War: May 2003 Archives

As the truth becomes more available, and indeed more unavoidable, (at least in the alternative and foreign media), "For the time being," Paul Krugman writes "the [American] public doesn't seem to care - or even want to know." He does his part by listing some of the news developments which are beginning to unravel the monumental mendacity of the White House.

[for more on the subject of lies and the American media's complicity in lies, see Bloggy today]

Krugman begins his column by citing the script of Barry Levinson's 1997 movie, "Wag the Dog," for its parallels to the reality of the last two years.

An administration hypes the threat posed by a foreign power. It talks of links to Islamic fundamentalist terrorism; it warns about a nuclear weapons program. The news media play along, and the country is swept up in war fever. The war drives everything else — including scandals involving administration officials — from the public's consciousness.

. . . .

So what's the problem? Wars fought to deal with imaginary threats have real consequences. Just as war critics feared, Al Qaeda has been strengthened by the war. Iraq is in chaos, with a rising death toll among American soldiers: "We have reports of skirmishes throughout the central region," a Pentagon official told The Los Angeles Times.

Meanwhile, the administration has just derived considerable political advantage from a war waged on false premises. At best, that sets a very bad precedent. At worst. . . . "You want to win this election, you better change the subject. You wanna change this subject, you better have a war," explains Robert DeNiro's political operative in "Wag the Dog." "It's show business."

Americans still seem to be eager to buy tickets.

Shouldn't we ask, "why?" each time there is a call for war?

The Vietnam War continues today for many. Some of its service victims lived for decades with major physical injuries to accompany the psychological pain. Some live still. Neither they and other, luckier, survivors nor those who stayed at home have ever gotten answers. Some couldn't have heard them anyway.

Specialist Rogers was 20 years old, almost through his one-year tour, on Dec. 14, 1968. That day, while on a patrol near the Cambodian border, his unit came under fire and he was struck in the head by several pieces of shrapnel.

"Death would have been a blessing," his brother Joseph of Waynesville said this week. But instead of dying, James Rogers lived on in twilight for almost 22 more years.

"He was helpless," his brother said. "There wasn't anything he could do."

James Rogers was hospitalized for a year before their parents, Joseph and Flora Rogers, brought him home. Sometimes, he seemed to recognize his parents and four siblings. He might hold up a finger in response to a question.

But as for how much he really understood and felt, "nobody knows for sure," his brother said.

James's wife divorced him, and the Rogers family did not blame her. James could not eat or drink without help. His food was blended. He had to be propped up on the toilet. "If you could envision a 180-pound infant," his brother said, voice trailing away.

Despite heavy doses of tranquilizers, James had frequent seizures, so violent that his thrashings once broke a wheelchair. "He suffered unbelievably," his brother said. "I can't describe what he went through."

His end, at least, was peaceful. James Rogers died in his sleep on Nov. 14, 1990. He was 42.

And this and the other stories in the this NYTimes article are only those of guys on "our" side.

Why do we let our old men tell us that using boys and young men to kill other boys and young men is the only way to stop the evil done by other old men?

Look at the small slideshow on the site linked above.

It's Memorial Day weekend in America, and we should be remembering the people who have died in over 200 wars we have fought since 1776.

Today however we read that the Bush regime is about to begin another one (it's fourth, if we include the "war on terrorism," which will be eternal).

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Bush administration has cut off contact with Iran, and Pentagon officials are pushing for action they believe could destabilize the government of the Islamic republic, The Washington Post reported in its Sunday edition.
Still think this is a peace-loving nation?

What about our boast that we are a freedom-loving nation? A week ago a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter returned to his alma mater, Rockford College, a mid-western liberal arts school with a progresive history, to deliver the commencement speech.

[Chris] Hedges, a war correspondent, criticized military heroic ideals that grow during war. The fervor sacrifices individual thought for temporarily belonging to something larger, he said.

Hedges sympathized with U.S. soldiers. He characterized them as boys from places such as Mississippi and Arkansas who joined the military because there were no job opportunities.

"War in the end is always about betrayal. Betrayal of the young by the old, of soldiers by politicians and idealists by cynics," Hedges said in lecture fashion as jeers and "God Bless Americas" could be heard in the background.

His microphone was unplugged twice, he was booed and jeered, fog horns drowned his words, and the college president told him to wrap it up.

Go here for the full text of the speech, at least as delivered.

Hedges is the author of "War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning." This is from a review in Publishers Weekly:

In [his book] Hedges draws on his experiences covering conflicts in Bosnia, El Salvador and Israel as well as works of literature from the Iliad to Hannah Arendt's The Origins of Totalitarianism to look at what makes war so intoxicating for soldiers, politicians and ordinary citizens. He discusses outbreaks of nationalism, the wartime silencing of intellectuals and artists, the ways in which even a supposedly skeptical press glorifies the battlefield and other universal features of war, arguing not for pacifism but for responsibility and humility on the part of those who wage war.

Jonathan Schell's new work, "The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence and the Will of the People," proposes a "revolution against violence" in world politics, but he doesn't explain how we are to get there given the current realities of power and opinion in America. Otherwise, judging from the account of the NYTImes review, by Richard Falk, Schell is not merely an idealist. He doesn't depend upon a moral argument to challenge "the strong linkage between national security and war that has dominated both political consciousness and international relations for centuries." His argument seems to be pragmatic.

The book mounts perhaps the most impressive argument ever made that there exists a viable and desirable alternative to a continued reliance on war and that the failure to seize this opportunity will bring catastrophic results to America and the world [my italics].
Schell neither begins nor ends his argument as a pacifist.
The book is infused with the Gandhian ethos of nonviolence as theory and practice, and yet Mr. Schell tells us that although he had wondered whether the process of writing this book had turned him into a pacifist, he decides not: "The difficulty of the creed for me was not the root of the word, pax, but its suffix, ist, — suggesting that one rule was applicable to all imaginable situations."

But more significantly, he adds, a preoccupation with an unconditional renunciation of violence is not integral to his argument, which is to insist that there exists a growing presence, "fostered by historical events, of an alternative" to war, and he explicates and persuasively links his inquiry with his greatest forebear, William James, and his advocacy of "the moral equivalent of war."

Warning of the spread of weapons of mass destruction, "The Unconquerable World," offers a suggestive blend of hope and despair. In Mr. Schell's words, "Arms and man have both changed in ways that, even as they imperil the world as never before, have created a chance for peace that is greater than ever before."

But only if we find a real press and a regime change, at home - soon.

We've just been told the terror alert has been raised nation-wide to the color orange once again [Although it's actually been orange all along in New York]. As in the past, I don't know whether I should be more scared of an imminent terrorist attack or of the cynical purposes of a fascist regime in Washington. Would it be easier if I could tell myself that this stuff just demonstrates the incompetence of a bunch of idiots?

Regardless of the nature of our fears, it's about time someone asked the White House [it'd have to be someone the media simply could not ignore]: Why are you killing our sons and daughters, not to mention thousands of innocents [uncounted, actually] all over the Middle East, if it isn't making us any safer?

If we could get a truthful answer, we would not be able to bear it: Their blood was essential to the perpetuation of a sick regime determined not to relinquish power in 2004 - or ever. How many more will have to die?

The notorious Guyanese French prison, Devil's Island, is now a resort off the coast of French Guiana. According to an on-line tourist guide, "Visitors can make the crossing easily from Cayenne by motor launch or catamaran, enjoy lunch and tour the ruins easily in a half-day or day trip. It is possible to stay overnight in the former guard's mess."

But today, not far to the north, the U.S. maintains its own, 21st-century "Devil's Island," at Guantanamo Bay. There are no tourists.

For a year and a half, the United States has held hundreds of people captured during the war in Afghanistan as prisoners in Guantánamo Bay without access to family, lawyers or any semblance of due process. Another small group was shipped home recently, and there are reports that military trials for some prisoners may start soon. But that does not alter the fact that the detentions insult some of our most cherished ideals and harm our national interest.

. . . .

The extraordinary attacks of Sept. 11 clearly demanded extraordinary measures. All reports, moreover, indicate that the prisoners have not been physically mistreated. But America vowed after Sept. 11 that the terrorists would not be allowed to drag us down to their level. Meanwhile, the Department of Defense has held more than 600 male prisoners, some as young as 13 — and of 42 different nationalities, including citizens of our closest allies — in a concentration camp. They have been declared "unlawful combatants" in order to deny them the protection of the Geneva Convention. They have been incarcerated on a naval base on Cuba, over which Cuba has no control, to put them beyond the reach of the law. The military set no limit on their detention, and it declared that if they were brought to trial, the proceedings would be before special military tribunals, which can act in secret, and their only appeal would be to the president — who stripped them of their rights in the first place.

Where is our Zola?

I logged the post which appears below this one before I had read this piece by Robert Dreyfuss in The Nation. I might have saved myself the outrage.

It seems that there can no longer be any argument about the legitimacy of our occupying army. The president in fact now has sufficient legal authority to use the military anywhere inside the country whenever he determines that doing so is appropriate, just as he can anywhere outside the U.S.

Gene Healy of the libertarian Cato Institute is concerned.

It does weird things to our political culture when we start getting used to armed troops on the streets, that we find that comforting. It makes the United States start looking like we're not a democracy.

. . . .

The specter of the military patrolling streets, making arrests and conducting house-to-house searches is exactly what civil libertarians fear. [Timothy Edgar, legislative counsel for the ACLU's Washington office] cites the case of José Padilla, an alleged would-be terrorist who is an American citizen, who was seized by the military and held incommunicado. "The notion that the US military could march into your home and cart you off to the brig is a frightening one," Edgar says. "Before the incarceration of Padilla, it was inconceivable." According to the ACLU, the Posse Comitatus law is so weakened now that there is very little to prevent the armed forces from carrying out arrests, setting up roadblocks and performing search-and-seizure sweeps. And the Pentagon agrees. "Whether military personnel will have the authority to detain individuals or be given arrest authority depends upon the specific facts of each case," says [Pentagon spokesman Maj. Ted] Wadsworth.

What this means is that while Americans now have the remarkable freedom to destroy their own world and that of the rest of humanity, they have lost the freedom to govern themselves.

We went through several mid-size hells on the way to and from Brooklyn last night.

Surely, if there were a hell, the anteroom would be the car of an MTA A train locked at both ends during the trip under the East River tunnel, while a large evangelist screams at its occupants, among whom were at least two atheists.

Later this same festive Saturday spring night, on our return to Manhattan at 11 pm, hell returned in another guise when our car was suddenly taken over during its pause at the Broadway-Nassau station by a dozen camouflaged soldiers carrying automatic rifles. A troop train. We had already planned to leave at the next stop to go to dinner, and we did so, or I might have done more than merely mutter, to no one in particular, the few words that first came to mind, "this is the new world order."

Washington is saying that its wars have now made us all safe, Code Orange is a thing of past political utility, at least outside of New York City, and even here they are already reducing the airport security they had so highly vaunted just yesterday. Then why is New York still under military occupation?

A nightmare evening between the bookends of mindless theocracy and martial law. Is this the new America?


Oh yes, in spite of the unpleasantness, the play was very fine, said Mrs. Lincoln. We had a wonderful, and in fact, something of a rollicking good time with an amazing puppetry production of Rossini's "Marriage of Figaro."

Early reviews suggest that the production is not about precision or concern for authentic Rossini style. Indeed, [The Absolute Ensemble] has thoroughly modernized the score with touches of flamenco and synthesizer-accompanied recitatives. But the sheer skill and inventiveness of the staging–-the puppets range from tiny to life-size–-gives this age-old opera a much-welcomed revival.
Absolute-ly, delightfully imperfect!

Artists Against The War is inviting artists and art lovers in New York to gather all day next saturday at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's new exhibition, "Art of the First Cities: The Third Millennium BC from the Mediterranean to the Indus." Works from Iraq and other countries currently living under the threat of US military aggression are displayed in this show.

They also suggest that on the same day, artists in other cities around the world join them in congregating in museums exhibiting ancient Near Eastern

Visitors will quietly draw the objects around them, and before leaving the
museum, each will erase the drawings to symbolically reflect the
erasure of Iraqi culture and the silencing of dissent here at home.

For more information, and pictures, see the website.

For the same reasons which make us ignorant of our own and everyone else's past, most Americans don't remember the Israeli invasion of Jenin just one year ago. But now there's a book out in English, and it gamely attempts to get our attention. Because of the powerful politics behind the ownership of truth in the middle east, it may be recorded history's only hope, and, as this review by a prominent Israeli academic suggests, it may tell as much as we will ever know about what really happened.

Each reader will take something different from this book. For me as an Israeli, I find the description of the soldiers' conduct the most disturbing and most convincing part of the evidence. It is a story of the dehumanization that raged in Jenin. This is so well epitomized in the chronicles of Nidal Abu al-Hayjah as reported by Ihab Ayadi. After Nidal was wounded and lay crying for help, anyone who tried to come to his rescue was shot by Israeli snipers. He bled to death as so many others. Technically, he was not massacred, he was tortured to death. The deadly precision of the snipers as a means of deterring rescue operations is being reported in other testimonies in this book, such as that of Taha Zbyde, who was killed eventually by a sniper. This mode of action was and still is enacted wherever there is an Israeli operation in the occupied territories. It is part of the vicious repertoire of the inhuman occupation - the daily physical harassment and mental abuse at checkpoints, the prevention from pregnant mothers or the wounded to get to hospitals, the starvation and the confiscation of water. No wonder some Israelis felt this brings back memories from the darker days of the Second World War. I remembered Anna Frank's diary when I read Um Sirri's horrorific recollection of how women tried to swallow a cough that irritated the Israeli soldiers standing above them, pointing their loaded guns at them.
[thanks to Anees]

Congress must pay whatever it costs to protect New York City from terrorist attack. It's in the Constitution.

This is an abstract from an April 24 OP-ED piece in the NYTimes by Jason Mazzone:

Op-Ed article says Constitution requires Congress to approve full $700 million a year New York City needs to protect itself from terrorist attack, not merely $200 million it has offered; cites Article IV, Section 4, which states that federal government shall protect each state against invasion (M) Operation Atlas, New York City's plan to protect itself from terrorist attacks, is likely to cost $700 million a year, much of it in overtime pay for police officers and firefighters. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has asked the federal government for money that would offset the costs of the program. While Congress has offered some $200 million in security spending, it has no intention of footing the entire bill. A close reading of the Constitution, however, suggests that it should.

Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution says, ''The United States . . . shall protect each of [the states] against Invasion.'' Unlike other provisions that merely authorize governmental action, this article imposes on Washington an obligation to defend states -- and their cities -- from foreign attacks. If New York City needs Operation Atlas, the federal government must pay for the program.

New York was the first domestic target, and it is potentially the first future target, of terrorist attacks directed against the U.S. The fact that New York may be the one area of the U.S. which least supports the policies which attract terrorist attacks, while interesting, is not the argument. The argument, especially for the right wing ultra-nationalists who maintain that the role of a federal government should essentially be limited to one of defense, is that we absolutely must be defended by the federal government or there is no reason for our remaining part of that government.

The following is from the print edition and is no longer available on-line.

Eighteenth-century Americans — who were as worried about sneak assaults from foreign agents (and British sympathizers) as they were about the arrival of enemy gunships off the coastline — would have understood that attacks like those of 9/11 fall within the scope of Article IV. The Bush administration itself has repeatedly characterized terrorism as an act of war.

Significantly, Article IV requires the government to protect "each" of the states from invasion. This means Washington must do so in a way that meets each state's individual needs, and that a particular state must not be left vulnerable just because taxpayers in other states prefer not to contribute additional money needed for its protection. In the war on terrorism it takes more to defend New York than to defend Nebraska. New York is a unique terrorist target: a coastal metropolitan center, a national entry point, the financial and cultural capital, the home to the United Nations and a worldwide American symbol. The federal government must take into account the city's special security requirements.

No invocation of the doctrine of states' rights can relieve the federal government of its responsibility to defend any one state or any group of states.

I've gotten used to the fact that the government of my country wants to control the world and thinks it is fully prepared to do whatever it will take to do so, but I just cannot understand how my fellow citizens (subjects?) can actually be so stupid and infantile. Since I totally accept the fact that this is not a democratice republic, I guess I still want to be surprised to find that many Americans actually go along with the policies and attitudes of the junta, that accounts of this support are apparently not just misinformation from the authorities themselves.

Many Americans now seem to regard France as our most important enemy. Huh? For too long I've thought this was really just a joke, but these people are serious, and they aren't letting go. Are our narrow little minds unable to accept that anyone could honestly disagree with our incredibly stupid and insanely selfish and destructive foreign policy, one which threatens the entire world? Yes, apparently so, just as the radical fundamentalists now running the country treat any suggestion of opposition here at home as virtual treason.

Joyce Purnick describes a telling event which took place in a Manhattan restaurant very recently.

Last week on a crowded night at La Mirabelle, a French restaurant on West 86th Street in Manhattan, the woman some know as the singing waitress, Danielle Luperti, stood at a couple's table and — as she is sometimes wont to do — belted out a few lines of "La Vie en Rose." It was as if Edith Piaf had returned, and the crowd loved it. Well, most of the crowd did.

Ms. Luperti was applauded, there was a pause, people went back to their dinners, and then, lo, another voice — most decidedly in English this time. A patron began singing an emotional rendition of "God Bless America." It was Piaf vs. Smith (Kate).

There's more about that evening's incident in her column, including evidence that the rude patron may have been alone in chosing to reconfigure a dinner experience as a chauvinist [French word!] demonstration, and Purnick writes that she herself files the story in "the happy endings file."

My own reaction to her telling was one of absolute horror, and shame for my countrymen. Oh, I know, France doesn't really care, and in fact in the past we've given the French plenty of reasons not to be surprised by our infantilism, so I imagine it's not really such a shock, but I care, very much. I care about us, and I care about an entire world, one which should expect more from a nation and a people as advantaged as ours.

This page is an archive of entries in the War category from May 2003.

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