SYNTHESIS
Michael Butler
PO Box 56
Hammondsport, New York 14840
synthesis@synthesisinstitute.net

Phone: 716.213.6405
MASSACRE IN BAGHDAD:
A SHORT HISTORY OF THE U.S. INVASION OF IRAQ


a prose-poem for the stage
by Michael Butler

.
..preview performances
in 2007...

"And then...perhaps this democratic experiment will yet succeed...to prove the superiority of a worldwide movement that has not yet fulfilled its destiny, the movement toward freedom..."

Michael Butler, "The Campaign For Democracy"


THE ISMIST MANIFESTO:
Poems 1972-2007

Available in 2007 from
FOOTHILLS PUBLISHING
Avoca, New York

THE CAMPAIGN FOR DEMOCRACY is a serious effort to put forward a pragmatic alternative to the self-defeating, self-destructive policies of the Bush administration in the "War On Terror."  A draft aimed toward Midterm Election concerns appeared on 10.3.06.  Look for an update early in 2007.

Dialogue and discussion on issues of politics and spiritual insight, from rich personal experiences, thought and study.  Presentations for your group or school.

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It Is Time For A National Spotlight On The Media

by Michael Butler / 12.21.06


It is time for a National Spotlight on the Media.

I don't mean a candlelight vigil.  This is not about mourning; not about keeping hope alive; not about lifting a lone flame, not even in prayerful numbers, against the oppressive wall of darkness.

This is about turning on floodlights, shining a beam of insistent knowledge, casting a ray of illumination at the heart of deception, cynicism and cold money motives, to tell moguls, editors and reporters:

We see you.

I would stand in front of the studios and offices of Fox News, CNN, the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, and aim a simple flashlight at their door.

Forget the White House, the Capitol and the local Federal Courthouse.  They do not control the narrative.  They do not frame the questions; and at the end of the day (when the evening news comes on), it is not the President or the Pope or the Chief of Police who gives the explanations.

Say to MSNBC, CBS and the Washington Post:

We know what you are doing.

If our collective will is strong enough — if our purpose is true enough — if we move in the right spirit, will they listen to a beam of light?

Then when they come to ask, or if anyone wants to know, "Why are you standing here?" we will frame the questions, and we will give the explanations.

We will ask:

For what Noble Cause are American soldiers dying in Iraq?

After all, you are The Media.  You are The News.  You are not just a mirror of America, like some kind of empty, blank slate that fills up with random notes.  It is your job to make sense of the world, to tell us what is really going on.

Why are you not performing your job?

And what should we call a Free Press that only presents part of the picture, distorts the meaning of the picture, and tells us outright lies?

How is it that a majority of Americans seldom or never hear their own views echoed and amplified in the mainstream media, but are told what to think and what to think about by an alien voice that makes them feel isolated in their opinions?

How is it that the majority of Americans understand perfectly well the most fundamental truth about American politics in the modern era, a fact that is virtually never heard or mentioned or investigated: that regardless of which party or leader controls the White House or the Congress, the same Owners are calling the shots?

Too often, too much, the insurance companies write their own regulations; the HMOs make the rules they abide by; the energy companies, the timber companies, the mining companies, the pharmaceutical industry, the auto makers, the defense contractors, the banking sector defines legislation to their liking and their privilege.  And on and on, the profit of momentary advantage takes precedence over the long-term interests of local community values, sustainable development, even life and health and safety of the American people.

And who made the choice to leave out the facts, to make-believe pink is purple, and to fill the screen with titillating distractions?

We see you, hiding there, pretending you are not the instrument of change, pretending you are not the wall itself that keeps us prisoner of your will.

How is it that important committees in Congress can be confronted by evidence that demands impeachment of the President of the United States, can face wrenching battles of conscience and political will that decide the fate of the nation by a single vote — (House International Relations Committee, September 14, 2005) — and be a story that rates not a mention, not a paragraph, not a phrase in any of the major newspapers and news outlets of this country?

How is it that hundreds of thousands of people can fill the streets in protest against works of evil done by government in their name, while the message of a few hundred people holding a counter-demonstration on the fringe is given equal weight and equal or greater time?

How is it that massive numbers of people can turn a spotlight toward issues of grave national concern, putting hands and hearts and feet to a path that one news director deems "not newsworthy," while one influential pundit marginalizes and dismisses their efforts with prominent and well-reported spite?

How is it that poll after poll, not once but numerous times, repeated over the course of more than a year, shows a majority of Americans favor due consideration of evidence by the august body of our national legislature, and impeachment of President George W. Bush if the facts so indicate, yet hardly a columnist will touch the story, no network tracks the development, and nary a commentator salutes the national will?

We see you, pretending you are the voice of the people, pretending you serve our interests.

How many times must a white dove sail, before this land is our land?

It's time for a National Spotlight on the Media.


The issues are real.  The questions are pointed.  And the emotion touches a raw nerve in many people who care deeply and work hard to help make a difference — to move our country in a positive direction.

Right now, Congressional leaders in Washington need both
prodding and support from a popular movement to pass impeachment resolutions.  In my view, impeachment is necessary, not from anger or to punish George Bush, but for ultimate healing of global disorder and taking responsibility for the problems Bush has created.  Many Americans agree; but having relatively broad-based public opinion favoring impeachment of George Bush has not been enough; declarations by legislatures and city councils have not been enough; outspokenness by individuals and organizations has not been enough.  Well, IS the media accountable to the people?  The times call for action: by whatever peaceful, lawful means, we must bring this issue to the front pages, the editorial pages, the oped columns, the talk shows and the nightly news.  The story must be reported — the views of the many must be heard.  Leave a comment on this article.

 


Navigation:
Five Articles On This Page



It Is Time For A National Spotlight On The Media  [12.21.06]
 
Riding The Wave Of Change: Beyond Midterm Elections 2006
[
11.14.06]

The Need For Immediate Change In U.S. Policy On Iraq
[10.23.06]

Midterm Elections 2006: Can Democrats Sober Up George Bush And The Republican Party?
[10.23.06]

Why Ralph Nader Was The Logical Choice In 2004
 [10.13.04]



Links To Other Articles
By Michael Butler:

In The Right Spirit: The True 'Way Forward' In Iraq [1.20.07]

My New Year's Revolutions
[1.3.07]


Toward A New Patriotic Consensus: Beyond The Iraq Study Group Report  [12.12.06]

The Campaign For Democracy: An Alternative Strategy To The War On Terror [10.3.06]

As The Dust Settles And The Smoke Clears In Lebanon [8.15.06]

Election 2006 and the Iraq Fiasco: Leadership, Not One-Upmanship, Will Bring America Home [8.12.06]

In Maryland, Kevin Zeese Takes On The Power Brokers [10.10.05]

The Turning Tide: From Cindy Sheehan's Encampment In Crawford To The Woolsey Hearing In Congress [9.21.05]



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The Need For Immediate Change
In U.S. Policy On Iraq


by Michael Butler / 10.23.06




On September 13, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan spoke at a press conference in New York, where he delivered his assessment of America's current situation in Iraq.


"America cannot stay in Iraq," he said simply, "and America cannot leave."



What this means is that America MUST leave Iraq, and sooner rather than later — the sooner the better, because every day more harm is being done than good.


But — to the extent we can control circumstances — how we leave, and what we leave behind, are absolutely vital questions.  This is the real issue, the thorny dilemma: how to assume responsibility for Bush's many mistakes?



The invasion itself was a tragic blunder (one could say much worse about it, too).  What has been done since, and the way things have been done, have piled error upon error.


If peace can be won, anywhere on Earth, it can only exist when people around the world join common cause with America — or in Iraq, if it were possible, when a majority of the people embrace and accept our soldiers' mission.




But until Americans stand up for their country, and vote to insist on a foreign policy that presents not America against the world, but America with the world, and for the world; and for domestic policies that serve the interests of the American people, not merely a wealthy elite — until that day, war is the only winner, and terrorism rules.


M
idterm Elections 2006: Can Democrats Sober Up George Bush and the Republican Party?

by Michael Butler / 10.23.06



The American political system, under the divisiveness fostered by George Bush, has reached a state that can charitably be termed "crisis;" and in this case, the inherent opportunity that goes with the condition seems very real.

In answer to the situation, I've drafted an introductory outline of "The Campaign For Democracy: An Alternative Strategy To The War On Terror."

I want to encourage Democrats — and everyone else — to get their thinking outside of the box that Bush has built for us all.  Five years after 9/11, where are we?  Where is the frontier in the "War On Terror?"  The Midterm Elections are almost here; and after that, the Iraq Study Group led by James Baker and Lee Hamilton will present its findings.  Barring some catastrophe, these are the next events that have greatest potential to materially affect policy.

But in the recent past, the passage of the Military Commissions Act has pinpointed exactly where we are.  Many have lauded the contributions of Senators John McCain, John Warner and Lindsey Graham, who seemed to put the brakes on the Bush administration's eagerness to dispense with legal protections for "enemy combatants."

The New York Times, however, took a somewhat different view.  In an editorial that appeared on September 28th, the Times said, (my summary) don't look now, America, but there's really, truly very little left of your cherished Constitutional protections but a hyped-up advertising slogan for a defective product that will make you sick and give you cancer.

And William Rivers Pitt has pointed out that the un-talked-about significance of this bill, and perhaps its most purposefully intended effect, is to retroactively legalize actions by Bush, Rumsfeld and others in our government that any international court — perhaps even our own Supreme Court, based on the Hamdan decision — would recognize as war crimes.

This, after five years, is the demonstrated meaning of George Bush's leadership: the focus of national debate is to determine whether Americans should employ waterboarding, electric shock and other forms of torture in the interrogation of criminal suspects deemed "enemy combatants."

But think back.  Barely one month after the attacks on the World Trade Center, a team of policy experts showed up on Charlie Rose's talk program to discuss the legal impact of those terrorist events.  All the issues raised in the Military Commissions Act were right there on the table, right in front of us, five years ago.  It was already clear then that whatever the military necessity in Afghanistan, we had a problem of international police enforcement, and a need to establish trial procedures that might, hopefully, claim some measure of international legitimacy.

So regardless of how one feels about the recent efforts of McCain, Warner and Graham, the mere fact that we are having these discussions today means that the American people are big losers.

Where should we be, instead?  My point in "The Campaign For Democracy" is that underlying this whole affair there is, essentially, a religious question.  Not to take away from the reality that the attacks on the World Trade Center were, intrinsically, an indictment of American foreign policy, American economic policy, and American culture.  I answer this first of all by saying that we will defend ourselves most effectively against those who attack us in the name of a just cause by becoming, ourselves, the champions of justice.  But leaving that aside, the fundamental question raised here is: Does God teach you to kill?

Does God teach you to kill?  If so, how, under what circumstances, or to what extent is inflicting pain permissible?  This is the point of contention articulated by Pope Benedict in his perhaps well-meaning but unfortunate remarks in September 2006.  And if there was any leadership in Washington concerned with moving civilization forward instead of backward — if 9/11 had been recognized as an opportunity for healing and meaningful intercultural exchange instead of an opportunity for dictatorially-minded demagoguery and corrupt profiteering — then our national focus right now would be much closer to Benedict's real question: how do you love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength?  How do you live, and put these principles into practice in the modern world?

This is the essence of a strategy that, in my view, holds some meaningful promise of countering the nihilism of Islamic militancy on an ideological level.  But instead, George Bush's answer to the problem has been something like this: "In the interests of national security, anyone who believes that God teaches you to kill, is going to be killed by the United States."

A great many Americans have come to recognize the fruitlessness of this approach — a profoundly wrong direction by our elected leadership that is building counterproductive consequences against our long-term national interests.

And perhaps, the coming Wave of Change in our Midterm Elections will sweep Democrats into position to be able to do something about it.  But until they reach consensus among themselves, or someone emerges from the pack with a clear understanding of what the conversation is about, and what the true way forward is, the country will at best continue stumbling along a different drunkenness.


Riding The Wave
Of Change:
Beyond Midterm Elections 2006

by Michael Butler / 11.14.06


Now that the 2006 Midterm Elections have delivered their verdict, a faint sliver of light appears at the end of the tunnel: a distant hope that the American ship of state will right itself, and the tensional integrity of Democrat-Republican collaboration will define a course that avoids the shoals of history we've been charging toward.

America has been profoundly strengthened by this turn of events.  A government that was "standing on one leg" with a crippled Congressional leadership has now been given restoration of functioning to all its parts.  Indeed, Election 2006 may well have been the very last opportunity to sound a wake-up call for the Bush administration, to turn their steps away from a path toward worldwide conflagration.

The new shape of American politics puts extraordinary responsibility and power into the hands of Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid.  "The Democratic Party is ready to govern, and ready to lead," Ms. Pelosi proclaimed, in the immediate aftermath of the vote tally.  Her statement underscores the remarkable character of this election.  After all, it is not generally the role of Congress to exercise such authority and initiative.

But something indisputable hangs in her words, punctuating the close of an era when the Republican majority all but erased the presence of their opposition counterparts, and Congressional leaders largely subjugated the institution itself as shills for the White House.  For all that, the nation has struggled with a leadership void throughout the Bush Presidency; and it is this, an inability or a decision not to be President for all the people, that the voters rejected most resoundingly.

So Pelosi and Reid take center stage.  They are so unlike the Republican leadership they are replacing that one could hardly dare to ask for individuals better suited to the moment, by the qualities of collegiality they've demonstrated since the will of the American people has been heard.

It's as if we've had six years of government by drunken frat boys having a beer blast in Washington; and now, suddenly, the adults are here.  George Bush, indulging a life of privilege above the law, has been surrounded by sycophants who've imposed his bidding on the world with mock-imperial deference; and the American people have interrupted to say, "We're not with you, we're against you."

Internationally, there has been an immediate response, as the world breathes a sigh of relief, and a small measure of respect, perhaps even affection returns toward America.  The proof is still to come, but Election 2006 suggests that the American system does work, after a fashion; and maybe the American people are not as bad as the actions of their government have shown.

But amidst the competing calls to stay the course, cut and run, redeploy or redefine the American presence in Iraq, there is still no clear sense of an overarching direction for the future of American foreign policy that comprehends the whole situation.

"Stumbling toward a different kind of drunkenness" is how I described my fear for what lies ahead, if the complexity of events escapes general understanding throughout the 110th Congress.  Haphazard solutions, contradictory steps, inadequate measures and even the introduction of new, more potent errors than we have seen so far, are all possible outcomes of the tug-of-war between branches of American government in 2007-08.

America must seek to embrace a new patriotic consensus that trumps the failures of the Bush administration, guiding the Democrats to move beyond politics, beyond partisanship, putting our true national interest above every personal consideration.

It is possible — and there are subtle signs we might applaud — that conditions are primed for the greatest burst of legislative progress we have seen in decades.  A lame duck President, and a Congress that wants to show results, could be a recipe for surprising statesmanship.

But even lackluster progress on minor issues could move the country significantly forward if the Democrats can sustain bipartisan participation.

The Baker-Hamilton Iraq Study Group seems likely to recommend a combination of strengthening troop levels in some areas, moving others out of provocative positions in harm's way, requesting specific actions by the Iraqi government, and involving other nations, including Iraq's neighbors, in the search for peaceful solutions.

The latter strategy can potentially mean more toward promoting a perception of democratic intent than anything Bush has done since the day he disavowed United Nations authority and decided to invade Iraq unilaterally.

But perhaps we shouldn't be too harshly critical of the mess created by the Bush White House.  The "War on Terror," along with its ill-advised corollary battle in Iraq, is a different kind of war than America has ever fought, and a different kind of challenge than the world has ever faced.  Shouldn't we cut some slack to George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld for being unable to comprehend it?

It is, number one (as we must patiently explain to our misguided leaders), the defense of civilization itself that is at stake.  Unfortunately, Rumsfeld's behavior during the burning of Baghdad in April 2003 indicates that he wouldn't recognize civilization if he saw it, and wouldn't defend it if he did.  And Bush's entire Presidency demonstrates a belief that government, and therefore military power, exists primarily for the enforcement of aristocratic privilege; so it ought to be hardly surprising that he would fail to note how his actions since September 11th, 2001 have been steadfastly moving civilization backward instead of forward.

If only we could teach the architects of degeneration that this is, in fact, the seminal ideological battle of the 21st Century — a kind of "Munich moment" when civilized nations must choose to stand up against the tyranny of armed minorities!  Unfortunately, they are not likely to grasp this, since they confuse the defense of institutions with the contest of ideas — a battle that cannot be fought with guns; and therefore they themselves have become instruments of tyranny and purveyors of oppressive ideology.

If only we had some way — could we convince them that the goal worth striving toward, the ultimate meaning of this struggle, is that fragile "movement toward freedom" in every human heart?  A turning toward light that has, over centuries, built an engine of global development called "Democracy..."

If we could somehow shift the levers in Bush's brain, would he cease to conduct a "War on Terror" and learn to wage a "campaign against anti-democratic forces" on our behalf — a "Campaign For Democracy" on behalf of all the world's people?

I'm reminded of that old Orson Welles movie where "George got his come-uppance."  American voters have moved the levers of events that may, just possibly, begin to teach George Bush about the movement he has never understood or agreed with: namely, "Democracy."

At least for the moment, impeachment is only a distant murmur of discontent.  It will not come closer unless there is an overwhelming popular movement, or Congress feels ineluctably compelled by incontrovertibly damning evidence.

But there is such justice at work here that all the world is lifted up with faint, slender hope that things will somehow work out right.

Perhaps we can trust that folks will eventually figure out how to fight smarter, not harder — that American foreign policy will come around to a more rational worldview — but until then, the "War on Terror" is a fundamentally flawed, misbegotten policy that needs to be reframed, redirected and renamed.



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Why Ralph Nader Was The Logical Choice In 2004


By Michael Butler / 10.13.04



MB photo "Ralph Nader: The Logical Choice" was written in Emporia, Kansas, while I was a Media Spokesperson for the Presidential Campaign of Ralph Nader, during a five-week barnstorming tour through Kansas, Nebraska, and South Dakota.  It was reviewed and approved by Washington headquarters staff, and was used to communicate the Nader campaign message to reporters, editors, publishers and others whom I encountered along the way.  It was also featured on websites maintained by Nader supporters.  Now, as 2007 aches forward, the prescient, poignant truths I expressed then remain a painful counterpoint to the continuing tragedy of the Bush Presidency.


Excluded from the first Presidential Debate on September 30, 2004, Ralph Nader appeared on the CNBC talk show "McEnroe."  Ralph was asked whom he would vote for in a two-way race, if he were not a candidate.  "Kerry is better than Bush," he stated simply.  "But Kerry is not good enough."

Any perceptive person must acknowledge that there are differences between the two candidates, and between the two parties they represent.  But as Nader points out, the American government is now in the grip of big business special interests who effectively write their own legislation and set policy to their own liking, with full complicity of both parties, at the cost of worker’s rights, civil liberties, environmental quality and the continuing erosion of basic living standards for a majority of the American people.

Historically, third parties have spurred the major parties to embrace the concerns of the disenfranchised and to address new issues.  But this mechanism no longer works because the fundamental issue is now the two-party system itself.  The two-party system has a corrupt monopoly on American government, the media, and even the thinking of millions of people who have been duped into believing that they are truly free.  Against this adversary, the Nader candidacy is a determined effort by a man whose lifelong mission has shown, again and again, that it is possible to challenge entrenched power against long odds and come out a winner.

No doubt, it would take a political earthquake for Ralph Nader to make more than a token showing in the current contest.  But as this election has been coming down to a referendum on the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, the blurred lines between the two major parties on this issue provide a heightened contrast to the clear alternative offered by Nader.  Bush and Kerry have been competing to prove they are each more aggressive than the other in military toughness against the forces of both al-Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgency.  But this is an escapade in which no military victory is possible.  The stakes in this war are nothing less than to determine whether Osama Bin Laden’s version of revolutionary Islam will become the dominant train in the Middle East, overtaking moderate governments in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan, for example.  Right now Osama Bin Laden is winning, and the diplomacy debacles of George W. Bush make him the best recruiter working for al-Qaeda.  Our continued investment in military action has been provoking ever-greater hostility from allies and foes alike, alienating millions of Arab youth; and even America’s own soldiers are losing faith.  George W. Bush has diminished America’s standing in the world to the lowest point in our nation’s history.  We are no longer seen as the world’s peacekeeper, but as a force for tyranny and gluttony.

Meanwhile, John Kerry has no vision or any awareness that the roots of the terrorist problem lie in America’s foreign policy and economic policy, exemplified by the WTO, GATT and NAFTA treaties.  These economic arrangements undermine the sovereignty of America as well as other nations, forming the nucleus of a corporate shadow government which exercises ever-increasing domination over all the world’s population.

Ralph Nader stands alone among the Presidential candidates against the WTO, GATT and NAFTA treaties which are an affront to the dignity of every world citizen.  At the same time, he is the only candidate who stands for abolition of the nefarious Patriot Act, which represents corruption of the most basic ideals of American freedom — unlike Bush, who believes authoritarian repression is a necessary tool of combating terrorism, and Kerry, who disagrees with Bush only in the fine print of the contract.  And Nader offers both vision and a solution to the quagmire of spiraling escalation to the war on terrorism.  While Kerry and Bush are ready to keep barreling forward with military misadventures, Nader presents a mature readiness to take responsibility for the mistakes of the current administration.  Nader — who speaks six languages fluently, including Spanish and Arabic — calls for security on the ground to be provided by neutral, primarily Arab, Muslim nations.  These are the only governments which have credibility to do the job.  Perhaps American military forces might have succeeded in this task, if civilian leadership in the White House had implemented a more humane course after the Fall of Baghdad.  But it’s far, far too late for that, now.  Arab governments may need to be coaxed into service in this role, but they will come forward when all U.S. soldiers are being withdrawn, when U.S. bases in Iraq are shut down, when all U.S. corporations cease operations in the country, and America demonstrates that we have no ulterior motives or designs on the oil wealth of the Middle East.

It is time to bring the troops home, and begin honoring them as the real heroes they truly are, instead of sacrificing them to the visionless quest of the warlords Kerry and Bush.  It’s time for America to begin a REAL debate, not the mock debate between two candidates who offer only more of the same, or the same plus more.  It’s time for Ralph Nader’s voice to be heard, and his candidacy to be granted the legitimacy it deserves — the candidate who, despite widespread myths and misunderstandings of his role in the 2000 election, remains admired and respected by a majority of Americans for his extraordinary lifetime achievements in service to the American people.








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Last Updated: 1.22.07



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