Friday, March 28, 2003

California-designed posters satirizing the war in the style of the 1940's propaganda posters.

Reuters reports that "US Pilots 'Bask in the Glory' of Bombing Baghdad."

"It was exhilarating," Commander Jeff Penfield said after returning from a bombing run. He and two other pilots dropped 1,000-pound laser-guided bombs on mobile targets near Baghdad. "I can't sleep yet,' he said. "I'll go down and get something to eat, unwind, bask in the glory a little bit."

Yippee! I'm reminded of Slim Pickens riding the atom bomb like a bucking bronco in Dr. Strangelove.
At 4:00pm this afternoon, I took note of the lead stories for the following mainstream sites:

BBC News:
'Many dead' in Baghdad attack
At least 50 civilians die in an air raid on a suburban market, Iraqi officials say, as battles continue to rage throughout the country.

Iraqis Die in Baghdad Market
Iraqis said more than 50 people were killed on Friday in an air raid they said targeted a popular Baghdad market after the United States unleashed some of the heaviest air strikes of the war on the capital.

CNN - US Edition:
Rumsfeld warns Syria
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld warns Syria that the U.S. considers military shipments to Iraq a "hostile act."

CNN - International Edition:
Iraq's Elite Troops Under Attack
U.S.: Heavy airstrikes mounted against Republican Guard.

You’ll note that the two CNN sites (really one American-owned site with two editions) focus on the active aggression of US forces while the two others focus on the receiving end of that force. Clearly, this was only a single, isolated example, and not a scientific sampling, but at least I think it’s emblematic of the way the war is covered differently on either side of the Atlantic. OK, so the Atlantic isn’t a good line of demarcation. Canada and Mexico are covering the war differently, too.

For example, I just went to the Sydney Morning Herald site right now – the first site I chose – almost exactly seven hours later and the headline is "55 killed in Baghdad market, says doctor," and the CNN International Headline is "Explosion rocks Kuwait City," referring to an incident in which nobody was killed or even hurt. Now, I realize the significance of that piece of news – the first time an Iraqi missile has successfully struck Kuwait, and I also need to point out that CNN does have a link to the Baghdad market story on it’s homepage. What I’m drawing attention to, however, is which stories the American media chooses to make prominent.

I wish I could’ve noted more sites at that particular time; perhaps I’ll repeat the experiment again with a larger sampling.

Also, tonight on CNN (TV), they’ve been endlessly showing footage of the damaged mall in Kuwait, and we’ve heard very little about the Baghdad market story. Where 50-60 civilians were killed. Whether coalition or Iraqi missiles killed these poor people – the Australian paper shows a photo of a young Iraqi boy sitting beside the body of his tiny brother in a coffin – their story deserves more attention from the American media.

I thought we were concerned about these people, trying to liberate them. In truth we’re apparently afraid even to depict their true conditions. CNN's Aaron Brown seems more fascinated with the mine-clearing dolphins than the plight of the Iraqi people. CNN in general seems more interested in gathering generals together in various arrangements to air their thoughts on "the battle plan."

At 11:10, the lead story on BBC News is still "'Many dead' in Baghdad blast." The article says many of the victims were children.

"9/11 changed everything, and we have to think beyond the old cold war nostrums." Posted by “Juan” on The Agonist.

How very U.S.-centric. Dozens of countries had been subjected to terrorist attacks before 9/11 and if they decided to start mounting pre-emptive attacks upon other countries they'd have been rightly denounced. Not to mention the fact that we weren't attacked by a COUNTRY, but by a group of terrorists. And they didn't even come from Iraq.

We shouldn't be attacking a country in response to 9/11, and in fact I don't believe we are. You only have to read any one of a number of good articles out now, to know that 9/11 only greased the way for this policy of pre-emptive attacks which the hawks (Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, etc) have been circulating through the conservative circles for over a decade. They floated this idea in the early ‘90s after we pulled out of the Gulf War and left Hussein in power, understandably frustrated that we’d left him there. Problem is now, a decade later, they effectively want to continue the war as if it had ended a decade ago. (I’m speaking figuratively.) In the early ‘90s when word of the plan was leaked in the Washington Post, it caused such an uproar that it was revised and reword to omit mention of pre-emptive attacks and to maintain the current (at that time) policy of containment. So the hawks had to convince Powell and even Bush that this new foreign policy (coupled with the na├»ve notion of “exporting democracy”) was appropriate. Bush was probably easier to convince than Powell, as he needed plenty of training when he came to the White House and was ripe for programming by the pre-emptive evangelists.

This is common knowledge and I’m sure many folks who take the “9/11 changed everything” tack know this stuff. So all I ask is that we stop kidding ourselves. 9/11 changed a lot, yes – changed the way we live, caused us to live in fear, certainly means we should be more vigilant – but 9/11 doesn’t *excuse* everything.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Why the hell did John Negroponte walk out of the United Nations in protest because of the Iraqi ambassador's comments? Diplomats are supposed to engage in diplomacy, not jump out of the sandbox when the going gets tough. Show some commitment to the process for god's sake--not out of respect for the Iraqi ambassador or his propaganda, but for the U.N. itself. Just another example of cowboy diplomacy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

I remember finding it terribly ironic the other night when Bush gave his deadline speech and said that Saddam or his cronies would be tried for war crimes. As if his current war against Iraq - against world opinion, without immediate provocation - isn't a war crime itself.

I keep thinking about that old quote, "when America ceases to be good, she will cease to be great" - and wondering if this is the modern-day equivalent of the Fall of Rome. Oh yeah, the quote's by that bloke Alexis de Tocqueville: "America is great because America is good. When America ceases to be good, America will cease to be great."

I read an article the other day about "Dixie Chicks" rating highest in search entries on Google until it was knocked aside by "Iraq.". And "war" actually beat out "sex" in Britain according to that country's Freeserve ISP. Now, there's a first. Anyway, it's bizarre that in what was a time of impending war Dixie Chicks even rated that high - even if it is because of the comment one of the singers made about the war. What about "Saddam Hussein," "Kuwait," "France," Germany," "Russia" or even "Tom Daschle"? Seems people have to relate everything to pop culture. That's profoundly sad.

"Heroism on command, senseless violence, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism--how passionately I hate them!"

"Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it."

both by Albert Einstein

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Great for a laugh, check out this site which sells origami boulders. For the best stuff, read letters from dumb dumbs, folks who actually don't get it.

A thoughtful story about Bishop George E. Packard, a Vietnam vet wrestling with the fact that he killed people over there. In the accompanying photo he looks strikingly like former-president Bill Clinton. It'd be interesting to here his thoughts on the likely imminent war with (or "against" more precisely) Iraq. He says he lost count of the men and women he killed. And, at 58, those events haven't stopped affecting his life. How many men will come home from Iraq pregnant with guilt? Of course, this war may well be much more clinical. Pilots dropping bombs on Baghdad won't see the innocent lives they destroy. And, in the future, as a recent Village Voice article describes, soldiers may just pops pills to help the overcome their fear and guilt. I hope we don't go down that road. How grotesquely immoral.

I wonder how many in the military feel conflicted about this unprovoked, neo-imperialistic war?

Loads more protesting going on today around the world. One poster I saw in a CNN photo read:

Why do we Kill
people who Kill
people to show
people that Killing
people is wrong?

Amen. No protesting going on downtown in the big banking city, though. Wouldn't be proper.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

No one admires a politician who lives and dies by the polls, but when the public and world opinion is so overwhelmingly against war, at some point doesn't ignoring that opinion turn a president into a dictator?

"I have spent most of life (like most people) avoiding transcendence at all costs, mainly because the shit hurts." - Steve Earle

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

"It's a symbolic gesture."

Representative Bob Ney, on his order striking "French" from menus in the House cafeterias. I'd call it an incredibly arrogant and childish gesture myself. This Ohio Republican thus banished french fries from the House of Representative without consulting any of his colleagues on either side of the house. So folks who might happen to disagree with him now have to ask for "Freedom Fries." Maybe they could ask for "Fascist Fries" instead. I'm sure the cafeteria staff would know what they meant.

Sunday, March 09, 2003

Letter to the New York Times:

Charles Siebert's article on facial transplants was fascinating, though I felt he did stumble in the end: "We are on the cusp of being able to see even our faces -- the most easily abstracted aspect of our existence -- as one more part of our biology." If that were true, then wouldn't such an enlightened understanding negate any need for facial transplants? If we truly understood the face to be one more part of our biology, surely we wouldn't concern ourselves nearly so much with its appearance. (Its health is different subject.) Nor would we have such narrow and intolerant standards for beauty. Instead, it seems more likely that society will continue to value the superficial and for most of us to resist perceiving of our faces as complex masses of cells, as organs. Instead, it seems likely that people will continue to seek more plastic surgery—even when they don’t need it—to preserve the superficial and to align themselves with certain norms. So it’s our society or species’ stigmatization of the abnormal that would cultivate the desire for such a transplant in the first place. For the sake of those suffer such stigma, I hope facial transplants are a success because I can’t imagine society becoming so enlightened any time soon.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

"It's confusing, what's canceled and what's not. Some shows are going on, but I don't even know where Off Broadway is." - Julia Brady, a tourist from Ottawa, on the Broadway musicians' strike. (NYT)

Those wacky Canadians!

Thursday, March 06, 2003

This Happened in America?

Two men, a father and son, were arrested for wearing t-shirts which read "Give Peace a Chance" and "Peace on Earth" to a mall in Guilderland, New York. At first I thought maybe they were working at a store had been asked to remove the t-shirts while on the job, but, no they were simply shopping in th emall. Not protesting, no yelling, not screaming, simply walking around wearing the t-shirts. The mall management had security tell the men to remove their t-shirts and when the older gentleman (61!) did not, security called the police and the man and his son were arrested for trespassing. Arrested!

Certainly, this mall was private property, but to argue that these men were distrubing the peace or loitering or trespassing - whatever - is ludicrous. Nonethelees, since it's private property, the mall does have the right to make such ludicrous requests. The fact that the police actually arrested them, though, I find most bizarre and unjustified. The police should have told the men to go on their way and dismissed the mall management's request as frivilous. Hell, they should have fined the mall management for waste public funds on calling the police in on something like this.

Eventually, the mall did ask that the charges be dropped - after a 100 protesters marched on the mall in defense of the men.

And apparently, these were the first people to be asked to leave that mall for wearing peace-related t-shirts in the last few months either.

And under the heading of "Nothing New Under the Sun":

"Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country." - Hermann Goerring

"Beware the leader who bangs the drums of war in order to whip the citizenry into a patriotic fervor, for patriotism is indeed a double-edged sword. It both emboldens the blood, just as it narrows the mind. And when the drums of war have reached a fever pitch and the blood boils with hate and the mind has closed, the leader will have no need in seizing the rights of the citizenry. Rather, the citizenry, infused with fear and blinded by patriotism, will offer up all of their rights unto the leader and gladly so. How do I know? For this is what I have done. And I am Caesar." - Julius Caesar

"The United States is the most powerful among the technically advanced countries in the world today. Its influence on the shaping of international relations is absolutely incalculable. But America is a large country, and its people have so far not shown much interest in great international problems, among which the problem of disarmament occupies first place today.

This must be changed, if only in America's own interest. The last war has shown that there are no longer any barriers between the continents and that the destinies of all countries are closely interwoven. The people of this country must realize that they have a great responsibility in the sphere of international politics. The part of passive spectator is unworthy of this country and is bound in the end to lead to disaster all round." - Albert Einstein, from an interview in the Nieuwe Rotterdamsche Courant, 1921

More quotations along these lines can be found a on the site for the Fire this Time CD mentioned below.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind is intolerable, and so the evidence has to be internally denied. - Arthur Miller

That quote appears on the homepage of a great site, The Fire this Time, detailing the gruesome destruction that lay in the wake of the war in the Gulf and the ideology that is driving a return to that area. The site actually advertises a CD which, in documentary fashion, includes snippets of interviews and narration, providing "a permanent record of the fate of Iraq" against a soundscape of (sometimes disturbing) contemporary electronic music.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I almost hate to label a poem like this "anti-war" as it seems to oversimplify its themes, which are lovely, sad and tender. It's by one of my favorite poets, Galway Kinnell.

The Olive Wood Fire

When Fergus woke crying at night.
I would carry him from his crib
to the rocking chair and sit holding him
before the fire of thousand-year-old olive wood.
Sometimes, for reasons I never knew
and he has forgotten, even after his bottle the big tears
would keep on rolling down his big cheeks
- the left cheek always more brilliant than the right -
and we would sit, some nights for hours, rocking
in the light eking itself out of the ancient wood,
and hold each other against the darkness,
his close behind and far away in the future,
mine I imagined all around.
One such time, fallen half-asleep myself,
I thought I heard a scream
- a flier crying out in horror
as he dropped fire on he didn't know what or whom,
or else a child thus set aflame -
and sat up alert. The olive wood fire
had burned low. In my arms lay Fergus,
fast asleep, left cheek glowing, God.

-- Galway Kinnell

We seem to be moving closer and closer to war, and the Bush government plans an attack which will undoubtedly result in the deaths of countless innocent women and children. Bush described the initial attack recently with that typical tough-guy lingo the military churns out and that jingoistic Soldier of Fortune readers stain their pants over: it's called a "Shock and Awe" attack. So called because the massive attack would frighten the populace into submission. See Dresden. See also Guernica.

An attack like this on a country which hasn't attacked us, on its innocent civilians is unconscionable. In the context of our current world situation, it's also irreducibly stupid. Today I heard a co-worker comment that it's time for the United States to say "Fuck you to the rest of the world" and go ahead and attack Iraq. It's precisely that sort of cowboy sentiment that's gotten us into this mess in the first place. Certainly, Hussein should go, but this isn't the way to do it. Where's our so-called compassionate conservative now?