The Pen is Mightier than the Shoe


Among the chattering classes, it’s become hip to salute the Iraqi journalist who hurled a pair of shoes at President George W. Bush during a press conference on Dec. 14.

As much as I opposed the invasion of Iraq, where my nephew is now on his way to Mosul, I can’t feel good about a member of the media throwing anything at a person who is conducting a press conference, even if that person is one of the most incompetent Presidents in U.S. history.

The image above has been making the rounds, thanks to Baydan & Ducati, the manufacturer of the shoes that were thrown at Bush. However, I have to say that I’m with Laura Bush. I think this journalist crossed the line.

Did I think that gave his jailers the right to beat him into writing an apology, as his brother alleges? No. But I think reporters should confine their attacks to words.

Leaving Iraq in 2010?

Earlier this year, when I posted on the death toll in Iraq and predicted that we wouldn’t be leaving that troubled country until 2010, a few people got upset with me.

Now it looks like there’s something to that 2010 date, which I came up with because of the transits to the invasion chart. The newswires are reporting that the U.S. and Iraqi negotiators are close to a deal that calls for the U.S. to withdraw in October, 2010 (I had predicted May, 2010, by the way), with the last troops out three years later.

The Real Death Toll in Iraq

Well you know the people running round in circles
Don’t know what they’re headed for
Everybody’s crying peace on earth
Just as soon as we win this war
— Mose Allison

This morning, the American press is focusing on the U.S. military death toll in Iraq hitting the 4,000 mark. It’s a grim statistic, but at least the war is dominating the headlines and not Britney, Lindsay, or Angelina.

Even though we are mourning the 4,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq, let us also say a prayer for the nearly 90,000 Iraqi civilian casualties. The Web site estimates the number of civilian deaths in Iraq from violence could be as high as 89,867. Let’s not forget about these victims as well as the many young men and women who have been injured by improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

My heart goes out to the families (American and Iraqi) who have lost loved ones in this latest misadventure of the U.S. military. I’m an Army brat myself. My father did two tours as an infantryman  in Vietnam, my brother was heading for the first Iraq war when it ended, and my nephew will be deployed in October.

I’m especially sad for the families of dead men and women who joined the National Guard never dreaming that they would end up on foreign shores. As you might imagine, my brother the former B-52 bomber pilot doesn’t share my sympathy. “That’s the risk you run when you sign up to serve your country,” he says.

As an Army brat, I have conflicting feelings about when and where war is justified. I actually think it’s possible to “support our troops” but acknowledge that the mission was a mistake from the get-go. And it goes without the saying that I’m a firm believer in military strategy: having a plan when you go in and having an exit strategy.

That’s why one of my heroes is retired General Eric Shinseki, the former U.S. Army Chief of Staff who told Congress and the President that several hundred thousand troops would be necessary to secure Iraq following our demonstration of shock and awe. Too bad our Commander in Chief didn’t have the wisdom to listen. Basically Shinseki’s honesty cost him his job. Where is he today? He’s a visiting professor at West Point, where I hope that cadets are all ears.

I haven’t seen Kimberly Peirce’s new film Stop-Loss, starring Ryan Phillippe as a patriotic Texan who gets fed up after being told he’s being sent back to Iraq for a second tour, but it’s on my list. I was blown away by Peirce’s debut Boys Don’t Cry, for which Hillary Swank nabbed a best actress Oscar. Based on that film, I know Peirce doesn’t shy away from disturbing topics. I’m glad someone is calling attention to the demands that have been placed on our armed forces, which are not just unfair but beyond belief.

The strains on the families are unimaginable, especially for those whose soldier has been injured and who don’t have the money to travel to be near him or her. Contrary to popular belief, Uncle Sam doesn’t foot this bill. But you can help by donating unused airline miles to the Fisher House Foundation. The nonprofit aggregates those miles to provide tickets to families of wounded soldiers in an initiative it calls Operation Hero Miles.

One of my activist colleagues chided me last Memorial Day when I sent out an e-mail asking people to donate miles over the holiday weekend because the airlines were matching the donations. She seemed to think I was championing the war, or at the least condoning it, by urging people to help military families. My response: “It’s an Army thing. You just wouldn’t understand.” 

When do we get to fold up our tents and go home? Let’s look at the chart cast for the U.S. invasion of Iraq five years ago on Mar. 20, 2003 at 5:35 a.m. in Baghdad. As I mentioned last week, I’m not a fan of 29 degrees of Pisces, which suggests sacrifice and the end of the cycle since it’s the last degree of the zodiac.

Well, guess where the Sun is in the invasion chart? Mercury is not far behind at 27 degrees of Pisces. Pluto will soon make a retrograde pass into Sagittarius and square that Sun/Merc conjunction. As bad as things are right now, they’re only going to get worse.My guess is May 2010, when Saturn goes retrograde and hits 28 degrees Virgo while opposing both Uranus and Jupiter at the end of Pisces.

On that depressing note (two more years!), here’s the chart, courtesy of AstroDataBank, with its uglyPluto/Saturn opposition in Sag/Gemini straddling the MC/IC:

What were they thinking?