons in a manner that was improper according to international law.

Civilians in Iraq were victims of the weapons. As I write this column, the Pentagon now has reversed its original assertions regarding incendiary weapons. As we all know, truth is always the first casualty of war. It is still disconcerting to realize that the nation I love behaves so disgracefully.

Detainees in Guantanamo Bay have been denied access to United Nations inspection because of the Bush administration’s refusal to allow the inspectors to speak to each detainee individually. Our president claimed he invaded Iraq because of Saddam Hussein’s disrespect to the desires of United Nations inspectors. It appears the administration feels might is right.

James Yee, a Muslim Army chaplain and West Point graduate, has written a book entitled “For God and Country, Faith and Patriotism Under Fire.” He was the chaplain in Camp Delta at Guantanamo Bay. He was accused of spying and was held in solitary confinement for seventy-six days when he questioned some military tactics. His wife considered suicide. The charges were dropped by the military and he resigned with an honorable discharge. Mr. Yee asks a remarkable question: “How can we expect nations to join us in our war against terror when we are denying the detainees the very rights we claim to be fighting for abroad?” Torture is being used by the new regime in Iraq. Why are we in Iraq if the legacy we bring is another unacceptable regime?

The nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court has caused many commentators to reflect on his views on abortion, the separation of church and state, and civil rights for the disabled. All of President Bush’s nominees to the high court have been strong advocates for corporate interests. Increasingly, workplace issues are being settled in our courts. Legislators should also reflect on the nominees’ views on the rights of labor to organize, workplace privacy and controls set by employers, and workplace compensation. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that meatpacking plants must pay workers for the time they spend preparing the workplace and themselves in order

to have a safe workplace and product. Workplace issues have for too long

not been part of the nation’s political agenda.

In November, New York City elected a mayor. New Jersey and Virginia elected governors. Californian voters voted against referendums proposed by their bodybuilder actor governor. This is democracy in action. Enormous sums of money were spent and this begs the question: Do we need campaign finance reform at all levels of government? My assertion is that true democracy cannot exist when only the powerful and wealthy can promote their ideas in the political arena. This nation needs to reform democracy here before exporting it abroad.

Residents of New Orleans are worried that the plans to rebuild the Crescent City will render it a living museum similar to Williamsburg, Virginia. They prefer a vibrant, lively, industrious city. There has not been a decision as to whether to reinforce the levees to withstand a category five hurricane. It is crucial that the residents of New Orleans be given this reassurance.

India and Pakistan have been bitter foes. Despite the past, it is encouraging that the recent earthquake in Kashmir has brought the two nations closer. India is aiding Pakistan in relief efforts. India and Pakistan should be encouraged by the west to settle their differences. More than one billion people live in the subcontinent and both India and Pakistan are nuclear powers.

Italian Americans are proud that President Bush has nominated Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court. Although I disagree with many of Mr. Alito’s political views, I am also proud that a son of Italian immigrants is deemed worthy of consideration. Some commentators felt it was inappropriate to categorize Alito as “Scalito” because he holds similar views of Justice Scalia. Italian American advocacy groups appropriately voiced their disapproval. Although our nation is multicultural, it is evident some ethnic groups still suffer some stigma. Some commentators have commented that for the first time in history, if Alito is selected, Catholics will have majority seats on the courts. Why should this type of comment be appropriate? When Clarence Thomas was nominated, the governor of Virginia had an objection because Justice Thomas was educated in Catholic schools. I pray for the day when nominees are judged because of their ability and credentials and not ethnic affiliations.

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