Friday, September 30, 2005

On this forum I've often wondered whether there was any point in maintaining this blog, which will turn three this February on the 23rd. I suppose I keep this site up and running, this page really (because I don't have my own domain, fuck), because it's important for whatever reason it may be. I ask, What's my audience, what should I write for them? Then again, Do I have an audience? They're good questions all, though I find them unanswerable at the moment. And now for something completely different.

The new album from the Rolling Stones is pretty damn good. I enjoy "Laugh, I Nearly Died" and that "Sweet Neo Con" track, the former being my favorite. How come you're so wrong? we hear Jagger ask. Indeed.

So, as I get ready to play a rendition of capture-the-flag, I leave for now with the following: whether anyone reads this blog with any regularity, I'll still write. Though I have no influence, I'll keep hope that my words may find someone's ear, somewhere. And, though I am immensely overshadowed, I'll keep on.


Friday, September 23, 2005

Demonstrations Against the Iraq War

What do I think? It's getting on in time for it, perhaps past due. I took part in a sort of protest march dealie in June 2004 myself. My sign read, in part, "500 GIs Dead". 16 months ago, remember.

We need to ask ourselves about the consequences of stopping the war. A very painful question urgently needs to be posed: our lives or theirs? If we save our own from the carnage and chaos that has befallen Iraq, will we consign all of that to the Iraqis? In other words, can we extricate ourselves from this quagmire, an incipient civil war that has cost us over 1,900 dead and nearly $200 billion, without forsaking the Iraqi people and the fledgling democratic system they are attempting to establish?

I have here some practical steps we can try to get our leaders to undertake. First, we should send our troops right along the Syrian border and seal it off. Officers throughout the ranks have frequently noted the futility of insurgent compound raids along the Euphrates corridor, as the Jihadis assimilate right into the countryside or escape through tunnels about as fast as we can kill them.

Moreover, stabilization of Iraq ought to be the first priority, democratization second. It pains me to write such words, but how can there be any hope for a democratic society when its very fabric is being torn to shreds each day? But how we bring order to a country pulled every which way and divided within is a highly difficult matter, one I cannot pretend to have an answer for.

If we are to withdraw our forces, what then? An immediate pullout may be as catastrophic as having invaded in the first place. I think a phased, incremental withdrawal needs to happen as soon as possible. Some analysts even have suggested 'buying off' Sunni insurgents, but that would practically guarantee full-out civil war as Sunnis and Shi'a would probably wipe each other out once we're gone.

If we can consolidate the CIA-trained militias, maybe there is hope. Better yet, start rebuilding the country, so the population can see a reason to band together and create a civil society. Before that can viably begin, we will need better intelligence analysts on the field and less airstrikes.

It's visibly haphazard, how I've proposed to arrange things, but it may work. The sooner the better, so our sons and daughters can return home with honor. Meanwhile, the domestic anti-war movements ought to recognize the complexity that lies behind calls to "leave" Iraq, so the seemingly inevitable nightmare is not realized.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Mr. Dean's Lecture

Sat through the whole thing, heard what he had to say, asked my question (in part), overheard a very interesting exchange between him and a self-described reporter for some 'revolutionary' publication.

I'm talking about John Dean's lecture at McGaw last night. He rambled at times, went into some irrelevant details that began to bore and mystify a lot of people (myself included). But, for the most part, it was good to get my question out there in the forum.

His response to my question, namely whether the President can in fact be impeached, was a qualified no: a ridiculously high incumbency rate for the House of Reps and a horridly gerrymandered districting should preclude any hope of articles of impeachment being drafted, but perhaps the Senate may switch to the "opposition" party in 2006, was essentially his answer.

He preceded it with a clarification: in Worse than Watergate: The Secret Presidency of George W. Bush, he did not "call" for his impeachment, but rather laid the case for it. To me, that is practically one and the same, but alright. But, if it is going to happen, it may begin after the 2006 mid-term elections.*

The highlight of the extensive Q&A session that followed Dean's lecture was a fairly combative back-and-forth between him and this sneering, accusative guy (see above) who gave the impression of being firmly seared to a close-minded mentality. I don't remember his central question, but his tone was so ruthlessly vindicative that it obscured whatever valid points he may have made. His use of the word 'genocide' to describe combat operations in Iraq particularly bothered me and, I presume, most others there. But, thankfully, Dean delivered a stunning bitch-slap by declaring he was the first at the highest levels of the Nixon administration to oppose his superior's expansion of the war in Vietnam, to which a booming chorus voiced what was, in essence, a cry of assent. That shut him up, as did a round of applause launched to silence the offending and, frankly, obnoxious speaker. (I heard he stormed off like a little bitch at that point.)

*It's important to remember, now, that Nixon was impeached in 1974, which was two years after his re-election. But, who knows.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Former Nixon White House special counsel John Dean will be giving a speech at 7:30 tonight in McGaw Chapel. According to the FBI report (the second part available here), Dean served as the "master manipulator" in the Watergate scandal cover-up, overseeing the criminality from the highest echelons in the administration, then testifying against his colleagues to the Senate committee spearheading the investigation (Wikipedia).

Last year, Dean called for President Bush's impeachment in his book, Worse than Watergate: The Secret President of George W. Bush. (The transcript for the Democracy Now! interview can be found here.) If it isn't brought up tonight, I will ask him whether he thinks it is possible for Bush to even have articles of impeachment drawn up against him and, if so, what he thinks of former Attorney General Ramsey Clark's articles.

And moreover, whether Bush, having in Dean's mind committed greater crimes than Nixon - far greater, in that burglarizing the opposition party's offices as well as the psychiatric papers of a man who leaked secret documents exposing the lies of previous administrations of its study on the Vietnam War (by which I refer to Daniel Ellsberg's release of the 'Pentagon Papers' to the New York Times) pales in comparison to what amounts to lying to Congress and the American people, high crimes that have led to a grave compromise of our security that, in a sense, border on treasonous - deserves a more serious punishment. He won his fabled second term, and he remains in office - but Nixon won re-election, too, only to be thrown out in disgrace less than two years later.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

President Feels Remorse?

President Bush asserted today that he feels it necessary to "take responsibility" for the shameful failure he is presiding over in response to Katrina, reports CNN. He is scheduled to address the nation about the disaster this Thursday. Well it's about fucking time.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Today marks the fourth anniversary of the attacks on our country that mark the dividing line between 'then' and 'now'. The hallowed ground upon which the Twin Towers once stood was thrown into bureaucratic miasma, and their memory has long since been tarnished and, most despicably, exploited to justify the suffering of many thousands more.

The whole thing makes no sense. The victims of the Iraq war, which was billed to us in part as somehow related to the atrocities commemorated this day four years past, by now number well into the tens of thousands, including the nearly 2,100 American soldiers dead from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We are all responsible for this, as we live in a democratic state, and with each passing day of inaction we add another of complicity to the bastardization of the deaths of nearly three thousand people. They didn't know they would die to become martyrs for a grand design to remake the world and, in so doing, replicate their suffering and death among people blessed with petroleum. We failed the opportunity to stop this madness, a fact conceded by the President himself, who referred to last year's election as our "accountability moment". Not, of course, that there was anything Kerry could have done. (Remember that dolt?)

But, after all, why am I talking about a war that has embroiled 140,000 of our soldiers in a fiercely sectarian hellscape? It need not have any relation to the attacks remembered today. Ideological enemies Hussein and bin Laden never had any collaborational relationship, spelled out by the 9/11 Commission in its final report. What possible interest would Saddam have had in working with Osama? His Iraq was nothing more than a contained, failing state, destroyed by decades of war and sanctions. Hussein would've no doubt wanted to hold onto whatever was left, minus the fanciful stockpiles of WMD; no use, then, sharing secrets with a crazed, religious zealot, one who despised Hussein and his regime.

Al Qaeda attacked us four years ago today. But now the terrorist group is more a state of mind that any centralized organization, with 'affiliate' jihadist fronts springing up throughout the world. One of the more prominent observations made immediately following the September 11 attacks was a dire need for 'moral clarity'. (I believe former "drug czar" and avid gambler William Bennett published a book calling for that sort of thing.) But no such clarity has ever been established, and the water is muddier than ever. Some ethical standard would be damn nice right now.

Let's start with a common definition of terrorism, one that applies to all actors. Here's one: "Premeditated acts of violence, directed at noncombatants, for the purpose of political change." Simple. The problem with such a definition is it implicates actions for which we are responsible. But so be it. We are the example for the world to follow, are we not? That fabled shining city on a hill? Do we not have a Christian President? Jesus instructed to treat others as you would have them treat you, the Golden Rule. Spraying cluster bombs over suburban Baghdad and leveling Falluja does not bode well for us, no matter what end we seek. One does not equate ends and means; that's an ancient truism.

What I mean to say by all of this is we've adopted a tragically simplistic worldview that leads us to band together for an apocalyptic global battle for the salvation of Muslims' souls. Or 'democratization' of the Middle East. It's a matter of semantics. The question that remains from the ashes of ground zero is, What future do we want, for us, our children and grandchildren? Whether it's a choice between freedom and fear or survival and hegemony, the constant obstacle to global progress and happiness is, in the end, the irrationality that exists within all of us.

All we have is our power; with that responsibility we can do whatever we want, and therein lies the problem and the solution. A system where a twentieth of the global population assumes the mantle of a world mission to save and reconstruct the rest of the world is a path of self-destruction and, ultimately, doom. We can stop this. Hope and freedom are precious. Violence will not put an end to violence; neither will passive exhortations to 'wage peace'. The free people of the world will find a way. It may not be ours, but perhaps one that will turn the tide of tyrannical regimes and this whole ugly 'Age of Terror'. Is that the role of our country alone? Obviously not. Rather, it is the obligation of all who do not wish to live in fear and desperation.

Someday justice will be done. To that end I am optimistic.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

The federal government's response to the disaster spawned by Hurricane Katrina is nothing less than shameful. The more one reads about this fiasco the more that kind of conclusion becomes clear. It's not just the matter of delay: one whole day before a single word about it came out of the White House, a few more crucial days before the desperately needed supplies and the people to distribute and coordinate them arrived to the bereaved and besieged.

What is happening now is the direct result of inept policy and misguided priorities, to say the least: the National Guard? A lot of their resources (one estimate places it at half) and about a third of their personnel are in Iraq. Funding for the failed levees? Cuts in the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) budget, partly due to allocations for 'Homeland Security' - and not homeland security, apparently - as well as the tax cuts. "Just two months ago new evidence emerged that city and its levees were sinking, increasing the risk of a catastrophic flood, even as federal funds to protect the city were being cut," reports the New York Times.

The result is an undeniable disaster, and the refugee situation is both unnecessary and criminal. This does not happen to such a wonderful country. Yes, one must not simply 'point fingers'. But this whole thing embodies the life and death issue of power and responsibility, which for better or worse is being placed on the highest levels of our government. It has failed us: unknown thousands are already dead, 'armed thugs' have taken control of many areas in New Orleans, damage to oil infrastructure has sent gas prices higher and higher, and the utter lack of basic services (water, food, medicine) has created what is perhaps the greatest humanitarian crisis we have ever seen in recent memory.

One day this Administration is going to pay dearly for its shameful (and shameless) lack of foresight and its contempt for the American people.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Good news, everyone: the Onion, perhaps due to popular demand (that's my guess), has returned its archives from their 'premium' section. So it's fully searchable, but still not browsable. But it's a great start.

The Gulf Coast Catastrophe

Looters in New Orleans are being subdued, deaths may be well into the several hundred, and full recovery "may take years," according to the President (via the New York Times). The price of oil has soared insanely; a gallon of gas (premium) is as high as - good God - $3.89 in Chicago, for instance. ("Gas Prices Surge as Supply Drops", 1 Sep 2005, NYT) "Shortages and gasoline lines were reported in parts of South Carolina, the Dakotas, Arkansas and Kentucky," reporters Jad Mouawad and Simon Romero write, a first "since the 1970's" energy crisis. (Id.) The President's cut his vacation short and is back to work, a good time to be a commander again, I say.