Wednesday, September 28, 2016

North West Mounted Police Major James Walsh and Sitting Bull, Lakota Sioux

The famous meeting between Sitting Bull, Col. James Farquharson Macleod of the North West Mounted Police (NWMP), NWMP Major James M. Walsh, and U.S. General Alfred H. Terry took place on October 17, 1877 at Fort Walsh, Saskatchewan. The meeting was brokered by Major Walsh, commander of the NWMP in the Cypress Hills region. During the months that Sitting Bull had been in Canada (he crossed the border with the first of the Sioux refugees in November, 1876), he and Major Walsh had developed a great deal of respect for one another. In Major Walsh, Sitting Bull saw an honest, trustworthy representative of Canadian law. In turn, Major Walsh respected Sitting Bull's determination and considered him a friend. Sitting Bull had absolutely no respect for the American General Terry, and General Terry had no use for a "redskin."

At the Oct 17 meeting, General Terry delivered a message from the President of the United States. The American President, he said, desired a lasting peace and was willing to grant a full pardon to the Sioux if they gave up their guns and horses and moved to the reserve set aside for them. 

Sitting Bull replied: 

For 64 years, you have kept and treated my people bad; what have we done that caused us to depart from our country? We could go nowhere, so we have taken refuge here.  We did not give you our country; you took it from us; see how I live with these people; look at these eyes and ears; you think me a fool; but you are a greater fool than I am; this is a Medicine House; you come to tell us stories, and we do not want to hear them; I will not say any more. I shake hands with these people; that part of the country we came from belonged to us, now we live here.

Major Walsh treated Sitting Bull with complete respect, and he promised the Sioux protection in Canada from the American bluecoats, as long as they obeyed the laws of Canada and did not make raids into the US.  Those were terms that Sitting Bull agreed to and honoured.

However, two years later in 1879, disaster struck the Sioux – the buffalo did not appear. Without food from the Canadian government, Sitting Bull's people began to starve, and slowly drift back across the American border, accepting U.S. law and life on U.S. reserves. In June of the following year, Sitting Bull suggested to Major Walsh that he might consider returning to the United States.  Walsh turned to a friend for help, General Hammond of the U.S. Army.  Together, they obtained guarantees of safety for Sitting Bull and the remaining Sioux on their trip to Fort Buford in the United States.

On July 19, 1881, Sitting Bull surrendered at Fort Buford, handing his rifle to his son, saying that he must now learn how to live with the whites, and urged his son to remember that his father was the last Sioux to give up his gun. Shortly after, he and his followers, now only numbering approximately 187, boarded steamships to go to Standing Rock Reservation [straddles the border of the Dakotas]. 

But Sitting Bull did not fade into history so easily. An Indian in Nevada had a vision of a Messiah coming to the aid of the Indian. On a hunting expedition, Sitting Bull himself had a vision of this Messiah, clad in white buffalo garments. Returning to the reserve, Sitting Bull's story of his own vision gave the Sioux new hope, and the Indian Agent new fears about an imminent uprising. It was decided to arrest Sitting Bull. However, as police tried to arrest Sitting Bull on December 15, 1890, his son, Crowfoot, went for help. A group of Sioux gathered to prevent the police from leaving. Shooting began, and although Sitting Bull was shot, he managed to grab a rifle and crawl to a sheltered spot. When infantry arrived on the scene, he was overwhelmed and killed in the firefight.  

Sitting Bull died fighting for his people. I certainly don't pity him for that.

Watch the short Heritage Minute video: (or on YouTube)

Sitting Bull was 59 when he was killed.  He looked like this:

10 years ago: Putin–The West created bin Laden

This article, in a July 2006 edition of the Globe and Mail, was brought to my attention by a co-worker.
So what was Putin saying, ten years ago?  He was saying that the West, by aiding bin Laden and the Taliban in their fight against the USSR (to the tune of billions of US dollars in training and materiel) actually created the terrorist problem Americans face today.
You know, that's probably true.  Osama bin Laden definitely wanted to draw the US into a war on his turf and on his terms, a war he knew he knew he stood at least a small chance of winning.  The Bush Administration gave him exactly what he wanted.

What's that sound?  Does anyone else hear the sound of Russian laughter?

Putin lashes out at West's Afghan role
Globe and Mail

MOSCOW — The West's decision to fund Islamist guerrillas against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan has backfired two decades later, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday, setting an uncompromising tone as he prepared to welcome leaders for Group of Eight talks.
This weekend's summit in St. Petersburg has focused attention on Russia, with some Western politicians asking why Mr. Putin deserves the honour of hosting the world's major democratic leaders when he is neither democratic nor presiding over a leading economy.
Mr. Putin fired back in an interview with CTV News yesterday. It was his first one-on-one interview with a Canadian broadcaster, and part of an intense publicity effort by the Kremlin before the summit.
The Russian President dismissed Western concerns about democracy and human rights as pretexts for meddling in Russia's internal politics.
Then he added his own wide-ranging critique of Western foreign policy in places such as Iraq and Iran.
He saved his most scathing comments for Afghanistan, suggesting that the country's resurgent Islamist militias might not be such a big problem if the West hadn't spent billions of dollars training, funding and arming Islamists during almost a decade of proxy war after the Soviet invasion in 1979.
The President listed the forms of assistance his country has donated to the recent efforts to pacify and reconstruct Afghanistan: money, weapons, airspace and railway-supply routes. The situation would be much worse, he said, if Russia were pursuing the old Cold War agenda.
"We are going to continue the work together," Mr. Putin said. "But what is very important here: If it was today like it was in the 1980s, ... you would have ... much more complicated problems. Because when the Soviet Union was present there, the whole Western community was creating bin Ladens there in large numbers, and spared no money and efforts for that."
Iraq hasn't fared any better than Afghanistan after intervention by the West, Mr. Putin said.
"Our partners sometimes do make mistakes, to put it mildly," he said. "They were looking for WMD in Iraq, but where is this weapons of mass destruction? Is the situation any better there? I think it's questionable, this, in terms of the economy, social aspects."

Saturday, September 24, 2016

An example of leadership I will never forget

Men like Donald Trump (and I believe we can all learn to identify such men) aren't true leaders in any real sense of the word; leaders don't simply tell people what to do, and from a position of authority or power expect people to obey.  That's dictatorship.

Leaders exhibit the trait of living as examples of the behavior they want others to adopt.  True leaders in Washington would always exhibit lives you could look at to determine who they are today, what they stand for, what they're willing to fight for, or send their children to fight for.

Here's an example of leadership I will never forget:

In September 2005, when FEMA had its hands tied by a federal government that saw the destruction of New Orleans as an opportunity to experiment with its new plans for privatization (or elimination) of social services, it was Al Gore who chartered relief flights to New Orleans. Those flights delivered relief, and evacuated seriously ill patients from New Orleans.

Even though he was a passenger on every single one of those flights, he refused to let the media publicize/politicize his involvement.  He was steadfast in his refusal to speak to the media about it, then or afterward ... and to this day, he has never mentioned it in any of his speeches.

He did that from his heart, as an American, for other Americans.

Can you cite a better recent example of leadership?  I certainly can't.

Al Gore doesn't have my respect because of his politics, he has my respect because he earned my respect as a man.

And I'll pick leaders based on that gut instinct every single time.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Colin Powell: a surprising early opponent of "enhanced interrogation"

It might surprise you to learn that, ten years ago, Colin Powell was one of four prominent Republican leaders to take a stand against the Bush Administration's use of "rendition" (the practice of turning detainees who were never formally charged over to a government that would secretly torture them for a confession).

It was exactly ten years ago that Powell spoke out against the use of torture.  That was a time, remember, when Americans were uncertain about what they believed and if those beliefs mean anything anymore.  Let's hope times have changed in the decade since.
I had to applaud Mister Powell, then, but his criticism was extremely late, especially after he'd crawled on his belly for those war criminals, sacrificing his own professional career and his own personal honour to further their agenda.

A strict adherence to all codes of moral behaviour (and, for what little it's worth anymore, the most basic tenets of Christianity) is the most effective anti-terrorism tactic.  Instead, America's leadership presented the people of the targeted countries a choice between two evils.  

We know, now, which evil they chose.

Just for the record; the Democratic Party was extremely weak in opposing both the Iraq invasion and the Bush Administration's use of secret prisons, torture, and the denial of the right of self-defense before a judge.  As an "opposition party," they earn a failing grade.

Powell blasts Bush’s plan for interrogations
Letter comes as president visits Capitol Hill to seek anti-terror support
The Associated Press
Updated: 12:16 p.m. ET Sept. 14, 2006

WASHINGTON - President Bush went to Congress Thursday to lobby divided Republicans to back more power to spy on, imprison and interrogate terrorism suspects, but his visit came as Colin Powell, his former secretary of state, said part of Bush's strategy was misguided.

Powell instead endorsed efforts by three Republican senators [Senators McCain and Lindsey Graham, and one other I cannot now name–CAulds] to block the president’s plan to authorize harsh interrogations of terror suspects.

The latest sign of GOP division over White House security policy came in a letter that Powell sent to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., one of the rebellious lawmakers

Friday, September 9, 2016

Christianity has, really, only a single law

I have never understood (and I'm sure I never will understand) how America's Christian churches could support the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.  Protestant Christianity is the faith into which I was indoctrinated, and called my own for the first 45 years of my life.  There is no one who can tell me that I don't understand the core tenets of that faith, the basic belief structure.  

Yet, only a few days before the US attached tiny Iran, I sat in a small country church during the Wednesday night service and watched that "Support Our Troops" meeting turn into a frenzied hate-rally for war.  It was a tribal war dance.  It was raw blood-lust, and it was disgusting.  It was utterly shameful, and I'm very glad I had a chance to see it because, if it had been described to me by any other witness, I would not have believed it.

I saw men and women I once respected, abandon everything they professed to believe, out of fear and a hatred born of that fear. It was a demonstration, not of hypocrisy, but of weakness.  And that's how I must regard them now.  As weak.

There are times when moral courage requires a person to take a stand that opposes the "code", the authority figures of the State or Church, and even the overwhelming consensus of the tribe ... at such times, very few people will act according to their own moral code; they'll do what they feel is easiest, most expedient, always.  That's just the way things are; and it was an important lesson for me to learn, way too late in life, but better late than never, eh?  

Contrast that with the Christian martyrs of the third and fourth century, under the domination of the Roman Empire.  They were killed for refusing to do two things, 1) worship Roman gods and 2) participate in ritual sacrifices to those gods.   They chose death, perhaps unwisely, who can say, but the motive of those saints was anything but fear and self-preservation at whatever cost.  They lived their faith; they didn't abandon it the first time it was threatened.

Christianity really boils down to a single law, do all things through love.  Eschew hatred, and be the master of fear.  

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one
another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The
commandments, "Do not commit adultery," "Do not murder," "Do not steal,"
"Do not covet," and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed
up in this one rule: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no harm
to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
– Romans 13:8-10 (NIV)
And Jesus also said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one
another, even as I have loved you.  By this all men will know that you are My
disciples, if you have love for one another."
– Gospel of John 13:34-35 (NIV)

And that's why I say the motives for American aggressions were wrong.  They were based on base motives, emotions engendered by fear.  A fear that is carefully stoked by those who seek to profit, mightily, from those wars.  

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The motives for US aggressions have always been wrong

In watching the sixth of the twelve videos of Michael J. Sandel, the political philosophy professor who delivered a series of lectures on moral justice at Harvard University, I realized that, even without a strong understanding of Immanuel Kant, I agreed with him strongly on one point:  motives determine the rightness or wrongness of a act.  In this view, Kant disagreed strongly with consequentialist reasoning, in which any act is held to be morally right if it is performed in order to produce a good outcome or consequence.  In other words, "the ends justify the means."  Kant didn't believe that. Neither do I.

You can view the Sixth episode of Sandel's Harvard Justice at either of these websites:

In Professor Sandel's words, "Kant says that what makes an action morally worthy is not its consequences or results; but the motive; the quality of the will; the intention for which the act is done.  The motive is what matters.  An act isn't good or bad based on its result or outcome, but on the motive for which it is done.  The motive confers moral worth on an action."

I was a little surprised that Professor Sandel referred to Kant as "the hardest philosopher we're going to read in this course."  More than likely he's referring to the writings of Kant; not his axioms or ideas.  Morality and ethics are not difficult.  Not even for a 5-year-old.

I agree with Immanuel Kant that motives determine the morality of an act ... not the consequences of that act.  Why do I agree with Kant on that?  Because I was raised to believe that, it's a basic tenet of the Christian faith, I thought.  Is it?  Surprisingly, no, it is not.  In fact, most Christian ethicists seem to believe the opposite; that an end can, indeed, be use to justify immoral means, in which case it is ok to torture, to imprison without trial or evidence, to murder women and children and call them "unfortunate collateral damage" ... as long as some noble purpose is given for those acts.  (Joseph Fletcher),

Of course, when you justify the "accidental" killing of civilians to get a few terrorists; in other words, to accomplish a larger goal; you also justify the use of roadside bombs and suicide attacks in city streets.  It's the same disregard of "collateral damage" at work here.

There are those who argue that the results achieved by the war in Afghanistan (or the failure of the military to accomplish the desired results there) don't matter because the intention was right.  We had to invade that country in order to prevent more terrorist attacks like the ones that occurred on 9/11.  The stated intention was to eradicate al-Qaeda and to capture or kill those who planned the WTC tower attacks.  That intention, I am told, was right, and fully justified the war.

But for the sake of my argument, please accept for a moment that Kant is right:  An act isn't good or bad based on its result or outcome, but on the motive for which it is done.

If that is true (and I believe it is), then I was absolutely right to oppose the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Because I believe I discerned, correctly, the true intention behind them, and it was revenge. Desire for revenge, based on cultural hatred.  Where does that come from?  I was raised as a Christian in America's "Bible Belt."  Am I to believe that hatred comes from God?  What are the Christian scriptural teachings about that?  What am I supposed to do when I find that little glowing coal of hatred in my own heart?  Blow on it until I kindle a fire?

Fifteen ten years ago, no one knew for sure that invading Afghanistan was the wrong thing to do.  It was impossible for most of us to argue that it was a military blunder (which it was), We had to trust that the military and intelligence professionals had it right.  Very few people could argue that they knew more or knew better than those professionals, or the political leadership in Washington.  But we could all discern the motivation ("kill 'em all, let God sort corpses") behind the attack. The press for a large-scale invasion of a sovereign nation, for war, was based entirely fear, hatred, and desire for revenge.   People wanted an outlet for their (perhaps fully justified) rage.  I was there; I remember; people weren't talking about "national security"; they were talking about "killing those ragheads," at least in the Deep South (I might say, rather, Bible Belt), but I am convinced it was no different anywhere else.

As pointed out by Newsweek columnist Fareed Zakaria, America grossly overreacted to 9/11.  Why?  Out of emotion.  And what is it called when emotion is allowed to override reason?  What is it called?  It's called "cowardice."

Fear.  Hatred.  Desire for revenge.  And that's why, morally, it was wrong.  The islamaphobes can all give high-sounding goals for their actions; but the motivation for those actions is crystal clear.  It's the same motivation that led the U.S. into two unnecessary, unwinnable, unsustainable wars that are now hopelessly lost..

By the way, how's the Syrian War working out for you?

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Leadership. I'm sorry, but no, its meaning hasn't changed

This morning, I read Gabriel Sherman's "exposé" of Roger Ailes which was published yesterday in the online edition of New York Magazine (and will appear in the September 5th print edition).  Roger Ailes is the disgraced  founder and former Chairman and CEO of Fox News who is now a campaign advisor for Donald Trump.

In the article, this caught my attention:  Responding to the phone-hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch’s British Guardian newspaper, Murdoch (Roger Ailes former boss) said, "I do not accept ultimate responsibility. I hold responsible the people that I trusted to run it and the people they trusted."  In other words, the responsibility is delegated downward, always downward.  

Wow ... so that's what leadership is today?

Anyone who has ever been connected with the military (U.S. or Canadian) knows how much military tradition values the quality of leadership. It's institutionalized in the military and (unlike the private sector of our economy) in the military there is no distinction between "management" and "leadership." if you are an officer in any of our armed forces, you are considered a leader and you are expected to exhibit, consistently and constantly, the traits of leadership, in your private life as well as your professional. That's tradition, it is doctrine, and it is mandated by the regulations and guidelines set down as the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). It isn't optional.

I spent the first 15 years of my professional life working (both as a civilian employee and contractor) for the U.S. Army. During that time, I was exposed to the military's ideas about leadership. We were taught that authority can be delegated, but never responsibility. Personal responsibility is core to military leadership. Yet, today it seems, it has become acceptable for people in leadership positions to refuse responsibility for the mistakes on "their watch" and, yes, that means responsibility for those beneath them in the "chain of command."

On a personal level, let me state this: No one else is responsible for my actions. I am. Me. Myself. Alone. No one can make me do evil things. And I will not surrender my own will to the mass hysteria of the herd.

I may not be a corporate CEO, but I know what leadership is.