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Jayne Lyn Stahl Headshot

Sanity, Madness, and the White House

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I don't know about you, but I sure feel a whole lot better now that a groundbreaking investigative journalist, Bob Woodward, can confirm rumors that Afghan leader, Hamid Karzai, suffers from manic-depression. But, how does one explain the erratic behavior of the stock market over the past nine years? Peri-menopausal?

A "Physician's Desk Reference" sure would have come in handy to explain the blatant sociopathology that tried to pass itself off as government under George W. Bush. Some might even argue that the Bush years weren't really a presidency, but rather a robocall that went awry.

According to an article in The Telegraph, Mr. Karzai's often unpredictable behavior is caused by his propensity for going on and off his meds. Curious, isn't it, how adept we are at recognizing emotional turbulence in the leadership of other countries, and how we don't have a clue when it comes to our own?

It seems perfectly rational to me for the president of a sovereign state to say that "the time has come to reduce military operations" and, as Mr. Karzai also told the Washington Post, "The time has come to reduce the presence of, you know, boots in Afghanistan...the raiding homes at night...Bursting into homes at night, arresting Afghans, this isn't the business of any foreign troops." While a statement like that might irritate the commanding general, Petraeus, it certainly shouldn't set off any alarms about whether or not le medication du jour was taken.

And, while we're in the habit of questioning how rational decisions are, what about the one this president made last month which to continue funding four countries, including the Sudan, that allow child soldiers.

As Truthout reports, last month, a presidential memo not only allowed for child soldiers, but instructed Secretary of State Clinton that it is in our national interest to waive the "Child Soldiers Prevention Act," signed by President Bush in 2008, thus enabling teenagers to lose more blood on the battlefield.

One has to question, too, how rational a White House is that can figure out a way to bypass international law, and permit a practice which, for generations, has been illegal. When he was interviewed upon release of his memoir, Mr. Bush didn't even blink when acknowledging that he personally authorized waterboarding and that the practice is legal because his lawyers told him it was. Well, those lawyers were, not coincidentally, on the White House payroll when, in the August, 2002 memo, they wrote that t anything that doesn't result in automatic death is permissible under their law.

Is it acceptable, too, for the U.S. to now top the list of global arms dealers? As a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute indicates, we're now the number one exporter of fighter jets. Our biggest market is in Israel, United Arab Emirates, and India, so remember when watching footage of the Middle East at war that, odds are, we supplied both sides with their fighter jets. We're now an equal opportunity destroyer and, at the same time, the country at the cutting edge of world destabilization.

Where is the sanity in a foreign policy that involves open-ended empire building in the name of gargantuan profits, profits which directly correlate with maximizing, and spreading destruction.

But, one might argue, President Obama wants endgame in Afghanistan. In his new book, Bob Woodward reveals President Obama talking about Afghanistan with Defense Secretary Robert Gates. The president says about the Afghan effort, "I'm not doing 10 years. I'm not doing long-term nation building. I'm not spending a trillion dollars," then why, for heaven's sake, doesn't he authorize the phased withdrawal of troops beginning immediately instead of announcing, through NATO, that he's allowing the 2011 deadline to slip through his fingers?

Half a century ago, in a similar conversation with his defense secretary, Robert McNamara, President John F. Kennedy, gave the command to begin the phased withdrawal from Vietnam. The word "command" is part of being a commander-in-chief.

Okay, so the argument that this president inherited an insane, delusional foreign policy from that other guy is fair, but only a fatalist would accept that as defeat. Some might say, too, that foreign policy is not this president's strong suit. That may also be true.

Doubtless future generations will give Obama far more credit for having cut taxes for 95% of Americans, and engineered the largest middle class tax cut of any before him than we have, but it's not too late. Encouraging Obama to pander to independents in order to regain momentum means a sure, and certain death for any so-called economic recovery.

In a climate in which both Democrats and Republicans are at each other's throats, the majority of Americans still favor seeing the Bush tax cuts to the rich expire, as scheduled, at the end of the year, so why is Obama even considering extending them? Has he gone from the audacity of hope to the audacity of cope? Despite their recent astronomical gains in Congress, no one really wants to see tax cuts for the other 95% of us expire, too. Yet, editorials in major newspapers are urging this president to talk truth to the American people, and tell them that taxes will need to be raised.

Truth is, our priorities need to be evaluated. If even 10% of the projected 2011 federal budget that has been allocated for defense were to be cut, we could make inroads toward reducing the deficit, satisfying the deficit hawks, and avoid raising taxes. If even 25% of the corporations that have successfully avoided paying income tax were forced to pay up, there would be no need to even talk about cutting social security, Medicare, and entitlement programs for the indigent. We're too busy extending entitlement programs to the rich to think about their effect on the poor.

Ultimately, the question isn't whether or not Hamid Karzai is taking his meds, but how is it that taxpayers can allow a Pentagon on steroids to commandeer, and topple everything that gets in its path including Congress and the White House?

Any government that lets itself be hijacked by warmongers, and commits to a tax plan that is socialism for the rich is one that can only be saved from peril by leadership that refuses to be coopted, and that stands up to say this White House is not for sale.