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Wars Went MIA From Midterm Debates

Posted on Nov 17, 2010

Do not adjust your monitor: Marines in the middle of a sandstorm make their way back to their vehicles after patrolling a nearby mountain ridge in Bakwa, Afghanistan, on May 3, 2009.

By Jon Dillingham

Despite the exit of some U.S. troops from Iraq—50,000 soldiers still remain, along with an untold number of mercenaries, permanent bases and no doubt a small CIA army—the war there and in Afghanistan is still vibrant. Nations we are not even at war with, such as Pakistan and Yemen, have become targets, and the death toll in Afghanistan is rising faster than ever. But you certainly wouldn’t know it from the public debate that led up to the Nov. 2 midterm elections.

Only a tiny handful of articles and newscasts about the elections noted there were wars going on at all, and even those stories mentioned them only in pointing out that the wars had not been a large issue in the campaigns. Politicians running for office were not challenged to comment on either Iraq or Afghanistan (or Pakistan and Yemen) in press conferences and debates. It was as if understanding the nation’s war efforts was not part of a legislator’s job description.

There are obvious reasons politicians don’t want to talk about the wars. The Republicans would rather not bring up an issue on which they are aligned with President Barack Obama, and the Democrats don’t want the rest of us to remember that the invasion of Iraq was a bipartisan initiative. The politicians also don’t want us to be reminded that the Afghanistan project is not going well.

They don’t want us to know how much we’re killing and dying over there, and how brutally we’re doing it. They would also prefer not to discuss the fact that many of those we kill over there never wished America harm. They would rather have us ignore the fact that violent opposition is a legitimate response to occupation. They also don’t want to tell us that they know our tax dollars are being funneled to the Taliban in both Afghanistan and Pakistan and, via our donations to Pakistani security forces, even went to the terrorists who killed hundreds in Mumbai.

Even the wars’ beginnings, still lauded as righteous by many, can’t be discussed. Those running for public office can’t talk about the lack of usable evidence against Osama bin Laden, nor would they enjoy discussing the fact that the Taliban was rebuffed by the United States in its offer to hand bin Laden over in exchange for said evidence, making the subsequent bombing and invasion patently illegal. They don’t want us to discuss the hypocrisy of a nation with weapons of mass destruction invading another nation, Iraq, for supposedly having weapons of mass destruction, or the fact that the invasion would have been far costlier had the Iraqis actually been in possession of those weapons. Where would those hypothetical weapons have been aimed at that point? Israel? Possibly they would have been passed to Hezbollah, Hamas or Syria.


Square, Site wide

But we in the press often do Washington’s bidding: The politicians don’t talk about these things, so neither do we. We’ve rendered ourselves, and this entire exercise in democracy, null and void. We may prattle on about health care reform or human rights in China, but if the press and the public don’t push back against America’s crimes of aggression and the mass killing of innocents, then we’re nothing more than obscene jingoists.

Our silence, that of the people and the press, has quickened our country’s slide into what military historian Andrew Bacevich calls “permanent war.” The American people and the press are the only defense against the mass slaughter of those who cannot defend themselves, and we are the only ones who can save our troops. Anything less than direct opposition to these imperial invasions makes us accomplices: In our silence, we are complicit in crimes against humanity.

But we don’t seem to care. The wars aren’t an issue because we don’t make them so. The Pentagon Papers helped foment anti-war sentiment, but WikiLeaks’ release of 600,000 pages detailing years of slaughter, rape and abuse? Nothing. Amy Goodman summarized the evil to be found in those documents: Searching the archive on the WikiLeaks website, she found that “words like ‘rape,’ ‘murder,’ ‘execution,’ ‘kidnapping’ and ‘decapitation’ return anywhere from hundreds to thousands of reports. ...” This is what our tax dollars are paying for and what the acquiescence of our press supports. War crimes.

Americans struggling with hard financial times may use the depressed economy as an excuse not to care about the wars. But can economic stability at home be considered as important as the right to human life abroad?

Our reverential platitudes like “Support the troops” and “God bless the troops” are little more than mumbo jumbo when stacked up against our actions. If we cared about the troops, we would bring them home. We don’t care about them, because they’re not us. Less than 1 percent of the country serves in the military. If we had a compulsory draft, people would be out in the streets hurling bricks through the windows of the Capitol. If a draft was fair and included the sons and daughters of our leaders, we wouldn’t have these wars in the first place.

In his book “Washington Rules: America’s Path of Permanent War,” Bacevich cautions against “the evisceration of civic culture that results when a small praetorian guard shoulders the burden of waging perpetual war, while the great majority of citizens purport to revere its members, even as they ignore or profit from their service.”

Without a real connection to war, we disengage from the issue; our debate is either nonexistent or impotent. We see nothing wrong with the ever-expanding military budget amid national financial catastrophe, nothing wrong with re-electing politicians who are unwilling to slow the rapid gains in military spending or the strengthening of bonds between the weapons industry, Washington and Wall Street’s captains of industry.

Even the war-fighters are removed from battle, killing families in droves via drones they control with the detachment of video-game addicts. At the same time, whole articles in our newspapers are dedicated to a lively debate about the use of federal funds and state spending. Politicians running for office give hour-long speeches on the issue. But the media fail to point out that none of these candidates mention the salient fact that our most expensive and wasteful expenditure is, by far, the military. The attack budget (it is not a defense budget) for the wars has eaten up more than $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan alone. Maintaining the entirety of our global war machine costs more than that amount annually.

Some Americans may even think “the war” in Iraq is over, given Obama’s declaration that major combat operations have closed. Bacevich writes of this deception: “Instead of declaring victory, the president simply urged Americans to turn the page. With remarkable alacrity, most of us seem to have complied.”

Even the few mainstream journalists who thought to question the absence of the war from the election’s debate have missed the mark.

The most notable of such misses is Tom Brokaw’s Op-Ed article in The New York Times, a cruel snub for those whose lives have been consumed by the wars. Brokaw talks about “5,000 dead” as if there had not been hundreds of thousands, millions by some estimates, of Afghans, Iraqis, Pakistanis and Yemenis killed. For these dead human beings and their survivors, there is no “turning the page.” Those still alive in these countries look the brutal war machine in its teeth each day. There is no escape from its talons, which seize them as they walk to school, as they till their fields, as they cook meals in their homes. War may be permanent and distant for us, but for them it is perpetual and personal.

It’s not complicated, but it’s horrifying. If we stop talking about the wars, the killing will never end. We won’t see it or hear it, but it will continue. And it will be done in our names.

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By flickervertigo, November 21, 2010 at 6:00 pm Link to this comment

there’s a pretty good possibility that tillman was “fragged” by his own troops because he was such a hotdog… that’s what happened to hotdogs in vietnam.

from a puff-piece in sports illustrated, April 23, 2004...

“In practice, coaches often had to make Tillman slow down so he wouldn’t hurt anybody in drills that weren’t supposed to be full speed. Slowing down was always tough for him.”

given the hot air, lies and propaganda surrounding tillman’s death… well, it’s hard to say what really happened to him.

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By Guy Montag, November 21, 2010 at 4:04 pm Link to this comment

Here’s my Veteran’s Day take.  Just the other day, a doctor sewing up a head laceration thanked me for “my service.”  I wish I had the presence of mind to have retorted “What service?” 

The marriage of NFL football with the armed forces is not all about glory.  It’s about secrets, lies and death, too.  During the 2009 Superbowl with Pat Tillman’s team, the Arizona Cardinals, playing the Steelers, he was barely a footnote.  Old news.  A bit troublesome for the media and NFL to dwell upon.  A bit of an embarrassment.  Best ignored.

The top leadership of the Army, Congress, and the Presidency (both Bush and Obama administrations) betrayed the Tillman family by their cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death.

And the NFL exploited the death of Pat Tillman, yet refused to help the Tillman family in their search for the truth.  I guess the NFL figures they’ve put up a statue, had a jersey dedication, paid for the Tillman USO in Afghanistan … time to move on.  The NFL has turned Pat Tillman into an lifeless icon, instead of celebrating his iconoclastic nature (e.g. the man who told a fellow Ranger in Iraq that “This war is so——ing illegal!).

I’m still angry that the truth about Pat’s life and death has been buried.  Tillman was enshrined as an icon while the man fell by the wayside, his parents used as props at his funeral.  “The truth may be painful, but it’s the truth,” his mother said.  “If you feel you’re being lied to, you can never put it to rest.” 

We should honor Pat Tillman’s memory by honoring the man, not the myth. The iconoclast, not the icon.  As his mother said, “Pat would have wanted to be remembered as an individual, not as a stock figure or political prop.  Pat was a real hero, not what they used him as.” 

If you want to learn about the real Pat Tillman, see the documentary “The Tillman Story” or read Mary Tillman’s book “Boots on the Ground by Dusk” (at, Jon Krakauer’s book “Where Men Win Glory,” or “The [Untold] Tillman Story” posted at  (see June Posts).

SSGT Co. “F” (Ranger) 425th Infantry 1983—1991


“The Tillman Story” made the cut to the final 15 films up for an Oscar for best documentary. I’m not holding my breath; this is another story that has been MIA.

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By Guy Montag, November 21, 2010 at 3:56 pm Link to this comment

Jon,your article is a timely reminder that, as Ralph Nader liked to say, “there’s a dime’s worth of difference” between the Republican and Democratic Party.  It’s another reminder that if the mainstream media doesn’t report it, it’s invisible to 99% of the population.

Nice references to Andrew Bachevich.  One of the best “conservatives” out there commenting on the wars.

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By J.Tribe, November 21, 2010 at 2:17 am Link to this comment


I too, think it’s a fantastic piece of writing.  And to the Lord Byron fellow, who called you an asshole . . . I believe there is plenty of complicity to be shared—WE ARE ALL COMPLICIT, and I think that was your point.  The soldiers carry out the murders and our tax dollars pay them for it.  “WE” Byron rants, opposed the war . . . Who does We refer to?  War protesters?  Those who have opposed in their heart of hearts, but said little aloud?  Where has the boycott movement been?  Where has the anti-tax revolt over moneys spent on murder?  Within this tax loathing country, always eager to elect whoever promises the least taxes!!!  Both parties still getting the preponderance of votes, both delivering nothing but war.  I’d say a few have done their best, valiant or pathetic as those efforts may have been, to oppose the war, while the vast majority of Americans have done just what this article alleges, they’ve ignored the issue just as the mass media has encouraged them to . . .

Well done, Jon.  Selah.

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By WITT, November 19, 2010 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Better than most of what the NY Times prints on their Op-Ed page.  Send it in. 
Well done.

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By Leefeller, November 19, 2010 at 7:50 am Link to this comment

The spawn of ignorance from the voters to the inequities sponsored by what seems to be a heard of lackeys in Washington. If one looks at only one cause, they are missing the boat and it may be safe to say the excavator digs a deep hole while the elevator can’t make it to the top floor!

Insinuate the news!

The constant ringing of stupidity in our face with the likes of Plain, Limbaugh and Beck they promote an imbecility offered as cues of common sense, this seems most insulting to me….. But the media is hired to voice ignorance, they are paid to feed contrived Bull Shit, offered as gourmet gospel. Bull shit to be believed as truth and offered as perspective intelligence, even with the bad smell.

The idea that success is measured by ones ability to make more money than the regular slob on the street, an acceptance of unprincipled wealth to be worshiped as the American way,  is mind boggling to reality and insulting to something called common sense!

Recently Bush has crawled out from under his Ten Gallon hat, bringing back fond memories of “My Pet Goat”  seemingly he is re-unleashed on a society who loves to worship a celebrity, the stupider the better and after all Bush could not be a dumb as Palin?  Nothing is better than a moron twit born with a silver spoons up their ass!  So you too can feel included, even to become a president born in America or maybe a CEO like Trump. Two fascinating signs of ultimate successes. Yes everyone has the opportunity to get off their ass and become wealthy enough to buy health insurance!

So don’t ask don’t tell is constantly on the table touted as a reality and a most pressing issue of promoted importance. Contrived to be made as one of several most important issues of the day.  Palin offers a pure sense of nonsense promoted as the voice of wisdom and the possibility she may even become president without being born with a silver spoon up her ass is most titillating.  Palin is more American than apple pie!

Yes…... what war?

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By flickervertigo, November 19, 2010 at 1:34 am Link to this comment

the television tells us what we should be thinking, then it tells us what we are thinking.

in the meantime, we’re thinking no such thing.

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By BrunoDiderot, November 18, 2010 at 11:48 pm Link to this comment

Well ... golly !

Most Americans LIKE the wars ... THAT would explain a few things, huh ?


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By PatrickHenry, November 18, 2010 at 7:54 pm Link to this comment

War?...what war?

Wars are for volunteers, I say let them fund themselves.

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By flickervertigo, November 18, 2010 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment

what props these people up?

adrenaline, cocaine, religion, philosophy, ambitious mothers?

who knows?

whatever it is, it’s comical

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By flickervertigo, November 18, 2010 at 5:10 pm Link to this comment

god and ten dollar gas

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By N. Joseph Potts, November 18, 2010 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

George Orwell said it all in 1984: We have always been at war with Oceania.

And before that, it was Eastasia.

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By Michael Cavlan RN, November 18, 2010 at 2:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The reason? Because all the non corporate, peace candidates were excluded
from debates and any and all media coverage. Often with the assistance of
“progressive” and “peace” groups. Or at the very least with a complicity of
silence of said groups.

The words of Dr Martin Luther King ring loud in my ears folks.

We will not remember the words of our enemies but instead the silence of our


That will be willing to have the courage and moral and political integrity to
break free from the pro-war, corporate duopoly.

Question is, are we ready to stand up and fight for it?

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By flickervertigo, November 18, 2010 at 2:18 pm Link to this comment

there are probably factions: real zionists, who are willing to hasten america’s decline in an effort to secure israel from global warming before america collapses from oil shortages…

...and pure looters, who figure they can buy refuge in the garden spot of their choice once the balloon goes up.

meanwhile, zionism and its exemption from criticism provide cover for everybody… and nevermind that lowrent boomers are catching on.

the america gulag will deal with the boomers who believed in america, democracy, social security, and were too shortsighted to loot on their own hook… those boomers not gonna be much of a problem, anyhow, seeing as how they’re getting to old to fight.

...not to mention that, for ten years now, we’ve been training mercenaries in urban combat… which ought to come in handy, somewhere down the line, in america.

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By DavidByron, November 18, 2010 at 2:04 pm Link to this comment

Two-cents Tont: “I have been thinking more and more often about the idea of creating a detailed timeline of US Military interventions, actions, and aid both “covert” (as Chomsky says “covert from the American public”)and otherwise, accompanied with relevant statistics and a brief summary of the actions, as well as in whose interests they were performed.”

Well plenty of people already have done that haven’t they?  Google is your friend. 

Try William Blum’s “Killing Hope” for a big list with exhaustive detail of each item.

Or for a more exhaustive list with a small amount of detail try Ward Churchill’s “On the Justice of Roosting Chickens”.

Or for a list of actions just look around the web.

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By flickervertigo, November 18, 2010 at 2:01 pm Link to this comment

politicians and the main media cant talk about the wars because the wars’ origins are tainted with zionism, and zionism is the sacred cow of america.

if a certain group of people has been exempt from criticism for generations, it’s likely that predators are gonna surface in that group, and drag the rest of the group—-and the rest of the country—- into disasters… assuming that a philosophy of “might makes right” is, in the long run, a disastrous philosophy.

the only real thing left to figure out, is: are these predators real zionists, or are they only using israel as cover for the biggest looting operation ever?

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By DavidByron, November 18, 2010 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

Not true.

“But the media fail to point out that none of these candidates mention the salient fact that our most expensive and wasteful expenditure is, by far, the military.”

The amount spent on the bankers and the health insurance industry is greater.  The military might be (arguably) the biggest government waste but American society as a whole wastes a lot of other things by payments that don’t necessarily go through the government coffers.

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By DavidByron, November 18, 2010 at 1:49 pm Link to this comment

And to complete the liberal up-is-downism just as the people doing that actual murder are “heroes” so those who don’t do the murder are the real bad people:

“In our silence, we are complicit in crimes against humanity”

No you are not asshole.  “Complicit” means something and “crime against humanity” means something.  Stop trying to devalue the meaning of words.  At least this idiot hasn’t (yet) claimed that those who oppose wars are the real guilty one while the troops are innocents.  I expect that’s coming int he other half of the essay.

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By DavidByron, November 18, 2010 at 1:46 pm Link to this comment

“we are the only ones who can save our troops”

I love that any liberal so-called anti-war view has to bow down and worship “the troops”.  That is, they must include pro-war propaganda in their anti-war articles.

“The troops” are people who take money to commit mass murder.  “The troops” are the people actually doing all that evil war stuff you pretend you hate.  All that torture, rape, killing, terrorism, bombing etc/  “The troops” are the ones doing that.

The aren’t heroes, they are literally baby killers.

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By DavidByron, November 18, 2010 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

American liberals always seem to be on a huge self guilt trip.

“The wars aren’t an issue because we don’t make them so.”

No, the wars were not an electoral issue because both corporate parties had the exact same policies.  Both parties knew most people opposed the war and both parties said “fuck that”.  Obviously this is a feature not a bug, of the pseudo-democracy, but it does mean you actually can’t “make an issue” of it in electoral terms—and this article is in consideration of electoral terms.

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By DavidByron, November 18, 2010 at 1:36 pm Link to this comment

Does the author suffer under the delusion that it’s OK to invade a country if they refuse extradition of a suspect?

“nor would they enjoy discussing the fact that the Taliban was rebuffed by the United States in its offer to hand bin Laden over in exchange for said evidence, making the subsequent bombing and invasion patently illegal”

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By Davitt, November 18, 2010 at 1:26 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

War isn’t the only thing not talked about .... what happened to the homeless and the working poor? Everything today seems to be about the middle class and the rich.
Thanks for bringing this egregious journalistic hole to the forefront. I wish you wrote for the NY Times.

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By Fat Freddy, November 18, 2010 at 9:06 am Link to this comment

There were plenty of Libertarian Party and independent candidates talking about the wars. The problem is, no one in the MSM was listening. Alex Snitker LP candidate for Senate in Florida, was excluded from all the debates, thanks partly by efforts by Marco Rubio. You can also thank Ilana Drimmer, the booker for NBC’s Meet The Press.

This is just one example. Members of the LP will not skirt the issue of the wars, or foreign policy. The Democrats and Republicans, along with the MSM, seem to be perfectly happy with the way things are.

de profundis clamavi,

Yes, Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich are the most principled members of Congress. They have worked together to end the wars, audit the Federal Reserve, and repeal the Patriot Act. Yet, both are treated like outsiders by their respective parties, and portrayed as extremists and even wackos by the news media. What does that tell you about our current system? Politicians and reporters seem to be more worried about banning Happy Meals and alcoholic energy drinks, than soldiers and civilians being killed…because the government knows what is best for us. So, just shut up, and do what you are told.

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By Dave p, November 18, 2010 at 8:56 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Good point about the 5000 deaths. How can we fight a war ostensibly on behalf of the
Iraqi and Afghani people, but not value them enough to count their dead?

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By Leefeller, November 18, 2010 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

On talk radio the other day, I heard a voice talking matter of factually, about war as if it is like shopping for shoes or something.  It seems the premise was the USA is imperialistic and always has been and needs to maintain this creating democracy’s around the world. 

From what I gather, the attitude is very much like Christians going around and teaching people how to believe.

Aside from the wasted money of perpetual wars, money which could be utilized to make this nation much more livable for the people keeping the infrastructure in repair, the wars seem to smack of abounding opportunistic people with no scruples. As for accountability, that may be a pipe dream!

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By LostHills, November 18, 2010 at 3:40 am Link to this comment

Neither party will stop the wars, and elections are all about dems vs. pugs.

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By de profundis clamavi, November 18, 2010 at 3:36 am Link to this comment

There was no discussion of the war in the mid-terms because there is no controversy about the wars and the permanent war economy between the “conservative” (Republican) and “liberal” (Democratic) factions of the American Ruling Class.

Aside from a few renegades in the “extreme left” of the Democratic Party like Dennis Kucinich and Russ Feingold, and even fewer libertarian renegades in the Republican Party like Ron Paul, both parties are ideologically committed to maintaining American military global hegemony.

Besides, the war economy is “good for jobs” in practially every state of the union, ignoring the fact that the money wasted on “defense” could pay for a whole lot more trolley cars and school teachers.

If we are going to stop the wars, the only thing that will do it is a massive citizens’ movement including civil disobedience that actually shuts down the American economy and government. Citizens’ cordons sealing off lower Manhattan and Washington. Bankers and CEOs afraid to go outside their gated communities. More than just a few people politely walking around with signs in their hands where they are allowed to go by the police. Pretty close to revolution in other words.

Otherwise, we’ll just have to wait for the federal government to bankrupt itself, which it inevitably will do, and soon, because the Ruling Class which profits from endless wars is unwilling to tax itself to pay for them, and as the working and middle classes get poorer, it will be impossible to raise the tax revenue from them either. With bankruptcy and economic collapse, the revolution will make itself.

But the revolution won’t necessarily be led by the left - in fact, judging from the temper (and stupidity) of most public dialogue in the USA, the revolutionary spirit is much more alive in the ideological descendants of the KKK than the Wobblies.

We better be careful then. When the collapse of government becomes imminent, which could be sooner than most people think, there better be some leftist militias and leftist 2nd Amendment societies around, because there will certainly be lots of well armed and murderous right wing militias on the loose. If we are not careful, we could find ourselves defenseless in the face of an enemy with no conscience. I personally do not like the prospect of being scapegoated and massacred like the German left in 1919 and 1933.

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By frith, November 18, 2010 at 3:19 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

this is the only piece of news worthy of reading today.  it makes the rest feel like gossip.

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By G.Anderson, November 18, 2010 at 3:17 am Link to this comment

Proof positive that our two party system is really a one party system.

Because there is no disagreement over this issue and most of the substantive issues we face.

There is only the same old same old disagreement on the cosmetic issues, the insolvable emotional issues.

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By robjira, November 17, 2010 at 10:27 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Excellent article. Now, we just need to accept we’ve
reached a point in the affairs of the country that
demands we put our supposed participatory democracy to
the test. This is the time to sink or swim.

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By jt, November 17, 2010 at 9:09 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Well said and much needed . . .

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By JJW, November 17, 2010 at 9:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Connect the dots; war and the economy are the same.  Spending a trillion per year on bombs will bankrupt America.  It also prevent Americans from having health care.

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By Sam D, November 17, 2010 at 8:35 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)


Fantastic article. You absolutely hit the nail on the head, and the writing style is
passionate and razor sharp. It’s great to see someone hold the government 100%
accountable for the atrocities of these wars…I for one am pretty tired of the media
apologizing for them. Everyone should read this great piece of journalism.

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By berniem, November 17, 2010 at 6:05 pm Link to this comment

SHHHH! If somebody starts talking about the “WARS” it might cause people to consider cutting some “entitlements” other than those that actually help our citizens to survive and have a fighting chance against our home grown terrorists, AKA the plutocrats and their governmental hirelings!

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