Next week we celebrate our Independence - from British autocratic rule 230 years ago.

But our independence today depends on many decisions that we have to make - beginning in this year’s mid-term elections and continuing into the 2008 presidential race. Let’s go over some of them:

1) Independence from our own wrong-headed thinking about what we can do in the world.

Back in the 2000 campaign, then-candidate GW Bush correctly said, “I am against nation-building.”

Within a year - only in part due to 9/11 - we were - and remain today - ‘nation-building’ like mad around the world. Afghanistan up until now has been a success but lately the Taliban has again made inroads in the rural parts of that backward country. Only Kabul has been transformed by our efforts there.

And, of course, Iraq is GW Bush’s ‘nation-building’ folly. Our Ambassador over there - Khalizidad - recently issued a report on the living conditions for Americans living in Baghdad. It was a disaster. Can you imagine how it is for Iraqis? Even he admitted the electricity and water situations are at times worse than before our invasion.

The point is this: as well-intentioned as we Americans are about providing freedom and democracy to other peoples, we simply cannot re-build and run their countries for them! They have to fight for themselves - and then our help is a supplement.

But Iraq is so torn with civil war and ethnic tension that virtually none of the massive infrastructure re-building that we American taxpayers have already paid for has been built! And who knows what has happened to those billions.

We Americans need to be independent of this misguided notion that we can - or ought - to be the world’s policeman.

We can’t do it. It won’t work. Period.

2) Independence from the bad guys who control so much of the oil we rely on: the Saudi Royal Family, the Iranians, the Russians and Hugo Chavez in Venezuela.

It is simply nutty that our economy is allowed to depend on oil from fruitcakes, communists and greedy sloths like these.

We need to become Energy Independent. How? A combination of presently available sources - nuclear, clean coal, safe off-shore drilling, ethanol - plus conservation - and good old American ingenuity charged with the task of inventing a new generation of cars, trucks and busses relying on something ‘new.’ Maybe that is hydrogen fuel cells or lithium batteries or compressed air or who knows what? The point is we need to be Independent of our present reliance on these potential enemies for this crucial lifeblood for our economy.

Washington DC’s role is to prod and push and goad and lead the nation into a new way of thinking about our energy needs. Let the brains and the risk-takers do the inventing.

3) Independence from a belief that government at any level can solve our problems; it can’t, hasn’t and won’t.

Government - even if instances when it tries to do good things - often makes the problem worse. Case in point: prescription drugs for our Senior Citizens through the Medicare Program.

This was a well-intentioned effort and a promise from the 2000 presidential campaign.

But it has been a dismal - and costly - failure.

Why? Because he White House lied to the Congress about the cost and then strong-armed a weak GOP House and Senate to swallow a massive new government entitlement program.

The result is angry seniors, some of whom have had to be hospitalized, massive new federal debt and a feeling in the community of helplessness about their own prescriptions.

4) Independence of thought. We all need to stop parroting whatever our political leaders say - and, instead, think and speak for ourselves.

Be independent - think for yourself - and have the courage to speak up and to speak out against the wrongs we see every day in our lives.

Happy Fourth to you all!


“Cut and run” is the accusation hurled toward anyone advocating withdrawal of our troops from Iraq.

Of course, the implication is that it is cowardly if you talk of troop reductions or withdrawals or timetables.


Because now the new Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki - just 12 days after a surprise face-toface meeting with GW Bush - himself is talking of a timetable for the reduction of American troops!

Here is what is really going on:

A panicked GOP and White House - fearful of losing one or both houses of Congress in November and thus entering a blizzard of investigations - has craftily begun yet another PR campaign on Iraq. In this campaign, they are branding the Democrats as wimps and ‘advocates of surrender’ when they introduce Senate resolutions calling for deadlines and troop withdrawals.

Meanwhile, our own commanding general in Iraq, General Casey, has leaked out a plan to begin reducing our troops this September - just weeks before these crucial November mid-term elections.

Furthermore, Casey’s plan - leaked over the weekend to all broadcast networks and major newspapers - details troop reductions all the way through 2007.

If that isn’t a timetable, then what is?

All the arguments used to attack Jack Murtha - the original proponent of reducing and ultimately withdrawing all our troops from Iraq - that it is “cutting and running,” that we “need to support our troops,” that it will be ‘read by the Islamists as American surrender,’ that it will ‘embolden’ the insurgents and Al Qaeda - apply equally to the Casey/Bush/Rummy Troop Drawdown Plan.

So what we have here is plain old politics being played with this war - by both sides in DC.

Both parties supported this war - overwhelmingly. In fact, they fell all over each other to vote for the war in October 2002.

But only after things turned sour on the ground in Iraq - and the American people turned on the war (almost 60% now believe it was a mistake) - did the political backtracking and attacks begin. Democrats - hearing it loud and clear from their leftist base - began ‘apologizing’ for the pro-war vote. (John Edwards and John Kerry have apologized; Hillary and Joe Lieberman have not. Hillary now is getting booed and Lieberman may lose his August 8 Connecticut primary to an anti-war candidate.)

GOP Congressmen are very nervous over Iraq. The White House has convinced them to - yet again - embrace the war instead of running away from it. But the candidates are nervous because all polls now show that the intense voters are the ones who are against the war.

Plus, conservatives are so disconsolate over Bush’s pro-amnesty immigration plan that many may just stay home in November.

Indeed, these are perilous times for conservatives and Republicans.

They are being asked to carry the water for an administration that has is hopelessly out of touch with the GOP base on immigration, international trade deals and federal spending - and is also out of sync with the majority of Americans on a war that never seems to end and never shows any substantial progress.

Republican loyalty is admirable; but their judgement is questionable. They wisely scuttled an awful immigration bill but refuse to admit that it is high time to begin to leave Iraq.

If General Casey can advocate a gradual plan for troop reductions, then that is the way we all ought to go. The American people want it.

But Prime Minister Al-Maliki’s proposal to give amnesty to Iraqi insurgents is going to cause big, big problems. Just the idea that some of these murderous butchers who run around kidnapping and beheading people might be allowed to get away with it makes a mockery of the entire war effort.

Just what are we fighting for if these crimes go unpunished?

It proves one thing: the Middle East is filled with barbarians unworthy of American sacrifice, honor and blood.


Well, it did not take long for the case of the 2 MIA’s to end: they were brutally tortured and then apparently beheaded by the new head of Al Qaeda in Iraq.

Perhaps this is their (demented) view of payback for our killing Zarquawi two weeks ago.

Whatever it is, it further illustrates the brutality of the militant Muslim enemy that we face across the world. And it needs to be made clear that while most Muslims do not behave this way - indeed the overwhelming majority do not - that majority for whatever reason also does not condemn it. And the Iraqi government - elected thanks to the courage and sacrifice of our soldiers and taxpayers - seems incapable or unwilling to crack down on these militants.

In fact, many of these murderers are actually members of the Iraqi Army by day, and then at night maraud as Muslim militia members sometimes even killing their own fellow Army troops!

Today’s abduction and murder of one of Saddam’s lawyers is a case in point: he was abducted from his house by Iraqis wearing police uniforms - and then hours later he was found shot to death and dumped on the street in the Shi’a part of Baghdad.

This is a daily occurrence in Iraq. These militants play both sides of the game - and can’t be trusted.

Now, as to our ultimate game plan in Iraq:

What is ‘victory’? In the ideal sense, it is for the elected government to settle things down and establish that indeed democracy can work in an Arab country. The argument goes that in this case, the other neighboring Arab nations would see this, thirst for it and freedom and democracy would grow.

A noble goal indeed.

But it depends on Arabs controlling Arabs. It requires Shi’a and Sunni to live peacefully together.

So far this is simply not happening.

And we haven’t even mentioned the presence of Al Qaeda helping to fuel the flames. We make a mistake to believe most of the violence in Iraq comes from Al Qaeda; it doesn’t. It is homegrown sectarian violence in the form of ‘payback’ for Sunni brutality over the Shi’a majority under Ba’ath Party rule.

All of this has turned Iraq into a mess.

Yes, a majority of Iraqis were happy to get rid of the brutal Saddam and then to vote in 3 national elections.

But we have to remember something: they are devout Muslims who do not want Christian and Jewish American troops on their soil for any longer than necessary.

The problem is when do we begin to leave? GW Bush says that will be up to “the next president.” Thus, we are staying - in some form - through 2008 anyway.

Do we really believe that Iraq will settle down? That Sunni and Sh’ia will peacefully coexist? That Iran won’t continue to fan the flames of this insurgency if only to gain a stronger foothold in Baghdad?

I believe the Arabs have proven themselves to be incapable of democracy and freedom and dissent and all that goes with it. Plus, other than oil, what have they produced for the world? Anything? Any scientific or creative advances? And progress for their own people?


What we need to do is simple: stop buying their oil and stop thinking we can change their mentality. They take those dollars and fund terrorists and enrich a few at the upper level - and treat the masses like dirt. Then they allow these poor souls to believe in this insane concept of martyrdom and violence against westerners.

The Arab mentality is the problem here - and we can’t change it, as much as we would like to.

The sooner we realize our limitations, the better off we will all be.


It is going to be a rough road for the two missing US soldiers who were abducted Friday night from a roadblock when insurgents cleverly split the American contingent apart. The two soldiers were apparently last seen being marched off and loaded into a car by up to nine masked insurgents.

So much for the predicted “fall-off of violence” now that Zarquawi has been killed. Indeed, things have continued unabated in the nine days since his death. At least 36 people were killed in bombings today - and numerous kidnappings were reported, as well.

Clearly there is an ‘intelligent’ force directing this widespread, systematic, well-planned insurgency. And there is also huge support among the Iraqi people for attacks on American soldiers: in a new poll, 47% of the Iraqi people support attacks on US soldiers.

If that is true, then our continued presence in Iraq is a futile exercise. An ‘occupation’ cannot work well if there is widespread resistence.

If the Iraqi insurgency is now targeting US soldiers - as has been reported over the past several weeks - then the tone of this war will change. Capturing Americans is a sure-fire way to enflame the American people and, in effect, to escalate the war itself.

What we don’t yet know about these two missing soldiers is: will they be videotaped and that tape used for propaganda purposes? Will they be ransomed? Will they be taunted and beheaded like other hostages? Will they just fade from view like Sgt. Keith Maupin? Will they be ‘punished’ as payback for Abu Garaib? Or will they be used to try to break the will of the American people to keep fighting this seemingly-never-ending war?

Most worrisome is that, under GW Bush’s administration, we have purposely dissed international agreements, especially the Geneva Conventions on the holding and treatment of captured military personnel. Because of this, these Iraqi insurgents may feel free to abuse and torture and humiliate these 2 GI’s - as a vindictive form of ‘payback.’

All the domestic debate here about the efficacy and morality of torture may come back to hurt us now - or to hurt these two soldiers. We have no leg to stand on as we long ago abandoned the moral high ground when we began invoking torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanimo.

These 2 soldiers - and others yet to be captured in this and future conflicts - will be the unwitting victims of a stupid policy that has done nothing but hurt America’s image worldwide. Even Mr. Bush himself now acknowledges that those photographs from Abu Garaib have severely damaged the USA.

All our previous enemies have discovered the value in holding American soldiers as prisoners. They are useful for both ransom and for propaganda. Also, under torture, sometimes combat secrets can be extracted - although in this case it is less likely than with captured officers or airmen.

Because we care about the lives of each and every soldier, we are paying attention to the fate of these 2 men. Our news media is leading the news each cycle with updates about the search. (Is it only 9 days ago that we were celebrating the death of Zarquawi? Oh how things can change.)

If we can rescue these men alive, it will be a huge victory; if we don’t, it will be seen as yet another sign of a war gone bad with no end in sight.

Our Congress voted on Friday against a “date certain” withdrawal of our troops. But no one is considering a more simple idea: telling the new Iraqi government that it is now up to them to run their own country. We’ve ‘birthed’ their democracy and poored billions of dollars and 2,500 lives into their freedom. It is time that we took the training wheels off and they learn to defend themselves.

There is no useful reason American soldiers are now dying in a decades-long fight between Sunni and Sh’ia - a fight that has nothing at all to do with 9/11, or Osama or a threat to America.

Iraq is a nation that never should have been.

It is 3 peoples crammed together by the British decades ago - and then kept under the jackboot of a Ba’ath Party dictatorship.

Now, thanks to our liberation, these three peoples are free - but some of them are using this newfound freedom to settle old scores and perform ethnic cleansing, just like in the former Yugoslavia.

This mess will not be tolerated much longer by the American people. The upcoming November elections will go a long way to determining whether the ‘stay the course’ plan can continue - or instead we begin to disengage.

The capture of these 2 soldiers in a microcosm of the war itself: how long will America be held hostage by a war with no end game?


Last week’s death of Al Qaeda’s Iraq leader, Abu Musab al- Zarquawi, was indeed a moment - brief though it may be - to celebrate some “good news” from Iraq. He was a totally rotten murderer who exulted in pain and torture. He left a path of death wherever he traveled.

Our soldiers - from the same unit that tracked down Saddam Hussein 2 ½ years ago - are to be commended for the bravery and cleverness in tracking this elusive killing machine.

And, on the heels of the Haditha allegations, it is high time the US military is again seen in a positive light. Our soldiers are - quite simply - the best ever and a few (possible) rotten apples should not taint all of them.

But Zarqawi’s death will not substantially change the outcome of this war in Iraq. Why not? Because Zarquawi is analagous to the head of a Mafia family: the FBI bags him, everyone exults over his conviction and long jail sentence, a new ‘Don’ is named and business goes on exactly as before.

That is what will happen here. Osama Bin Laden - who seems immune to Mr. Bush’s pledge almost four years ago to get him “dead or alive” - will pick another murderer to replace Zarquawi and the killing will continue. Period.

Meanwhile, the ongoing civil war will also continue in Iraq. Virtually every day now we learn of nightly raids, murders, tortures and incredible ‘payback’ atrocities: transportation workers being taken off buses, separated into Sunni and Shi’a and then the latter all executed; Sunni men in one town rounded up and beheaded and their heads found in plastic bags the next day all around town; car bombs aimed at weddings and mosques.

American soldiers have no chance to stop such widespread actions. How could they? There is no defined ‘enemy’ here. The fighting is between two groups of Muslims with decades of pent-up hatred from the brutal reign of Sunni Muslim Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party.

George W. Bush speaks of ‘victory’ in Iraq. But no two Americans can quite agree on just what that ‘victory’ really is. Is it the end of violence in Iraq? Fat chance of that happeneing.

Is it a stable government in Baghdad with the ability to defend the nation from outside aggression? If so, that could take decades - especially when you know that the Iraqi military is still inept and undermanned - and often gives cover to insurgents who get paid by the military by day and terrorize for the insurgency by night.

The Bush Administration never defined ‘victory’ prior to beginning this war. They also fudged the rationale for this war.

And the result is that 59% of the American people now view this War in Iraq as a ‘mistake.’ And the Bush presidency is a prisoner of this decision.

Beginning Monday at Camp David the President will convene a two-day meeting to explore all option for Iraq. Early word is being floated that we may actually increase the American troop levels this year - rather than decrease them as has been rumored.

The coming November mid-term elections should play no part in the troop levels; the administration needs to figure out how to stabilize Iraq as best as can be accomplished and then reduce troop levels.

But make no mistake about it: Zarqawi’s death is great news but there are thousands more just like him rushing to fill his sandals.


As Carole King sang thirty years ago, “It’s too late, Baby.” She was referring to romance, but in this context it is too late for Team Bush to recapture the loyalty of the conservative GOP base.

Immigration/amnesty, Dubai Ports, Harriet Meyers, Katrina, deficits and Iraq have destroyed Mr. Bush’s credibility as president. The new federal effort on gay marriage is as transparent as the dispatching of “less than 5,000 unarmed national guardsmen” to our southern border: a cosmetic ploy in a vain effort to keep the conservatives in line.

This White House just doesn’t get it. Period.

Before - when Bush was in the 50's in all national polls - he could keep the GOP in line; and the GOP was happy to follow because they were winning.

But when your leader plummets to 29% - and is voted in the latest Quinnipiac poll as the worst president since WW II - there is no hope of enforcing party discipline. Thus you see the open defiance in the House on the Bush/Senate/McCain/Kennedy amnesty for illegal immigrants. And you see Speaker Hastert basically tell off the president over the FBI raid of Representative Jefferson’s Capitol Hill office.

The internal state of the Republican Party is one of total turmoil. They are floundering - and do not know what to do to right the ship of state.

So they are - again - trying to federalize a state issue: marriage.

Since when did we conservatives believe the federal government should usurp state’s rights?

This is yet another example of the Bush Big Government philosophy changing the basic tenets of the Republican Party. The Bushes - believers in a Big Federal Government - have become the un-conservatives: a huge Department of Education, a bloated and ridiculous Department of Homeland Security, massive deficits, a new ‘entitlement’ - prescription drugs, a never-ending war that has morphed into the dreaded ‘nation-building’ and on and on and on.

After all of that, why would conservatives happily re-join Team Bush just because he mouths a few platitudes about an issue a close friend of his tells Newsweek, “He doesn’t give a s*** about”?

Both George Bushes - father and son - tried to portray themselves as conservatives; both were cynical manipulators who cleverly used symbols - pork rinds, country music, a phony ‘ranch’ with no animals - to hide their Rockefellerism belief in massive federal power, especially when they control that power.

But it is indeed “too late.” GW Bush’s credibility is shot; his power eroded; his ability to influence events virtually gone.

His own arrogance and ignorance caused his downfall. He was too arrogant to listen when warned about the impending fiasco in Iraq; and he was too ignorant - and lazy - to study history to see what lay ahead in a war such as this.

The result?

A presidency deteriorating right before our eyes. Never - even under the inept Carter or the corrupt Nixon - have we seen a self-immolation quite like this. And we still have 2 ½ years to go!

The Republican Party is a mess; the Democrats are horrible and should never be trusted again.

No wonder more and more people are calling for a Third Party. Or, as has been written in this space for more than a year, an Independent Third Candidate who runs against both parties.

That may indeed happen in ‘08. But that is a long, long way away.

First comes a major battle: where is the heart of the Republican Party? Is it for someone like McCain - a Teddy Kennedy in GOP clothing?

Or is there another Ronald Reagan true-blue conservative out there somewhere who wants to re-take our party and put it back on conservative principles?

That is the key question today.