Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

To Avoid a U.S. Invasion
Or: How Iran Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Reposted from December, 2004.

On November 26 Iran refused to cease uranium enrichment contrary to an agreement reached between Iran and the European Union. According to the New York Times, this supports the Bush Administration’s notion that Iran has secret ambitions to build a nuclear weapon. Actually, this would imply that Iran has overt ambitions to build a nuclear weapon.

Can one blame Iran for nuclear ambition? Considering the protectorate ideology of the cold war, whereas one must have nuclear weapons in order to discourage nuclear attack, Iran’s future as a political entity could depend upon nuclear capability. The argument can, and has, been made that the United States’ threat of military confrontation will provide Iran with incentive to comply with international demands of disarmament. However, Iran’s ambitions have been cultivated by rhetoric from the Bush Administration, notably their inclusion in the “Axis of Evil,” along with Iraq and North Korea. While eventually laughed off in our own country, abroad such language remains a damaging indication of our government’s intentions, as Abu Ghraib remains a festering indication of U.S. behavior at war.

According to George W. Bush in his infamous 2002 State of the Union address, Iran “pursues these weapons” of mass destruction and poses “a grave and growing danger.” Bush also asserted in this speech that Iraq actively “plotted to develop anthrax, and nerve gas, and nuclear weapons for over a decade.” The meaning of this was clear: the administration was more and more adamant for military confrontation with Iraq.

Seeking to avoid an invasion, Iraq submitted itself to apparently very successful inspections, yet Bush would not allow this to avert his war plans. Iraq openly demonstrated no interest in developing weaponry, but was still invaded. The occupation eventually demonstrated the truth, the incompleteness of the Bush administration’s understanding. A U.S. initiated October report found that Iraq ceased all WMD ambitions by 1996.

The second country of the “Axis of Evil,” North Korea, took a different approach. In the months following Bush’s address, it became increasingly clear that North Korea did, indeed, possess a nuclear weapons program and perhaps nuclear weapons. North Korean diplomats did little to discourage this thinking, boasting of bombs before the international community was certain they existed. It now seems certain that North Korea has several atomic weapons. To date, North Korea has yet to be invaded, and all foreign policy directed from the United States has been geared toward diplomacy.

Recent evidence suggests that Iran operates a nuclear weapons program as well. Predictably, the European Union has begun seeking a diplomatic solution, and the United States has referenced the “military option.” However, is this the first talk of the military option regarding Iran? Iran probably interpreted “Axis of Evil” to mean that invasion was already being discussed, and considers atomic weaponry insurance.

It’s really not a surprising, nor illogical, attitude. Given the administration’s apparent contempt for diplomacy, Iran is uncertain whether compromise can be effective. Based upon the rhetoric, they scramble to construct a strategy to avoid an American invasion. Iraq has been invaded, North Korea has not. Iran may have had nuclear ambitions regardless, but accelerated their efforts due to a growing threat from the U.S.

An angry man is standing in a crowded square, and the police are closing in on him. Will he last longer with or without a gun?

The United States has created another arms race, one in which the other side is hopelessly behind. Worse, the opposition is forbidden to compete by international law. While the U.S. agenda of disarmament and terrorist containment was often hailed as noble in the flood of international sympathy after September 11, the U.S. has squandered its credibility invading Iraq. Accusations of dangerous weaponry will never carry the same weight, and will fall on deaf ears. Instead of peaceful disarmament, U.S. foreign policy has provoked accused states
to work towards armed defense.

Doonesbury Passes the Buck

Thursday, November 23rd, 2006

I was going to wait until the end of the week to do this, but I’ve had enough. This week’s Doonesbury strips feature three-war veteran B.D. along with pacifist Reverend Scott Sloan speaking to a group of Sloan’s ethics students, students who are pro-war but “quick to explain why they’re not enlisting.”

Now, this isn’t the first time I’ve railed on Doonesbury for its portrayal of young people, but here he isn’t just misrepresenting the younger generation, but laying the blame for the Iraq War at our feet. Trudeau must realize how truly unlikely it is that B.D., a man old enough to have served in Vietnam, actually saw combat in Iraq. This is not a war that is being fought by baby boomers: the people coming home dead or wounded are mostly between 18 and 23.

And the university students are not the complacent flag-waving SUV drivers that he’s describing here. Young voters turned out in record numbers to vote the Republican Congress out of office. Howard Dean was propelled to stardom because of the enthusiasm of young people. Yeah, young people talk about politics, but we say fuck and shit while doing it. I’ll take the Daily Show over Meet the Press any day, thank you.

This is not our war. This is a boomer war. It was started by boomers, it’s supported by boomers, and the only thing that we have anything to do with is that it’s our friends and our classmates that are out there fighting and dying by the thousands. So fuck you, Trudeau.

I understand that you are also making a statement about class here. That it’s the poor that end up enlisting because it seems like a way to pay for college and get ahead in life. But this isn’t some young trust-fund kid’s excuse for not enlisting, it’s a serious problem, and one that deserves more attention.

I read an article in the New York Times similarly pointing their fingers at the younger generation for never protesting. The fact is we did, hundreds of thousands in cities all over the world. Before the war, back when the Times was beating the drum for an invasion. And before 9/11, prostesters were out in the tens to hundreds of thousands for a global redistribution of wealth.

There’s been no protests because it’s apparently pointless. It didn’t work before the war started, it didn’t work in Vietnam, and we had our minds on bigger and more important problems until the boomers fucked everything up and started another pointless war just like their parents did. Now we’re so desperate to end this bloodshed we’ll try anything, even electing Democrats.

Sweet Linkage

Saturday, November 18th, 2006

Hey a big thanks to Mike over at Crooks and Liars for featuring me on his blog roundup for today! For those who don’t know, Crooks and Liars is an excellent and extremely popular political blog specializing in video clips, cool music videos, and general lefty politics. If you haven’t seen it before, surf on over.

Sit down, please. War is the answer.

Monday, November 6th, 2006

When we are children, we are told that we are Americans, and that we will always be Americans. We stand for what this country stands for, we have to. When I was in second grade, we spent our time writing letters to soldiers, putting together care packages wrapped in popcorn, so they could eat it. Apparently in the first Gulf War, the troops weren’t very well supplied, either.

My letter to a soldier included a drawing of a swaying army tent, blasting music for the world to hear. Its lyrics went, “I want the real world, no war!” Over and over. The teacher wouldn’t let me send it.

I didn’t understand why and I never questioned it directly. Back then I didn’t even see the underlying message. To me war, justified or not, was something undesirable and we, everyone, would certainly want things to go back to normal. Now I realize an anti-war tone led the teacher to intercept my drawing.

I was no activist. In fact, I believed in the war, for no other reason than I had no choice but to believe in my leaders unless my parents showed some strong opposition to it. Certainly my teacher wouldn’t dare oppose it.

Later on that year, I read a story about several heroic soldiers in front of a panel from the PTA, with an illustrated yellow ribbon on the cover. The parents cheered and clapped, I was a minor celebrity.

What kind of society is it that reprimands children who see value in peace? I very much doubt I would have read an essay in front of those parents that read, in all childhood innocence, “war is bad at all times, and we should wish for this war to be over.” Everybody loves a good war.

I learned about big, important wars past. Like the Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. Those wars were all for great causes, I was told, and we won them and we were right to do so. I was also vaguely aware of something past called Vietnam. Once as a child I remember quizzing my father about whether we won or lost certain wars. When I finally got to Vietnam, it was the only one when he said, “we lost.”

Many would like us to look at war that way, like a game, drawing up scorecards of winners and losers. In the arena in conflict, destruction and death, our team comes out ahead each time. The way to sell a war to the people is to tell them it will be easy, that we can take that country down with a minimum of deaths on our side.

Modern wars are quick and surgical, our planes do all the work, bombing a country into submission. In politics, only the tally on our side is worth any concern; Bush can dismiss the deaths of 30,000 Iraqis with a shrug.

Much is made that the United States is a “civilized” country. I contend that a country that glorifies and encourages war in rhetoric, action and popular fiction, and discourages peaceful thinking in children, cannot possibly be civilized. And even growing anti-war sentiment often represents the sinking heart of a losing battle. Everything we do is war: war on crime, war on drugs, war on poverty. We are bred to believe that war is the answer, but war only leads to monstrous deed and action, and therefore can never be the answer.

Why War?

Friday, October 27th, 2006

When talking about the Iraq War, the most baffling and elusive question has been “Why?” Why did they do it? What did they hope to gain?

I have my own theories, but we’ll get to that later.

First there’s the official explanations. We of course realize at this point that these were lies entirely. We all know these “reasons”: Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, he was working closely with Al Qaeda, we would set up a functional democracy in Iraq. Blah, blah, blah, he didn’t, they didn’t, and we didn’t.

Not only does it turn out that the reasons for the invasion were false, but that those who made the decision knew they were false. They hyped up the evidence of weapons of mass destruction and suggested a Saddam-Osama connection that didn’t exist. The CIA even actively fabricated evidence for use in Bush’s State of the Union address, the oft-referenced uranium yellowcake from Nigeria, that made Valerie Plame a household name.

So if they were actively inventing reasons, they must be covering for a real reason that is either too complicated or too dubious to reveal. But what could it be?

I read before the invasion a few discussions in the right wing news, (which paper I don’t remember now, something like the National Review) an article indicating that there were several schools of thought within the administration on this. Colin Powell imagined that a stable democracy in Iraq could spread the shining example of liberal democracy throughout the Middle East, but he didn’t think the occupation was feasible.

On the other side was Paul Wolfowitz, and by proxy, Donald Rumsfeld. Wolfowitz had a notion that once a U.S. Friendly government was established in Iraq (how we got to that point I’m not sure) they would pander to their political whim. Therefore, they could convince them to leave OPEC, and Iraq’s vast oil reserves would be available to them at a cost of their choosing.

Thus, the oil connection. But this explanation doesn’t work either. U.S. Troops never stopped insurgents from burning oil wells, a tactic expected well before the invasion.

Furthermore, their strategy indicates they are not at all interested in building a society based on freedom and the rule of law from the ashes of an abusive dictator. They photographed their people naked and humiliated. They established secret prisons for those captured, far, far away from where they were captured. Donald Rumsfeld has even admitted that the strategy of the war was to invade the country, while planning for the occupation was forbidden.

So what then? If at every point they were lying about the reasons for the war, and their strategy always seems to work only against their stated goals, what did they really hope to accomplish?

It seems to me that if their strategy is always working against their stated goals, then their goal in reality is to work against the establishment of a stable and democratic Iraq. Even the most rudimentary analysis of pre-war Iraq concluded that there was a distinct possibility that toppling Hussein would result in a civil war. It also seemed obvious that a truly democratic Iraq would not be as U.S. friendly as many imagined.

They knew that well and sought to plunge Iraq into civil war, imagining that by destabalizing Iraq, and drawing Al Qaeda there, the terrorists would be too busy fighting each other, and soon the chaos would spread from state to state. And from the constant discussion of taking the war to Syria or Iran, it would seem they’re trying to hasten that process.

Bush hasn’t done what he said he was going to do in Iraq. What he wanted to do was wrong already, but what he has done is completely insane. Unfortunately for the people of Iraq, whose deaths by the tens of thousands Bush dismisses with a shrug, their country’s invaders have no experience in cultivating democracy, and all their experience is in creating conflict.

The Soul of America,
Lost in New Orleans?

Tuesday, August 29th, 2006

On the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, and the flooding of New Orleans, I have a recent correspondence from my good friend Noah, who’s been… well, I’ll just let him take it from here:

I’ve been in New Orleans for over ten months now since I came down in early September and helped start what has now become the Common Ground Health Clinic Currently I still work with the clinic as an organizer as well as in the clinic itself. I also am doing paid work helping set up a free clinic with Louisiana State University and a drug treatment facility called Odyssey House which will end up being a clinical teaching site for Nurse Practitioner students.

I am also working on disaster preparedness/response stuff with a variety of neighborhood groups. In that strain I’m also helping run a week long first responder training which is the second training we’ve hosted at my house in the ninth ward, the first was a community disaster response training.

Also to dismiss folks fears that I’ve turned into a insane work-aholic I also go see music most nights and go swimming and go out to nature as much as possible.

New Orleans is showing signs of normalcy regardless of the military helicopters and jets that fly overhead and the national guard in many parts of the city. The thousands of flood cars have finally started to be removed and almost all should be gone by the end of the month.

There are kids around again too, many folks with kids have only started returning since the end of the school year, a nice change from a surreal city distinctly short of women and children. The public housing is under full on assault by Department of Housing and Urban Development and New Orleans Housing Authority. Last month they announced the planned demolition of four projects constituting 5,000 units leaving 20,000 people displaced. Two of the complexes received NO flooding and a third the water never got in to the units.

The argument that crime breeds in public housing complexes has been knocked out of the water here because the crime rate is higher than it was pre-Katrina and only 3 of the ten public housing complexes have people living in them and are far from being full. This is just one of the most obvious actions that shows how the working poor are being blocked from returning.

I truly do believe that there is currently a fight for the soul of America being fought in New Orleans. The jails are bulging with people who are still awaiting trial from before Katrina. Although many people in this group have become “ghost prisoners,” that is, they are lost: the evidence destroyed or the charges lost. Many who were arrested after the storm in September-November are finally getting to trial after sitting in Orleans parish prison since their arrest. Most of the schools will not open in the fall.

When you hear this it may make you sad or mad or deny what I say all are reasonable responses. But this city has some of the strongest most amazing people you will find roaming these streets. There are people still pouring in from all over the world to try and help New Orleans and the gulf coast and we have a decent chance of winning the fight over the soul of America this round if the grassroots groups continue to organize circles around the fat cats.

This kid could really use a canoe, so if you’ve got one you’d like to donate, let me know and we can hook something up. Other donations to Noah’s group can be made on their web site.

Thursday, August 10th, 2006

From The New York Times, re: Bush’s vacation.

Instead of parking here for the whole month, Mr. Bush, who arrived Thursday night, will spend just 10 nights before returning to the White House. During his stay, his aides are taking pains to present Mr. Bush as deeply engaged in world events; on Saturday, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and the national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, arrived to brief him on the Middle East.

“It basically reflects busy times and a busy schedule,” said Dan Bartlett, counselor to Mr. Bush, explaining the abbreviated visit.

It also reflects a political decision made by Mr. Bush’s advisers, and the president himself, to prevent a repeat of the public relations debacle of last August. That month began with highly publicized protests by Ms. Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, and ended with the image of the president on vacation while New Orleans drowned, an image that helped start his slide in popularity.

Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans “helped start his slide in popularity”???? Reality continues to elude the New York Times, who in their desperate search to seem credible to even the wingnuts constantly complaining about the “liberal media,” misrepresent the severity of recent history. Bush had been declining in the polls all year. The Social Security fiasco hadn’t gone over well, Iraq was getting worse and worse, and yes, Cindy Sheehan was occupying his ranch destroying the serenity of his vacation.

Bush’s popularity plunged after Katrina, and all he’s done is gain ground since. Not much since he stands around 40% or less in most polls, up from somewhere around a third or less after Katrina.

To me, what’s written here is blatantly inaccurate. And it drives me crazy, because they probably wrote it that way so they don’t seem like they’re headhunting when they print valuable investigative pieces about covert government documents. That may gain them credibility with the Republicans, but it diminishes it in my eyes. And I’m much more likely to buy their newspaper.

Wednesday, July 19th, 2006

Looking through the archives over at the Comics Curmugeon, I found an article where he talked about the problems with Doonesbury’s handling of young people. His was quite a bit more insightful than the paragraph I recently wrote on the same subject.

The Curmudgeon is a great site that everybody should be checking out anyway. It’s like reading the comics page, except with real jokes. Take today’s edition, first he points out how poorly the Middle Eastern set Crock has coped with its setting being the center of world events. Until now, I thought that Beetle Bailey had the most oddly out of place setting, as Beetle loafed around in boot camp and none of his buddies ever got sent to Iraq. (Come to think of it, he did the same thing during Vietnam…)

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Iraqi authorities say that Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s cell phone contained the numbers of several senior Iraqi officials. They include ministry employees and members of Parlaiment.

Bush’s baby Iraq government grew up and turned out to be corrupt. Who knew?

Tuesday, July 4th, 2006

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert:

“I have given instructions to intensify the strength of action by the army and security services, to hunt down these terrorists, those who send them… and those who harbour them,”

So… who’s writing your speeches?