Monday, January 31, 2005

Thoughts on Success

I've been putting this off... I don't like the way I feel about this Administration... I want to admit that perhaps they were right about just plopping our culture and values into a country like Iraq and everyone living happily ever after... I can't do that and it irritates me. This is the guy who was flown out to the Abraham Lincoln on May 2, 2003, to announce "mission accomplished" in Iraq... not that we had Sadam Hussein in custody at the time... or Osama bin Laden for that matter (remember him?... the one who did attack us?). I just can't buy into it.
I think
Eric Alterman captured where I'm coming from today. It goes a little deeper maybe... Even if the new Iraqi government goes on to write a beautiful constitution and to hold fair and free elections and survives in peace and prosperity for a thousand years, that does not make invading Iraq right. A happy ending would be nice, but we have not treated others as we would wish to be treated.
If you scroll down in Alterman's blog, you'll notice a letter from Charles Pierce that I'm going to copy here, too. It mirrored my thoughts as I looked at the pictures of people who had walked for hours to stand in line to vote in Iraq. On the best day of George Bush's life all he did was to perhaps hasten their opportunity. Those folks... .whether it was 70% or 50% or 10%... literally walked the walk... no kevlar... no armor... to vote. Bless their hearts.
From Charles Pierce:
You do not own their courage.
The people who stood in line Sunday did not stand in line to make Americans feel good about themselves.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line to justify lies about Saddam and al-Qaeda, so you don't own their courage, Stephen Hayes. They did not stand in line to justify lies about weapons of mass destruction, or to justify the artful dodginess of Ahmad Chalabi, so you don't own their courage, Judith Miller. They did not stand in line to provide pretty pictures for vapid suits to fawn over, so you don't own their courage, Howard Fineman, and neither do you, Chris Matthews.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line in order to justify the dereliction of a kept press. They did not stand in line to make right the wrongs born out of laziness, cowardice, and the easy acceptance of casual lying. They did not stand in line for anyone's grand designs. They did not stand in line to play pawns in anyone's great game, so you don't own their courage, you guys in the PNAC gallery.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line to provide American dilettantes with easy rhetorical weapons, so you don't own their courage, Glenn Reynolds, with your cornpone McCarran act out of the bowels of a great university that deserves a helluva lot better than your sorry hide. They did not stand in line to be the instruments of tawdry vilification and triumphal hooting from bloghound commandos. They did not stand in line to become useful cudgels for cheap American political thuggery, so you don't own their courage, Freeper Nation.
You do not own their courage.
They did not stand in line to justify a thousand mistakes that have led to more than a thousand American bodies. They did not stand in line for the purpose of being a national hypnotic for a nation not even their own. They did not stand in line for being the last casus belli standing. They did not stand in line on behalf of people's book deals, TV spots, honorarium checks, or tinpot celebrity. They did not stand in line to be anyone's talking points.
You do not own their courage.
We all should remember that.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Priorities

This post has taken me awhile to write... I've started it a few times over a few days, but I go off on tangents.
It bugs me that people who have never served challenge the patriotism of veterans who oppose this war. By not supporting the war I'm not supporting the troops? I can't support one without the other? I would argue that the Administration is supporting the war but not the troops.
Troops aren't stupid! Do you think it's a secret and that Joe will never guess that this whole thing is a crock? Being sent halfway around the world to fight wars that may or may not need to be fought is nothing new. It wasn't even new when I went! Joe's concern is doing the 13 months... a year now?... and
getting back home in one piece.
I said earlier that the troops don't pick the wars; you and I do that. I believe that, having committed those souls to combat, we incur an obligation to them... perhaps particularly where our purposes are questionable in the first place.
If Joe can't get home in one piece then he's got to worry about what happens to him and his family now that he's
damaged goods... a $12,000 death benefit?... and when the nominee for Secretary of Veteran Affairs is candid about sustaining even the current benefit levels then Joe's got a reason to worry! I don't support the troops? A "success" story like this one gets reported because it's a "man bites dog" story, and Mr. Armour still has to worry about getting rehab and putting food on the table for him and his family. We're closing VA Hospitals? Good grief.
America... or a good part of it... weeps for the 1350+ troops killed in this war. If we abandon the 12,000+ who have been wounded then we should weep for ourselves because we are soulless.

I just want to mention
Petty Officer 3rd Class John D. House, 28, of Ventura, Calif., died Jan. 26, in a helicopter crash near Ar Rutbah, Iraq. House was assigned to Naval Medical Clinic Hawaii, Marine Corps Units Detachment, Pearl Harbor.
Rest in peace, Doc.
Semper Fi

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

Thoughts on Trust

It's the afternoon of Inauguration Day... the awful deed is done and I need to just deal with it. I so want to believe that I'm just missing the many virtues of these people who will govern for the next four years... I want to believe that...
Condi Rice certainly expressed shock and dismay that her credibilty was questioned during her confirmation hearings. I'd like to give Dr. Condileeza Rice formerly of Stanford University the benefit of the doubt... I'd like to... It would almost be better to have a Secretary of State who was stupid rather than... disingenuous?
Mr. Cheney apparently feels that we'd be golden in Iraq right now if only we'd known that all the alternative leadership in Iraq had been killed off in 1991. You'd think we'd have known that, wouldn't you? I mean we could pinpoint all of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction so why didn't we notice that those "hundreds of thousands of people" weren't there any more? You don't suppose any of them could have been in the kill-zone during the invasion or subsequent operations do you?
It was reassuring to read (I couldn't bear to listen) that Mr. Bush said "freedom, by its nature, must be chosen,” and he promised “America will not impose our own style of government on the unwilling.” You know... all evidence to the contrary...
Closer to home, of course, Mr. Bush and his minions have been spending some long and sleepless nights working on the salvation of our Social Security programs... No, I'm sorry... I've got to go with the Crabby Old Lady on this one, too. This guy's trying to sell me snake oil... again.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Guess Who's Coming to Dinner?

Okay, I know it doesn't matter, and I can't believe that I'm citing The Scoop, but Sun Myung Moon bought a table at the Inauguration? Somebody tell me this is a hoax!
People were having conniptions because Gore was consorting with ChiComs in 2000 (the HsiLai temple in Hacienda Heights, California which is a branch of a temple in Taiwan not mainland China and they're buddhists for Pete's sake), and the poster boy for the Religious Right is taking a $250,000 boost from the Unification Church for his inauguration? Please tell me that the Republic has not come to this. Tell me there's been a misunderstanding.
There's more on this at cultnews.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Spreading Democracy

I need to not post on here when my head isn't in it. Yesterday I had a feel for what I wanted to get out but I was distracted. It's not so much my consciousness that I might not be the only one reading this... but that it didn't meet my need to articulate what I wanted to say... and that's just frustrating.
It bugs me that this Administration is pushing this election in Iraq as a huge step forward... and it almost certainly isn't. All other considerations aside, significant numbers of Iraqis won't be able to vote... in this country as well as in Iraq. In Iraq this appears to impact mostly the Sunni population which isn't going to win a popular election anyway, but still...
Here in the United States there are five... five... registration and polling places. Throughout the Southwestern U.S. there are 70,000 ethnic Iraqis who must travel to the old MCAS El Toro site to register and then again to vote at the end of the month.
The White House has pointed to the alleged democratization of Afghanistan as a victory for us. Didn't Karzai campaign primarily in the capital and in Kandahar because he couldn't be protected elsewhere in the country? Oh, I know that there were a kazillion ballots cast and Karzai won by a huge margin. It happens. Wasn't there a precinct in Ohio that polled 117% of its registered voters?
Is it just me or are some cultures maybe not ready for democracy... or whatever we're trying to impose? Even with the tradition of the Magna Carta and British parliamentary process, wasn't the Massachusetts Colony pretty much a religious oligarchy that banished or burned people at the stake? Didn't it take us several decades to start to get things together?
How democratic is the assumption that we have everything so together ourselves now that we have the right and the duty to impose our will and our institutions on other cultures? How right is that?

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Monday, January 17, 2005

Another Thing

I think we're going to be seeing a bit more of this after CBS blew the story on Bush and the National Guard. Without speaking to any specifics in the Coming Wars piece, Mr. DiRita dismisses the credibility of Seymour Hersh... although curiously he does seem to say "and so what if we did." I was a little surprised that the Pentagon responded at all, but then he went on to offer a justification of sorts for the raid?

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Thoughts on Possibilites and Limitations

I saw a piece this morning... poll results detailing Americans' hopes for the future under this President. My eye stuck on a line that Bush needed "to find a way to have the whole second term be about more than just Iraq." That put me in mind of Lyndon Johnson's last term... so shoot me but there are parallels!
I saw the statistic that put the percentage of respondents who think it's unlikely Iraq will have a stable government at 53%... 53%!!! What on earth is wrong with the other 47% of you? The Kurds have wanted nothing so much as an independent Kurdish state since forever (which will engage Turkey and Iran)! The Shi'ites and Kurds outnumber the Sunnis by some huge margin and do they ever have scores to settle! Whether it serves them right or not, the Sunnis are pretty much screwed and they know it... Forget about tribal and family turf issues! There is no best case scenario!
Hearts and minds of the people? Have you ever read an Iraqi blog? The people who don't live inside the Green Zone are not loving us so much. You've got to admit that in January, 2005 it sort of sucks to be an Iraqi in Iraq.
My particular beef... apart from humanitarian concerns... is there are more than a hundred thousand of my brothers and sisters under arms in Iraq as you read this whose job it is to try to make this travesty actually work. When the folks who voted to continue this Administration and its policies welcome their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, husbands, wives home from Iraq... what will they say? This isn't WW II... this isn't Korea or even VietNam... this is us, the United States of America, blowing all of the good wishes after 9-11 and destabilizing the entire Arab world on a pretense. Armchair Generalist has a really good piece today on why this is impossible for them.
The Administration would like for the second term to be about more than the war in Iraq... I'd like to be skinny, good-looking, and rich... but it ain't gonna happen.
Footnote: 5/2/2009 I was wrong; it also became about the collapse of the world economy.

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Friday, January 14, 2005

Is This an Iraq War Blog?

There were a couple of things that caught my eye this morning...
Sure enough, the President voiced his regrets last night for language that hurt diplomacy. Let's see... he wanted bin Laden "dead or alive" and then committed us to the war in Iraq... and in the face of Iraqi resistance (which he personally doesn't have to face) said "bring it on." He thinks his choice of words might have suggested to Muslims of the world that the U.S. is not their friend. You think?
Okay, personally I have an issue with someone who has never served more than two weeks a year active duty saying things like "bring it on." No, that isn't true... I have great respect for people who have honorably fulfilled their entire National Guard/Reserve commitments. My visceral response to people who let their mouths write checks that my ass has to cover is, "Get yourself to a recruiting station or shut the f*** up!" That's just me.
The bigger issue is that as a direct result of our bone-headed conduct of international affairs we've created how many more actual and potential terrorists? I could be wrong but Dana Priest writes about it in the Washington Post.
Mr. Bush expressed some optimism that disaster relief efforts might leave Islamic countries feeling the love, but... it's disaster relief... it's not diplomacy. His problem... our problem... is that if you ask yourself the question: If Iraq is a Christian caucasian country do we go to war with them in 2003... well, you see our international diplomacy problem. "Ye shall know them by their fruits."

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Basic Principles

I told someone recently that we don't do the right thing because of who they are... We do the right thing because of who we are. When I was a child I learned that principle as the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."
I bring this up because I saw this piece on the Administration resisting limits on the torture of detainees.
I know... really... that one can obtain information by torture. Everyone knows that. Saddam Hussein knows that, Stalin knew that, Hitler knew that, Tojo knew that... you get the picture?
I understand that sometimes good information is urgently needed to preserve life... I understand the horrible temptations to sink to their level.
Would someone remind me, please? "What shall it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?"

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Confounded

I'll admit it... I'm a little farklempt. We've stopped "looking" for WMD?
I always thought that this Administration... certainly by now!... would arrange to "find" some Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. For years there have been pieces written on how to dispose of the CW agents deteriorating in storage at Dugway... publicized because environmentalists didn't want that stuff moved anywhere! Back when we first went into Iraq I figured it was only a matter of time... you dig up a few cannisters... you scrape off some U.S. Army markings... maybe you add some Iraqi markings... a few days later it gets dug up in the Iraqi desert! Voila!
Okay... so what? It was too dangerous to handle, and so they just decided to wait until after the 2004 elections to say to hell with it and give up the charade of looking? I know it wasn't character that kept them from doing it!
"The president knows that by advancing freedom in a dangerous region we are making the world a safer place." Alrighty then! So, all evidence to the contrary, there are actually fewer people in the world who hate us now?

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Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Thoughts on Personal Accountability

My wife is pretty sure that some of our Southern California neighbors are the most stupid people in the world.
She was sympathetic toward the families whose homes were buried in mud in La Conchita yesterday... until she learned that the families had refused evacuation the day before... and that the same thing had happened eight or ten years ago.
She was sympathetic toward the family trapped in a cabin up in San Dimas Canyon... especially when the rescue inflatable flipped the six-month old into the water... again until she learned that the parents had refused evacuation the day before... at which point we pretty much agreed that society's responsibility ended with saving the child.
The guy whose mobile home fell into the river... who was angry that the mobile home park hadn't been allowed to put up a retaining wall eight years before... and who was angry that he was uninsured for flood damage because he lived on the bank of a river expected to flood?
The Palmdale residents who drove around and through road closure signs and barricades because "that's the way we do things in Palmdale?"
The guy who disappeared while attempting to swim the flood channel on a dare?
By the way, the remaining homeowners in the La Conchita area... under the hillside with a great big crack in the earth at the top... are still refusing evacuation.
In fairness, my wife's family does have a small mobile home on the water on the Florida gulf coast... but they weren't actually in that mobile during any of the four hurricanes that came through last year.
Okay... she's right again. It would make a lot more sense to just have those people sign waivers that public safety personnel don't have to risk their lives to try to pull them out the next day and then give them their signs... you know Bill Engvall's signs?
Okay... having said all of that... we don't do what's right because of who they are. We do what's right because of who we are.

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Thoughts on Who We Are

I talked about this on January 2nd I think... about the need to anchor ourselves on our moral absolutes so as not to get swept away by our passions and lose our identity.
Today I see
this piece in the Newsweek section... and I am reminded of how these things can easily be perverted in the heat of the moment. Training Iraqi death squads sounds like a good idea now?
I am aware that earlier I mentioned that we might have simply taken out Osama bin Laden had we been so inclined... it isn't a choice I'd personally be comfortable with, but it was and is an option. I do remember the '80's... and other times in the past forty years when our (then) anti-communist fervor led us to make some morally questionable calls. Twenty years after the Iran-Contra issue Oliver North and John Poindexter (both of whom violated their oaths as officers if nothing else) remain in the Washington in-crowd. I remember my early experiences in the Philippines when we were propping up Ferdinand Marcos.
At some point I should probably take a class... Breaking down doors in the middle of the night, and kidnapping and/or torturing and/or murdering sound like the things we went over there to stop and to replace with democratic principles and ideals. There's apparently something I'm not getting. Fifty-two percent of the voting public thinks this is the right way to go...

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Thoughts in Retrospect

This has bugged me for awhile... but I didn't have this site up and I was just reminded of it last night.
It bothered me from right after 9/11 that the Administration was talking about the "War on Terror." My first thought was, "Right, because the War on Drugs has been working really well."
To my mind the attack on 9/11 was a crime... a mass murder... not unlike the Oklahoma City bombing. Knowing who was behind the attack, and knowing that we have in the past been able to pinpoint bin Laden's location, what's the "War" all about? Next time we see him let's just take him out... the Mossad's been doing that for years if we needed a class on it. In a sense, declaring a War on Terror legitimized bin Laden and his organization as something other than an organization of vicious murderers. By the way, he's still not dead or in custody.
Last night... and I never think to link to the video feed while it's on... KNBC in Los Angeles aired a piece on two Gold-Star Mothers, one of whom shared her late son's misgivings about the invasion of Iraq, and the other who said that she and her late son had been all for the invasion.
The second mother, who described herself as a Christian fundamentalist, said in so many words that the war was necessary, that they had attacked us, and that her son had died so she'd never have to wear a burkha. According to my beliefs, someone is going to pay for lying to that woman and her child... if not in this lifetime then in the future.
Now my question is... who in the Administration decided in the hours after the attacks on 9/11 to call for a War on Terror and was it a deliberate choice to establish a pretext for all of our subsequent acts?

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Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Thoughts on Acceptance

This morning the first article I glanced at dealt with civilization's growing acceptance of... may I say indifference toward... catastrophe. As the numbers grow and grow they become numbing. Christopher Dickey went on to say that perhaps that was why people had stopped talking about the 1340+ killed in Iraq.
160,000 deaths is almost impossible to grasp... I've been to Sri Lanka and Phu Ket and it's still hard to get my consciousness around it... but because I've been there I can reflect on a personal level. Last Sunday's For Better or For Worse strip came to mind... I can think about a Sri Lankan and his family... the employees in the restaurant in Phu Ket where I had my first live lobster tossed into a pot... much as they probably were.
1340+ deaths in Iraq... probably fewer than died in traffic accidents in the U.S. last month... but for most of us... other than for 1340+ families it isn't personal. It's personal to the soldier who was hanging upside down in the Humvee next to her buddy, the driver who didn't make it. It's personal to the soldier who covered the memorial services in Mosul.
We don't even talk about the Iraqi casualties... but it's personal for an Iraqi (and this one).
I think what bothers me isn't so much that in 2004 a major earthquake and tsunami can kill 160,000+ people... that's plate tectonics but the victims and their survivors need our prayers certainly... but it would be such a shame if Mr. Dickey is correct that we have become numb to the loss of life in conflict waged on our behalf. We aren't like that, are we? Please?

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Thoughts on Identity and Mutability

I've knocked this post around for a couple of days now... I have an idea of what bugs me, but I'm not sure exactly how to post it.
I saw this post in the blog of a troop in Iraq now (Dec. 30) musing on the frustrations of identifying one's enemy in such an environment. What caught my attention was her note that we bring in "enemy" wounded although they don't. Putting aside for the moment that they don't have a medical support system such as we have... it came to me that we don't bring someone to a CSH because of who they are but because of who we are. It's what we do.
I don't think Osama bin Laden staged 9/11 so he could one day dine in the White House. I think he did it to make an impact... and I think he succeeded and that his success continues every hour of every day since then. We gave him that when we started to change who we were and what we were about.
Putting aside the Patriot Act... speaking of a misuse of words... and the entire fact of the Iraq War... none of which would have happened without 9/11... I read this piece where we are making plans to incarcerate "suspected" terrorists for the rest of their lives without due process... these include people we could not try because of insufficient evidence. In the meantime the U.S. House of Representatives is advancing a plan to weaken its ethics rules in order to protect the Majority Leader, the Honorable Tom DeLay.
Yesterday I saw a newsbrief on CNN Headline News that I can't find the cite for... a judge in West Virginia blocked the divorce of a battered woman from her abusive husband because... according to the report... the child she is carrying would then be illegitimate.
None of this stuff is going to be happening... none of it... except that 9/11 knocked us off course and we haven't yet regained our balance. Personally, I believe that suits the ambitions of the Bush Administration, but that could be mean-spirited.
I advised the blogger in Iraq to try to find a moral rock... an immutable truth... and to hold onto that. I think we all need to do that... because it's really getting hard to put my finger on who we are anymore.
(P.S. on 1/3: This is a reference for the story on the woman denied a divorce because she's pregnant. It turns out that it's in Washington and not West Virginia... and the abusive husband who was jailed for beating her in 2002 and from whom the woman is separated is not the father. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that this case is an exception to my assertion that "none of this" would have happened but for 9/11.)

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