Friday, December 12, 2003

In Defense of War Crimes 

CNN and the American Military unwittingly film Al-Qaeda's New Recruitment Video.

The next time some Neoconservative Warblogger or "policy official" decides that they are going to use the testimony of soldiers in Iraq as a counterbalance to criticisms of the war, I want you to watch that. But not at work, and not if you're opposed to seeing wounded Iraqis executed by cheering American Soldiers, and telling the camera that "It was awesome, I want to do it again."

And not for the reasons you might expect an anti-war liberal to have. That video does NOT speak for itself.

I don't think the video is presented in its full context- the man could have been killed after an attempted ambush of American Soldiers, we don't know because that website uses this event as cheap agit prop. But it is pretty likely that no matter what the context, what's on that video is a war crime. But the scary thing is, even if it is a war crime, I can understand why it happened.

It is very easy to look at this stuff and be shocked and outraged, here in our day to day, shopping mall world of normality. It's always thrown at the leftist anti-war crowd: "You don't know what war is, you don't know what it's like over there" etc. It's true.

But that's the whole point.

I want you to look at that video and remember the state of mind these soldiers are writing from. Remember that soldiers are reprimanded for criticizing their superiors, and that soldiers are not policy experts or experts in foreign affairs or experts in how to run the country. They're human beings, young kids, usually, serving time in a fucking hell hole for purposes that are getting more and more questionable every day, and no matter how sketchy their reasons for being there are, and no matter how much they believe or don't believe in this war, they are one ambush away from getting killed or injured. I don't think it's fair to say that these people are the ones who should be making the decisions. Because in that state of mind, rationality is gone. It has to be for you to function.

I want you to look at this video because it shows you what war actually is. It's taking humanity out, putting nationality/religion in, it's switching compassion for relief that you survived, it's taking hope and switching it with adrenaline. I'm not saying I'm above it- I'm not. That's precisely the thing. I try to imagine myself in a situation where I am getting shot at by soldiers and the only way I live is to shoot back. If I don't shoot back I die. If I don't shoot back and kill, I stay in a situation that costs me my life or limbs or the life of my friends. If that happens and you ask me what I think of the war, I don't think I could tell you, by my current, non-warfare status, if my opinion would make good policy. It would reflect either one of two things:

a) Flight: Get me the fuck out, or
b) Fight: These guys are terrorists and have to be stopped, and thank god I am here to do it.

I have seen first hand how war will stay with its soldiers for the rest of thier lives. I know that guy in that video is going to come home with PTSD and fucked up with regret and remorse when he gets back to a "good ol' American shopping" type of existence. I know what war is when it's over, because I know it lives forever in everyone who experiences it, it deadens something, and it keeps you from talking, it keeps you from being fully alive in our allegedly normal world. War doesn't end. The people who go into that world are either heroes or psychopaths, and I certainly think we have more heroes than we do psychopaths in the US Military.

But if I hear one more fucking right wing nutjob in his middle class home writing on a computer about how his brother got a letter from a soldier that knows his roommate and he says the war is going great and people questioning the war are all assholes, well, I'm just going to take a look at that video to remind myself that when you're in the middle of fighting a war, it doesn't mean you're aware or compassionate or capable of writing good foreign policy. That's fine. But I can't sit there and watch anyone turn into that guy in that video, thrilled to be killing because it means that he's surviving, and I don't care if he tells me he loves it more than his mother. It's got to fucking stop.

If Dean is the New McGovern... 

Does that make Bush the new Nixon?

Thursday, December 11, 2003

One More Thing To Ignore When You Vote Bush in '04 

Surprise! Peace Loving Liberals have apparently infiltrated the Pentagon.

A Pentagon investigation has found evidence of overcharging and other violations in billions of dollars worth of reconstruction contracts for Iraq that were awarded to Vice President Dick Cheney's former company, military officials said today. - New York Times

Violations include overcharging for fuel (importing oil into Iraq) and also delaying cost estimates until projects were already underway.

What always shocks me is the flagrant nature of the Cheney Money Grab. It's not like they're even trying to be subtle about it, and it's not like they ever were. But literal dollar values, body counts, and broken laws are coming in by the oil tanker and it's suddenly unpatriotic to say anything about it. Why? Because Dick "No Comment From Vice President" Cheney stopped working there four years ago (even though he still recieves checks from them). Also, there's nothing, to my knowledge, that prevents him from going back to Halliburton once he's out of office, but feel free to correct me if I am missing some sort of "can't work at your old job after you're Vice President" law.

In the meantime, they're pulling this shit: Across Europe, response was swift and angry Wednesday to the U.S. order barring firms based in important allied countries -- opponents of the Iraq war -- from bidding on Iraqi reconstruction projects. And the next day, Bush had to call and ask those same countries to forgive Iraq's debts.

You'll hear the right talk about how "if they were against the war, why should they profit from it?"

It's a simple argument, except that we're not talking purely about profit. We're talking about steps towards international presence in Iraq militarily, meaning fewer American troops getting slaughtered. We're talking about international aid and assistance as far as restructuring Iraqi debt. We're talking about Canada giving $225,000,000 but no troops and being told we don't want it.

"Why should they profit from it?" is the wrong question; a question phrased by the right wing to trap people into agreement. The actual question is: "Why should other nations send troops to help us in a war they believed was unjustified? If getting less of our own people killed means organizing a larger coalition, how do we do it? We tried handing it over to the Iraqis, and look how that worked out: Half of them just quit. So how do we get an international presence on the ground there- our last resort- when the fact of the matter is that we're asking them, literally, to send people to get killed in place of our own soldiers?

It's a hell of a thing when money is the real bargaining chip for getting other countries to send their men and women to die for our war. But it's a real thing. If this Administration keeps Halliburton and other big American firms in business at the expense of an international coalition then it's just one more failure of Bush policy.

Go Away 

Blogs of Interest:

A good blog post about the effects that the new Medicaid bill will have on HIV Treatment. I think we've heard the debate discussed in a really bland way that doesn't connect it to anything, but this post helps us understand one aspect of why this bill is bad- something the DNC should consider, as opposed to saying "But guys, this is really bad, really..." over and over again.

There's also a good post over here comparing the death penalty with the war in Iraq.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Al Gore's Dean Endorsement 

Al Gore endorsed Howard Dean yesterday. It's kind of surprising, considering Gore's centrism in the 2000 election, but I guess between his speeches to Move On and his earlier appearances on Saturday Night Live, Gore has done very well without his 693 image consultants (who all work for Clark now, and have transformed yet another left leaning should-have-been into a centrist tabula rasa).

It's also indisputable proof that everyone thinks Joe Lieberman is an asshole.

But most of you are probably wondering: "How does this effect the Kucinich stranglehold on the nomination?" Well, Dennis Kucinich's campaign manager commented that they're "delighted that Al Gore is returning to the political arena and will be a strong voice for change. I look forward to working closely with both Al and Howard after we win the nomination." Keep the dream alive, Dennis! Once you knock out Al Sharpton, there's only 7 more candidates to go, and you've got an entire month!

Sharpton, at least, played it straight on Crossfire: "I don't want to shock you, but I was not expecting Al Gore's endorsement."


There's a debate tonight, the last one before the NH Primary and Iowa Caucus, 7PM on ABC and CSPAN. It's being held on the Durham Campus of UNH, and my token Republican Friend is going to be pissed about the inevitable loss of campus parking spaces that results from a double whammy of two blizzards and the descending of the National Press Corp (Especially since Gore and Nader will be at the event.)

Speaking of Nader, he's thinking of running. Message to Nader: Please don't.

Neoconservative Fox News Monkey: Dean Could Beat Bush 

William Kristol, chief media (well, Fox News, anyway) warhawk, says that Bush is definitely beatable, and especially by Howard Dean.

But surely the fact that Bush is now a proven president running for reelection changes everything? Sort of. Bush is also likely to be the first president since Herbert Hoover under whom there will have been no net job creation, and the first since Lyndon Johnson whose core justification for sending U.S. soldiers to war could be widely (if unfairly) judged to have been misleading.


It's true that, unlike Carter (and Clinton), Dean is a Northeastern liberal. But he's no Dukakis. Does anyone expect Dean to be a patsy for a Bush assault, as the Massachusetts governor was?

Monday, December 08, 2003


Despite insecure ports and the recent mailing of Uranium, despite the Anthrax Mailer still at large, despite that a college student was recently able to smuggle bleach and other banned materials onto airplanes, the Department of Homeland Security has finally accomplished something on the homefront: A new set of ads.

The "Listo" - or "ready" - campaign includes TV, radio, print, billboard and Internet advertisements in Spanish encouraging people to prepare emergency kits with three days' worth of food and water, develop a family communication plan and stay informed.

So we re-organized the FBI, CIA and cut funding to our police force, and all we got out of it are ads telling us to get "ready" for the organization to fail? And really, do we need to be told to call our family if there's a terrorist attack? For that matter, do we need to be told to watch the news in case it happens? But best of all is the three days worth of food in case of a terrorist attack suggestion. Do they think anyone who can afford it doesn't have at least three days worth of food in their house?

There's other news today too, from the "Republicans are the Homeland Security Party" Department: (I am all about departments today) Guess how many terrorist charges resulted in five year prison terms (or greater) for arrests between 1999 and 2001? The answer: 24. Then guess how many similar examples there have been for terrorists between 2001 and today? Answer: 23.

But let's have some abacus fun. How many arrests were there between 2001 and today? 6,400. Of those, 2,001 were prosecuted. 1,802 were closed without conviction- either dismissed or never processed. Only 879 were convicted. Only 373 of those served a day or more in prison (indicating that the crimes were not a "major" threat to American National Security) and only 23 received a sentence of five years or more- including five Ku Klux Klan members, and one guy busted for terrorism for blowing up a pipe bomb in his girlfriends car. If it was the Department of Stupid Asshole Roundups, they'd be doing their job.

All this by way of a fascinating website by TRAC, a non-partisan group that monitors the financial effectiveness of law enforcement strategies.

Looks Like Somebody Hates America!  

New in the "Are You Better Off Today Than Four Years Ago" Department:

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - As a precaution, American track and field athletes at the 2004 Athens Olympics might be discouraged from wearing red, white and blue or anything with "USA" when they are not competing. "For security reasons, if that's the way they want to go, that's what we'll do," said U.S. men's track coach George Williams, also track and field coach at St. Augustine's College in Raleigh.

But hey, thank God George Bush has done such a great job reducing the terrorist threat, because now track and field runners in Greece aren't safe. Think about that for a second: Track and Field Runners in Greece are worried about being targeted for a terrorist attack.

Williams said track officials have suggested ways to lower the profile of American athletes around Athens. "They said it would be good if we low-keyed it," he said. But he added: "Some of us are going to look American. We're going to have our Bermuda shorts on and our white tennis shoes. It's going to be hard to do."

Yeah, I pity any European put in charge of teaching Americans how to dress. At least they don't have to worry about spotting American Tourists in town for the games: If they're not wearing an American Flag on every part of their body and singing "Proud To Be An American" in the streets of Athens, then they'll be wearing sweatpants that say "champ" on them and driving an SUV rental 10 feet to a bar where they'll be the only ones screaming for no reason.

Sunday, December 07, 2003

Hey, Look! It's My Blog Showcase Vote! 

Here is my vote for this weeks new blog showcase, by way of BBWW, for short. It's a sort of primer on Religious elements betrayed by the Ten Commandments statue in a courthouse, with historical precedents. It's good if you like your British Monarchy history, and your separation of church and state controversy. My votes never seem to register, for whatever reason, so I am making it loud and clear this time.

It's in competition against another tired slam on Al Franken. I think Al Franken is more famous with Conservatives than Liberals, because Liberals laugh at his book titles and say "he's a swell guy," but Conservatives must have bought the book because otherwise the annotation would be wrong when they're bashing it (while pretending they read it with an open mind- you know, for balance?). Another writes about Amnesty internationals complaints about Bush. It was so well researched and made a clear and concise counter argument: "When have you ever had a job besides running some lame "human rights" group?" and regarding the thousands of British war protesters in the streets, well: "What about the millions of people who aren't complaining and have jobs?" What's with the idea that the only people against the war are people who don't have jobs? I'd link to them so you could mock them, but that's a vote. So just read the phenomenal Angry 15 Year Olds For Bush instead, it's all you need for your fix of angry Bush loving teenagers. (Hello Google Hits!)

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