The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Seriously, Sarah?

I know this seems like low hanging fruit. But Sarah Palin is back, and along with her mindless blather has returned the chorus of “do not under estimate Palin” and/or “Sarah must be taken seriously.”

Seriously? We’re supposed to take seriously someone who just days ago was spouting nonsense (in the words of a conservative blogger) about mammograms and death panels, and only weeks ago was seriously claiming a conspiracy to move “In God We Trust” off U.S. currency? We’re supposed to take seriously/placate/cower in fear of the mindlessly vehement incoherence of her followers?

We’re supposed to take seriously someone who bad mouthed her almost-son-in-law for being too busy being “in the media” and pushing his own potential book to see his own baby, while sitting across from (arguably) the “queen of all media” herself, and one of the biggest book promoters in the publishing world, spending an hour talking about her book and her own baby who has Down’s Syndrome and thus has special needs? We’re supposed to take seriously someone who implied that her daughter’s baby’s father was using his physical assets to promote himself, who did as much of the same as she could get away with in Runners’ World? We’re supposed to take seriously someone too stupid (Yeah, I said it.), to even recognize the hypocrisy, let alone the irony, of what she was saying?

Are we seriously supposed to overestimate thier importance as much as they do themselves?

This puts me in the mind of the early 90s when Negroes were running around parroting that Menace II Society line, I’m white America’s worst nightmare: Young, black and just don’t give a fuck. I was kid, but even then I used to think, No you’re not. You’re your momma’s worse nightmare. You’re your next-door neighbors worse nightmare. White people got expensive jails and cheap graves for niggers like you. [Ed. Note: Michael Steele, pay attention.]

I mean, I guess some substantial portion of white people were afraid–but these fools were confusing white fear with some kind of actual black power. This was false for many reasons, among them, many people who weren’t white were also afraid, and generally acted accordingly. Likewise, Palin’s base confuses “liberal fear” with some kind of populist power, by ignoring the fact that a lot of people who want nothing to do with us pinkos, are afraid of Palin too.

People misunderstand fear. It doesn’t always cause your foes to cower in a corner. Sometimes it causes them to beat the crap out of you with a bag of rusty nails.

That said, I’ll take Palin “seriously” enough to say of her exactly what I would say of any politician who said this. She’s either ignorant, lying, or both.

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin on Monday accused President Barack Obama of not acknowledging the sacrifices made by the men and women in the U.S. military.

“There’s been a lack of acknowledgment by our president in understanding what it is that the American military provides in terms of, obviously, the safety, the security of our country,” Palin said during an interview with Fox News’s Greta Van Susteren. “I want him to acknowledge the sacrifices that these individual men and women – our sons, our daughters, our moms, our dads, our brothers and sisters – are providing this country to keep us safe.”

“They’re making sacrifices,” said Palin, who visited the Army base at Fort Bragg on Monday as part of her ongoing book tour. “They’re putting so much on hold right now so that the homeland can be safe and they can fight for democratic ideals around our world. I want to see more acknowledgment and more respect given to them.”

Seriously, Sarah? Lemme. Show you something.

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You may not know what these pictures represent. But they are images of American service members returning home from Afghanistan and Iraq — in flag-draped coffins. They were taken, of course, during the Bush administration. It took a lawsuit to get them released so that the American public could see them.

In response to Freedom of Information Act requests and a lawsuit, the Pentagon this week released hundreds of previously secret images of casualties returning to honor guard ceremonies from the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and other conflicts, confirming that images of their flag-draped coffins are rightfully part of the public record, despite its earlier insistence that such images should be kept secret.

One year after the start of a series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by University of Delaware Professor Ralph Begleiter with the assistance of the National Security Archive, and six months after a lawsuit charging the Pentagon with failing to comply with the Act, the Pentagon made public more than 700 images of the return of American casualties to Dover Air Force Base and other U.S. military facilities, where the fallen troops received honor guard ceremonies. The Pentagon officially refers to the photos as “images of the memorial and arrival ceremonies for deceased military personnel arriving from overseas.” Many of the images show evidence of censorship, which the Pentagon says is intended to conceal identifiable personal information of military personnel involved in the homecoming ceremonies.

Begleiter’s lawsuit is supported by the National Security Archive and the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Jenner & Block. “This is an important victory for the American people, for the families of troops killed in the line of duty during wartime, and for the honor of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for their country,” said Begleiter, a former CNN Washington correspondent who teaches journalism and political science at the University of Delaware. “This significant decision by the Pentagon should make it difficult, if not impossible, for any U.S. government in the future to hide the human cost of war from the American people.”

The Pentagon’s decision preempted a court ruling in the lawsuit by U.S. District Judge Emmet G. Sullivan. “We are gratified that these important public records were released without the need for further court action,” said Daniel Mach of Jenner & Block. The Pentagon ban on media coverage of returning war casualties was initiated in January 1991 by then Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney during the administration of President George H. W. Bush, just weeks before the start of the Gulf War against Iraq.

“I have never considered the release of images as a political issue,” said Begleiter, noting that both Republican and Democratic administrations imposed the image ban. “But, seeing the cost of war, like any highly-charged political issue, can have strong political consequences.”

Begleiter’s Freedom of Information Act requests, and the lawsuit, asked for release of both still and video images. The Pentagon’s “final response” in the case includes no video images of the honor ceremonies for returning war casualties. “I’m surprised at this,” said Begleiter, “because the U.S. military uses video and film technology extensively in its public relations efforts.”

But what don’t you see in these images. Or, to put it more directly whom don’t you see?

Here’s a hint.

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Standing in the pre-dawn darkness, President Barack Obama saw the real cost of the war in Afghanistan: The Americans who return in flag-covered cases while much of the nation sleeps in peace.

In a midnight dash to this Delaware base, where U.S. forces killed overseas come home, Obama honored the return of 18 fallen Americans Thursday. All were killed in Afghanistan this week, a brutal stretch that turned October into the most deadly month for U.S. troops since the war began.

The dramatic image of a president on the tarmac was a portrait not witnessed in years. Former President George W. Bush spent lots of time with grieving military families but never went to Dover to meet the remains coming off the cargo plane. Obama did so with the weight of knowing he may soon send more troops off to war.

…For all the talk of his potential troop increase – maybe 40,000, maybe some other large figure – Obama got a grim reminder of the number that counts: one.

It was not quite 4 a.m. The sky was black and a yellowish light came from poles flanking the flight. The only sounds were a whirring power unit on the plane and the clicking of cameras. A blue vehicle carrying members of Griffin’s family pulled up.

The president saluted as six soldiers in camouflage and black berets carried Griffin’s remains into a waiting white van.

The military calls the process a dignified transfer, not a ceremony, because there is nothing to celebrate. The cases are not labeled coffins, although they come off looking that way, enveloped in flags.

On a clear fall night, the president zipped to Dover in about 40 minutes. He immediately spoke privately in a chapel with all the family members.

The solemn process of transferring remains of 15 soldiers and three Drug Enforcement Agency agents unfolded in four separate movements. Obama took part in all of them. A chaplain offered prayers for the fallen, the crews that brought them home, the families who lost a loved one, and a nation embroiled in war.

By 4:45 a.m., the president had touched back down on the South Lawn, where even an active White House was sleepy.

He walked inside, alone.

As Jon Soltz noted, this President has done much more.

This president also fought for, and got passed and signed advanced funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs, so that we can honor the sacrifices from our troops and veterans, by properly taking care of them. Advance Funding has been a top priority of all veterans groups for a while. President Obama made it into law.

The president ended the Stop Loss policy, which involuntarily extended troops in theater past their commitment — one of the most offensive policies to troops who made incredible sacrifice. The president ended the ban on photos of the return ceremony for the fallen at Dover Air Base and other ports of entry, allowing families to decide if their loved ones casket could be shown. Now, all of America can join in the solemn return ceremony, and see those who made the ultimate sacrifice be honored.

This president also ordered his Pentagon to re-prioritize their funding requests, to move away from high-end, unneeded weapons systems, and towards on-the-ground equipment that our troops in the field right now desperately need. One of those big ticket items, funding for more F-22s, was finally ended under the Obama administration, while funding for more desperately needed on the ground Mine Resistant Ambush Vehicles (MRAPs) was increased. Who opposed ending F-22 funding? Palin’s party. I had a throwdown with a GOP Congressman on Hardball about it…

I’d seriously like to suggest that Obama has already done much, much more than his predecessor to honor an acknowledge the sacrifices of our service members.

In his midnight mission to honor the returning war dead, President Obama did more than personally extend the nation’s condolences to grieving families gathered at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Without uttering a public word, Mr. Obama erased President George W. Bush’s shameful attempts to hide the pain of war from Americans and to shield himself from paying public tribute to the thousands who died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The long-overdue display of national gratitude and regret by the commander in chief rekindled a note of most solemn ritual that the country owes sons and daughters in uniform sacrificed in war. The president was restoring a post-Vietnam tradition that included the graphic embraces and wrenching words personally extended by President Ronald Reagan to the families of the 241 soldiers, sailors and Marines who perished 26 years ago in the bombing of the Marines’ camp in Lebanon.

The Bush policy was to prohibit any news media coverage of the returning war dead and to never show the president within a camera-lens’ length of the dolorous homecomings. Under Mr. Obama, the Pentagon reversed the no-coverage policy in February. On Thursday, the president himself took the necessary next step.

He silently saluted in the morning darkness as the remains of 18 Americans killed this week in Afghanistan were transferred from a military transport. He spent close to two hours talking in private with stricken families. One of them gave approval for the news media to show the nation its loved one’s arrival before the president and assembled officers. Within minutes, of course, bloggers were reacting. Some were grateful. Others denounced Mr. Obama for photo-op exploitation even as they demanded he hurry up and decide whether to send tens of thousands more troops to Afghanistan.

The true cost of war must never be denied by the nation or its leader. Mr. Obama’s visit was entirely appropriate as he faces the decision of what comes next in Afghanistan. The pity is President Bush never dared as much.

Seeing the cost of war can have strong political consequences, for Americans and for their president. The secrecy regarding images of war (and torture) under the Bush administration stemmed in part from an understanding that seeing the images of was helped turn Americans against Vietnam, and a fear that the same might offend enough American’s sense of decency to bring a stop to the war the president and his administration very much wanted.

Sarah, you also said this:

Asked specifically what she’d like to see more of from Obama, Palin said, “I want to see them equipped. I want to see them given everything that they need, including strategies – a surge strategy in Afghanistan, for one – so that they know that they’re there for victory, they’re not there just biding their time as lives are being lost.”

Seriously, Sarah?

Don’t get me wrong, though. There’s plenty Obama hasn’t done.

He more than honored and acknowledged the sacrifices of America’s service members. What’s more, he didn’t sacrifice them by sending them to war in a country that:

He didn’t exploit 9/11 as in order to send them to war, and then let Osama bin Laden slip away.

President Obama got some political cover Sunday for his upcoming announcement on sending more troops to Afghanistan.

A report released by the Democratic staff of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee blamed the Bush administration for failing to capture or kill Osama bin Laden when the al Qaeda leader was cornered in Afghanistan’s Tora Bora mountain region in December 2001. The report, released Sunday, said the situation in Afghanistan presented greater problems today because of the failure to nab bin Laden eight years ago.

Bin Laden had written his will, apparently sensing he was trapped, but the lack of sufficient forces to close in for the kill allowed him to escape to tribal areas in Pakistan, according to the report.

…According to the report, “removing the al Qaeda leader from the battlefield eight years ago would not have eliminated the worldwide extremist threat.”

“But the decisions that opened the door for his escape to Pakistan allowed bin Laden to emerge as a potent symbolic figure who continues to attract a steady flow of money and inspire fanatics worldwide,” it said.

The report called bin Laden’s escape “a lost opportunity that forever altered the course of the conflict in Afghanistan and the future of international terrorism, leaving the American people more vulnerable to terrorism, laying the foundation for today’s protracted Afghan insurgency and inflaming the internal strife now endangering Pakistan.”

He didn’t tell 935 lies to get them there, and then laugh about it.


It’s standard fare humor. Bush says he is preparing for a tough election fight; then on the large video screens a picture flashes showing him wearing a boxing robe while sitting at his desk. Bush notes he spends “a lot of time on the phone listening to our European allies.” Then we see a photo of him on the phone with a finger in his ear. There were funny bits about Skull and Bones, his mother, and Dick Cheney. But at one point, Bush showed a photo of himself looking for something out a window in the Oval Office, and he said, “Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be somewhere.”

The audience laughed. I grimaced. But that wasn’t the end of it. After a few more slides, there was a shot of Bush looking under furniture in the Oval Office. “Nope,” he said. “No weapons over there.” More laughter. Then another picture of Bush searching in his office: “Maybe under here.” Laughter again.

…At the end of the slide show, Bush displayed two pictures of himself with troops and noted these were his favorites. The final photograph was a shot of special forces soldiers–with their faces blurred to protect their identities–who were posing in Afghanistan where they had buried a piece of 9/11 debris in a spot that had once been an al Qaeda camp. Bush spoke about the prayer the commander had said during the burial ceremony and noted he had this photograph hanging in his private study.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Bush was somber about the sacrifice being made by U.S. troops overseas. But he obviously considered it fine to make fun of the reason he cited for sending Americans to war and to death. What an act of audacious spin. One poll recently showed that most Americans believe he either lied about Iraq’s WMDs or deliberately exaggerated the case to justify the war. And it is undeniable that in seeking public support for the war he made many false assertions that went beyond quoting intelligence that turned out to be wrong. (I’ve written about this in many other places. If you still don’t believe Bush mugged the truth, check out this short guide.) As the crowd was digesting the delicious surf-and-turf meal, Bush was transforming serious scandal into rim-shot comedy.

The audience may have found Bush’s schtick amusing, but the families of soldiers lost in Iraq did not.

AMY GOODMAN: This was your daughter who called you, who’s a Staff Sergeant?

JORGE MEDINA: Yes. Yes. She called me. She told me that, you know, she saw Mr. Bush joking about the weapons of mass destruction. And I think this is very distasteful for all of the families who lost a child or parent or relative in Iraq. You know, these men-are liars, bold-faced liars-and I believe that he doesn’t care about the soldiers, and he doesn’t care about the lives who are lost there. You know, I feel very upset with this man.

AMY GOODMAN: In fact, Jorge Medina, we have your son, Ivan Medina, on the line with us. The twin brother of Irving Medina, who was killed in Iraq. Ivan, your response? We’ll go to him in just a minute. Jorge, how did your son die?

JORGE MEDINA: My son was in a convoy and the bomb exploded and shrapnel went into his head and I think he died ten hours after-after that.

JUAN GONZALEZ: In other words, both your son Irving, your daughter, and his-and Irving’s twin brother, Ivan also served, right? We now have Ivan on the phone. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Ivan.

IVAN MEDINA: Thank you.

JUAN GONZALEZ: Could we ask for your reaction to what you’ve heard about President Bush’s jokes this week at the Correspondent’s Dinner in Washington?

IVAN MEDINA: President Bush chose to, what he has done is just taken a bad situation and made it worse. He has lied about the weapons of mass destruction, and to cover up his tracks he is trying to make jokes about it. It’s a disgrace to any soldier, and it’s definitely a disgrace to any family member that lost a loved one out there, because he’s making fun of something that he supposedly decided to go to war to, and he can’t even back up now his own story, so now he’s trying to make fun of it, saying oh, maybe it’s the best way. And It’s wrong. It’s wrong for the soldiers, we are not honoring the soldiers that way. We’re making fun of why they died. It’s just-it just shows that we need a new President and new Commander in Chief that will honor the soldiers, and that will care about what we do and why we go to war.

JUAN GONZALEZ: And Ivan, you served in Iraq? Could you tell us a little bit about your experience there?

IVAN MEDINA: My experience is I left when President Bush said, “I gave them all the tools to go to war with Iraq.” The bottom line is my experience was really horrible. I had a really different experience than many people really think. We barely got enough water and food to eat. We were running low on many things, and the President decided not to give all of the soldiers flak vests or bullet proof vests, only the soldiers that were up in the front lines, what he called the front lines were given those. He did not give us the tools to go to war with. He decided to go to war for other reasons than what he had said. And my question to the President-how you can guarantee that I did the right thing or how can you guarantee that my twin brother didn’t die in vain? I know what the truth is, that no soldier died in vain. We fight for the American people. We fight for the freedoms. We fight to defend them, and of course, no soldiers died in vain, but the reason that we went to war are not the true reasons why we actually fought that war.

Ivan Medina actually reminded me of many other things the previous White House occupant did that this president has not.

Obama didn’t:

And you also said this.

“I want our president and this administration to listen to the advisers who they hired,” she said. “McChrystal, for one, back in March, telling the president, ‘Here’s what we’re going to need there’ and then ramping up that advice lately, saying, ‘Mr. President, here’s what we need in Afghanistan to win, to make sure that those terror cells don’t grow, so that those terrorists don’t come back over to the homeland in America, on our soil, and kill innocent Americans.'”

“I want him to listen to his advisers,” Palin added. “That’s what he asked for.”

Of course, Bush fired advisors who didn’t tell him what he wanted to hear about Iraq, torture, etc. But that’s all different now, right?

Seriously, Sarah, as one who supported the Bush doctrine — though actually without being able to articulate it — you should at least try to sound like you know what you’re talking about, even if you don’t have the benefit of cramming sessions with McCain Campaign staff anymore.

Look, I’ll be honest. I’m not sure sending more troops to Afghanistan (which is looking more and more likely). In fact, I’m just about sure that it’s an extension of an ill-advised, poorly executed policy of the previous administration that will likely haunt this administration — and the country itself — in the years to come.

Instead of scenes like those above, I think we’d be better served by more moments like these.

That said, don’t pretend for a minute that this president has not acknowledged the sacrifices our service members have made and are making, when he is in many ways the first president to do so since the was in Iraq and Afghanistan started. Don’t pretend that, whatever he decides on Afghanistan, that he’s not doing so with a greater sense of the reality and gravity of that decision than his predecessor.

Not if you want to be taken seriously, Sarah.

One Comment

  1. *shakes head* Weren’t her fifteen minutes up ages ago?