Cowards and fools

Look who we let lead us to war

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The new independent film, Zizi and Honeyboy, based on my book, "What Zizi Gave Honey Boy: A True Story about Love Wisdom and the Soul of America," has just been completed. I'm thrilled and honored. My dear, wise and loving Aunt Zizi, may her soul rest in peace, is played by Doris Roberts, who starred as Marie Barone, the Italian-American mother in the long-running hit television show, "Everybody Loves Raymond."

I'm played by Andrew Koss, who did a fine job. If there was anyone I would want to play me, it's Andrew.

The story begins shortly after 9/11. My personal life and professional career are falling apart; I was going through a painful divorce and my business was collapsing. While the details of the divorce are personal, my career is a matter of record.

Back in the days when newspapers were newspapers and people read them, I would often be quoted and was regularly featured. A USA TODAY ritual was to be the first to publish my Top Trends for the year ahead. On the fateful day of Dec. 14, 2000, USA TODAY ran this headline: "2001 will not be our year, trend seer says." Nine months before 9/11, I had forecast that Americans wouldn't be safe at home or abroad.

That's how the Zizi story begins. George W. Bush swiftly sends the US military to invade and occupy Afghanistan and the nation rallies around him. Some 90 percent of the nation hailed to the chief. With American flags flying everywhere and yellow ribbons tied to everything, I refused to join the masses in the march to war. I knew it would be disastrous — for the nation and for the world. But the mindset of the nation was in a different place.

Infamous words that duped a nation

I was blackballed by the media. And, at a time when President Bush warned anyone who would not support his war that "you are with us or you are with the terrorists," I was also accused of being anti-American because I predicted the Afghan War would end in defeat.

Now, 13 years later, having further deteriorated economically, militarily and morally, America has gone from bad to worse. Republican or Democrat, whoever is in charge makes little difference. America put a dunce in the White House who launched a War on Terror that has killed millions and destroyed entire nations, then replaced him with a fraud who has bombed seven countries in six years and just launched Crusades 2000: The War against the "Islamic State."

A dunce or a fraud; an empty mind or an empty suit. Be they male, female, gay, straight, whatever creed or color, it doesn't matter. Psychologists have a name for them and psychiatrists have a diagnosis for the mental illness that infects these political parasites. Yet, despite their unbroken track records of monumental failures, outright lies, acts of murder, high crimes and ongoing misdemeanors, the majority still swallows their cheap lines, applauds their bad acts, and defends their criminal actions.

How many more wars does Washington have to start and how much more money will they let Wall Street steal before Americans have the courage to call a spade a spade and look down upon those who rule them?

Wake the dead, raise the spirits

If my mother and father, grandparents, aunts, uncles and their cousins were alive today, may all their souls rest in peace, they would be heartbroken to see what has come of the country they so loved. Once the envy of the world, back then America was truly the land of opportunity.

If my Uncle Frankie, Uncle Nicky and Uncle Harry were alive today, they would dress up and put on a comedy act to ridicule the powers that be. Think I'm kidding? See the photo of them doing a South Pacific skit for grandma. Look at how perfectly dressed they are for the parts.

I can imagine my Uncle Nicky, a World War II vet, hero cop and New York City detective, playing Senator John McCain. He would tear him to shreds. He'd expose John "Insane" McCain as a murderous madman.

Choosing between Uncle Frankie or Uncle Harry to play Senator Lindsay Graham was, at first, a tough call. While they both could play a lovely Lindsay, I can see that Uncle Harry is clearly the more Graham girlish of the two.

So, as it should be, Uncle Frankie does Obama. When it came to sharp dressers and being one smooth cat, Frank Vigilanti was in a league of his own. What a great guy; with a Jimmy Durante nose and a heart of gold, he used to dress up and play Santa for all us kids on Christmas Day. I think it took me until I was about 8 years old to figure out it was uncle Frankie and not Santa that came to our Christmas feasts with his bag full of toys.

If my father was alive, I could hear him trying to temper my outrage as I yelled about how America is being destroyed, right in front of us, and yet so few admit it or try to do anything about it.

"Take it easy son, don't get excited" he'd say, "people have little minds."

Yes, and they also have short memories.

As Time Goes Bye

It wasn't much of a 9/11 anniversary this year. Yes, there were tributes paid to first responders and moments of silence for those who perished. But 13 years to the day that the Twin Towers fell and the Pentagon was wacked, as far as America's media was concerned, it wasn't much of a story. From CNN, "America's Most Trusted Name in News," the morning lead on their website was: "Ohio school shooter escapes from prison."

"Most trusted name in news?" Trusted for what? Trusted to run an inconsequential story about some out-of-his-mind guy from somewhere in Ohio that escaped jail? That was more important than the anniversary of 9/11?

Every American who "lived" 9/11 will remember where they were and what they were doing when they tuned in to the tragedy of people jumping from the towing infernos, the Pentagon smoldering, a hijacked airliner crashing in Pennslyvania.

It was one of the most incredible memories of a lifetime. It was an event that would change the course of history and the future of the world. Just as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand was the shot that started World War I, the takedown of the Twin Towers signaled the start of the War on Terror. But unlike the four-year-long Great War, the War on Terror, the longest war in American history, is still being waged, with no end in sight.

Why the media veil over 9/11, a day that will truly live in infamy? When terror struck on that sunny September morning it went much deeper into America's heart and heartland than what the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor. Yet now, 13 years later, with the nation still suffering from its 9/11 wounds, that auspicious day gets only cursory, event-driven coverage from the media.

9/11 coverage scant and thin

As we march into war once again, where was the deeper analysis showing how the outrage of 9/11 was leveraged, as the beheadings are now, to sucker us into war without end?

Was it because of news executives' insensitivity or stupidity? Or was in-depth 9/11 coverage intentionally embargoed? Why wasn't the dramatic footage of that day of monumental panic being rebroadcast and relived? After all, 9/11 was more action-packed and real-life than any Hollywood movie ever made or any video game ever invented.

Or, was it because now, 13 years later, replaying detailed, second-by-second footage, re-watching media reports, hearing real-time police, firefighters, the military and White House responses and reactions would reawaken the suspicions of the nearly 50 percent of Americans who either doubt the official story or do not believe it at all?

And what about the 9/11 strike on the Pentagon? It is as though it never happened. A collective amnesia set in across the mainstream media and public consciousness. Why no footage or commentary of the bold attack that penetrated the fortress of America's military command and control headquarters, the defenseless Defense Department.

October 7, 2014, marked the 13th anniversary of the Afghan War. If you didn't remember that, or the fact that it is the longest war in America's history, the media was not about to remind you. While there were some stories here and there, the larger context — was this bloody mess worth it? — wasn't touched. As with the 9/11 anniversary, meaningful and contextual coverage of the 13th anniversary of this utter failure was greatly overshadowed, both in the amount and depth of coverage, by "other" news.

Yes, there were more "pressing" issues and events for the Fourth Estate to report on. Billed by the media as one of the most important speeches of his presidency, Mr. Obama's highly anticipated foreign policy address to the nation the night before didn't make CNN's top story list the next morning. But it should have been the lead story. And it may well have been one of the most important speeches, not just for his presidency, but for the nation and the world.

Although the president's performance fell so flat that the major networks resumed regular programming immediately after it, Barack Obama chose the eve of the anniversary of 9/11 to officially launch Crusades 2000. Signing off on war, the commander in chief (with a hotline to the divine), intoned, "God bless our troops and may God bless the United States of America," in the war against the "Islamic State": a religious enemy with a short name and convenient initials for the public to know and hate.

In between games of golf, basketball, extended vacations and constantly flying around America at taxpayer's expense to raise money for the Democratic party, Barack Obama promised to "degrade," "destroy" and "eradicate" the terrorist Islamic State "cancer" that posed a "growing threat … to the United States."

It took a grand total of 14 minutes for America's Dictator-in-Chief to declare a war that would be fought, in part, in Syria, which, like Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya were innocent of committing crimes or acts of aggression against the United States, but were nevertheless attacked and destroyed.

Same story repeats itself

While Obama's words were different, his monologue was as vacuous as was George W. Bush's when he launched the War on Terror 13 years earlier. As I wrote in the summer Trends Journal, dissecting Bush's 9/11 addresses to the nation, "Only a madman would speak such words. Only frightened people would believe them. And believe they did. Scared to death, Americans were dumbstruck with terror."

Now, following the ISIS beheading of two independent journalists who ventured into Middle Eastern war zones, President Obama proved once again that cheap lines delivered with a straight face are all that are needed to fool most of the people most of the time. "So tonight…I can announce that America will lead a broad coalition to roll back this terrorist threat."

Ignoring Washington's murder of several million innocent people since the end of World War II (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, etc.) as part of its "vision" to export freedom and democracy, Obama condemned the Islamic State for having "no vision other than the slaughter of all who stand in its way."

Two weeks later, in his address to the United Nations General Assembly, Mr. Obama set the stage for perpetual war. Chastising those who foresee his war policy as yet another deadly, costly military venture that will end in defeat and inflame further violence, Obama said, "whether one year from now or 10 … I can promise you America will remain engaged in the region." Suddenly, 73 percent of Americans supported bombs-away over anywhere as long as they were aimed at ISIS or anything and anybody that could be made to look like a terrorist.

Next on his U.N. agenda hit list was drawing the trend line of terror to link to Russia. The president accused Moscow of annexing Crimea and pouring arms and its armies into eastern Ukraine to assist Russian separatists, who don't recognize the Kiev government that has overthrown the country's democratically elected one. But, despite the steady stream of claims made by the US, NATO, the Kiev government and western media for several months that Russia had sent troops, tanks, weapons, arms, missiles and bombs to Ukraine separatists and leveled entire towns, in this "selfie" age of smart phones, satellite images and mass surveillance, there has been a dearth of incriminating photos and hard evidence to support those accusations.

Words count, facts don't. It was an easy sale. Without knowing the facts or seeking the truth, America, along with most of the Western nations, pinned the blame on Russia for the blood flowing through eastern Ukraine.

Indeed, on Sept. 10, when Obama was selling the nation on Washington's duty to bomb IS targets in Syria, he slyly connected Russia to the dreaded ISIS. "It is America that has the capacity and the will to mobilize the world against terrorists. It is America that has rallied the world against Russian aggression, and in support of the Ukrainian peoples' right to determine their own destiny."

"Mobilize the world against terrorists … rallied the world against Russian aggression?" ISIS equaled Russia.

Actually, the Ukraine stage had been set months earlier. For anyone seeking the facts, consider listening to Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland's Dec. 13, 2013, speech at the National Press Club in Washington. Observe the Chevron and EXXON-Mobile logos flanking her. How many recall that not long after her speech, Vice President Joseph Biden's boy, Hunter Biden, was appointed to the board of directors of Burisma Holdings Ltd. That's Ukraine's largest energy company. Also saddling up on the Burisma board was Devon Archer, a business partner of Christopher Heinz, the Heinz of 57 Varieties, who is, coincidently, the step-son of US Secretary of State John Kerry.

We have to ask ourselves, how low have our moral standards sunk? When did it become routine, expected and business as usual that we are led down such destructive roads with so little accountability and no regard for the history that's so obviously and indisputably repeating itself.

I keep wondering what the dinner table conversation would be like if my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were alive today. Perhaps we should all look back if we're going to change what's ahead.