26 November 2006

A few thoughts on war

I recently watched the film Turtles Can Fly, which is the first film that was produced in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein. The film centers around children in pre-2003 invasion Kurdistan, who make their living by collecting landmines and sorting mortar casings. And that, I assure you, is the least of the war-time horrors portrayed. Yet there is an odd beauty in the film, but that doesn't make the subject matter any more palatable.

Like most Americans at this point, I am troubled by the war in Iraq. As the civilian death toll is now in the hundreds of thousands and the military death toll is now above that of September 11, I find this war, which I have always viewed as illegal and unjustified, even more repugnant. Cloaking the whole venture in the language of some unwinable War on Terror makes it even more disgusting. Anyone who thinks that destroying a whole country and the subsequent killing of such a massive number of people is acceptable in avenging and/or preventing a terrorist attack that killed 3,000, is sorely mistaken. Not only does this war fly completely in the face of accepted norms of proportionality, it has no clear purpose, no defined goals, and a continually diminishing measure of success.

Yet I am most disturbed by the effects and affects of the war on Iraqis themselves. This past summer, for the first time, I saw first-hand the effects of war among Liberian refugees. In some cases, living with a destroyed economic and political system is the least of concerns. The question of survival perpetually looms large. The psychological effects of the whole affair are particularly destructive. How do children cope with having witnessed their parents violently killed in front of them? How do women deal with children that are the product of rape by armed gangs of militants? What does one do when the entire network of social support, both formal and informal, has been torn from beneath them?

In a political context, the wars in Iraq and Liberia are almost completely dissimilar. But in terms of civilian costs, they aren't that much different. Yet these are exactly the costs that are usually ignored. Even as the world adopts lofty language like the responsibility to protect, the world's superpower, through its hubris, has sparked a huge slaughter of civilians. War is, and should be, an extension of policy. But what if that policy is flawed? What if the policymakers are unwilling to deal with reality? What if the whole war policy was based upon faulty factual and legal assumptions from the outset?

These are just a few thoughts. Don't take them as me diminishing the effect of terror attacks on American soil. Don't take them as assaults on the military - they don't make war, they just implement it. Just understand that this is a little of where I come from, and outlines a few things I'm currently mulling.

14 November 2006

Dear Shrub, Bolton = BAD

Unforunately for all of humanity, President Bush is insistent upon keeping John Bolton as ambassador to the UN. Even though the nominate seems dead under both the current Republican Senate and the forthcoming Democratic Senate, Bush just keeps pushing.

John Bolton was sent to the UN to do a full court press (look at me and my sports terms) for a big hairy overhaul of the UN system. Reform down to the last man, and what not.

The other "little" countries of the planet, probably scared out of their brains by the prospects for being bombed/invaded for Weapons of Mass Status Quo, actually went along with the game. Reform proposals were made. Panels were created. Reports were issued. Compromises were worked. People like Jan Eliasson went to bat. Kofi Annan went all out, doing things he probably wanted to do years ago.

If you stop the record there, it looks like Bolton was pretty damn successful.

However, with all these new proposals in front of him (and very few of his own, I might add), John Bolton squashed the substance out of each and every one. His efforts were so hostile, that the 2005 opening General Assembly summit almost didn't have a document to approve, because he was busy running his red pen of death through it. When it came time to review the UN's 12,000 mandated tasks, Bolton decided that everything but stuff dealing with Israel could be considered, and thus killed the whole process, as every other country (except Israel) insisted that the whole agenda be examined, streamlined, etc. Bolton even nearly killed the new Human Rights Council, which while not much better than its predecessor, could have been better had Bolton not been so obstinate.

So yeah, I hope the Senate drops his nomination right off the top of the Capitol and into the Potomac, where it belongs.

12 November 2006

MUNers! We have become pop icons

This just in. MUN can be fun, cool, and musical.

Click here for video-music entertainment.

09 November 2006

Post-election wrap up

I'm not gonna bother posting links in this one, cuz all of America (except, ya know, all the stupid ones) already know all this stuff already.

So the Dems took the House and later, the Senate. Bully for them then. Now they just have to make the president cooperate with them, and vice versa. This will be a fascinating two years.

The best news today, though, was Rumsfeld's resignation. This news was so good that it (almost) made me recover from my general ire with the state of Tennessee.

Now I'm generally used to all manner of crap Tennessee can pull. But this election really kinda yanks my chain. I expected the gay marriage ban to pass, and I kinda expected Corker to win. But that doesn't make me happy about it. This is primarily due to the way the results for the marriage amendment turned out: 80.4% for and 19.6% against.

Generally, people who study such things say that in any given population, somewhere between 10-20% will be LGBTQ people. You know what this means for Tennessee?

Only gay people voted against the amendment.

Disturbing, much?

The only thing that gives me any comfort is this odd feeling that someday, legislating a particular this brand of morality is gonna come back and bite some people in the ass. ;)

No further comment.

07 November 2006

WARNING: Resist urge to participate in mass suicide should Democrats lose

Political people are weird. From the Times, discussing how disappointed Dems would be if they don't take the House:

Mr. Cook put it more succinctly. “I think you’d see a Jim Jones situation — it would be a mass suicide,” he said.
Honestly. Is an election worth killing yourself over?

05 November 2006

PSA for Tennessee Voters

I realize that this campaign season has been bizarre, but hear me out.

Tennesseans: Please ignore advertisements that suggest that Rep. Harold Ford, Jr. has supported the "radical homsexual agenda 80% of the time."

Why should you ignore these ads? Because, I hate to break it to you, there is no gay agenda. We don't have one. Period. Even if you find a spoof of one on the internet, it's not real.

You hear me? It is physically impossible for any lawmaker of any ilk to support the "radical homosexual agenda." We don't have one. It doesn't exist.

(And if we do have one, then the religious right has thus far failed to share our agenda with us, though we thank them for taking the time to write it on our behalf. After all, straight white Christian men have been making decisions for other people for centuries, and think they're pretty good at it.)

Trust me on this.

Also, vote NO on Amendment 1.

03 November 2006

Useful tips from the U.S. Government

Want to build a bomb? Better yet, aiming to design some WMD in your basement? You'll probably need some sort of instructions, right? And perhaps maybe a basic understanding of chemistry or physics. Not to mention equipment, a secret lair, a secret handshake, and probably a Swiss bank account.

But even with all that other stuff, you're nowhere without instructions.

That's where the federal government steps in.

The New York Times today reports that a website the government set up to detail all of Saddam Hussein's weapons initiatives had posted for some time detailed instructions on some of the steps needed to build an atomic weapon. The IAEA apparently protested this level of detail sometime last week. Yet the site stayed up until NYT made some phone calls.

(Sidebar: amazing how NYT is seen as more of an expert on these things than the lil old International Atomic Energy Agency.)

It gets better.

This wasn't the first time such information had been posted. Apparently back in the spring there were directions on how to build chemical weapons. They stayed up until some UN agency got really uppity. Better still, the documents translated into English from Arabic.

This was apparently all part of some huge effort to convince the American people that the whole Iraq war thing was justified.

Operation Iraqi Freedom Documents

02 November 2006

The politics of disgust

Unfortunately, it's almost time for an election. This means all forms of media (the term airwaves is no longer sufficient) are riddled with the most ridiculous and insane methods of scum-sucking mudslinging that the English language (and sometimes Spanish) can sustain. There are some particularly flashy examples, but I'll let you find those on your own. More up my alley is the creative analysis of all this garbage found mostly on the internet.

One embarrassment is that the British (via BBC Magazine), known for their own mad dirt digging skills, have dubbed our current election season particularly spooky.
I suppose there was a time when candidates asked people to vote for them because they shared a political philosophy. I suppose that time predates modern democracy.

Now, it's vote for me because I'm not a paedophile, or a drunk, or a mistress-choking adulterer, or a moron - all of which members of Congress have been accused of, with varying degrees of veracity, in the last month.

As Mark Twain once said, there is no distinctly American criminal class except Congress.

I certainly agree with the author, and I especially dig Mark Twain's lovely addition. It seems about accurate, and in spite of my belief that the "mistress-choking adulterers" will probably lose, I'm not terribly confident that anyone more decent will when.

But then the president and his former challenger get involved, and it gets worse. From NYT:

When the president of the United States gleefully bathes in the muck to divide Americans into those who love their country and those who don’t, it is destructive to the fabric of the nation he is supposed to be leading.
I feel like that about sums it up. All fear, all lies, all the time. I really wish "freedom from fear" had been written into the Constitution. Maybe that would make campaigning a little nicer.

Is civility too much to ask for? Or do I have to spend my life learning about who fucked whose corrupt, gay, illegitimate pet monkey?