Archive for October, 2009

We Cannot Abandon Afghanistan

October 28, 2009

Does the Obama administration understand why we invaded Afghanistan?  Does Obama understand that we have no choice but to remain in Afghanistan until we can establish a stable government that will not allow the country to be a base for terrorism?

The Christian Science Monitor has reported that White House Chief of Staff  Rahm   Emanuel   told CNN it would  be “irresponsible” to send more troops into Afghanistan before the political situation is resolved.   Actually it would be irresponsible to wait for the political situation to be resolved before committing sufficient troops to stabilize the situation.

We invaded Afghanistan in 2001 because the Taliban government of Afghanistan had allowed the country to be used by a group of  al Qaeda terrorists who had attacked New York City and Washington, D.C., on September 11.  We cannot afford to leave until we can be assured that the country has a government that will not allow the country to be used to stage any more attacks against the U.S.

Emanuel said it would be “reckless to make a decision on U.S. troop levels if, in fact, you haven’t done a thorough analysis of whether, in fact, there’s an Afghan partner ready to fill that space that the U.S. troops would create.”

Does Emanuel understand  what  the impact of  Soviet rule followed by the rule of the Taliban?    Both governments followed policies of discouraging, and in some cases eliminating, those  who didn’t blindly accept government orders.

The only people who had any experience operating a government were in the Taliban and they relied on terror to rule.  Time will be required to find and train honest individuals who will not abuse their government positions.

Early volunteers for government service have often been dishonest, because dishonest people are more willing to take risks than honest people.  It will be difficult to attract honest people until  we can eliminate the violence that discourages them from getting involved.

If none of those who currently are interested in leading the government are capable of providing effective leadership, we will have to  look for  and  develop new leaders.   We may have to rebuild the country beginning at the local level.

Withdrawal before the country  has a viable anti-terrorist government is not an option.   Osama bin Laden would claim a major victory for violent Islam and use the victory to substantially increase recruitment.

Afghanistan is sometimes compared to my war [Vietnam] because it is a difficult place to defend against a guerrilla war.  However,  our adversaries in Vietnam never attacked  American cities or supported terror attacks  on American cities.  Our adversaries in Afghanistan have attacked American cities before and want to use the country as a base for future terrorist attacks   against the United States and other countries.

We need to stay as long as it takes to prevent the country from once again becoming a base for terrorism even if that takes another 20 years.  We still have troops based in Germany and Japan 64 years  after we defeated them in World War II even though they are peaceful countries.

No one would suggest that police forces in American cities  discontinue efforts to stop criminal street gangs just because efforts to stop them have not been completely successful. The police have to do whatever they can to limit gang activity so long as these gangs pose a threat.

We should not abandon efforts to limit the activities of  international gangs of terrorists just because efforts to eliminate them have been unsuccessful.  The U.S. and other nations have to do whatever is necessary to limit the activities of terrorist gangs and attempt to keep them from gaining secure bases from which to operate.

Will Congress Wreck Health Care?

October 18, 2009

The most important rule in health care is “first do no harm”.  Unfortunately Congressional Democrats seem totally oblivious to this rule.

Many  Democrats are so egotistical that they think anything they do will  be an improvement.  They seem incapable of understanding  that changes can make a situation worse instead of better just like giving a patient the wrong medical treatment can worsen the patient’s condition.  The wrong medical treatment can kill.   Making the wrong changes in the health care system can reduce  access to health care and reduce the quality of health care.

In one of my favorite episodes of M*A*S*H*   Captain Hawkeye Pierce is appointed the unit’s chief surgeon.   Major Frank Burns complains to a general when Hawkeye decides not to immediately operate on  a badly wounded soldier who comes in.   When the general arrives Hawkeye has been playing cards while the man was receiving a blood transfusion, etc. to stabilize his condition.   Hawkeye tells the general he can now safely operate because the patient has been stabilized.  Operating too soon would have jeopardized the patient’s chances of  survival.

Congressional Democrats continue to push a health care plan substantially similar to the one adopted by Massachusetts which is a failure according to the Boston Globe

The program has failed to provide the universal care it was supposed  to guarantee.  Coverage is not affordable.  The cost  of the subsidized program has gone from $630 million in 2007 to $1.3 in 2009.    High deductibles mean people who buy compulsory coverage may not be able to afford to use it.

Low income families aren’t the only ones who have trouble affording health insurance.   Many with incomes well above the poverty level like Ron Norton of Worcester, Mass.,  make  too much to qualify for government assistance but not enough to afford insurance.

The key to successful medical treatment is an accurate diagnosis.   The problem with American health care is the high cost of health care rather than lack of insurance.  High costs make it difficult for persons to afford insurance.

Doctors take x-rays or run tests as appropriate before choosing treatment for any major medical problem.  Congress needs to do the same with health care.  Congress needs to determine the specific causes of high costs to see if they are unnecessary.

For example, are doctors, hospital administrators, insurance executives, etc. receiving higher incomes than patients can afford to provide them?   Are hospitals or other medical facilities making excessive profits by overcharging insurance companies?  Are so called non-profit hospitals or clinics actually functioning as if they were profit making organizations?   Are the uninsured including illegal aliens really responsible for high costs or are they being used as scapegoats by the health care industry to cover up the real cause?  Are courts forcing unnecessary costs on the industry?

This is breast cancer awareness month so perhaps a breast cancer analogy is appropriate.  Thirty years ago the treatment for all forms of breast cancer was usually  a complete mastectomy.  Today some, but not all, forms of breast cancer can be  successfully treated with a  simple lumpectomy that  removes only  the small tumors, provided the cancer is detected early enough.

Thirty years ago toxic chemicals were used to treat breast and other cancers.  Today a growing number of  cancers can be treated  with milder chemicals that  may attack only the cancer cells  without  damaging other  healthy cells.  In some cases radiation can be targeted to cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

The American health care “problem” doesn’t require radical surgery or toxic chemicals.  Improving American health care only requires  a lumpectomy  and mild chemicals.

Obama Should Refuse Nobel Peace Prize

October 11, 2009

President Barack Obama should follow the example set by North Vietnamese  negotiator Le Duc Tho in 1973 and refuse the Nobel Peace Prize.  Many are criticizing the decision to award Obama the Peace Prize.  This isn’t the first controversial decision by the Nobel committee.

It is inconceivable that the Commander in Chief  of a nation whose  troops are actively engaged in armed combat should be awarded a peace prize.  I happen to support the U.S. role in both conflicts, but recognize that involvement in war is inconsistent with receiving the Nobel Prize.

If Obama has made an “extraordinary effort” for peace, why are Americans still dying in Iraq and Afghanistan?  How is the practice of Americans killing Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan an example of “reaching out” to the Muslim world?   Is the Nobel Prize Committee demonstrating racism  by seemingly suggesting that  the killing of Muslims is insignificant?

Whether or not the American role in Iraq and Afghanistan is justified or not, that role is not a role of peace, but of war.  Peaceful resolution of these conflicts may not be possible,  but  peaceful resolution of conflicts is what the Peace Prize should be about.

The Nobel Committee awarded the 1973 Peace Prize to Tho and Henry Kissinger for the work on the Paris Peace Agreement designed to  end U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.     Tho refused to accept the award because he realized his nation had not abandoned its goal of uniting Vietnam by force if necessary.    Kissinger initially accepted it but subsequently attempted unsuccessfully to return it.

Tho and Kissinger at least had done something  that  could qualify  them for consideration.  Obama has done nothing but talk.

Obama has  not ended any war as President Theodore Roosevelt had  when Roosevelt received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1906 for helping negotiate an  end to the Russo-Japanese War.  Many questioned the decision to give the award to Roosevelt because American military forces were dealing with a violent rebellion in the Philippines.

Whether or not the American role in Iraq and Afghanistan is justified or not, that role is not a role of peace, but of war.  Peaceful resolution of these conflicts may not be possible,  but  peaceful resolution of conflicts is what the Peace Prize should be about.

President Obama should  not accept a Peace Prize so long as these conflicts are going on.

Why Cops Have to Be Suspicious

October 8, 2009

This is the city, Wichita, Kansas.  Monday,  September 28,  it was warm in Wichita.

Deputy Sheriff Brian S. Etheridge was on patrol.  At 11:42 A.M. he received a call to take a theft report in the 3600 block of South Rock Road.

11:51 A.M. he arrived at the residence.  When no one came to the door, he  notified dispatch he was going to check the rear of the residence.

12:01 P.M. Deputy Etheridge notified dispatch he had been shot.

Richard Lyons, a man with a long criminal history,  was waiting  in ambush with a deer rifle.  Lyons  fired hitting Etheridge in the back with the bullet penetrating the deputy’s body armor.  He then went over to the wounded officer and when his rifle failed to fire took the deputy’s hand gun and shot him in the leg.

Later in the day officers spotted Lyons in a nearby field.  Lyons opened fire on officers and was subsequently killed in the exchange of gunfire.

Officers later learned that Lyons might have told friends he wanted to kill an officer and that he may have been suicidal.   Officers will never know for sure, but  it seems likely that Lyons initiated the violence  to provoke officers into killing him in what has come to be known as “suicide by cop”.

A study published in February indicates 36% of shootings by police may involved suicide by cop.   This is up from a  1997 study which suggested 11% of  officer involved shootings were suicide by cop incidents.

Sometime police can identify situations in which a person may want to be killed.  At other times, officers may not have time to evaluate the situation. They may have to act immediately to avoid being killed or to prevent someone else from being killed.

Last summer Harvard Professor Henry Gates complained after he was arrested  for being  out of control.

He failed to  understand that the officers had no idea who he was or what his state of mind might be.  They didn’t know whether he could become violent or not.  All they knew was that someone had seen him and another man force the door open.

When Gates came to the door yelling about an officer coming after him because he was black he likely created a suspicion in Sgt. James Crowley’s mind  that Gates  might be guilty of something or had a grudge against the police which might lead to violence.   I don’t know if Crowley considered the possibility or not, but  men of Gates’ age sometimes consider suicide if diagnosed with an incurable  debilitating disease like ALS or Alzheimers’.

Prof. Gates may have been tired and irritable because of his long trip from China.  However, Sgt.  Crowley didn’t know that and  could not be sure Gates was  not  being influenced by drugs, alcohol or a mental problem, which could include high blood pressure or a tumor.

Gates complained about Crowley following him into the kitchen, but Crowley had to do so because he could not be sure that Gates would not come out with a weapon.   By staying with Gates, Crowley reduced the possibility of ending up with a standoff with Gates barricaded inside the house.