War: March 2006 Archives

swimming on our aircraft carrier in the desert

Not many people will get to read my post or the original The Nation article available only in the print edition, but maybe a color image and the accompanying story from MSNBC will stir up some dust in the American political desert.

The huge base we're constructing on the sight of the former Iraqi Air Force academy at Balad is one of a handful of similar imperial projects being installed inside a prostrate Iraq. No wonder we haven't had the time or money or men to help the Iraqis. Also, none of these installations have anything to do with fighting an insurgency or preventing or reducing the severity of a civil war.

Away from the flight lines, among traffic jams and freshly planted palms, life improves on 14-square-mile Balad for its estimated 25,000 personnel, including several thousand American and other civilians.

They’ve inherited an Olympic-sized pool and a chandeliered cinema from the Iraqis. They can order their favorite Baskin-Robbins flavor at ice cream counters in five dining halls, and cut-rate Fords, Chevys or Harley-Davidsons, for delivery at home, at a PX-run “dealership.” On one recent evening, not far from a big 24-hour gym, airmen hustled up and down two full-length, lighted outdoor basketball courts as F-16 fighters thundered home overhead.

“Balad’s a fantastic base,” Brig. Gen. Frank Gorenc, the Air Force’s tactical commander in Iraq, said in an interview at his headquarters here [today's MSNBC dateline: "BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq"].

. . . .

In the counterinsurgency fight, Balad’s central location enables strike aircraft to reach targets in minutes. And in the broader context of reinforcing the U.S. presence in the oil-rich Mideast, Iraq bases are preferable to aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf, said a longtime defense analyst.

“Carriers don’t have the punch,” said Gordon Adams of Washington’s George Washington University. “There’s a huge advantage to land-based infrastructure. At the level of strategy it makes total sense to have Iraq bases.”

Both the White House and the Pentagon have basically denied everything which suggests a long-term or permanent status for these installations.

The AP image at the top is dated Aug. 25, 2005. Our press, which has apparently had every opportunity to see the truth for itself, has basically and characteristically cooperated in the deceit - at least until now.

[image by Jacob Silberberg from the AP via MSNBC]

There are few issues more important to our own survival and that of the entire world than the state of Israel and the war in Iraq. In two consecutive issues this month The Nation's contributors offer enlightenment in these areas to even the most knowledgeable reader.

I usually skip the many articles which only reflect what I already know or suspect, but I couldn't do without those which highlight this magazine's ability to reliably report or sensibly argue what what I'm unlikely to find anywhere else. These two fill that description in spades.

Unfortunately only one of these two particular reads are available on line, but you're depriving yourself, The Nation, and the nation if you aren't already a subscriber.

An excerpt from Tom Engelhardt's"Can You Say 'Permanent Bases'?", which is not on line:

To this day, those Little Americas [at least four "super-bases"] remain at the secret heart of "reconstruction" policy in Iraq. As long as [Halliburton] keeps building them, there can be no genuine withdrawal. Despite recent press visits, our super-bases remain in policy silence. The Bush Administration does not discuss them (other than to deny their permanence). No plans for them are debated in Congress. The opposition Democrats generally ignore them.

An excerpt from Philip Weiss's "Why These Tickets are Too Hot for New York", which is available on the magazine's website:

As George Hunka, author of the theater blog Superfluities, says [about New York Theatre Workshop's cancellation of the play, "My Name is Rachel Corrie"], "This is far too important an issue for everyone to paper it over again, with everyone shaking hands for a New York Times photographer. It's an extraordinarily rare picture of the ways that New York cultural institutions make their decisions about what to produce."

Hunka doesn't use the J-word. Jen Marlowe does. A Jewish activist with Rachelswords.org (which is staging a reading of Corrie's words on March 22 with the Corrie parents present), she says, "I don't want to say the Jewish community is monolithic. It isn't. But among many American Jews who are very progressive and fight deeply for many social justice issues, there's a knee-jerk reflexive reaction that happens around issues related to Israel."

Nothing is so unworthy of a civilized nation as allowing itself to be governed without opposition by an irresponsible clique that has yielded to base instinct. It is certain that today every honest German is ashamed of his government. Who among us has any conception of the dimensions of shame that will befall us and our children when one day the veil has fallen from our eyes and the most horrible of crimes - crimes that infinitely outdistance every human measure - reach the light of day? If the German people are already so corrupted and spiritually crushed that they do not raise a hand, frivolously trusting in a questionable faith in lawful order of history; if they surrender man's highest principle, that which raises him above all other God's creatures, his free will; if they abandon the will to take decisive action and turn the wheel of history and thus subject it to their own rational decision; if they are so devoid of all individuality, have already gone so far along the road toward turning into a spiritless and cowardly mass - then, yes, they deserve their downfall.

- from the first leaflet of the White Rose

Barry climbing the stairs of the light court in Friedrich von Gärtner's 1840 main building of Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität*

The German film "Sophie Scholl-The Final Days" will be at the Film Forum at least through next Thursday. I don't have to draw too much of an analogy here (it will come naturally enough to anyone who sees the movie), but it should not be missed by anyone sensitive to what is going on around us today.

Sure, we don't yet have a provocation equal to that which created the White Rose inside wartime Nazi Germany, but today the almost non-existent opposition to the current regime in Washington is still embarassingly out of proportion to the evil it represents.

Even without official government controls our press is dead, and even though they haven't been put in a camp as a threat to the state, the Democrats have been voting Republican for years. Both "estates" have been doing the work of the regime unbidden, giving it an apparance of legitimacy it would otherwise lack entirely.

In Germany sixty-three years ago political opposition was punishable with death. At the university in Munich a handful of courageous students and one professor decided that even the record of their resistance was worth such a sentence. They had few illusions that their work might bring down the governement or impact it in any significant way.

Today in the U.S. we haven't yet been complicit in the death of millions, although such big numbers are totally irrelevant to a single grieving mother or child. Our own political murders are real enough already. But are any of us be able to match the morality and the courage of Sophie Scholl and her friends? The overwhelming evidence of the extraordinary extent of our cooperation with this deadly, pathological White House gang, or at best our indifference, lethargy and even our incompetence as its opponents on any level, appears to give us an answer.

In 2002 Barry and I visited the university, where I had spent some time in the early 60's. I lived on Willi-Graf-Straße. This image shows the central hall where Hans and Sophie Scholl stacked most of their leaflets and strew the remainder over the railing onto the floor below.

[the text at the top was taken from The Shoah Education Project]

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