Monday, September 27, 2004
Shit - now I need to worry about stagflation too...
We are so ignorant as a people - we have such power, and such opportunity here, and yet we are blind to our own actions and privileges. I'm continually amazed at the stunning willingness of our culture to resort to "well, it's all relative." We've lost, as a people, our willingness to believe in Facts if that Fact is somehow inconvenient. We have so much wealth, and so little understanding of the world. We have so much stubborn resolve, and so little willingness to think of our actions. To understand cause and effect. To look at more than the last episode of the news. We are so willing to think of things in terms of cinema and tv, and not in terms of reality. How can anyone buy the bullshit that the president is shoveling about Iraq?
President Bush has succeeded in selling Iraq as the 'feel good war.' I'm just blinded with disbelief and the idiocy that people have about the war. If you're not outraged, completely horrified at the effect of our actions, or have some sort of outrage against both the war and the president that caused it, then YOU HAVEN'T BEEN PAYING ATTENTION. If you have some passing acquaintance with the real facts, and aren't horrified, and blame the president - you are lacking in some basic human empathy.
If you consider yourself christian. You are obligated to oppose the war - you are obligated to demand that our leaders stop this act of utter cruelty. If you claim that we are doing holy combat against our evil enemies, first, you need to put down the comic book and pick up a history book that is more that simply you own myopic lies repeated to yourself. Read a history of how the bible was constructed. Understand history, not dogma. Don't want to follow that? Still want to cling to a literal translation, try this: Christ said "Vengeance is mine, sayeth the lord." That means it's the lords to perform, not his followers. If the lord wants him, god will take care of him himself. This is the almighty: He doesn't need 140k US troops, and 200 Billion in tax payer dollars to take care of a horrible dictator, who just happens to be sitting on top of the second largest oil reserve in the world. What about "turn the other cheek?" Only when it's convenient? Only when we want to? Is that what Jesus would do?
If you're a Jew, how can you stand by as we, the US, is terrorizing the population of Iraq? Through our own ignorance, limitations and incompetence, we have allowed two horrors to be unleashed upon the population of Iraq: First, we have deployed a force in Iraq that is incredibly lethal, and little else. We don't have the forces to do a massive occupation to truly quell the population, so the insurgency has grown out of nothing. We can't rely on the Iraqi forces that we've 'trained,' so we need to keep our forces committed to guarding the parts of the country that we've got right now. We can't really engage, on the ground, the parts of the country that are either breeding, or the unwilling hosts to the insurgency. Sure we do air strikes every day, but how much damage are we doing, except to Women and Children. How is this related to the Jewish faith? The Nazi party developed in the 30s when the economic condition of Germany became so desperate that the middle class there put its faith in anyone who could give them any hope of survival and recovery. Coupled with a population that already has latent, or even explicit anti-Semitism, large swaths of the population radicalized, and the Third Reich was born. Does anyone doubt that there is an anti-Semitic streak in the Arab world? Through our inability to crush the insurgency, we are creating a thousand Hitlers all across Iraq. Al Saddr is only one of many other radical leaders who have organized in Iraq.
If you don't buy the threat angle, how about thinking about the people that have to live in the midst of terror every day. There were over 2700 acts of terror last month. How many did Israel face last month? 20? 200? It's still more than an order of magnitude more. We have done this. Whether through deliberate acts (missed air stirkes), or simply allowing the insurgency to thrive in who knows how many towns across Iraq, we have allowed this to happen. These kinds of random acts of destruction - the kind of terror exists if you are constantly operating under the kind of fear that you might not make it back from going to the store (if you had a job, or any money - Iraq has 50% unemployment) - weren't there in Iraq under Saddam. Saddam was a horrible dictator (oh, by the way, we propped him up in the '80s to fight Iran). But now we're the agent of terror, not Saddam.
At Rosh Hashanah services this year, the sermon (I assume that's the appropriate term - I'm a christian), the Rabbi spoke eloquently at the special obligation of the jewish people to those in Darfur, Sudan. The moral obligation of the Jewish people to help those who are having genocide inficted on them. It was stirring. It was also really heartening for me to hear a religious leader speak out publicly. It was wonderful. What about the estimated 20k Iraqi civilian dead that we've either directly or indirectly caused? How is this not the essence of TSidaka? (I really hope I haven't butchered the spelling there). How can there not be a moral obligation to help the immediate suffering on those who who we're somehow hurting?
Don't buy that? How about this: If you support Israel, president bush's adventure in Iraq limits our ability to militarily confront Iran over it's nuclear weapons program. Do you think it's a coincidence that Iran is accelerating it's uranium enrichment? Under President Bush, Iran has drastically expanded it's nuclear program - Israel (not to mention us, and the rest of the world), are dramatically less safe as a result of the escalation of Iran's program, while we are bogged down next door (I don 't even need to go down the path of what would happen if the US told the world it had conclusive evidence that Iran has the bomb, and was organizing a collation to disarm it).
If you're a muslim, then it's relatively straightforward why you're opposed to the war. Who needs another construction? It's like someone screaming in your face every horrible epithet you can think of. Rightly or wrongly, it's perfectly legitimate to see this as a direct attack on islam, and therefor a legitimate defensive Jihad. I don't think that the educated middle class believes this, but I certainly believe that those who are not educated, who do not have jobs or any degree of hope, do believe this. Most of the Iraqi population is dependent on some sort of governmental or NGO aid for their calories each day. I would add that the same is true of the palestinian population. Does anyone doubt the rage that this creates? Does anyone doubt the kind of atmosphere it creates for anyone who offers a vision of hope, justice, or victory, against horrible conditions (like radical clerics)? If you are a modern / moderate muslim, you are opposed to the war because it energizes large portions of the population towards an islam that is ancient, brutal, and repressive.
And if you're a pragmatist, or even a business man: If you have any understanding of the condition of iraq, the impact of the war, and the performance of the prosecution of the war by president bush, how can you not hold president bush accountable? Are we grading on effort or are we grading on results? Do we want to give this man another shot at it, despite the fact that 2/3rds of the country thinks it's heading in the wrong direction just because "gosh, he's just such a good man, and he's so plain spoken." This is about firing the employee that everyone likes but doesn't get anything done. Management, much less Leadership is about responsibility, not power. Leadership is about effectiveness, not intention. Why are we so quick to oust a CEO for a bad quarter or two, but so unwilling to oust a president after 4 years or so?
If none of that shocks you into some sense of recognition that Bush has got to be thrown out right now, then how about simply reading this:
Powell, Then and Now
By BOB HERBERT
Published: September 27, 2004
Secretary of State Colin Powell, discussing the Iraq war during an appearance at The Times on Friday, did not have the crisp certitude of the general who assured us in 1991 that the first gulf war was going almost precisely as planned.
Thirteen years ago Mr. Powell was the supremely confident, almost cocky, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At press briefings he would describe the plan for defeating Saddam Hussein's army, which had invaded and occupied Kuwait, as follows: "First we're going to cut it off, and then we're going to kill it."
He would detail the air, land and naval forces closing in on the Iraqis and say: "I'm not telegraphing anything. I just want everybody to know that we have a tool box that's full of tools, and I brought them all to the party."
He had every reason to be brash. The U.S.-led coalition went into the first gulf war with a coherent plan, extensive international support and overwhelming military superiority, including more than half a million American troops.
Last Friday, surrounded by reporters and editors, Secretary Powell had a decidedly different message. He refused to paint a rosy picture of the current war's progress. "We've got a tough road ahead of us," he said. He acknowledged that the resistance encountered by American troops was stronger than the administration had anticipated, and he added, "I'm not going to underestimate or understate the seriousness of the insurgency."
The resistance, he said, is a "black cloud" over U.S. efforts in Iraq.
Mr. Powell's candor was refreshing. But what we're not getting from the Bush administration is any sense of where we go from here with this war that never made sense, has cost more than 1,000 American lives, has further destabilized the Middle East and has energized the forces of terror that are the real threat to the U.S.
Bush administration officials are busy lowering expectations about the elections scheduled for January. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld now tells us it's fine if elections reach just three-quarters or four-fifths of the country. Secretary Powell, in an interview on CNN yesterday, said: "There will be polling stations that are shot at. There will be insurgents who will be out there who will try to keep people from voting."
No earthly amount of spin can make a credible case that Iraq is on the road to freedom and democracy.
Meanwhile, in yet another echo of Vietnam, American commanders in Iraq are begging for more troops. It was ever thus. Commanders thrust into these unwinnable wars against foreign insurgencies always believe that just a few thousand more troops will turn the tide. Americans were told again and again that there was light at the end of the tunnel in Vietnam. The troops sent into that nightmare would dryly remark that the light was coming from an onrushing train.
Rather than destroying an enemy army, which was the goal of the first gulf war, the U.S. military is now spinning its wheels in the Iraqi sand. No one is sure who or where the enemy is, or even what the U.S. mission is. And it is in that horrendous, senseless environment that American troops are getting shot to death or blown up or horribly maimed every single day.
At home, Americans seem to have forgotten what an ill-advised war can do to the United States. More than three decades after it was published, David Halberstam's "The Best and the Brightest" should still be required reading. Lyndon Johnson had hoped Vietnam would be a short war, Mr. Halberstam wrote, and he was afraid of the political consequences if the true economic costs became visible:
"The result was that his economic planning was a living lie, and his administration took us into economic chaos: the Great Society programs were passed but never funded on any large scale; the war itself ran into severe budgetary problems (the decision in 1968 to put a ceiling on the American troops was as much economic as political); and the most important, the failure to finance the war honestly would inspire a virulent inflationary spiral which helped defeat Johnson himself. Seven years after the commitment of combat troops, that inflation was still very much alive and was forcing a successor Administration into radical, desperate economic measures in order to restore some financial balance."
We've been there, done that, and now we're doing it again.
Oh yeah, and maybe you should start remembering stagflation too.