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Unsettled New Year

The end of 2006 has come – our days continue to be terribly troubled. The USA Today reported yesterday that the death of a soldier from my state brings the Iraq war military fatality total to 3000. Nothing the administration can say will erase that soldier’s family’s pain and anguish. Their holiday’s will be forever utterly different as the years pass. The number 3000 is only that, a number. But to that family, and every other who loses a loved one in these unsettling and troubling times, it is absolutely personal.

The recent headline “Saddam hanged” disturbed our peace of mind for days. This BBC News story by Matt Frei, the likes of which you will not read in American papers, provided the background that I needed to make more sense of this unsettling event. The story’s headline reads, “A bitter family saga is at an end.” The story begins with our current president’s decisions at the time of the hanging. To quote,

It was only nine o’clock in the evening in Crawford but George Bush was already embedded in the land of nod, with orders not to be woken until the morning.
. . . But while the world stirred to comment, cyberspace buzzed with applause or condemnation and Cable television hyperventilated, George Bush soldiered on in sleep. He arose only at 4.40am, we are told, which is his usual time of rising. One hour later he had a 10-minute conversation with his National Security adviser Stephen Hadley about the events in Baghdad.
. . . On one level, the hanging of Saddam Hussein is the end of a dramatic family saga that has pitted the Bushes of Texas against the Husseins of Tikrit. It is a saga that started with a tacit alliance. When George HW Bush was vice president, Saddam Hussein was still seen as a potential partner thanks to his status as the enemy of America’s enemy, Iran. It was in 1983 that Donald Rumsfeld was dispatched to Baghdad as a friend of the Reagan administration to shake the hand of Saddam Hussein and offer America’s help against the ayatollahs during the Iran Iraq War.
. . . Alliance finally turned into animosity when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait and President Bush cobbled together an international alliance of Western and Arab states to remove him from Kuwait but not from power. Two years later Saddam Hussein tried to get President Bush assassinated. The White House has always maintained that personal grudges had nothing to do with the invasion of Iraq. And yet in September 2002, as preparations for war were well under way, George Bush the younger told a Houston fundraiser: “This is after all the man who tried to kill my dad.”
. . . Sometime in the next 10 days 3,000 US servicemen and women will have been killed by a war that was declared “accomplished” in May 2003. Saddam Hussein is dead. His legacy lives on.

What will 2007 bring? One of my most visited posts was about predicting the future. I do not feel confident enough to make predictions this year. But I will share the predictions of others, beginning with a recent poll of Americans.

U.S. polled for predictionsThe headline from the AP/Yahoo! News – “Poll: Americans see gloom, doom in 2007″ To quote,

Another terrorist attack, a warmer planet, death and destruction from a natural disaster. These are among Americans’ grim predictions for the United States in 2007.
But on a brighter note, only a minority of people think the U.S. will go to war with Iran or North Korea over the countries’ nuclear ambitions. An overwhelming majority thinks Congress will raise the federal minimum wage. A third sees hope for a cure to cancer.
. . . There is plenty of gloom to accompany all of that doom. Seventy percent of Americans predict another major natural disaster within the United States and an equal percentage expect worsening global warming. Fewer than one-third of people, or 29 percent, think it is likely that the U.S. will withdraw its troops from Iraq.

General’s Afghanistan prediction – The man leading U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, Army Lt. Gen. Karl Eikenberry is leaving his post soon. To quote from the LA Times,

The outgoing U.S. commander in Afghanistan predicted increased fighting this spring and summer and said Taliban militants would try to overrun towns to “unhinge the Afghan people’s morale.”

British writer John Simpson offers some predictions, courtesy of BBC News. Simpson predicts, not surprisingly, “The new year is unlikely to be peaceful or easy . . .”
He feels that Iraq will not get any better: “On Iraq, the momentum towards all-out civil war will grow, and US forces (even if reinforced from home) will fail to contain it.”
Here is Simpson on Iran:

President Bush will not invade Iran with ground troops. His secretary of defence has made it clear he does not approve, and the US military does not have the capacity to do it.
Mr Bush will, however, feel an increasing urge to bomb Iran’s nuclear facilities, since he is still being informed that this will bring about an uprising against the elected government of President Ahmadinejad. There will be no uprising, especially if Iran is attacked.

How do we keep peaceful spirits in troubled times? These are some of the activities with which I plan to busy myself. What comes to mind will not be wholly successful, but these things come to mind. They are listed in no particular order.

  • Talk to family or friends
  • Affiliation with a religious group
  • Meditation
  • Deep breathing
  • Personal prayer
  • Reading
  • Walking in nature
  • Attend art exhibits
  • Listen to music

Settle for activism as one of the ways to regain confidence. Though I usually disagree with Newt Gingrich, his advice about becoming active turns out to be very successful for Republicans. We Democrats can take a page out of his book. For VictoryNH, Gingrich wrote, “Citizen Activism: the key to winning the future.” There is nothing like rolling up ones sleeves and getting down to work – doing domething. It is empowering and is a way to deplete nervous energy. From a dogpile search on the words, “citizen activism,” the following list of organizations offers some places to start:

  1. Public Citizen Protecting Health, Safety and Democracy. National non-profit public interest organization. Joan Claybrook – President
  2. U.S. PIRG Federation of State PIRGs (Public Interest Research Groups)
  3. Election Defense Alliance Citizen Activism Tools

Examples of local efforts include these websites:

Finally, great citizen activists deserve to be recognized. Here is a link to The Gleitsman Foundation, who annually presents “The Citizen Activist Award.” The Nomination Form for the Year 2008 begins with an inspirational quote:

“Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.” –Robert F. Kennedy

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