Horowitz the Soldier

Norman wrote this over a month ago. I’ve been remiss in keeping up with his posts, but I’ll catch up in the coming week. — AWO

by Norman Horowitz

It was about sixty years ago during the Korean War that I enlisted in the Air Force. Our training was at Sampson Air Force Base in upstate New York in January — and was it ever cold!

My basic training lasted eight weeks and consisted primarily of marching and going to classes.

One night, I was assigned to guard a warehouse in the middle of nowhere for three hours carrying an unloaded rifle that I didn’t know how to use. Around midnight, I was delivered to my station by Jeep and told to walk up and down in the front of this warehouse until I was relieved in about three hours. It was dark and about fifteen below zero and windy. I was scared out of my mind. The three hours lasted forever.

I served as a student of electronics for almost a year, followed by three years as an instructor. I never did anything “military” other than “drill” from time to time during these four years.

That brings me to the very sad story involving the killing of 16 Afghans by U.S. Army Staff Sergeant Robert Bales.

It appears that there is no question that the Sergeant is responsible for these deaths, but there is a larger responsibility that rests with Presidents Bush and Obama for continuing the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

I cannot comprehend how our once-great nation allows a soldier to be in harm’s way during three tours in Iraq followed by a tour in Afghanistan. This man is someone’s son, husband, father, etc., and he was put in harm’s way day after day and year after year.

In 1969, a member of the President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Armed Force wrote to its chairman that “while there is a reasonable possibility that a peacetime armed force could be entirely voluntary, I am certain that an armed force involved in a major conflict could not be voluntary.”

I expect that, were we to have a draft, the “system” would not as easily continue our presence in Iraq and Afghanistan requiring the system’s sons and daughters to be put in harm’s way.

Given the ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan along with casualties, enlistments have dropped, and a majority of the American public no longer believing that these wars are worth fighting. We must conclude that Sergeant Bales has been unreasonably placed in harm’s way over and over again.

Of course the Sergeant needs to be punished by “the system,” but how about someone punishing those who operate the system?

Sergeant Bales will have a high-profile court-martial, President Bush will continue to clear brush in Texas, and President Obama will run for a second term as we get ready to go to war with Iran. Now what is wrong with that picture?

“Drill, Obama, Drill” Won’t Save You at the Gas Station

Republicans have a problem. The economy is improving…under President Obama’s watch.

And it is precisely because the economy is improving, both here and abroad, that gasoline prices are rising.

Because they can no longer blame him for slow growth or rising unemployment, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich are now blaming the President for high gas prices, which is a little like blaming him for a strong economy, a charge he’d gladly plead guilty to.

So here’s my question for the candidates: If Democratic policies are responsible for oil that now costs $102/barrel, does that mean that Republican policies were responsible for oil that cost $145/barrel back in 2008?

In fact, George W. Bush oversaw the largest rise in oil prices in American history, from $20/barrel in 2001. And you know what? It wasn’t his fault either.

Demand is growing, and supply can’t keep up. Global production has been flat since 2005. No president can change that.

But you can’t say Barack Obama hasn’t tried.

President Obama has overseen the largest rise in drilling rigs in American history, from less than 200 in April 2009 to over 1,200 today. American oil production is the highest it’s been in eight years. We now import 15 percent less oil than we did in 2005. For the first time since 1949, the United States is a net exporter of gasoline, diesel, and other fuels.

There was a time, not too long ago, when none of this was true. Back then, during the last presidential campaign, we were told that “drill, baby, drill” was the answer to our woes.

Well, we’ve tested their theory. We’ve ramped up drilling exponentially. We’re living through a mini-boom in oil production. And gas prices keep rising.

The skeptics have been vindicated.

But old slogans die hard.

No amount of drilling can bring back the good old days. According to economist James Hamilton, “The 138 million barrels produced in North Dakota and Montana in 2010 is about half of what the state of Oklahoma produced in 1927 and a fifth of what the state of Alaska produced in 1988.”

Increasing production in new oil fields only replaces declining production elsewhere. That’s why American oil production has fallen from 10 million barrels per day in 1970 to 6 million today.

Even with new shale oil in North Dakota and further exploration in the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska, the International Energy Agency predicts we’ll never produce more than 6.7 million barrels per day. Even if the President opened the Outer Continental Shelf to exploration, the best we could expect is another 0.5 million barrels per day.

That may sound like a lot, but it’s a drop in the bucket on the world stage, where prices are set. If we opened every possible region to oil exploration, the Energy Information Administration estimates that gas prices would fall two cents per gallon.

But not until 2030.

Because drilling takes a long time.

That’s why, when the Washington Post fact-checkers tried to figure out how the Keystone XL pipeline might affect gas prices, they reported: “We could not find any experts…to say that the prospect of the pipeline being built in the future would somehow impact the price of gasoline today.”

Two cents per gallon, eighteen years from now. Is that what our environment is worth? Is that what the safety of our workforce is worth?

After the worst environmental disaster in American history.

After a record-setting fourteen billion-dollar weather disasters last year.

After the highest Arctic temperatures and the lowest Arctic sea ice volume on record.

After fourteen dangerous leaks at the first Keystone pipeline.

Can we not say we’ve been warned?

But the Republican candidates don’t care. If they really cared about rising gas prices, they wouldn’t be beating the war drums against Iran. Time and time again, conflict in the Middle East has inflated the price of oil.

Just ask George W. Bush. Okay, so maybe it was his fault after all.

==========

This op-ed was published in today’s South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

What to Read on Rick Santorum

Who Is Rick Santorum? — The Atlantic

Homosexuality, abortion and family values have been the signature issues of Santorum’s career, rising to prominence as he did during the height of the 1990s culture wars. He authored the partial-birth abortion ban that passed the Senate in 2003. He proposed an amendment to the No Child Left Behind legislation that would have required public-school teachers to discuss the “controversy” surrounding evolution. Remember Terri Schiavo? That was him, too — he was one of the leading voices calling for the federal government to intervene to prevent the Florida woman from being taken off life support amid conflicting family wishes. Santorum decries secularism, hedonism and the idea that different family configurations are equally acceptable, openly pining for a bygone society built around heterosexual marriage and traditional gender roles. In his book, It Takes a Family — intended as a rebuttal to Hillary Clinton’s It Takes a Village — Santorum blamed “the influence of radical feminism” for the distressing fact that women were finding it “more socially affirming to work outside the home than to give up their careers to take care of their children.”

Santorum is an extreme Iran hawk, arguing that tough action, likely military, is needed to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. In effect, he says, the U.S. has been at war with Iran since 1979, and regime change will be necessary to ensure the country is no longer a threat. Santorum has been pounding this drum for some time. In 2005, he authored a bill to put $10 million toward Iran regime change.

Santorum Rose Quickly From Reformer to Insider — Sheryl Gay Stolberg

Mr. Santorum won election in 1990 to the House by attacking his Democratic opponent for living in Washington while representing Pennsylvania; by 2006 his critics said the same of him. As the third-ranking Senate Republican, he was a point man in a controversial effort to place Republicans in lobbying jobs. And his finances came into question, amid controversy over political donations and tuition money he accepted.

[In college, he] struck professors as ambitious, if more interested in tactics than issues.

“Most students would ask whether a policy would be worth the cost; he was unusual in that he was interested in what would get you the most votes,” Robert O’Connor, a former professor, recalled.

The group [Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington] put Mr. Santorum on its list of the “20 Most Corrupt Members of Congress,” and accused him of introducing legislation to benefit political donors.

Santorum: States Should Have the Right to Outlaw Birth Control — Igor Volsky

Santorum has long opposed the Supreme Court’s 1965 ruling “that invalidated a Connecticut law banning contraception” and has also pledged to completely defund federal funding for contraception if elected president. As he [said, “Contraception is] not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”

…contraceptive services provided at publicly funded clinics helped prevent almost two million unintended pregnancies. Without funding from Medicaid and Title X, “abortions occurring in the United States would be nearly two-thirds higher among women overall and among teens; the number of unintended pregnancies among poor women would nearly double.”

Santorum Says He Would Bomb Iran’s Nuclear Plants — Michael Ono

Rick Santorum said today that he would be in favor of launching airstrikes against Iranian nuclear facilities.

“We will degrade those facilities through airstrikes, and make it very public that we are doing that,” Santorum said…

“On occasion, scientists working on the nuclear program in Iran turn up dead. I think that’s a wonderful thing, candidly,” Santorum said…

Among the possible methods for dealing with the Iranian nuclear threat listed on Santorum’s campaign website is treating nuclear scientists working for the Iranians like enemy combatants.

Santorum Hypes Iran “Threat” — Juan Cole

GOP presidential hopeful Rick Santorum warned North Dakota on Wednesday that it was in the cross-hairs of an Iranian attack.

Iran has a small medical research nuclear reactor, which produces nuclear isotopes for use in chemotherapy.

The medical reactor was given to Iran by the United States… The reactor is being regularly inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency to ensure it is being used only for civilian purposes.

The reactor actually has no conceivable military purpose, and its fuel, uranium enriched to 19.75 percent, is used up when run through the reactor, so it cannot be used to make a nuclear warhead. Nuclear bombs need the uranium to be enriched to 95 percent…

Top Ten Catholic Teachings Santorum Rejects While Obsessing About Birth Control — Juan Cole

  1. …Pope John Paul II was against anyone going to war against Iraq…
  2. The Conference of Catholic Bishops requires that health care be provided to all Americans.
  3. The Catholic Church opposes the death penalty for criminals in almost all situations.
  4. The US Conference of Bishops has urged that the federal minimum wage be increased, for the working poor.
  5. The bishops want welfare for all needy families…
  6. The US bishops say that “the basic rights of workers must be respected–the right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, to the organization and joining of unions…”
  7. Catholic bishops demand the withdrawal of Israel from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967. Rick Santorum denies that there are any Palestinians…
  8. The US Conference of Catholic Bishops ripped into Arizona’s law on treatment of immigrants…
  9. The Bishops have urged that illegal immigrants not be treated as criminals and that their contribution to this country be recognized.
  10. The US Conference of Bishops has denounced, as has the Pope, the Bush idea of ‘preventive war’, and has come out against an attack on Iran in the absence of a real and present threat of an Iranian assault on the US.

Ayatollah Santorum Excommunicates Obama, Mainstream Protestants — Juan Cole

Rick Santorum does not think Episcopalians are Christians.

…he believes the social Gospel and non-literal approaches to the Bible are un-Christian, and he has thrown President Obama out of Christianity along with 45 million other mainline Protestants. Santorum does not believe that the Bible suggests you care for the poor and needy.

In fact, Santorum by declaring the social Gospel to be un-Christian has not only excommunicated liberal Protestants from Christianity, he has excommunicated the majority of American Catholics, along with the US Council of Bishops and the last few popes, all of whom speak of an “option for the poor.”

…he condemns fornication and adultery, but also implicitly revealing clothing. And he is against condoms and birth control pills because in his view they encourage sleeping around (though he doesn’t approve of them for married people either; go figure).

…Santorum’s approach to religion and social policy is reminiscent of Muslim fundamentalist parties…