24 August 2006

Strategy failure: No War Left Behind

The Washington Post today revealed that the Bush administration was dismayed that this whole Iraq thing isn't working out. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that their victory plan bears a remarkable resemblance to their equally idiotic education plan.

"Bush advisers once believed that if they met certain benchmarks, such as building a constitutional democracy and training a new Iraqi army, the war would be won. Now they believe they have more or less met those goals, yet the war rages on."

That's right kids, once Iraq passed all its standardized tests, it theoretically should have been war free.

Because wars have always been won by meeting a set of benchmarks. Right.

Now, recall what I do for a living: study conflicts and how to sustainably resolve them. Mmhmm. Know how many lessons I've had on benchmarks? Zero.

And we, the moronic public, are supposed to comforted because even though there's been no progress on the Iraq front, "it could be worse."

13 August 2006

Warning: Left handed persons may revolt; Brooke Shields descended from royalty

As part of its riveting coverage of world conflicts and social phenomena, the Washington Post has shared with us two incredibly enthralling pieces this day. This is a particular feat, given that so much else is going on in the world right now that we might otherwise forget such pertinent information.
  1. Today is International Left-Handers Day. That's right (snicker), the silent minority has its own day. Apparently they even want events and such. Additionally, there is some frustrating apathy among lefty activists. However, this particular rabble-rouser could be predicting a whirlwind of future social change -- if only that whirlwind can get off the ground.
  2. Brooke Shields, and indeed most every white person on earth, is descended from European royalty. In fact, we may also all be descended from the Prophet Muhammed (which I'm sure has national security implications not yet fabricated). Perhaps most frightening though is that up to 80% of English people are all descendants of one man!
With all this helpful news, who needs peace deals and HIV statistics?

12 August 2006

Honestly, did you have to add that detail?

The lead story on yesterday's Washington Post email bulletin was this article about the investigation that led to the arrests of alleged terror plotters in England. Aside from being a rather ordinary piece about a lengthy investigation, the article isn't really all that noteworthy, except for something the opening paragraph.
It all began with a tip: In the aftermath of the July 7, 2005, suicide bombings on London's transit system, British authorities received a call from a worried member of the Muslim community, reporting general suspicions about an acquaintance.
Did they really have to put "a worried member of the Muslim community"? Wouldn't it have simply sufficed to say that an anonymous person reported suspicions about someone they knew? Is there even any hard evidence that it was a Muslim individual who made the call? And why not just put that a neighbor or community member (without qualifiers) called in the suspicions.

Honestly, I don't know whether the Post is trying to paint all terrorists as Muslims, or demonstrate that not all Muslims are terrorists. Obviously, the former is false and I don't think that's just gist; probably they were aiming at the latter, but just did it badly. Still, I think it's a little much is all.

07 August 2006

I love a good CRS report

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has issued an updated copy of its report, Intelligence Issues for Congress.

Let's all pause now to think about the insane humour found in that statement.

Intelligence? Congress? Yes, there are issues in Congress all right. Intelligence is not one of them. My number 1 intelligence issue for Congress is quite simple.

The entire Congress lacks intelligence.

That's all I've got. And no, I'm not bitter.

Back in action

I'm back from my travels abroad and catching up on missed news and backlogged work. Needless to say, I'm pretty miffed about this how Lebanon war thing, but am not yet ready to really make a more detailed statement than that, especially since the Middle East isn't really my thing.

If you're terribly interested in what I've been doing the past five weeks, or want to see pictures, just go to my travel blog.

06 August 2006

Back in DC, now with pictures

I arrived safely back in DC last night, without incident. Today I've mostly laid around, relaxed, and most importantly, uploaded pictures. I've put up everything decent (mostly), except for the Cape Coast photos, because there are tons of those to go through.

Click here for all the Ghanaian goodness.

Being back is a little strange. Just about everything seems like a luxury. I mean, I'm sitting here with my air conditioner going, the radio going, typing on my laptop, with my car parked out front. This is all a little much sometimes. In all honesty, I feel a little guilty about all this good fortune. But then I realize that life is just different here, and by American standards mine isn't a life of extravagance. I guess what I'm saying is that there are different standards of normality from place to place. I can already tell that readjusting to the U.S. will be more difficult than adjusting to Ghana/Camp was, but I'll make it through. That is, if I can ever get my stomach to settle. :)

03 August 2006

Random thoughts and observations

I had dinner with a former volunteer tonight and it reminded me that I should jot some things down here, in no particular order.

1. I still find myself wanting to do the really complicated West African handshake (the one that ends in a snap) when I see people.

2. People in both Ghana and London keep asking me where my accent is. I don't know exactly what accent they're looking for, but I wonder if I'm really all that geographically ambiguous in my speech.

3. Working on camp was really damn hard. In fact, it was almost like a 24 hour headache. The urge to run screaming from the building was a near constant companion.

4. Working on camp was infinitely rewarding and educational. I grew so much in such a short period of time. In peace cell/tribal leaders meetings, I always reminded those in attendance that it was an honor for me to sit among them and observe their dialogue, and it truly was.

5. I did a little laundry in the tub this morning (classy, I know). The water turned brown almost instantly. This means that I was really, really dirty for a month.

6. Don't tell anyone, but I sort of miss the sound of dirt and gravel crunching under my shoes.

7. As much as I complained about the complete lack of silence during my entire stay, I now find that I can't go to sleep without some background noise.

8. I calculated that I could live in relative luxury in Ghana for less than $7,000 per year. It costs me three times that to live a relatively ordinary existence in DC.

9. This whole "anything goes" mentality has really creeped in. It seems like it now takes a lot more to get me stressed out.

10. [off subject] I would like to go back to work in Parliament.

11. In spite of my growing appreciation for simple living, the ability to rapidly communicate with people is quite nice.

12. If I ever go back to camp (or a similar setting) again for any longer than a month, I may need to invest in some of that over the counter valium they sell in Accra.

13. I really need to lighten up sometimes.

14. I should probably be more serious and driven sometimes.

15. I'm really, really, really skinny. As in, you could fit a softball into my waistband with me.

16. My skinnyness and near constant hunger are nothing compared to what those on camp go through.

17. My life has been hard on many ocassions. It's really nothing compared to refugee life.

18. You really can't compare Western existence and developing country and/or refugee existence. They're just different.

19. Some people said I did beautiful work during that tribal leaders meeting, but I don't really believe them.

20. It's really frustrating to work your ass off and know you've only scratched the surface.

21. Ghana needs better quality alcohol.

22. I need to get used to this kind of work. It's going to be my life (maybe).

23. Community/grassroots peacebuilding or institutional/organizational/political conflict resolution? That is the question.

24. This list is now far too long, and thus here it ends.

01 August 2006


I arrived safely in London this morning, and travel was basically hassle free. I didn't get much sleep on the plane however. The trip has really effected me in a huge way, and while I feel like I did some good work, I know that in the scheme of things I've only made a miniscule dent in a gargantuan problem. It bothers me that the Liberian war was 100% preventable, and yet it raged for years. I met too many people with too many horrendous stories to really be able to justify the event in my mind. Further, I find it impossible to justify the complete apathy to the war the international community showed for so long.

Too many stories of kids walking from Liberia at age 10, not stopping until at least two hours after they heard the final bullet shot, just to be safe. It was Dayton's birthday Saturday, and he was telling me how he feels like in his years, he's accomplished nothing. He can't provide for his children as he would like, has no assets, and no real prospects. He needs to go to school to get better work, but can't afford to send himself and his daughters.

I found myself weeping on the plane after the lights were out. The whole thing came crashing down on me -- not the plane, the trip. Because of the chaotic nature of our work on camp, there was very little time to either reflect or even be alone. That meant I was suddently dealing with a whole lot at once. I'm glad I've got some rest time in London in order to allow me to properly reflect.

I have, however, rebelled completely against my usual appearance while on camp. I'm back to wearing jeans, which had been too easily dirtied and too hard to wash and too hot on camp. I also took my huge mop of hair and molded it into a full fauxhawk today. My clothes are a little looser since I definitely lost weight, but I'm still pulling off a pretty convincing English look. Being able to take a hot shower is also a huge relief. I missed this town, and am glad that I've been able to just pop back in and feel at home.

Anyway, time to roll out for the night. This fast internet connection is a huge luxury. Then again, everything I've seen since I got to the airport is a huge luxury now.

One final story. My donation to PCO includes my volunteer fee, my time of course, and now one timing belt for the car. It snapped on our way in yesterday, and they lacked the funds to get a new one. I had a lot of leftover cedis on me, so I just bought it. Better to buy the belt than have to deal with a Ghanaian taxi.

Time for back to the hotel and bed. Peace. L2E.