Tuesday, January 31, 2006

State of the Union Address

As individuals and as families, few of us can produce energy by ourselves. But all of us can conserve energy--every one of us, every day of our lives. Tonight I call on you--in fact, all the people of America--to help our Nation. Conserve energy. Eliminate waste. Make 2006 indeed a year of energy conservation.
Words spoken by our president? Well -- yes, if the year were 1980 and you were listening to Jimmy Carter. However, there's little chance of our current leader speaking these words -- at least with a straight face.

And why won't he speak them? Two reasons:
1- He personally doesn't believe in conservation... Interesting for a "conservative"... Deep down I think Bush believes its our right as Americans to use the world's dwindling resources as though we were the planets only inhabitants.
2- The message doesn't sell. The American people want their cake... cheap. Most really don't want a leader that will change our way of life -- however modestly.

Problem is, if we don't wake up and change our ways we'll find ourselves on a crash course with the environment, China, India and the rest of the world.

Bush is doing his best to precipitate a show-down with all of those 'forces'.

Monday, January 30, 2006

'Bigotry Conquers All,' Gay Rights Groups Say of U.S. Vote at UN

'Bigotry Conquers All,' Gay Rights Groups Say of U.S. Vote at UN:

WASHINGTON - The governments of the United States and Iran--part of President George W. Bush's ''axis of evil'' and his current nuclear bete noire--demonstrated rare unity of cause this past week when Washington backed a Tehran initiative to deny UN access to advocates of sexual minorities' rights.
The federal government's UN vote to dismiss two international organizations' applications for speaking rights at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) brought the U.S. government in line with regimes it routinely chides as human rights delinquents, HRW said. These include the leaders of Cameroon, China, Cuba, Pakistan, Russia, Senegal, Sudan, and Zimbabwe.
Religious fundamentalism: A threat abroad... a threat at home...

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him - New York Times

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him - New York Times

The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

And that's the crux of the problem with this administration... open debate: based on science, facts or even opinion is squashed at every turn. They take as a premise of government that “one message, our message” is the only one we should hear.

We have an administration that rules more in the fashion of a dictatorship than a democracy: they control the message the public receives to such degree that you end up with 50+ % of the population believing (a few months after the attack) that Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.

Friday, January 27, 2006

US audit finds 'spectacular' waste of funds in Iraq | csmonitor.com

US audit finds 'spectacular' waste of funds in Iraq | csmonitor.com

How much more poor management, poor leadership and plain old irresponsibility do we have to tolerate before something is done?

Remember --
Cheney: "We'll be welcomed as liberators."
Cheney: "The insurgency is in its last throws."
Rumsfeld: "Looting happens."
Rumsfeld: "Several hundred thousands troops aren't necessary to secure Iraq."
Natsios (administrator of the Agency for International Development, the lead agency that is responsible for rebuilding the infrastructure of Iraq): "the American part of this will be 1.7 billion"

Why aren't ANY of these people held responsible for their disastrous mistakes?

While our military pays in lives and our populace pays in $$$ our leaders blindly go about mis-managing this nation into a geopolitical and financial hole that will take 20 years to climb out of...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Green Dream in Texas - New York Times

A Green Dream in Texas - New York Times
Terrorism is obviously a national security issue... But so is our dependence on a region of the world controlled by dictators, tyrants and fundamentalist nut-cases.

In fact, our dependence on that region, and those regimes, is the real national security risk.

But our administration is not addressing that risk... at all. What have they done to help spur the American people onto the road of energy independence and self-sufficiency? NOTHING...

Leadership is all it would take... Leadership and time. American's are ready to innovate.

Here's an example:

T.I. (Texas Instruments) always wanted to keep its newest wafer factory near Dallas so it would be near its design center and ideas could flow back and forth. But China, Taiwan and Singapore were all tempting alternatives, offering low wages, subsidies and tax breaks. So the T.I. leadership laid down a challenge: T.I. could locate its new wafer factory in Richardson, if the T.I. design team and community leaders could find a way to build it for $180 million less than its last Dallas factory, erected in the late 1990's. That would make its cost-per-wafer competitive with any overseas plant's.

Although the T.I. engineers initially thought it impossible, they pulled it off. Previous chip factories had three floors because of the complicated cooling and manufacturing process involved in making wafers. The T.I. design team came up with a way to build the Richardson factory with just two floors - a huge savings in mass and energy. T.I. also contacted Amory Lovins, the green designer who heads the Rocky Mountain Institute, and asked him to help it design other parts of the plant in a way that would lower its resource consumption, which, over the life of a plant, can exceed construction outlays.

Together, T.I. engineers and Mr. Lovins's team designed big water pipes with fewer elbows, which reduced friction loss and let them use smaller pumps that save energy. Various passive solar innovations were built in, including roofs that use a white reflective coating to reduce heat. These, together with innovations in how air is circulated, cooled and recovered naturally, reduced total heat so much that T.I. was able to get rid of one huge industrial air-conditioner. Almost all of the waste from the building construction is being recycled. The urinals are all waterless.

"Green building is not necessarily about producing your own power with windmills and solar panels. It's about addressing the consumption side with really creative design and engineering to eliminate waste and reduce energy usage - it's the next industrial revolution," said Paul Westbrook, who oversees sustainable design for T.I. and helped turn T.I. leaders on to green building by taking them to his solar-powered home. "Green building added some cost, but over all we built a green building for 30 percent less per square foot than our previous conventional facility." This is expected to cut utility costs by 20 percent and water usage by 35 percent.

We have another few years of vision-less leadership. Lets hope the American people can see past their own "nuke the bad guys 'til they glow" attitude and elect someone who will put us on the path to long term stability. A path that doesn't involve our military trying to remake the world in our image...

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law - New York Times

Supreme Court Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law - New York Times
the court held that former Attorney General John Ashcroft went well beyond his authority and expertise when he ruled in 2001 that doctors would lose their federal prescription privileges if they prescribed lethal doses of medications for patients.
When are people gonna realize this administration isn't about "strict interpretation of the constitution" and is ALL about imposing their religious views on the rest of us...

Of course, this was a ruling on a narrow issue: it wasn't about the right to die, but about the power of the federal government under the Controlled Substances Act.

Of course, the conservatives all dissented:
Justice Antonin Scalia, in a sharp dissent, asserted that the attorney general did indeed have the authority to issue his 2001 ruling, regardless of the majority's reading of events. "If the term 'legitimate medical purpose' has any meaning, it surely excludes the prescription of drugs to produce death," Justice Scalia wrote. Also dissenting were Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justice Clarence Thomas.
Sometimes, the most compassionate thing a doctor can do is help someone throw in the towel. And that decision should be between family members and a physician...

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Veneer of Democracy

Thoughts for the weekend…

We have a representative republic because our founders were enlightened men… Men who realized that the rule of law, freedom of expression and a right to privacy were logical foundations for government.

Iraq will only have the veneer of democracy – because their rulers still subscribe to the absolute infallibility of revealed truth – through religion.

Iraq's leaders will make the noises they need to appease the west – and the U.S. in particular. But once we leave, things will go down-hill… This will happen no matter when we leave, so we might as well start now and save some American lives.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The New Red, White and Blue - New York Times

The New Red, White and Blue - New York Times

Friedman hits it on the head again...

What's so disturbing about President Bush and Dick Cheney is that they talk tough about the necessity of invading Iraq, torturing terror suspects and engaging in domestic spying - all to defend our way of life and promote democracy around the globe.

But when it comes to what is actually the most important issue in U.S. foreign and domestic policy today - making ourselves energy efficient and independent, and environmentally green - they ridicule it as something only liberals, tree-huggers and sissies believe is possible or necessary.

Sorry, but being green, focusing the nation on greater energy efficiency and conservation, is not some girlie-man issue. It is actually the most tough-minded, geostrategic, pro-growth and patriotic thing we can do.
[...]
The biggest threat to America and its values today is not communism, authoritarianism or Islamism. It's petrolism. Petrolism is my term for the corrupting, antidemocratic governing practices - in oil states from Russia to Nigeria and Iran...

In petrolist states like Russia, Iran, Venezuela and Sudan, people get rich by being in government and sucking the treasury dry - so they never want to cede power. In non-petrolist states, like Taiwan, Singapore and Korea, people get rich by staying outside government and building real businesses.
[...]
No matter what happens in Iraq, we cannot dry up the swamps of authoritarianism and violent Islamism in the Middle East without also drying up our consumption of oil - thereby bringing down the price of crude. A democratization policy in the Middle East without a different energy policy at home is a waste of time, money and, most important, the lives of our young people.
[...]
That's because there is a huge difference in what these bad regimes can do with $20-a-barrel oil compared with the current $60-a-barrel oil. It is no accident that the reform era in Russia under Boris Yeltsin, and in Iran under Mohammad Khatami, coincided with low oil prices. When prices soared again, petrolist authoritarians in both societies reasserted themselves.

We need a president and a Congress with the guts not just to invade Iraq, but to also impose a gasoline tax and inspire conservation at home. That takes a real energy policy with long-term incentives for renewable energy - wind, solar, biofuels - rather than the welfare-for-oil-companies-and-special-interests that masqueraded last year as an energy bill.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

Waging a War We Could Be Proud Of - New York Times

Waging a War We Could Be Proud Of - New York Times

How come our Dear Leader can claim the moral high ground? He's directly responsible for 10's of thousands of Iraqi and coalition deaths... Yet he claims a "deep faith" based in the teachings of Christ. Didn't that guy talk about 'turning the other cheek'?

Kristof's op/ed indirectly points to this hypocrisy without calling the president on it:

If President Bush took on global poverty in a major way, I think the American people would sign on enthusiastically. And Laura Bush, who has shown an interest in women in the developing world, could greatly assist. Just as John Kennedy bolstered America's image in the world when he started the Peace Corps and the Alliance for Progress, we could restore luster to our reputation around the globe.

What we need is leadership. Mr. Bush would do wonders for his legacy - and, above all, wonders for the poor - if he'd summon the moral vision to launch a high-profile Global War on Poverty. That is one American-backed war that nearly all the world would thunderously applaud.

I don't know if a Global War on Poverty would actually do any good -- especially under this inept administration. However our tax dollars would be going toward a 'Christian' endeavor that, at least, would bolster our image around the globe.

But helping those less fortunate doesn't help you at the polls: the poor don't vote -- especially the foreign poor. American's will always vote for the tough talking, swaggering politician. Bravado is what we want -- and it's about all we get... at least lately.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Iraq War Fallacies

Iraq War Fallacies

It's not that often that I find myself quoting the John Birch Society... However, William Jasper's list of Iraq War Fallacies is right on the nose... Anyone who uses the gray matter between their ears should read the article. Here are a few excerpts:

FALLACY: If the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq now, the country will collapse into chaos, civil war, and dictatorship, and will almost certainly end up being ruled by a regime hostile to us.

REBUTTAL: That is certainly possible if we pull out now, but we have no guarantee against that same outcome if we remain in Iraq three more years, 10 more years, or 20 more years, after expending thousands more lives of American soldiers and hundreds of billions more taxpayer dollars. In fact, the current "friendly" regime we have installed is very friendly with Iran, and the growing Baghdad-Tehran axis should be a major concern to all Americans.

When Iran's foreign minister visited Iraq in May of 2005, he was warmly received by Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. Mr. Jaafari is a radical Shi'ite Muslim and a disciple of Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini, who, it may be recalled, labeled the United States the "Great Satan," inspired the overthrow of the pro-American Shah of Iran, held our embassy and American citizens hostage, and launched a new age of terror. Prime Minister Jaafari, "our ally" in Iraq, made an historic pilgrimage to Tehran in July 2005, with eight of his cabinet ministers in tow, to lay a wreath on the tomb of Ayatollah Khomeini. Jaafari spent nine years (1980-1989) in Iran, and at Ayatollah Khomeini's behest, became a founding member of the Ayatollah's Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI).

Salon also has some info on Jaafari's visit:

Jaafari's visit was a blow to the Bush administration's strategic vision, but a sweet triumph for political Shiism. In the dark days of 1982, Tehran was swarming with Iraqi Shiite expatriates who had been forced to flee Saddam Hussein's death decree against them. They had been forced abroad, to a country with which Iraq was then at war. Ayatollah Khomeini, the newly installed theocrat of Iran, pressured the expatriates to form an umbrella organization, the Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which he hoped would eventually take over Iraq. Among its members were Jaafari and Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. On Jan. 30, 2005, Khomeini's dream finally came true, courtesy of the Bush administration, when the Supreme Council and the Dawa Party won the Iraqi elections.

Back to the JBS:

FALLACY: The huge turnout of Iraqi voters in the January and December 2005 election proves President Bush's hopeful vision that this "is the beginning of something new: constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East."

REBUTTAL: It "proves" nothing of the sort. Iraq has no history of "democracy," constitutional or otherwise, and it is the height of imperial conceit to expect a couple of elections under a military occupation to change thousands of years of cultural, religious, and political tradition.

Ancient Iraq (formerly known as Mesopotamia) is often referred to as the "cradle of civilization." Yet from the time of the Sumerian empire to the Babylonian, Assyrian, Persian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine, Mongol, and Turkish empires on up to modern times, Iraq has always been under autocratic, dictatorial, or tyrannical rule. For a relatively few brief periods, it has enjoyed relatively benign autocratic rule, but never genuine self-rule and limited, constitutional government.

FALLACY: George W. Bush did not lie us into war. He made the best decision he could based on the intelligence he had -- and the Democrats, using the same intelligence, came to the same conclusion.

REBUTTAL: That "consensus" only proves either bipartisan ignorance or bipartisan treachery. The evidence that was used as the strongest argument for invading and occupying Iraq has been shown to be false, and there is strong reason to believe that elected officials in both parties knew the evidence was false, or at least highly suspect. Those who challenged the phony "intelligence" have been vindicated.

FALLACY: But Iraqi forces are rapidly being trained and are nearly ready to take over. It is irresponsible and immoral to pull out before they are capable of surviving without us.

REBUTTAL: According to General Shahwani, head of Iraqi intelligence, the insurgents have around 40,000 "hard core fighters." The only estimates from U.S. intelligence officials are that the insurgent numbers are "somewhat smaller." According to the Pentagon, the U.S.-trained and -equipped Iraqi Security Forces now number 100,000. Must we stay another two or three years and train another 50,000 or 100,000? And, if so, will that be sufficient, or will the timelines and numbers be shifted again?

If 150,000 U.S. troops -- equipped with America's high-tech weapons and our overwhelming air and sea support -- have not brought the Iraqi "insurgents" under control in nearly three years, it is highly unlikely that the Iraqi military, police, and government, which are saturated with anti-U.S. elements -- Sunnis, pro-Iranian Shias, Communists, al-Qaeda jihadists -- will do so in short order. Like it or not, this is a complex and intractable conflict that the Iraqi people must work out for themselves. We cannot do it for them, nor should we try.

And so on...
Whatever your personal feeling are for this president, I believe you have to look at his conduct in the light of facts. It paints a picture of incompetence (at best) and deceit (at worse).

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Americans - Pit Bulls of the World

I actually debated using "Pit Bull" in the title of this post. I just adopted a stray Pit Bull that I found on the highway on the way back from a Xmas party. Great little guy... and friendly as all get-out...

But on to today's topic.

What is it about American's that makes them spoil for a fight? Even if the only threat is mostly imaginary? It’s kinda like taking the threat from your pissed off 7 year old seriously.

Do the majority of us just have it too easy? It seems a lot of Americans just need something to fear... (Dear Leader and the pugs pander to that need perfectly). Whether it’s the war on drugs, the war on terror or the cold war (a real threat) its somehow become part of the national psyche: “somebody is out to get us”… “we gotta fight!”

Of course, there is always someone out there who would like to “get us” – but most of the time its restricted to a small group of loonies that can only occasionally cause real harm. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to stop the next Tim McVeigh. Not in a free society.

But that doesn’t stop your average wing-nut in the red-states… You know the type: The die-hard NRA member sitting in his mobile home – rifle across his lap – in the middle of the American out-back – worried about the terrorist getting ready to explode a dirty bomb in his ‘neighborhood’. “We gotta take the fight to these guys!!”
Next thing you know, we’re dragging journalists out of their homes half-a-world away to ‘protect’ Gomer and his homestead in the Wyoming wilderness. (Ok, a bit heavy on the stereo-types but you get the idea.)

Get real people. No one is coming to get you… 99.9% of you anyway.

BTW, these people that foam at the mouth when you talk about the war on terror: “we gotta track ‘em down and kill em!!” – ask them what they have done for the “war effort” besides putting a magnetic sticker on the back of their gas-guzzling SUV that says "I support the troops".

The answer is usually silence…

I think these folks watch too much TV. They all want their lives to be like something they see on a HBO mini-series. The first step is identifying the evil guy that wants to take over the world. Once you name him (terrorists!!), god-fearing American’s have to stand up to him!

Forget that the cure is worst than the disease.

I honestly don’t think many of these folks who are all up-in-arms about terrorism would actually know how to live a nice, peaceful life. Somehow their self-worth and purpose has been wrapped up in a cosmic struggle of good-vs-evil.

The fact that such a struggle really doesn’t exist doesn’t deter them. They’ll just make it up as they go…

Report: Iraq war costs could top $2 trillion | csmonitor.com

Report: Iraq war costs could top $2 trillion | csmonitor.com
A new study by Columbia University economist Joseph E. Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize in economics in 2001, and Harvard lecturer Linda Bilmes concludes that the total costs of the Iraq war could top the $2 trillion mark. Reuters reports this total, which is far above the US administration's prewar projections, takes into account the long term healthcare costs for the 16,000 US soldiers injured in Iraq so far.
And for what? To turn Iraq into a terrorist training ground...

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Iraq Facing Hurdles, U.S. General Warns - New York Times

Iraq Facing Hurdles, U.S. General Warns - New York Times
"The reason it's important to look at areas like governance and infrastructure is because oil is the lifeblood of Iraq," said General Vines, who commands the XVIII Airborne Corps at Fort Bragg, N.C. "If they don't produce enough income to support their security forces, members of those forces could turn to ulterior purposes and could become militias or armed gangs."

General Vines said the fact that Iraqis voted in such large numbers on Dec. 15 was uplifting, but he lamented that the balloting broke down largely along religious and ethnic lines. "The vote is reported to be primarily along sectarian lines, which is not particularly heartening," he said. "There was enormous enthusiasm for the election. But it must be a government by and for Iraqis, not sects. I don't think we can know that yet."

General Vines said it is too soon to gauge how well Sunni Arabs, Shiites and Kurds will succeed in forging an inclusive government that protects all citizens of Iraq. "As the government forms, if we see indicators that there are purges of competent people to be replaced with ideologues in the security ministries, that would be disturbing," he said. "If competent commanders were to be replaced by those whose main qualification is an allegiance to a sect, that would be of concern to us."

That will be the sign: if posting are made along sectarian lines there won't be much hope for any sort of peace in Iraq...

Friday, January 06, 2006

Flying home...

Time for a non-rant.

Folks that know me know that I love flying. Here's me heading home from Dallas one cloudy afternoon.

I own a Mooney that I keep down at Stellar Airpark in Chandler. Mooney's are great plane: very fuel efficient and fast!

Anyway, the plane is in the shop (flap problem) so I haven't been able to fly for a couple weeks now. Since the plane is down, I'm taking advantage of the time to get a few other things taken care of with the avionics.

Anyway, hopefully I'll be back up in the sky by next weekend ... although I'm sure my wallet will be a bit lighter. Posted by Picasa

The Last Word: Noam Chomsky

The Last Word: Noam Chomsky - Newsweek: International Editions - MSNBC.com

I disagree with many of Noam Chomsky's ideas, but he does make this point succinctly:
Hastings: Where do you see Iraq heading right now?
Chomsky: Well, it's extremely difficult to talk about this because of a very rigid doctrine that prevails in the United States and Britain which prevents us from looking at the situation realistically. The doctrine, to oversimplify, is that we have to believe the United States would have so-called liberated Iraq even if its main products were lettuce and pickles and [the] main energy resource of the world were in central Africa. Anyone who doesn't accept that is dismissed as a conspiracy theorist or a lunatic or something. But anyone with a functioning brain knows that that's not trueƂ—as all Iraqis do, for example. The United States invaded Iraq because its major resource is oil. And it gives the United States, to quote [Zbigniew] Brzezinski, "critical leverage" over its competitors, Europe and Japan. That's a policy that goes way back to the second world war. That's the fundamental reason for invading Iraq, not anything else.

Once we recognize that, we're able to begin talking about where Iraq is going. For example, there's a lot of talk about the United States bringing [about] a sovereign independent Iraq. That can't possibly be true. All you have to do is ask yourself what the policies would be in a more-or-less democratic Iraq. We know what they're likely to be. A democratic Iraq will have a Shiite majority, [with] close links to Iran. Furthermore, it's right across the border from Saudi Arabia, where there's a Shiite population which has been brutally repressed by the U.S.-backed fundamentalist tyranny. If there are any moves toward sovereignty in Shiite Iraq, or at least some sort of freedom, there are going to be effects across the border. That happens to be where most of Saudi Arabia's oil is. So you can see the ultimate nightmare developing from Washington's point of view.

As I've blogged before... I hope Iraq moves toward a moderate, inclusive society over the next decade. But given the history of oppression in the region -- and the cultural propensity to hold grudges -- I see violence continuing for some time... and I see Iraqi Shia aligning themselves with Iran's interests more closely than with ours.

So how many billions are we paying for this outcome? How many lives?

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Robertson Links Sharon's Stroke to Wrath

Robertson Links Sharon's Stroke to Wrath
By SONJA BARISIC Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

NORFOLK, Va. — Christian broadcaster Pat Robertson suggested Thursday that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for "dividing God's land."

"God considers this land to be his," Robertson said on his TV program "The 700 Club." "You read the Bible and he says `This is my land,' and for any prime minister of Israel who decides he is going to carve it up and give it away, God says, `No, this is mine.'"

Sharon, who ordered Israel's withdrawal from Gaza last year, suffered a severe stroke on Wednesday.

Why do people still listen to -- and give money to -- this obviously sick man?

Are there than many American's so damn bored and frightened that this guys message sounds 'true'?

Abramoff Pleads Guilty to 3 Counts

Abramoff Pleads Guilty to 3 Counts

Looks like (and I only say looks at this stage) the party that ran on the platform to

1- Reduce the influence of special interests in government and "restore" integrity
2- Reduce the size of government
3- Get the US out of 'foreign entanglements'
4- Balance the federal budget
5- Restore integrity

will end up playing the central role in the largest government corruption scandal in modern history while simultaneously doing the opposite of everything they proclaim to stand for...

Reminds me of a Seinfeld episode... It's bizzaro world...

Let's see, under a Repug dominated government we have:

1- Out-right influence peddling.
2- The fastest rate of growth of federal spending in 30 years.
3- A protracted military deployment (creating more anti-Americanism abroad)
4- Red ink for the foreseeable future

and don't forget all the intrusions into the rights of the individual in a free society... and their efforts to enshrine bigotry in the constitution...

The Repug's have pulled off the perfect-storm of governance.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

A Life, Wasted

From the Washington Post and a first person perspective on war... a father's words, not mine:

I am outraged at what I see as the cause of his death. For nearly three years, the Bush administration has pursued a policy that makes our troops sitting ducks. While Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that our policy is to "clear, hold and build" Iraqi towns, there aren't enough troops to do that.

In our last conversation, Augie complained that the cost in lives to clear insurgents was "less and less worth it," because Marines have to keep coming back to clear the same places. Marine commanders in the field say the same thing. Without sufficient troops, they can't hold the towns. Augie was killed on his fifth mission to clear Haditha.

At Augie's grave, the lieutenant colonel knelt in front of my wife and, with tears in his eyes, handed her the folded flag. He said the only thing he could say openly: "Your son was a true American hero." Perhaps. But I felt no glory, no honor. Doing your duty when you don't know whether you will see the end of the day is certainly heroic. But even more, being a hero comes from respecting your parents and all others, from helping your neighbors and strangers, from loving your spouse, your children, your neighbors and your enemies, from honesty and integrity, from knowing when to fight and when to walk away, and from understanding and respecting the differences among the people of the world.

Two painful questions remain for all of us. Are the lives of Americans being killed in Iraq wasted? Are they dying in vain? President Bush says those who criticize staying the course are not honoring the dead. That is twisted logic: honor the fallen by killing another 2,000 troops in a broken policy?

Though it hurts, I believe that his death -- and that of the other Americans who have died in Iraq -- was a waste. They were wasted in a belief that democracy would grow simply by removing a dictator -- a careless misunderstanding of what democracy requires. They were wasted by not sending enough troops to do the job needed in the resulting occupation -- a careless disregard for professional military counsel.

But their deaths will not be in vain if Americans stop hiding behind flag-draped hero masks and stop whispering their opposition to this war. Until then, the lives of other sons, daughters, husbands, wives, fathers and mothers may be wasted as well.

This is very painful to acknowledge, and I have to live with it. So does President Bush.