Thursday, March 27, 2003

Rekha – Iraq War “Feels” Like Child Abuse

She’s been gone for a while… but she’s back and more radically disjointed and anti-American than ever! It must be very difficult for Rekha to live in this unenlightened state in the middle of this barbaric country that perpetrates war crimes on live television.

I woke up last Friday morning in a Venice Beach, Calif., hotel to the sounds of a little boy crying in the next room. "Don't Mommy, don't," he wailed as a woman scolded him. Then his cries grew louder, and he was pleading for his mother as a man with a booming voice took control. I heard some thuds and then I didn't hear the child anymore for a long while.

I couldn't tell if I was listening in on child abuse or just a couple disciplining a fussy child, but it left me with a haunting sense of helplessness and shame for being unable to do anything.

Rekha is providing an illuminating analogy for much of what has led to the current situation and does not even know it. Had she any gumption and conviction… had she really felt that this child was being abused she could have intervened. She could have knocked on the door of the adjoining room and asked if she could help. She could have called the police. But, she was afraid. Just as she and the rest of the spineless peaceniks are afraid of mixing it up with the 10% of Iraqis that hold the other 90% hostage. Close your ears, don’t hear the screams.

She has the play right, but she has miscast it. In Rekha’s world, Bush not Saddam Hussein is the abuser.

We are not going to go on feeling “helplessness and shame” Rekha, because we ARE the good guys. We’re DOING something about it.

That same feeling of impotence returned later that morning when I turned on the TV to see a smoke-filled Baghdad being pounded by American bombs. The image has not left me since.

I know countries are supposed to unite behind their leaders in wartime, and that most Americans now say they do. But there are many of us for whom this war has never been justified, who share my sense of indignation at what's being done in our names.

Yep… we’re “pounding” all right. We’re carpet bombing Baghdad, 24 x 7. We’re trying to inflict the maximum amount of civilian casualties possible and destroy as much of their infrastructure as we can. We’ve been doing this so successfully that the lights are still on and the Iraqi people are going about their business as usual. We’re so successful in our “terror bombing” that yesterday 15 Iraqis were killed because civilians in Baghdad feel so safe in the midst of a strike that they no longer pay heed to the air raid sirens. In the incident that lead to the fatalities, either one of our missiles went off course or an Iraqi surface to air missiles went up, down, into a commercial area and boom.

Please. Never have so many precautions been taken to limit civilian casualties.

But it’s really about how Rekha felt when she saw the television images. I’m sorry that these pictures disturb you Rekha. All of the thousands of Iraqi people; men, women and children that Saddam and his band of gangsters have gassed, tortured and killed are inconsequential and don’t play a part in your thought process because you did not see their suffering on TV. But, you’ll be hearing their stories soon. Then perhaps Saddam’s loss of a few palaces and Baathist party and Republican Guard buildings won’t seem as disturbing to you.

And Rekha, if it makes you feel better, I promise that we will never mention your name when we liberate the Iraqi people.

This is the tyranny we see unfolding: A man takes power in a country by means many of its citizens consider illegitimate. It's a country blessed with great treasures and human resources, but he is determined to plunder them by starting a war that most other countries denounce as illegitimate.

When I first read this paragraph (after I got my mind around tyranny having the ability to unfold…), I thought Rekha was talking about Saddam Hussein… but NO. Bush is the tyrant, Saddam is not. Folks, welcome to Rekhaland. It’s a topsy-turvy place where American columnists call their president a plunderer and defend bestial dictators that kill hundreds of thousands of innocents.

Hey lady, there is 70% support for the war AND for George Bush… SEVENTY PERCENT. Rekha, do you really believe that we are going into Iraq just to steal their oil. Are you really that clueless? It would be WAY cheaper just to let the regime stay and buy Saddam’s frigging oil Rekha. “Most other countries”… ??? Oh, you mean France, Germany, Belgium, Russia and the Arabs? Just checking.

He finds a myriad excuses to justify it, but most of the "facts" he invokes remain unproven. He says, for example, that the other country is a threat to our people, participated in terrorist attacks on our soil, has weapons of mass destruction it wants to use on us. (A week after troops went in, they had found no evidence of any of the alleged biological or chemical weapons. None had been unleashed. No links to Al-Qaida had been uncovered.)

Just wait Rekha. Why do you think that the garrison in stationed at a “hospital” in Basra had 3,000 anti-chemical suits and doses of anti toxin? Oh, I know… you think it’s because WE’RE going to use chemical weapons ON THEM. After all, we’re capable of the most heinous brutality.

It’s been a week since this thing began, okay. We’ll see if Saddam has VX and other nasties once the battle for Baghdad begins and we cross the “red line”. As for proof of other skullduggery… Rekha, remember when the East German government fell and the files of the Stazi secret police were revealed? Once we get to Saddam’s security and secret police records, then and only then will it make sense to pass judgment on this.

He demands that the country disarm, but when that process is under way, when international weapons inspectors report that progress is being made, he calls for war anyway. He then demands the other president flee. When that does not happen, he unleashes a massive bombing campaign with the help of a few allies and tries to assassinate him.

Rekha, there was NO REAL DISARMAMENT PROCESS. There was just a perpetual stalling tactic. The French, because of their investments in Saddam’s regime and their fear and loathing of American hegemony and “hyperpower” were going to have NONE OF IT. Massive bombing campaign… Yep, we’ve been saturation bombing Baghdad again. Ooops, there goes a nuke.

You know, I picture Rekha sitting in the seat of an Iraqi AAA gun wearing an old Russian helmet al la Jane Fonda... Baghdad Rekha... hey, I like that… Baghdad Rekha.

All this is done in the name of democracy, as if getting carte blanche from his own Congress gives him the license to disregard the rule of international law and treaties, the concept of national sovereignty and borders.

Why did you come to this country Rehka when it is obvious that you hate it so much? Please move to France. Do you really see us… I mean us… The United States of America Rekha… as an aggressor nation that takes what it wants? Where is your sense of history and perspective? Do you have an endless tape of the worst moments of the Viet Nam War looping in your head? Do you see the United States and its military capable of only Wounded Knees and Mei Lais?.

As for “international laws and treaties and the concept of national sovereignty”… Okay, let’s just assume that there really is a moral, principled international community embodied in the United Nations. Let’s pretend for a minute that it’s not a debating society for competing national policies and interests and at its core a farce. Explain your principled stance of non-intervention to the Iraqi people who are not members of the Saddam loyalists. Tell that to the tens of thousands of Kurds that have been exterminated. Tell that to the Shiite majority that lives live under the boot of Tikriti oppression. Then, you may want to go into a spiel about global warming, saving the whales and recycling.

If this is the kind of democracy we want to export, you can see why some countries would want no part of it.

Rekha… democracy is not mindless, sheepish pacifism. When it comes down to it, someone has to pick up a weapon and fight for what is right. Yeah, it sucks. I sure wish Homo sapiens weren’t like this… but we are. And again, it would be cleaner and neater to do nothing and let Saddam, his grotesque sons and his band of thugs remain in power.

What if the rogue regime is ours? What if we were sold a bill of goods?

What if the moon were made of green cheese? What if Rekha Basu wrote a thoughtful, intelligent, balanced and well researched column?

At first President Bush left the impression that the conflict would be brief and victory swift. Now he hits Congress up with a bill for $75 billion for the next six months.

Cost of inaction, Rekha… repeat after me: Cost of inaction. The WTC terrorist attacks on 9/11 cost New York City alone over $90 billion by September 2002. And you’re slipping; you forgot to bring up Bush’s “tax cut for the wealthy”.

At first, he vigorously objected to the concept of nation-building in other countries. Now he says we won't stop until we've engineered a regime change in Iraq.

History happened to Mr. Bush Rekha… in the horrible form of 9/11/2001. Some people get whopped up the side of the head, actually face reality and change their minds.

He said Iraqis would welcome their "liberation." So far, the vast majority of Iraqis have responded to us as one would to enemy invaders. Yes, Saddam Hussein has ruled illegitimately, attacked some of his own, invaded another country in the past. But is a U.S. occupation force, driven by questionable goals, any better?

Are you nuts? The vast majority??? The fact that Saddam had months to salt the general population with his Fedayeen goons has of course nothing to do with this. The fact that the Shiites in southern Iraq are dubious about our commitment because of the way that we deserted them in 1991 (courtesy of Colin Powell and the UN) has nothing to do with this.

I’m just going to guess that you have been ignoring the reports of Iraqi regular army personnel being forced at gunpoint by Republican Guard officers to fight… or the accounts of women and children being used as human shields... or the 13 year old boys that were threatened with their parent’s death if they did not pick up an AK47 and sacrifice their young lives in suicide assaults on coalition troops.

If Saddam has “ruled illegitimately”, then why are you so upset about us removing him? How passive you are when talking about Saddam Hussein Rekha. You make it almost sound as if he’s been through some kind of 12-step program for murderous dictators. He’s fine now. He’s a “recovering tyrant”. It’s all in the past.

And your last sentence in that paragraph is the last straw. Even if everything you said WAS TRUE, how could you think that things in Iraq would not be better under us, even as occupiers, than that brutal megalomaniac?

These are not easy questions, but Americans need to ask them: What if the war is really not being waged for humanitarian or security concerns, but a thirst for control of Iraq and its oil? What if, for that, America defied the United Nations and world opinion, sent our men and women into harm's way, bitterly divided our people, soaked taxpayers, and put innocent civilians in both countries at grave risk - one of a terrorist backlash, the other of our bombs?

Then we have another cluster of what ifs. What if it’s about the Oiiiilll??? (boy… that’s original). What if Eddie Murphy starred in a box office hit? What if Rekha Basu read periodicals other than the New York Times, Le Figero and the Manchester Guardian?

Before it began last week, child psychologists were broadcasting tips to help American children cope with the images of bloodshed soon to follow. I wondered what tips Iraqi psychologists were offering the parents in Basra and Baghdad that day, when their very survival was stake.

Here we go… wheeee… the CHILDREN. Bloodshed on TV leading to damaged little psyches. I think you’re projecting Rekha. You seem to be the one coming unhinged because of the violence. You know; gangsters like Saddam Hussein depend upon people like you to maintain their power. If it were up to you, we would not have retaken Europe from Nazi Germany. It would have been too loud and messy. We bombed the hell out of France (and not with smart weapons, by the way) prior to, during and after the invasion of Normandy. Innocent French men, women and children were killed. And it was liberation. We did the same thing in Germany, (think Dresden) in spades and we considered it liberation there too.

This is the cost of letting evil take hold. This is the cost of appeasement. It’s all so much easier when you don’t have to look at the ugly stuff Rekha. You can pretend that tortures and rapes never happened. Your empathy can be saved for your usual victims; left-handed, African-American lesbian quadriplegics who need and deserve state funded tattoo removal and the like. They, at least are good for a colorful interview.

That's war, the Bush administration officials respond, when asked about civilian casualties. Still I'm haunted by the sense we have no business being in this one. As for supporting our troops, I do. I want them home safely. Now.

Rekha, you are haunted and paralyzed by the postmodern, blame America first ghosts of Viet Nam and every other rotten Noam Chomskyite half-truth/big lie about this country. You see none of the good in America, none of the greatness, none of the basic humility. You cheer our defeats as a comeuppance. You WANT us to lose. You want to see our nation’s armed forces used only as a tool of that paragon of international virtue and cooperation… the United Nations.

Got news for you Rekha… it ain’t gonna happen.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003

New York Times Goes Out on a Limb

War in Iraq Could Bring U.S. Recession, or Economic Growth... no, this is NOT an Onion piece.

Sunday, March 23, 2003

No Register… Stay the Course

The Des Moines Register, before the start of hostilities in Iraq, had an editorial stance that seemed to have been lifted from the half-baked, juvenile sloganeering on the signs carried at recent “peace” protests. This stance demonstrates a shallowness of understanding of and a fundamental lack of perspective on recent (and not-so-recent) history that leads to an amazingly immature worldview.

Last week, things at the Register seemed to change. Presumably in an effort to not completely alienate their Midwestern, essentially patriotic readership, the editorial board gave lip service to unity and support of the war effort. However, today’s editorial reveals their true intent. The Register may have lost its struggle to prevent the war in Iraq, however it has not given up the fight to press the U.S. to toe the “multilateral” line and submit to the “authority” of UN.

When the Soviet empire collapsed, leaving America as the only superpower, it was reasonable to hope the world would enter an extended era of prosperity and peace. How naive that hope seems now.

How was it in any way “reasonable” to assume this? What in God’s name led the editorial board to believe that with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the resulting power vacuum that ensued would lead to extended prosperity and peace? This is not reason. This is childish wishful thinking.

The train of thought that leads to this storybook worldview goes like this: Now that the world is safe under the guiding hand of the UN, we can take all of that money we put into defending the free world and “invest” it in social programs. Everybody will play nice. Nobody will be jealous of our successes. Ain’t gonna study war no mo.

Have these people not studied world history at all? Do they really believe that human nature has changed so much since the founding of the UN and the collapse of the Soviet Union? This is what happens with lack of critical thinking meets too many Peter, Paul and Mary albums.

The United States is engaged in its second war within a dozen years, not counting lesser projections of military power in places such as Somalia, Bosnia and Afghanistan. There might be several more to come.

“Projections of military power”… makes it seem as if we’re going in, killing innocents and sacking the place. Yeah, we’re just a bunch of high tech Vikings. Like in Somalia – nothing to gain, purely a humanitarian effort. Like in Bosnia – a move against genocide… a job that the peace weenies at the EU should have dealt with but, alas did not have the backbone nor the wherewithal. Afghanistan – do I really have to explain this one…?

If U.S. foreign-policy doctrine remains unchanged, expect a series of small wars stretching many years into the future.

Yep… and your point is…? The world is not the utopian village you claim it to be. There are bad guys out there. They killed 3,000 or our people less than 2 years ago. I know… we should just be good boys and girls, take it and ruminate about “why they hate us”. But we’re not going to. We are going to proactively deal with the people and nations that threaten our United States and its citizens.

That's a future America should try to avoid. When the current hostilities end, the doctrine that led to them must be revisited.

Avoidance is how we go to this pretty pass. Our future course of action will be decided by the result in Iraq. I can’t help but think that Register Editorial folks WANT the war in Iraq to be a protracted mess. That would prove them correct and hopefully put a damper on American hegemony.

The attack on Iraq implemented the "Bush doctrine." Articulated by the president last year in a speech at West Point, the doctrine holds that deterrence is no longer a valid way to protect the United States from attack. The threat of massive retaliation might have prevented nuclear war with the Soviet Union, but it won't work on rogue states or on terrorists who might surreptitiously acquire weapons of mass destruction, the doctrine holds.

Bush called for a proactive fight against terrorists, including the use of pre-emptive wars. International law allows a nation facing an "imminent threat" to attack pre-emptively in self defense. The Bush doctrine goes much further. It asserts the right to attack anyone with the mere capability of harming the United States.

That’s just ridiculous. It this were true, we would be going after Russia, France, Pakistan, India and the rest of the nuclear club. It isn’t capability alone. It’s capability, track record and intent. We need to make it clear that, if your country has all three, you will not be safe. We WILL deal with you.

Hence the war in Iraq to overthrow a regime that did not pose a threat to the United States but someday might have.

And, here it is… all of the faux-patriotic, unifying posturing is set aside and we get the true message. The Register is, regardless of its outcome, against the war. Blatant violations of 18 UNSC resolutions by a barbaric dictatorship just isn’t enough to justify action.

After Iraq, the next logical target will be North Korea. Then there are Syria, Libya, Sudan, Iran . . .

Hopefully, after this lesson in Iraq, our other adversaries will see the wisdom in not threatening our national security. “Don’t Tread on Me” is the message here. If we do this right, we will minimize the number of “brush fire” wars that we will need to fight over the next decades. But, fight them we will. And win them we will.

When President Bush campaigned for office, he said he wanted the United States to be humble in its relations with other nations. He opposed American involvement in nation-building and shunned the role of world peacekeeper. That all changed after 9/11, if not before. Driven by neoconservative strategists in the administration, American policy moved from humble to arrogant, from noninterference to active intercession.

Yes, 9/11 did change everything. But we should have seen it coming. We were complacent and drowsy. From 1979, when our embassy in Tehran was sacked we did essentially nothing to counter Fundamentalist Islam. The ultimate result of this inaction was 9/11.

The dreaded neoconservatives that the Register is warning us about have thought this out and have proposed a measured, rational approach to what is happening in the world. What is YOUR strategy, Register Editorial Board? If it involves reliance upon the authority of the UN Security Council, count us out. I wonder if the editors have read this, this, or this? Read these documents, give a reasoned critique and counter proposal. Fat chance…

The United States began pulling out of international agreements and let it be known there is no interest in any new cooperative arrangements. It became acceptable to casually insult longtime friends.

Oh yeah, Kyoto again. You and Hans Blix should have a love fest on this one. The international court in The Hague…? There is NO WAY that we are going to defer the Constitution of the United States to an international tribunal of European bureaucrats. Longtime friends…? France? Christ, have you no perspective on Franco US relations over the past 40 years? If you have, you certainly count on your readership’s ignorance to foist this nonsense. Oh… I’m sorry… I forgot. This is nearly ALWAYS implicit in the Register’s editorials. Okay, we can continue now…

America would go it alone and would not hesitate to use its military. To maintain preeminence, the United States would not allow any potential rival power to emerge.

No… the United States would not allow any violent adversary to emerge. Rivals are okay, provided that compete within the bounds of reason and precedence to advance their well being and agendas. However, use the sword against us or support those who do and we will have none of it.

Read closely, the Bush doctrine is breathtaking. It calls for no less than imposing America's will throughout the world. As desirable as that might be, the application of the doctrine will result in serial warfare. Each regime that becomes a potential threat must be confronted militarily. It would be the dawn of the American Empire - of American world domination.

What inflammatory crap. We are NOT an imperial nation. You can say imperialism, imperialism, and imperialism over and over and over again. It will not make it true. Please, move to Europe now… preferably France. You’ll be happier there.

We are not trying to “impose America’s will throughout the world”… we are ensuring that we break the will of those dedicated to ending our way of life. We are best defenders of The Enlightenment the world has right now.

Empires aren't what they're cracked up to be. They bring no benefits except military security, and that's dubious in an age of suicide bombers. They impose huge costs, including heavy taxes to support a large military establishment. Over time, the burden of empire saps the economy and erodes liberties in a nation that's perpetually in a state of war.

We’ve been in an open, armed conflict for 4 days and we’ve moved directly to an empire in a state of perpetual war. Please, please people… .

There is another option. The post-Cold War vision of the United States leading the world into an era of peace and progress is still attainable. It would require America to remain unchallenged in military power, but to use that power judiciously. It would call for leadership exercised primarily through economic and moral example in close association with others who share the values of freedom and individual rights.

Carrot, carrot, carrot… and not a stick to be seen. Military power means nothing if you do not have the will to use it. Yes, it must be wielded with restraint and conscience. But when the time comes, as it has now, it must be used. If the liberation of Iraq is not an example of power judiciously applied, what is? Will it take ballistic missiles launched from a nation state bound for the continental United States to provide enough provocation?

And, by the way, we HAVE close associations with others who share the values of freedom and individual rights. They are: Great Britain, Australia, the rest of the “Anglosphere” and, to some extent to 40 or so countries that support our action in Iraq. But I forgot, if you’re not acting with the consent of France, Germany and Belgium, (not to mention Russia and China… remember them, our old and dear friends…) you’re acting unilaterally.

We WILL provide a positive example. We WILL help the Iraqi people rebuild their country. We WILL hand them back their oil resources so that they can sell it back to us and use the profits to build a vibrant economy for their people.

This is NOT imperialism. Neither is it altruism. It is enlightened self-interest backed by judicious use of power in the hands of a nation with a sense if itself and its basic decency. If we stay this course we will help change the world for the better.

Let us finish the job in Iraq, then consider whether it will be the first of many similar wars to come or the last war of empire.

War of empire… enough said. We get it.

The United States is not a band of imperialist thugs who take what we want. Most of your readers know this. You, in turn know your readers and this is why you have waffled and became a bit hawkish in your editorial position in the last week. But, you’re on track again. Good to have you back Register.