Several months ago, back in May, our Commander and Chief gave a speech regarding our nations national security and the ever convoluted issue of counterterrorism. You can take a gander at his strategy here, if you want or can stand listening to the guy who was all peace and love back in 2008 regurgitate the same masterfully crafted oratory: saying everything and nothing at the same time…basically a speech you’d expect from a career politician who desperately clings to maintaining a positive public image. Thankfully, the dawn approaches where we’ll be thrown back into the another season of elections. Hopefully, those who believed the lies of peace will remember how easily duped we all were. Duped about GITMO, duped about the War on Terror, duped about diplomacy first (looking at the most recent issue with Syria and how Obama was going to explain to the American public why we needed to bomb but then quickly changed his mind after Putin, in the least historic democratic country, during the UN summit, mentioned that magical little word we liberals love to hear: diplomacy), and so many others, including the recent attack against the media.
Actions (for me at least), not promises, define administrations and despite Obama’s best attempts at waving a purple bunny in our face, what we see happening on the news comes in complete conflict with his rhetoric. In countries, such as: Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Libya, and Somalia (being the ones we know about), drones are being used to carry out strikes or the maintaining operational surveillance. I guess if you can make murder sound intellectual enough it can become rational and bearable to read about on a daily basis; especially when it’s got the “government” seal of approval, right? But do we really approve these methods, is this what we’ve become? Murderers in the night? Consider the following political cartoon created by Mark Fiore; it pretty much sums up everything i’ve been feeling. Enjoy!
Beginning this past Friday, May 3rd, and lasting through Sunday, the Houston NRA expo was ablaze with 70,000 plus people bustling amongst the nine acre gun extravaganza. There was plenty to see beside the political rants, including: manufacturer showcases complete with bra holsters, 1963 Völkswagen microbus complete with hippy peace signs, flowers, and mini Gatling gun mounted on a makeshift sunroof, and everybody’s personal favorite, zombie targets that came in a variety of images, such as: terrorists, Nazis, aliens, zombie kangaroos, clowns and even…presidential! That’s right folks, according to BuzzFeed Politics, the vender, Zombie Industries, “sells a range of three-dimensional ‘life sized’ targets that ‘bleed when you shoot them.’ Obama likeness [were] on display for two days.” The expo only lasted for three, but don’t worry, after an NRA rep asked the vender at Zombie Industries if they’d be so kind and remove the Obama targets, they were notably absent come Sunday morning. When asked why they thought the NRA reps asked them to remove the “Obama” targets, they said “They are just scared some liberal reporter will come by and start bitching,” a worker told BuzzFeed. However, Zombie Industries wasn’t the only booth to display something contentious. Over at the Coonan Inc. booth, a gun manufacture, there was also a similar Obama likeness; an Obama vampire with a stake in his heart, advertising their custom “Zombie silver bullet” set. Yet, these risqué displays were not the only booths at the convention; just the more colorful ones, because for most folks coming to the convention, it’s all about the guns.
Sadly, you cannot have guns without some kind of debate.
The place to be on Saturday evening was the Stand and Fight Rally. As the sun set on Houston, a “patriotic” fervor was being presented for those “lucky” enough to have purchased tickets. The NRA’s emotionally driven Stand and Fight Rally included speeches from Col. Oliver North, Wayne LaPierre, Larry and Brenda Potterfield, and impressionist Frank Caliendo. The main event for the evening was a near two hour impassioned speech given by none other than Glenn Beck, the host of new media network, The Blaze. Beck used his spot light to warn NRA audiences that the “freedom of all mankind is at stake,” according to ABC News. This is the same man who claimed that the Houston George Bush Intercontinental airport shooting was a conspiracy set up by vicious liberals to thwart the NRA expo. You can find that report here. However, according to the NRA blog report, in the end, Mr. Beck “received a standing ovation from the crowd for the inspirational message.”
What was Mr. Beck’s message?
The fear Mr. Beck uses is backed by an overwhelming miss-representation on the issue of gun control, the very same miss-representation the NRA leadership has been clouting over. Some of the key-notes Mr. Beck spoke on include the positive nature of guns (saving lives), defense, and other so called “cold hard facts…rejected by the political elites.” The fear Beck uses is universal, based on a baser instinct. He deliberately manipulates that fear of not being able to defend oneself. Mr. Beck’s performance seems rather orchestrated in drawing out said fear that “big bad government” will come in the night and take away the very symbol of protection in American culture, the gun. The appeal to emotion isn’t just a fallacy, it’s dangerous. Why? Emotional arguments do not require factual evidence. They drive the fear of the mob. Since Mr. Beck is so keen in using Nazi history to describe the U.S. government, allow me to return the courtesy. Dr. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Minister of Propaganda, said that there were two kinds of speakers: rational and emotional. Goebbles couldn’t understand the rational, because to him, emotional speakers were the ones who could “fire up the masses for a great cause.” To Goebbles, Hitler was an emotional speaker who could use nuggets of truth to elicit an emotional response from the crowd who were also equally miss-informed, angry, and afraid. According to Goebbles, in his published book regarding Hitler’s ability to persuade, the Führer’s words could “inspire the heart and have a lasting impact in forming a new international epoch. There is probably no educated person in the world who has not heard the sound of his voice and who, whether he understood the words or not, felt that his heart was spoken to by magical words.” You can find Goebbles’ complete entry here.
Speakers, like Mr. Beck, who use emotional driven speeches with the smallest nuggets of truth, do not require that their audience understand the words they are actually saying, and when we follow the rhetoric of fear to its logical end, it will only bring about tragedy, as it did for Germany during the Third Reich. Mr. Beck’s speech doesn’t just miss-represent the issue on gun control, but also responsible gun advocates. Without a doubt, folks around the world are looking at Mr. Beck and his message and thinking, “Are all gun owners this nuts?” As we reported last Friday, a huge fallacy in the gun debate is when people take the extreme either-or argument as factual; when most folks are actually somewhere in the middle. You can watch Mr. Becks speech yourself here.
The ugliness in all this is in imagining how positive the NRA expo could have been. Instead of getting folks all worked up over a false fear, a more responsible leadership among the NRA could have promoted gun safety awareness, effectual background checks (because remember, 65% of Americans thought that the expanded background checks should have passed legislation), a reasonable pursuit for safer schools, or, at the very least, presented some kind of alternative to the already very moderate bill that was shot down in the Senate. Instead, the NRA leadership promoted fear, fear of big government taking away American rights. Despite the fact that most attended the expo for the simplicity of responsible gun sportsmanship and to view the “goodies”, those folks are being overshadowed by the dogmatic political debacle from ineffectual leadership who seem to be more concerned about gun manufacturer rights than gun owner rights.
Remember back on January 23, 2009, when Obama made one of the boldest moves a newly signed in President has ever made; a presidential order for the closure of the detention facility at the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, affectionately known to the public as Gitmo(almost sounds like Gizmo, the furry cuddly creature from those Gremlin flicks), symbolically closing out the old Bush Administration, who had been herding detainees suspected of terrorism or ties to terrorism since its establishment in January 2002? Well, if you forgot, you’ll remember soon enough, as new reports make their way to your living room. Since Obama’s closure declaration, the notorious facility has naggingly remained open. But wait…I thought President Obama gave a presidential order to close Gitmo? Why is Gitmo still open? What happened? And why did we suddenly forget about this place?
Here is what was originally mandated, straight from a White House memorandum:
“By the authority vested in me as President and as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including the Authorization for Use of Military Force (Public Law 107-40, 115 Stat. 224), and in order to facilitate the closure of detention facilities at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, I hereby direct that the following actions be taken as expeditiously as possible with respect to the facility known as the Thomson Correctional Center (TCC) in Thomson, Illinois.”
Basically, the President wanted to close Gitmo and move the facility to Thomson, Illinois. Here is the full memorandum from December 15, 2009 (almost a full year later): http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/presidential-memorandum-closure-dentention-facilities-guantanamo-bay-naval-base
So what happened? Did the memo get lost in transition? According to ABC News, and those who still remember watching a bit of Obama’s campaign for presidency way back when and can recall some of the promises he made, if he were elected, that “[he] vowed so many times that he would shutter the prison he [personally] called a recruitment tool for terrorists.” Yet here we are, just over 100 days on Obama’s second term as President and only now has the name Gitmo resurfaced enough to garner public attention. Didn’t Obama also get a Nobel Peace Prize…and in his speech said something like, “I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength.” You can check out Obama’s full speech here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/remarks-president-acceptance-nobel-peace-prize. Yet Gitmo has remained opened, despite harsh rhetoric.
So, what happened? Basically and simply, according to ABC News and Obama’s own press conference this past Tuesday on, April 30, 2013, that he had “run into plenty of opposition in Congress.” More to the point, Obama is saying that lawmakers had passed a bill preventing any federal money to be spent in transferring Gitmo detainees to the United States. The legislator were fundamentally saying, “We don’t want them here!” According to Gallup Poll conducted back in June 2009, “Americans [were] especially resistant to closing the prison and transferring the terrorism suspects to prisons in their own states — only 23% favor this, while 74% are opposed.” Senator John Thune, a Republican of South Dakota, is quoted in the New York Times, saying:
“The American people don’t want these men walking the streets of America’s neighborhoods. The American people don’t want these detainees held at a military base or federal prison in their back yard, either.”
Are they really going to be walking the streets John… not likely, but yet, even some of the Democrats, at the time, voted against the measure to move Gitmo to the states, including Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the very state Obama had originally planned to move the facility. In 2009, according to the New York Times, “lawmakers in both parties [had]criticized [Obama] for not providing a more detailed plan for what will be done with the [then] 240 detainees currently held in the prison.” Basically, Obama is blaming congressional opposition, even opposition in his own party; while on the other hand, the very same oppositional voices are blaming Obama for not having a more detailed plan. To be sure, closing Gitmo seemed to be one of the boldest moves a newly elected president could make; perhaps too bold. Not that Obama was wrong. Here is a bit of his speech yesterday during Tuesday’s news conference:
“I think it is critical for us to understand that Guantanamo is not necessary to keep us safe. It is expensive, it is inefficient, it hurts us in terms of our international standing, it lessens cooperation with our allies on counterterrorism efforts, it is a recruitment tool for extremists. It needs to be closed.”
So, now that we know, to an extent, why it was put on the back burner. Why all the sudden interest of late? Didn’t we purposely forget about this place? Well, it seems that a majority of the detainees are on a hunger strike. According to Huffington Post, the number of strikers has reached 100 this past Saturday out of the remaining 186 prisoners. The hunger strike first began two week ago after an April 13th raid, which forced detainees living in a communal facility into individual cells. Twenty of the detainees are being force-fed (which hurts like hell by the way, with the big tube going up your nose and down the throat…); five are in the hospital. According to MSNBC, events which led to the April 13th raid have worsened living conditions for the prisoners. Ranjana Natarajan, an attorney who represents one of the detainees, told MSNBC that:
“They moved with relative freedom and used the communal outdoor space for group activities including soccer. Now their cells are locked for most of the day and their physical activity is strictly regulated. Guards are intentionally interfering with detainees’ sleep by offering recreational time and showers in the middle of the night.”
On Tuesday, during the press conference, Obama alluded to the problem of indefinite detention, stating that:
“The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals who have not been tried, that is contrary to who we are, it is contrary to our interests, and it needs to stop.”
Kenneth Wainstein, a former top national security official at the Justice Department during the Bush administration, is quoted by the New York Times, saying:
“The situation is not sustainable. There are strong, principled arguments on both sides, but all of us across the spectrum have to acknowledge that this is far from an ideal situation and we need an exit strategy.”
Do we have an exit strategy? Should we have an exit strategy? According to Gitmo’s Muslim advisor, despite now being force fed (which is against international medical regulations), at least one detainee will die before the hunger strike ends. The question is then; will we allow it to go that far? Do we still dread having a super-max here in the states?