Saturday, May 08, 2004
Our OneLonelyReader notes that last night, we seemed to be having an emotional meltdown. To which we respond: You are very perceptive. That's exactly what was going on.
Early in that emotional meltdown, we expressed the following sentiment to our lovely soon-to-be-wife:
"It's lost. We've just lost it. We're all going to end up refugees, or we're going to burn down the whole world."
We then proceeded to mount a less-than-sophisticated screed about the personal responsibility we feel toward the actions of our government. In the course of mounting this screed, we missed our own point.
We missed a post in the Daily Howler, which expresses our sentiment in much more expert prose. Dave Neiwert was kind enough to excerpt the following passage for us:
"what will happen to your country because Wilgoren and Dowd set the tone? Let us finally tell you your future: Osama's men will come with a bomb (see below), and they'll destroy an American city. American society will end on that day. And when it does, you can think of Wilgoren and Dowd -- and you can think of the "letters editor" who laughed in your face with that letter today. They've made a joke of your discourse for years -- while your enemies hunt for a bomb." (emphasis mine)
Both the Howler article and Dave's Manifesto are essential reading for everyone who is searching in good faith for a peaceful and legal way to ameliorate the crisis of power we are experiencing in the U.S. today.
In fact, we were begging for an idea as good as this one when we concluded our screed last night with:
"If you are politically-minded person and you read this, please think of a way to organize a movement within the system to roll back the cynical, extremist movement that's been allowed to lock this country down."
"But we have to get organized. And after years of wandering in the wilderness, I believe that 2004 is the year to make it happen -- if for no other reason than that the stakes are so high.
The main reason, though, is that I think the tools for serious change are finally within our reach. And the chief tool is the Internet, the blogosphere in particular."
"There should be no naivete about the nature of what we are up against. This is a revolt against a national discourse that has degraded into a puerile swamp of innuendo, smear, and dishonest reportage. Anyone participating must be prepared to have the worst of this kind of tactic used ruthlessly against them."
Read the whole thing. It's vital. When we're done with this post, we're going to read it again and formulate our own contribution to this project.
Lambert at Corrente has practical suggestions on the way to move it forward.
We hope that we will be able to make a positive contribution, however small, to the RMA. We are changing our blog title to Cassandra Was Right as a way of honoring the incomparable Bob Somerby of the Howler, and Dave Neiwert, a great journalist and a great thinker.
We are all about using the system of government and public interaction that we already have in place to steer our country toward reason and peace.
We are very concerned about the tendency of certain citizens lately to employ eliminationist rhetoric against their political opponents as a way of gaining traction with the base of their party. We do not have time to go into a lenghty dissertation on this trend. There are plenty of examples out there for those who wish to see them. Eliminationist rhetoric in the public discourse has the potential to transform political opponents into enemies. We do not not need to make enemies of one another over differences of opinion.
Dave Niewert has been all over this issue for a while now. Take a look at his archives, especially his pieces on the media and fascism.
Again: We are about peaceful, legal political change in this country.
We are of the opinion that Billmon is the greatest bartender in the history of the world. We've been drinking at the Whiskey Bar for quite some time now. We're the guy who sits in the corner, takes it all in, and never says a word.
Most of us have seen some variation of the game with the shells and the pea. An enterprising shell-game artist will maximize his profits by allowing his mark to find the pea a time or two, and then win back his initial investment by convincing the mark to double or triple the stake.
Human rights, to governments, is like the shell the artist uses to let the mark win. It's the one they want you to look under, so you can find the pea and see they have the best of intentions. The one that allows you feel o.k. doubling or tripling your bet just before they go for the big score.
Whenever you hear a government invoking human rights, examine that government's agenda very carefully. It is rare to find a government doing things for humanitarian reasons. Humanitarian projects are just too expensive to be worthwhile to the Inevitable Ruling Elite.
That being said, we urge our OneLonelyReader not to succumb to the line of thought which leads to the conclusion "Well, those in power aren't serious about human rights, so I guess I really can't do anything." We urge you instead to speak out. At the very least, let your representatives in government know that you, as a constituent, are watching what they do, and consider the issue of human rights for everyone to be Serious Business Indeed.
You may be interested in reading the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
notes on the systematic murder, rape, and torture of arbitrary detainees, for which I feel responsible, part II
We are not about to backtrack here. But we would like to make our position clear in short sentences, and be a bit more rational if we can.
We are not surprised to find that our armed forces have murdered, raped, and tortured arbitrary detainees in Iraq. We believe that our government has been doing this for a very long time. It is not something new.
We did not experience some literary epiphany yesterday that suddenly made us realize that we, personally, have blood on our hands. We have known this for most of our life.
We remember the Reagan wars in Central America that occurred when we were still in secondary school. We remember the stories from Gulf War I. We remember older people writing about things and telling us about things that went on in Southeast Asia before we were born. We have tried to discuss these things with relatives, friends, sometimes co-workers, and strangers in bars. We have at times been accused of hating America, of being a communist, and of being an idealist who is out of touch with reality. That's par for the course, as far as we're concerned.
We feel just as responsible for the cluster bombing of civilian areas of Iraq and for the depredations the Cuban people have suffered as a result of our embargo. We feel just as responsible for the children dismembered by our land mines and unexploded ordinance, and for civilians shot by our infantry at checkpoints. We feel just as responsible for the terrible effects suffered by our soldiers and Iraqis in years gone by as a result of exposure to depleted uranium. We cannot list all the transgressions against humanity that we feel personally accountable for.
Our feeling of personal accountability stems from the fact that, theoretically, we ARE our government. We bought this line in our civics class when we were very young. We believe it. One of the deep-seated psychological reasons that we personally reject any scheme of accountability to a higher being for things we've done in our life is that we feel this responsibility, and yet we feel powerless to change it.
Certainly, we can make our own small attempts to change things, and we do. But at one level, we have a tendency to see the actions of government in the same way we see rain and snow: we can bitch about it, we can try and stay out of its way, but we don't know what we can do to actually control it.
There is a fine line between realism and defeatism, and we walk it every day.
What we are looking for is a way to convince our society that it is important to stop raping, murdering and torturing people. That self-determination and human rights are more than just political cards to be played at the whim of a privileged few. If we can't do that, we'd love to figure out what actions we could take that would allow us to feel less responsible.
We love our country. We want it to be a better place. We find it tragic that the public discourse in this "most free of nations" has degenerated to the point that we feel it necessary to end this post by saying so.
Friday, May 07, 2004
"My country, right or wrong," is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except a desperate case. It is like saying, "My mother, drunk or sober."
"The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost."
Sleep well, if you can.
Earlier this evening I wrote:
If you are a religious person, and you read this, please say a prayer to whatever god you believe in for this secular man who weeps tonight for all the things he hasn't done in his short life. And say a prayer for the United States of America. It can't make things any worse.
No. Fuck No. Do that, if you will, but don't stop there. Hell, don't even begin there. If you want to pray for someone:
Pray for the all the innocent people The Government of the United States of America has detained arbitrarily for no reason, for indefinite periods of time. Pray for the men and women we've allowed our forces to rape and degrade and psychologically wound for life. Pray for their mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers. Pray for all the people in the world who wonder where their loved ones are tonight, because armed soldiers carried them away naked, with bags over their heads, months or years ago. Pray for every human being who sits in a gulag anywhere in the world because they happened to live beside the wrong person, or piss off a neighbor who happened to be a paid informant. Pray for every human being who is being systematically "Broken" because they have no information of any value whatsoever, and don't know what they should say in order to make the people who are torturing them stop.
If you are one of those people who pray to a god. I don't do that, myself.
Then, after you're done with your prayer, think about who the fuck you are. Not who you think you are, or who you want to be, but who you really ARE. And about what you might be responsible for.
By my own hand, I am undone . . .
that is all.
Notes on the Systematic Murder, Rape and Torture of Arbitrary Detainees, for Which I Feel Responsible
I feel responsible for the crimes of our armed forces in Iraq because I'm still hanging onto my belief that the power vested in our government stems from The People. And that really pisses me off. I am overwhelmed by a sense that I am powerless to prevent these things that are done in my name, and paid for with resources generated by my labor.
I opposed the War in Iraq in no uncertain terms. I sent letters to the President and to my Congressional reps. I protested in my own hometown and in Washington.
But I still feel guilt over this stuff because all through this war, I've paid taxes and enaged in commerce and gone to work and driven this economy.
I knew the protests wouldn't do any good. The reason I believe they had no effect is that they occurred on weekends. No one missed work. Nothing stopped. We're not even sure the President knew we were protesting.
The fact that the sycophant media made sure that no anti-war spokespeople were seen by the population at large didn't help matters. Nor did the fact that a lot of moderates bought the whole "Saddam is an evil dictator who tortures his own people and must be brought down now at any price" argument. But mainly, the problem was that so many of us allowed ourselves to be shoved out of sight and out of mind, and then went back to work on Monday. I'm glad there were protests, and I know that people must make a living. I don't know what more could have been done, and I'm not disparaging anyone.
But I do know that I feel complicit in crimes against humanity. And justified or not, I feel that every citizen of this country is complicit, as well. For months I've felt like a an actor in a tragedy, knowing how it ends but required nonetheless to follow the plot scene by scene, step by step, unable to change the outcome.
I don't think even resignations from the White House can save us from the horror that we are now hurtling downhill toward. I see only two courses of action that have any possibility of turning things around:
1. An impeachment trial, followed swiftly by indictments of public officials, and a number of civilians directly involved being surrendered to the War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague.
2. A massive, coast-to-coast general strike aimed at changing the leadership of this country as the first step toward real, honest reparations, and a renewed commitment to representative, accountable government in the U.S.
Both are, in my mind, fantasies that could only occur in some alternate parallel universe. Comforting fantasies, but fantasies nonetheless. Idealism is a luxury I simply can't afford any more. I am overpowered by the feeling that, if we continue on the course we've plotted for ourselves we will go the way that all empires must go. And at this point, my intuition tells me that all we can do is deal with it, and try somehow end up better off for it.
The best long-term plan that I could offer would be to find a way to separate the moderates, the Republican wing of the Republican party, from the radicals. Somehow persuade them of the necessity to thoroughly discredit their party as it now exists. To work within the system and legally, peacefully supplant it with a true conservative party. To consign the party as we know it today it to history. If that could happen, perhaps we might finally live up to the image we have of ourselves. But this would be a 30-year project, requiring a level of discipline, organization and compromise that I'm not sure it is possible to muster. I would be willing to dedicate myself to this project, but I don't know who to talk to, or how to begin. So again, it's probably no more than a comforting fantasy.
I hope that, in the days, weeks, and years to come, I can do more than I've done to mitigate the bigotry, the apathy, and the depravity I see in every corner of this nation. I hope I can find a way to teach a few people to think critically, and to see clearly. Perhaps we can find better ways to interact, and to lead.
I wish I could just put this down to A Total Failure of Leadership and believe that defeating GWB in November will resolve the crisis of power that we have brought upon ourselves. But I can't. The problem I see is much deeper than that. It is the result of a complex chain of events that began before I was born, but which I nevertheless have my own part in.
A vague, persistent hope for something better is all I have left. If you are a religious person, and you read this, please say a prayer to whatever god you believe in for this secular man who weeps tonight for all the things he hasn't done in his short life. And say a prayer for the United States of America. It can't make things any worse.
If you are politically-minded person and you read this, please think of a way to organize a movement within the system to roll back the cynical, extremist movement that's been allowed to lock this country down. The only way to succeed is to begin.
LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Secretary, the behavior by Americans at the prison in Iraq is, as we all acknowledge, immoral, intolerable and un-American. It deserves the apology that you have given today and that have been given by others in high positions in our government and our military.
I cannot help but say, however, that those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized. Those who have killed hundreds of Americans in uniform in Iraq working to liberate Iraq and protect our security have never apologized.
LIEBERMAN: And those who murdered and burned and humiliated four Americans in Fallujah a while ago never received an apology from anybody.
What's he saying here?
First: "Those who were responsible for killing 3,000 Americans on September 11th, 2001, never apologized."
Well, those people are dead. Or perhaps he's bought the President's rhetoric and is speaking of the Arab world at large. Perhaps the Senator would like the Yemenis to apologize for the actions of the Saudi conspirators who perpetrated the Sept. 11 attacks?
Next: If all these people he's referring to had apologized, would it make the actions of our own forces any less egregious?
Or maybe he's means that, if only they'd apologized, all the rape, torture and murder wouldn't have been necessary.
Of this we are certain, though: He's making a very clumsy attempt to provide political cover for war criminals.
He's making a moral relativist argument, which, at this point, skates right up the edge of implicating him as an accessory-after-the-fact.
The DNC should revoke his convention credentials and cut him loose. The Democrats sort of have us by the balls right now, because they have Kerry. We're voting for Kerry and trying to persuade everyone we know to do the same. But they won't be doing themselves any favors if they let this slide.
We must add also: "deserves the apology . . ."? WTF? How about: "Deserves a thorough, swift criminal investigation," or "Deserves unequivocal action from the Commander-in-Chief"?
And then there's the obvious fact that the good Democratic Senator has been drinking Dick Cheney's kool-aid, and seems to think that Iraq and 9-11 are related.
If I lived in Lieberman's district, I'd be floating a recall petition.
The President's chief political adviser reaches same conclusion as a poor and none-too-clever southerner
Americans may forget about these incidents, but the rest of the world assuredly will not. Not for a generation, or even longer.
Today we read at SFGate.com that Karl Rove agrees:
Karl Rove, the president's chief political adviser, has told one Bush adviser that he believes it will take a generation for the United States to live this scandal down in the Arab world and that one of the dangers of basing an election campaign on national security and foreign policy is that events can be beyond the president's control.
We would like to assure our one lonely reader that we have absolutely nothing to do with Mr. Rove.
Thursday, May 06, 2004
This murder and torture scandal is horrific, but anyone who is genuinely surprised is either:
a. Very naive.
b. Blinded by their own ideology to the point that they have conveniently deleted from their own memories various incidents that took place under other administrations.
c. Too young to remember anything that happened in the 1980s and 90s (School of the Americas, anyone?)
d. Insert own snarky conveyance of denial or ignorance here.
The two reasons it's is a big scandal is that incontrovertible evidence exists, in the form of photos so numerous that they are impossible to suppress, and that American women are implicated on the side of the torturers. It's a P.R. fiasco, but it is consistent with the way certain elements of the American establishment have dealt with citizens of weaker countries for years. The only qualitative difference we can find between this incident and numerous ones in the past is that this one is out in the open, for all to see.
It is so terrible that we cannot convey the negative feelings it evokes in mere human words. However, we must be a bit cynical here and note that it is also a chink in the armor of certain individuals who are in power. It is a moment for the pure political opportunistas among us to do what they do best.
Democrats and moderate Republicans in Congress are urged to jump on those responsible with as many proverbial feet as they can muster. Public opinion will follow whomever screams the loudest over the next few weeks, and real bipartisan leadership just might turn the trick.
Our government could sacrifice a few enlisted soldiers, perhaps a small number of military officers, maybe even the Secretary of Defense and a couple of his aides to the justice system, and probably make the scandal peter out in the domestic media. We all know the pattern. The news cycle turns. Most Americans forget about it and go back to waving their little flags and complaining about gas prices. It's only television, after all. That would be a truly evil turn of events. Americans may forget about these incidents, but the rest of the world assuredly will not. Not for a generation, or even longer.
Not that we think the rest of the world is really surprised. We think the significant detail to the rest of the world will be not that the government allowed this to happen. No, it will be that the great masses of our country looked on, and did not insist that it is wrong. That it is contrary to values which we insist are universal, good for everyone, and necessary conditions for self-determination and civilization. In short, it is just the sort of thing that will cause everyone in the world who hates America to also hate Americans. And then we will have on our hands a dangerous world indeed.
Instead of forgetting, it is our firm hope that our nation will finally live up to the standards we set for everyone else and face the awful truth. Americans should hold people responsible. Our leaders owe The People a price for setbacks and transgressions that have been allowed, even encouraged, to occur on their watch. Americans should use their own political system to legally and peacefully exact that price.
Every citizen of the U.S. has representatives in Congress. Urge those representatives by every available means to assert their Constitutional authority NOW and reign in the out-of-control executive branch. Only then can the 50-year (100-year? 200-year?) struggle to restore our standing among the community of nations begin. This may be the last, best chance to save ourselves from the conspiracy of incompetence that has been allowed to run amok with our republic.
It's time to realize once and for all that, if all people are created equal, then Americans can be no better or worse than any other group of people. It's a matter of not having things both ways. Reckless exceptionalism beyond this point will be viewed by non-Americans as mere aggression, covered over with a thin veneer of religiosity.
Our leaders have squandered every claim our country ever had to moral authority or enlightened leadership in the world - claims already viewed with skepticism in many places. They've pawned those claims off to enrich a ridiculously small number of profiteers, and to gain a slight edge in a single election.
Don't forget there's a war on. And when there's a war on, A Total Failure of Leadership such as the one we have seen this week is totally, utterly unacceptable.
"Because we acted, torture rooms are closed, rape rooms no longer exist, mass graves are no longer a possibility in Iraq."
-George W. Bush in Michigan, May 3, 2004
"Other Fallujah residents wept at a soccer stadium where dozens of anti-American fighters were buried in graves marked with crude tombstones and wilted flowers. So many bodies had arrived at the makeshift cemetery that a backhoe dug long trenches in the dirt, where the dead were buried single file."
May 2, 2004
"A year ago, I did give the speech from the carrier, saying that we had achieved an important objective . . . as a result, there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq."
-Bush, W.H. Rose Garden, April 30, 2004
"Throughout the Arab world, the symbol of "humanitarian intervention" is a hooded prisoner, standing on a box, with electrodes attached to his fingers. That and the mass graves in Iraqi football stadiums."
U.K. Herald, May 5, 2004
Gross Negligence? Incompetence? Intentional Lies for Political Gain?
We transcribe. You decide. (But we've got all our money on A Total Failure of Leadership)
I. Be it resolved: No official, agent, or other representative of the United States of America shall attempt to apply the principles of Machiavelli to relations with any foreign state, country, or sovereign entity whatsoever; until they have read Karl von Clausewitz' On War, passed a comprehensive examination thereon, and affirmed by solemn oath that they fully comprehend the principles contained therein, particularly as they apply to armed conflict and coercive political relations.
II. Be it further resolved: No official, agent, or other representative of the United States of America shall attempt to apply the principles of Sun Tzu to relations with any foreign state, country, or sovereign entity whatsoever; until they have read Tao Te Ching, passed a comprehensive examination thereon, and affirmed by solemn oath that they fully comprehend the principles contained therein, particularly as they apply to statecraft, known also as "nation-building."
*Legal remedies for non-compliance with statute to be worked out at a later date.
We'd like you to consider the possibility that the disgusting (and worsening) turn of events in Iraq may be due at least in part to a total failure of leadership on the part of the geniuses who are in charge of our government.
thanks to Lambert
Read Rebecca Solnit here. It certainly made us feel better.
Wednesday, May 05, 2004
Cut us a smidgin of slack (but not too much.) We're just getting the hang of this blogger thing. We've been reading the blogs for a while now, and love them. The links, the snark, and the misguided punditry will come in time.
If you'd like to welcome us to the blogosphere, send us hate mail, or affirm our admittedly predjudiced worldview, we encourage you to contact us here.
That spellchecker thingey sure is cool!
What, exactly, is the U.S. getting out of the war on Iraq?
Is this war decreasing the likelihood of a terrorist attack on our country?
Is it worth the lives that people are losing every day in Iraq, lives that can never be recovered?
Is it worth the billions of dollars that are going to mercenaries and a few corporations?
Is it making our lives, and our families' any better?
Is it increasing the likelihood that we will live to old age?
What is our strategic, long-term objective?
Are the methods and tactics being used to prosecute the war sound? Are they in accordance with the established law of nations?
Has our legitimacy as the sole great power of this world increased as a result of this war?
Do we have more allies, better allies?
Are our people more free than they were before all this begun?
So many questions, all leading us to the same answer. And these are only a few of the most obvious. We could go on and on and on with questions such as these - questions that would lead us to the same conclusion. We are capable of critical cost-benefit analysis, after all.
The President* likes to style himself as this great CEO. Well, o.k. I guess that would make us shareholders in the company that he's running. We say: show us some damn results already. From where we sit, it seems as though the value of our stock is going down. And we all know what happens to CEOs who don't increase profits from year to year.
Time for new leadership. Our future well-being depends on it.
*Appointed by activist judges after losing a contested election.
Forget about your opinion on the war for a moment. Forget about your economic status. Never mind your religion.
Ponder this: Would you allow a surgeon to operate on you, if you knew that, more often than not, his patients died on the operating table? If he first prescribed medications, and then diagnosed his patients so as to justify the prescriptions? If he regularly told those under his care (and even convinced himself) that they were doing just fine, even getting better, when in fact their condition was getting worse by the day?
Then how could you vote for The Man Named George in November?
The current administration must be defeated. Not because of their ideology. Not because they've sold out to various interest groups. Not because of their lies. They must be defeated because they have shown themselves through their own actions to be unfit to lead the country at this critical time.