PDHblog This is a place for members of Progressive Democrats of Hawai‘i to express their thoughts, hopes and exasperations about political happenings.

April 14, 2017


I posted this as run-on comment on someone else’s Facebook thread dealing with the war in Syria and criticizing Tulsi’s views, as well as criticizing progressives generally for not being out in the streets protesting Assad’s brutal regime.

Since I put so much time into it, I figured I would post it on this blog so more people could see it and comment. Just be (semi-)civil, will you? Trolls not welcome.

A word to help explain the immediate context: A friend had posted a link to an interview with a very thoughtful Syrian progressive, who looks very close to what we would envision a moderate Syrian opposition figure to look like, to sound like. This friend was also chastising American progressives for not launching a large anti-war movement focused upon the brutal nature of the Assad regime.

Please, do not make this too much about Tulsi, either pro or con. Let’s try to focus on principles here, not personalities.
I disagree that it is harder today to know what is “progressive” and what is “imperialist.” It has always been true that there are brutal leaders, generals, kings, emperors, warlords doing horrible things around the world. Seriously. Give me a year when that has not been true.

But it is also true, and a lot of people seem to be wanting to ignore this, that there are other, powerful forces, whose hands are not clean, who seek to dominate other countries, other people’s, in order to extract resources, gain markets, seize land, secure ports, build bases, etc. while I will not excuse what the Japanese did during WWII, or assume the Chinese do not have a history if their own imperialism, I am rooted in the “western” experience, Western history, particularly that of Western Europe and North America. And I am a citizen of the United States of America.
As such, I have more influence (tiny though it may be) and more responsibility to make sure the drive of “my” government to dominate other countries, other people, is restrained, is fettered by my actions. Our primary responsibility is to stay the hand of US imperialism.

I am not an isolationist. I have demonstrated my internationalist bonafides in my youth by traveling through the dangerous conditions in Central America at the time the USG was sponsoring death squads and dictatorships while Reagan was president. I went to see firsthand the struggle of the people of Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua against the US government’s policies. I went to the Philippines in the early years of the Aquino regime to see the benefits of 80 years of US colonialism and learn from the struggle of the Filipino people.

I am not just “an American,” I am a “citizen of the world.” And a human being.

The questions of balancing my responsibilities as both a citizen of the US, operating within the US system, within “American” society and my responsibilities as a human being, sympathetic to the condition of other human beings facing often horrible conditions and often struggling bravely is a question I have wrestled with for a long time.

Other people have wrestled with this, so there are models, principles, even laws, which can help inform this discussion. It is not as if this is the first example of a brave person in a foreign land hoping for help in the struggle against oppression. Is it “heartless” to calm one’s emotions to clarify our thinking? I think it is foolish to not do so.

Fully recognizing a lot of the intellectual frameworks for analyzing our problems have been developed by the elite, I would still hold that the framework of the “Just War” doctrine is valuable, as is the principle of “the right to national self-determination.” These ideas have been codified, imperfectly, of course, in the Charter of the United Nations and other institutions. Yes, the UN suffers from structural defects, the most obvious being the veto power of the Security Council, dominated by the world’s “superpowers” most inclined towards imperialist projects themselves.

The right to national self-determination is also an imperfect conception. What is a “nation”? What about the rights to other, sub-national groups within the territory claimed by a nation? Do they not also have rights? If so, what protects them from the brutality of a national government? What are the rights of a country’s people in a time of war? During a civil war?

I think that framework is helpful if we are trying to sort out our responsibilities. In the age of the internet, we all, especially citizens/consumers/viewers in the wealthy, dominant countries, are bombarded with information about horrible conditions in other countries and our heartstrings are tugged at.

I saw Tulsi criticized for being a “part-time peacenik.” Sorry, I think being a “part-time peacenik” is ALMOST the best we can hope for in a serious person. I say that with a hat tip to Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King and others. Nelson Mandela was a “part-time peacenik” as well.

Please don’t use that as an insult unless you are, yourself, a full-time pacifist. And IF you are a fulltime pacifist, you will likely understand how very difficult it is to maintain that stance and would not insult another person who aspires but who finds they cannot rule out the use of military force. I saw someone who insinuates they are a pacifist criticize the USG for blocking the sale of artillery to the non-ISIL, anti-Assad armed forces. (Things that make you go hmmm.)

The reason a peace movement has not arisen, marching in the streets, besieging Congress on the basis of protesting Assad’s brutal dictatorship is because it is unclear what demands we would be making on whom. Because such energy would very likely be diverted into supporting increased military violence under the banner of “humanitarian interventionism.” We have just witnessed how compassion for the victims of brutal dictators, Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi being the most recent, most obvious examples, has been used to unleash mass violence by “our” imperialist government and has unambiguously MADE THINGS WORSE. Which is consistent with the guidance we find in the Just War doctrine: that using military violence is not justified unless there is a strong probability it will lead to a better outcome.

So, like it or not, Tulsi’s criticisms of the doctrine of using military violence for “regime change” is correct. Her call for an investigation by a neutral, legitimate authority of the facts surrounding the alleged chemical attack is also correct. Her insistence that the president cannot be allowed to launch a missile strike based upon a sudden shift in his attitude, without consulting congress and seeking authorization by the United Nations, is also correct.

Attempts to portray her as heartless, as an apologist for Assad (or Putin), for being a political opportunist, are noise, are “static,” distracting us from seeing things clearly. On these key, fundamental points, she is emphasizing the main principles we have previously adopted, in calmer times, as the signposts to guide us towards a just and rational policy.

June 19, 2012

Ed Case Completes PDH Survey

What, in your view, are the reasons preventing the U.S. Senate from passing legislation that better serves the American people?

The main reason is that most of the American people are currently disenfranchised inside the Beltway. The inside crowd is dominated by political action committees and other special interests dedicated solely to the maintenance of their own interests at all costs to the exclusion of everyone else, and Congress is dominated additionally by the mindset that every debate and policy issue presents a stark choice between political extremes.

All of this results in hyperpartisan, my-way-or-the-highway, take-no-prisoners gridlock, and classic alamihi crab syndrome reactions to any attempt to find a better way forward. None of this is representative of the mainstream of the American people. No wonder that, in the most recent poll taken on the subject (Rasmussen, June 2012), only 7% of Americans, crossing all party and other lines, believe Congress is doing an excellent or good job. Please see my Issues Agenda: Fixing Washington.


July 17, 2011

Obama is Not Progressive

Thinking or hoping otherwise will not make this statement any less true. Barack Obama is not progressive. For my part, I never believed he was and one only need look at his time in office thus far for evidence.

Let’s start with health care, if only because the issue is at, or near, the top of my priority list. While it’s true there are some good things in the Affordable Health Care Act, like extending to 26 the age under which parents can choose to continue to cover their children, or eliminating the ability of insurance companies to deny coverage because of a preexisting condition, there’s no denying that when it’s all said and done, it is little more than a massive handout to health insurance companies. (more…)

February 4, 2010

Afghanistan Resolution

Filed under: 1Stop War,National Politics,SHAPES platform — rachel @ 3:56 pm

At our January general membership meeting, we discussed and passed a resolution regarding the situation in Afghanistan. It is now a month later and I am getting ready to go to our Feb general membership meeting… but I figured this was worth posting for people to see anyway.

If you agree with the sentiment, call your Congressional Representatives and let them know!

Afghanistan Resolution:

The dispatch of thirty thousand additional troops to Afghanistan is a profound mistake that is likely to undermine the credibility of the Obama administration and any of the progressive reforms it is trying to enact. Our soldiers will be used to prop up one of the world’s most corrupt regimes, one that has recently “won” a fraudulent election and has little if any appeal to the people of the country. In fact, its power does not extend outside of Kabul. American soldiers and firepower will alienate Afghans and drive them to support the Taliban.

The scenario we are following is familiar from Vietnam. As Under Secretary of State George Ball (the one senior advisor to advise Lyndon Johnson to withdraw) later recalled: “Nobody was prepared to concede that any particular step would require any further step.” We will send more and more troops under the guise that “progress” is being made. The casualties we take and treasure we expend will become justifications for deeper and deeper involvement. President Obama’s decision is sending us into a new quagmire which will split the Democratic Party and sabotage hope for genuine “change.” We urge the Hawaii Democratic Party to insist on withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan.

January 19, 2009

Silencing Dr. King

Filed under: 1Stop War,5Economics,Barack Obama,General,HI Politics — Bart @ 11:15 am

Today, as we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, it is a proper time to reflect upon the meaning of the man’s life work and message–the challenge he made to each of us to rise to our responsibilities, get out of our comfort zone and work to stop injustice.

Dr. Martin Luther King: Struggling Not to Lose Him

Dr. King was murdered in April 1968 in an attempt to silence his voice. We cannot erase that crime and the burden it has placed upon the movement for justice. But we can resist the many “little murders” which are committed every year around his birthday as the political and economic elite, dare I say, “the ruling class,” works to silence or muffle his message. (more…)

September 29, 2007

War-mongers in the White House

Filed under: 1Stop War,HI Politics,Impeach,National Politics — BobSchacht @ 9:33 pm

I remember President Bush’s rush to war in Iraq: While proclaiming that war was the “last resort,” the President was clearly impatient. UN sanctions were actually working well. According to the Wikipedia,

The United Nations located and destroyed large quantities of Iraqi WMD throughout the 1990s in spite of persistent Iraqi obstruction. Washington withdrew weapons inspectors in 1998, resulting in Operation Desert Fox, which further degraded Iraq’s WMD capability. . . .While various leftover weapons components from the 1980s and 1990s have also been found, most weapons inspectors do not now believe that the WMD program proceeded after 2002,[1] though various theories continue to be put forward. . . . In late 2002 Saddam Hussein, in a letter to Hans Blix, invited UN weapons inspectors back into the country. Subsequently the Security Council issued Resolution 1441 authorizing new inspections in Iraq. The carefully-worded U.N. resolution put the burden on Iraq, not U.N. inspectors, to prove that they no longer had weapons of mass destruction. . . .In January 2003, United Nations weapons inspectors reported that they had found no indication that Iraq possessed nuclear weapons or an active program. . . .On March 7, 2003, Hans Blix’s last report to the UN security Council prior to the US led invasion of Iraq, described Iraq as actively and proactively cooperating with UNMOVIC, though not necessarily in all areas of relevance and had been frequently uncooperative in the past, but that it was within months of resolving key remaining disarmament tasks.[50]

But this was not good enough for Bush and Cheney, who clearly chose to believe the old intelligence reports, and other “worst case” assessments, and to disbelieve the UN reports. Or maybe they just lied. It was clear to me at the time that, shortly after the war on the Taliban in Afghanistan, and despite assurances that war was a “last resort,” Bush wanted to invade Iraq. His body language was clearer than his words. (more…)

September 26, 2007

HI-Sen split on Kyl-Lieberman

Filed under: 1Stop War,HI Politics,National Politics — BobSchacht @ 8:45 am

In an unexpected development this morning, our two senators split on the bellicose Kyl-Lieberman resolution against Iran, which reminds me of the Gulf of Tonkin resolution on the eve of the Viet-Nam war. What was unexpected (to me) is that Akaka voted for it, and Inouye against. At least this is better than Lieberman’s previous anti-Iran resolution, which passed 97-0. But it still must leave Vice President Cheney smiling.
The resolution itself does not call for military action. However, by declaring part of Iran’s national defense forces as a terrorist organization, it provides an easy rationale for Cheney’s desire for more war. (more…)

September 20, 2007

Frustrated Netroots vs. Congress on the War, et al.

Filed under: 1Stop War,HI Politics,Impeach,National Politics — BobSchacht @ 1:43 pm

Frosty’s lament today is hardly an isolated concern. There’s more here:

Primary Challenges Haunt Democrats, by BooMan (Thu Sep 20th, 2007 at 11:07:06 AM EST). This blog includes a quote from Rep. Neil Abercrombie about the disconnect between what the anti-war group wants, and what the Democratic representatives feel able to deliver. This is also revealed in a recent national poll by Andy Kohut that aired on PBS September 19, 2007.

ANDREW KOHUT: Yes, I mean, I think, with respect to the Democrats, that’s the case, because what we saw also is the percentage of Democrats saying that their leaders are not doing enough to push Bush on Iraq. In July, that percentage was 54 percent, and in September, it was 61 percent.

It is also reflected in my op-ed piece today in the Star Bulletin, “Follow the Constitution: Initiate impeachment.” I am totally frustrated by Speaker Pelosi’s declaration that impeachment is off the table. (more…)

dems fall on their faces… again.

Filed under: 1Stop War,National Politics — frosty @ 9:15 am

these days i find myself generally pissed off at the democratic party, both on the national scene and here in hawaii.  now, i’ll admit that i’ve never been a huge fan of the party to begin with, as i feel it offers (nationally anyway) only moderate differences in policy to the republicans.  anyone who doesn’t think the dnc is just as much in bed with big business as the republicans is, in my opinion, simply fooling themselves.  but i digress…. (more…)

July 2, 2007

Advice & Consent

Filed under: 1Stop War,National Politics,SHAPES platform — rachel @ 4:38 pm

Brien Hallet, Associate Professor at the Institute for Peace at the University of Hawai‘i, has developed a plan that he thinks may help us extricate ourselves from Iraq. It may not be as flashy as simply saying “Troops Home Now!” but I think it has merit. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Brien will also be attending our July 5th meeting to discuss his ideas.


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