Tuesday, November 29, 2005
After reading this story here at CNN, I wonder if President Bush understands why Americans are upset over his handling of the war in Iraq. In today's speech in Denver, president Bush stated: "That's what's important for the American people to understand -- that, one, we are not going to cut and run; two, we'll achieve our objective; and three, the president is going to listen to those who are on the ground who can make the best assessment".
What President Bush fails to understand is that we still do not understand exactly what the objectives of the war in Iraq are and that misunderstanding leads to confusion about when our objectives will be met and the troops can come home. To address his first point, no one who really understands the current political situation in Iraq is asking for troops to come home immediately. This war has been so mismanaged and the country is so dangerous that pulling out now could plunge Iraq into a civil war or allow it to devolve into a criminal state similar to Afghanistan. Regardless of how we got into this war our responsibility now lies in making Iraq as strong and secure as possible before we leave.
Most Americans have a problem with his second contention; what objectives are we trying to reach? The war was initially sold as a way to stop Saddam Hussein from posing a danger to the U.S. with his weapons of mass destruction. There are none. We were also told that regime change had to take place in order to keep him from supporting terrorist groups like al- Qaida. No link between Hussein's government and that group has ever been found, which is not surprising considering he ran a secular dictatorship and they are Islamic fanatics. They would as soon topple him as attack us. It is true that there are terrorists inside Iraq attacking U.S. forces now but they were only allowed into the country because the Bush administration failed so utterly to have a strategy beyond the initial seizing of Iraq. They obviously did not expect an insurgency to be this well armed, funded and determined. The administration failed to secure the borders and stop outside forces from entering the country.
There are those in this administration that say it is better to fight the terrorists in Iraq than in the U.S. but that statement rings hollow. Either we did not expect the insurgency and failed to plan for it or we purposely inflicted this reign of terror on the Iraqi people. Those making this statement should be made to explain themselves.
Regardless of whether every other country on earth thought Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, we made the choice to go to war against Iraq. President Bush presented the evidence and failed to persuade countries with real influence and military power to join us in ousting Hussein. What is hurting him in the polls now and costing him support among every strata of the population is his arrogant assumption that he knows what is best for the country. The smirk that adorns his face during every speech lets you know that he knows what is right; we all just need to trust him. He doesn't understand dissention and he is too prideful to admit when he has made a mistake. The WMD was not there. There are no links between Hussein and al-Qaida. He will never admit that he was wrong, he will just shift his position and repeat it until we all think we fought the war to free the Iraqi people. He will never admit that their freedom was just a by-product of an agenda he had before ever taking the oath of office.
What he really doesn't understand and what eludes the hard core right wing pundits is that liberals do not look at this as a right-vs-left issue. I'm a liberal and I want justice for everyone killed on 9/11. We want to hunt the terrorists down and bring them to justice or kill them in their caves. The problem is that the Taliban is still active in Afghanistan and we have failed to find Osama Bin Laden.
To lump the mess in Iraq in with the war against Islamic fanaticism leads us astray from our goals. Those who support the president and his war in Iraq need to ask themselves something: when this weary American force does return, who will fight the next war against the terrorists who attacked us? Will we release them from their duty in Iraq just to send them to Afghanistan, Iran or Syria? What will it take to secure Afghanistan so that it does not become a haven for terrorists again? Is the money being spent in Iraq money that should have been spent to secure America against future attacks?
Our resources are not limitless. The only way to finance tax cuts for the wealthy, two wars and the rebuilding of the south is to borrow more and more money from foreign nations. Good paying jobs are leaving our country, programs for the poor are being cut and all this president can do is smile and tell us all how good it is.
Think back a year to last November. Is this what you wanted when you went to the polls? If it is, we're all in deeper trouble than I thought.
Friday, November 25, 2005
Delphi employs around 3800 workers here in the Valley and those jobs are among the best in the area, rivaling only those at the GM Lordstown complex. Removing so much money from the local economy is going to have a devastating effect. Currently, only retail seems to be growing in the area and without those tall Delphi dollars to support it, the retail sector will see either slow growth or a reversal in 2006.
The GM plant closings will have a lesser impact. GM Lordstown, home of the Cobalt, was spared during the recent cuts so we will not see a direct effect from lost jobs. However, several local companies do business with the GM facilities that will be closing so a ripple effect will be felt.
The real danger comes from the area's dependence on these two employers for tax revenue, employment and stability. After the steel mills closed in the late 1970's, no Valley politician or party stepped forward with a plan to ease dependence on manufacturing jobs. Local labor unions are seen as obstructionist by companies who consider coming here and despite the fact that a resource as valuable as Youngstown state University is in the area, no one has pushed higher education and technology as the way of the future. Graduation rates for Youngstown city schools is around 65%.
Local leaders need to look upon the situation facing Delphi and GM employees as a warning. They must work together with union leaders, business owners and state politicians to make Mahoning and Trumbull counties as attractive as possible. Education needs to become a priority but educated workers must be convinced to stay here rather than moving away. Despite the high crime, urban blight and massive unemployment in the area, there are several features which make it attractive:
- The Ohio & Pennsylvania turnpikes as well as several other interstates are located nearby and provide excellent transportation into, through and out of the area.
- The local airport is underused and capable of handling even the largest jets.
- Graduates of Youngstown State University are extremely capable and ready to enter the workforce upon graduation.
- Housing costs are very low.
- Commercial real estate, for offices and warehousing, is extremely reasonable.
- Railways are numerous and accessible for intermodal transportation.
- Pennsylvania is close by which offers opportunity for cooperation.
- The health care system in the area is superb and modern.
There needs to be a real effort made by leaders in all of our communities and the municipal, county and state level to draw businesses to the Mahoning Valley. Tax rates must be cut, especially in Youngstown, and crime must be brought under control. A city with a population of around 80,000 will never be seen as safe if it maintains a murder rate in the 30's. Any party, including the local unions, that are seen as obstructionist must be worked with and made to understand the importance of bringing new jobs to the area. A little pain now may be worth a lot of success later.