2006-09-01 / Columnists

The Progressive

American Know How
By John Paul Culotta


When I was a youngster, I was privileged to have taken trips to the Sicilian city where my mother was born and raised. I had relatives in France and Italy. While on my European trips, I met people from many countries. In Italy it was not uncommon to meet other children whose parents emigrated from Italy. There were people from Argentina, Venezuela, West Germany (Germany was divided then kids), Canada, Australia, and parts of Africa.

I enjoyed these trips to Europe. During the fifties and sixties the United States was viewed as a beacon of material progress. To be from the United States was to be from a country where the electrical grid supplied power on a consistent and reliable basis. Repairs were made promptly. Trains ran on time. Telephone service was reliable and inexpensive.

All Americans, except for people of color, could enjoy it and live with ingenuity and hard work, a life of reasonable prosperity. Most foreigners were more aware of our racial divide than most white Americans. Yes, there was corruption and poor workmanship during those decades but the United States was a world leader when it cam to living standards. American know-how was a marvel.

As Americans, we could alter the world around us. Civil Rights may have been denied to many of our citizens but many of us were resolved to render racial discrimination and exploitation to the dustbin of history. Although racial disparities still exist, we have made great strides in that aspect of our common social and economic life. Progressives always maintain that justice must be color blind and all of us achieve better economic conditions when our prosperity is shared by America citizens. Europeans recognized that Americans' attempts to resolve social evils and admired the white and black Americans who fought for social justice.

A few weeks ago, our print and electronic media celebrated the 50th anniversary of the commencement of the building of our Interstate Highway system. President Eisenhower began the project with bipartisan support. In less than a decade, most of the system was completed. It appeared that there was no project too big for the people of the United States.

When President Kennedy made a pledge to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade, many thought this was wishful thinking. I was in Cefalu, Sicily in 1968 when Americans in the name of all humanity achieved the dream of a landing on the moon. It was a thrill to see people from many countries feeling an affinity to the United States that day. Many Europeans were opposed to our foreign policy especially in Southeast Asia but felt culturally aligned to American life. Our cinema, music, literature conquered the hearts and souls of many across the globe.

Europeans believed Americans were nave but were people capable of achieving what was difficult for many- a society that guaranteed an economic prosperity for all, an infrastructure to be admired, and a willingness to accomplish scientific and engineering feats on a grand scale.

This summer when I write this column I am concerned I will not be able to accomplish the task because of a genuine fear of a brownout and/or blackout. We have witnessed ten days of hardship for many neighborhoods when electric service was not available. We witnessed blackouts in California and Saint Louis, Missouri. We witnessed a tragic accident in Boston caused by shoddy workmanship of the Big Dig. There appears to be no end to shoddy work and corruption by corporations in the cleanup in the Gulf Region.

Ground Zero is still mostly wasteland. Why? It has been almost five years since the attack. We were capable of building the Empire State Building in less than two years.

My cable company is encouraging me to put my telephone, Internet connection, and television service on one line and bill. It would be cheaper. I hesitate. Why? A few days ago my Internet connection and television service was out because of a storm. If my telephone service came from the same provider, I would not have been able to phone my elderly mother and father in-law.

What happened to American know-how?

I need to address the editor of this papers and his contention that "Culotta believes that neither Hezbollah nor Hamas are terrorist organizations." This is far from the truth. I understand that Hezbollah has killed Americans. I also believe there are sleeper cells within our borders. Organizations and nation states have used violence to secure political, social, and economic objectives. It is preferable to use the tactics of Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela to achieve the same objectives. Progressives (or the pejorative Liberals) do not exclude the use of military strength to achieve objectives. The debate is: is military strength achieving the objectives?

All the John Wayne and Rambo rhetoric and the spilling of blood by the military forces of this nation and Israel's have not brought peace to the Middle East. It is ironic that Bush/ Cheney state frequently, "We do not negotiate with terrorists-we defeat them." Evidence indicates both this nation and Israel have behind the scene discussions with both Hamas and Hezbollah. (These discussions indicate both groups have given Israel a de facto recognition.)

On August 15, 2006 a pro-Israeli newspaper, The New York Sun, reported: "Israel will try to negotiate a prisoner swap to secure the release of the two soldiers whose kidnapping by Hezbollah last month set off the war." Please note Israel's stated reason to the world for the incursion into a sovereign nation- where only thirty percent of the population supported Hezbollah- was to secure the release of the same two soldiers. It was not because Hezbollah was firing rockets into Israel. The missiles came into Israel after the Israelis went into Lebanon. Again, another changing of the objective of a war when facts present themselves to be different. Remember WMDS! In Lebanon today most of the Lebanese now view Hezbollah in a more favorable light. My question to the editor of this newspaper and all who approved the Israeli campaign is: did the use of military force secure a safer Israel or did the incursion put that nation in a more precarious position? History will be the judge.

The Irish Republican Army had a political and violent terrorist competent. Many acts of violence occurred in Great Britain and Northern Ireland by the military wing of the IRA. Their objective was to separate a part of the United Kingdom and make it part of another nation. Members of the royal family, the prime minister and politicians were targets. The military terrorist wing of the IRA murdered a member of the royal family, Lord Mountbatten. The IRA used the Republic of Ireland as a base for their operations. The Irish government (for political reasons) for years did little to prevent this. How can we expect the weak government of Lebanon to undergo serious operations to disarm Hezbollah when the majority of the population now supports the organization? As I stated, military force needs to be used when objectives are clear and secure peace and make the population safer from those who wish to destroy us. History demonstrates that peace often comes from negotiation The British negotiated with the IRA and the Spanish government in negotiating with ETA. If negotiations achieve a better result, why not use that tactic?

Reply to the Editor's Desk August 11 Issue:

To Mr. Howard Schwach, the editor of this newspaper, it is true that the New York Times has recently had credibility problems. Your contention was that the reporting of the incursion into Lebanon by Israel was biased in favor of Hezbollah and not that the reporting was inaccurate. It is not the business of any newspaper in this nation to slant the news but the papers in this city that have consistently been biased have been the New York Sun and the New York Post. Their support of the futile use of violence by Israel (with the support by the fanatical religious right led administration in Washington -the same administration that bought a religious symbol-the cross on Mt. Soledad, California and make it federal property to be protected forever (despite numerous judicial rulings that such an action is unconstitutional) was evident throughout the invasion campaign. The New York Times reported the news from all points of view.

Lebanon is the only country in the region that has a large minority (30%-35%) that is Christian. Why is this a Moslem-Jewish Issue? The destruction of that nation which was attempting to evict Syrian influence within the country appears to be a colossal mistake. To prevent terrorist activity we need improved police enforcement and investigation, secure borders and a resolution of the injustices in the Middle East. Please, Mr. Schwach, refrain from a hormone-driven need to appear tough. As the price for petroleum products increases per barrel the west is financing Iran's attempt to control the region. We need to resolve the issue or collapse economically. War costs money and the west needs the oil from the region. That is the realistic approach-not bombs. Who has their face in the sand? Warmongers who cry self defense are destroying the west-not the truly brave who face challenges with resolve and contemplation.

All of our allies including Canada did not approve of Bush's approval of Israeli actions. Are you saying they are not aware of their own vulnerability?

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