Wednesday, March 26, 2003

THE VIEW FROM WITHIN: In the meantime, check on Salam Pax, an Iraqi dissident's blog from an unknown location in Iraq. He has been unable to post lately, but continue to check in.

MY THOUGHTS: Overall, I think the war is going well. Perhaps those of us who favored military action in Iraq were too idealist. There is dancing in the streets but it is limited. In fact, there is a lot of anger in Baghdad now and understandably so. An errant missile has apparently struck a Baghdad marketplace, killing 14 civilians. Iraqi TV is propagandizing this to the fullest extent and going as far as saying the US are now targeting civilians. Naturally, some are buying it. Here is a report with a claim by the Pentagon that it has not fired any weapons near that region. Could it have been Saddam? I am more inclined to believe it was an errant bombing, but Saddam is capable of such a feat.

Nevertheless, it is clear that we are not as welcome as we would have hoped. This can be attributed to several reasons:
1) We are bombing them. Nobody likes to be bombed, and countries that are bombed are going to be angry at those who bombed them.
2) Delay of humanitarian aid. Quite simply, we are going to have to win over the Iraqi people's trust. And humanitarian aid has been delayed by resistance in Southern cities and the recent sandstorms in Iraq.
3) Civilian casualties. While this was expected, it will nonetheless cause anger among the local population unless the coalition can prove it is on their side.
4) Skepticism. We have let the Iraqis down before. We have not come to their aid when they have resisted before. We must do so now.
5) Secret police. This is an often overlooked fact. I saw an interview on TV today with an Iraqi man who was asked whether he could do without Saddam. Despite the presence of Western journalists around him, he was apprehensive of saying anything about the regime. We have seen pictures of Iraqis celebrating with coalition forces, but this has only occurred after the coalition forces have completely secured the area.

I am worried and excited at the same time. I see prospects of success and welcoming of US troops among some civilians and I see growing resentment to the US among others. I think when it is all said and done, this war will be viewed as a liberation. I could be wrong, but it is my gut instinct. Effectively this war has turned into a PR campaign and we are losing it so far. And yet, there are still signs of glee at the sight of coalition forces. In any case, we must deliver aid ASAP and win the people's hearts and minds.

ONE COOL DUDE: The man in the middle of this picture is my British politics professor, Mike Fosdal. As you can obviously tell, he is the man. And no, I am not one of the other people in the picture.
A FISKING: It's been a long time coming but here's my fisking of Marc Malon, a fellow university student at American University.

It has begun. The moment that we all saw coming months ago. As I write this, the United States is at war.

I knew this was going to happen. I knew that the administration wasn't serious about diplomacy, and that this was what Bush wanted to do all along. I knew all along--so I thought I was prepared to handle the horrible news. I was wrong.

Yes Marc, in fact this administration cared so little about diplomacy that it went to the United Nations, passed a unanimous Resolution 1441 by a vote of 15-0, calling for full and immediate disarmament of Iraq. It did not call for inspectors to play detective and it did not beg for Saddam to destroy weapons such as his Al-Samoud missiles. It called for full and immediate disarmament, nothing more and nothing less. Saddam failed to do so. And France decided that it didn't really care. Do you think that maybe, just maybe, that might have a little something to do with the billions of dollars in oil contracts France has with Iraq? With the weapons that France has sold Saddam in the past? France was so diplomatic at the UN that it even vehemently stated it would veto any 17th resolution (commonly called a "second resolution" in the press these days) before it had even read it! Diplomacy failed indeed. And I blame France.

I knew I wouldn't be happy when we went, but I never expected it to hit me this hard emotionally. While I am angry and I do feel betrayed somewhat, what I feel now is worse than that. Its the feeling of a broken heart.

Boo fuckin' hoo.

At 10:15 pm on Wednesday, March 19, I watched the President address the nation. He said exactly what I expected him to say. And everything I had been thinking about and arguing about for the past several months seemed to be for nothing. What was the point to all of this?

That your argument had no point.

Let's take a look at what Bush had to say.

He mentioned in his address that we enter this fight reluctantly. While this may be true of many American citizens and many of our troops, I doubt that it is true with our president. This is a man who scorns diplomacy and any action short of a military strike. He is concerned with power politics, and believes he is perfectly justified in acting quickly and unilaterally. He was even reluctant to get support from Congress, and he has refused to for his final decision to attack. He thinks that every American and world citizen should accept his doctrine with no questions asked, and that anyone who dares to speak up is "against us."

Let's dissect the lies here. First, this is not a unilateral strike. Not, not, NOT unilateral. Britain is fighting alongside the US troops. Austrailia is doing the same. That is at the very minimum a trilateral action. Then consider that over 40 countries are contributing in some way or another to the coalition. I think it's therefore quite obvious to any non ignorant person that this strike is in fact, multilateral. But let's not let facts get in the way of Marc's argument. Onward.

The Senate approved the resolution to go to war quite resolutely. If it went to the Senate again, I would expect it to be a nearly unanimous vote this time around.

As for those "who dare to speak up", I don't remember at any point Bush claiming that they were "against us". He claimed that states harbouring terrorists must either discontinue from doing so or they would be "against us" in his 2002 State of the Union Address. That has nothing to do with dissenters of this war. A more appropriate quote regarding those "who dare to speak up" is Bush's more recent quote: "There are some who believe that Saddam Hussein isn't a threat to world peace. I respectfully disagree." Hardly threatening if you ask me.

Bush also seems to think that once we remove Saddam Hussein, the Iraqi people will suddenly be free. If only this were true--if it were, all we would have to do is assassinate every tyrant and the whole world would be free! But sadly, its not true.

Finally Marc is on to something.

History tells us that positive change does not occur from the top down. Think about it--this is a nation that has never known true democracy. It doesn't exist for them. Do you think that by simply removing one single tyrant from power that immediately Iraq will become a progressive democracy? It takes a lot more than that. Positive change occurs from the bottom up. It occurs when the dream of democracy becomes a reasonable goal in the eyes of the average Iraqi citizen and THEY rise up. No Iraqi citizen would dare do that now.

But they could if we take over.

Once again, Marc is wrong. Anyone noticing a trend here? Northern Kurdistan is already a flourishing democracy, protected from Saddam by coalition enforcement of the Northern fly zones. The region has known democracy, and has witnessed a successful democracy, one that is minus Saddam. Will a democracy throughout all of Iraq be easy? No, but it is possible. The Kurds of Northern Iraq are proof of it.

I believe the US Military will see more casualties after the war is won than before. Because after we take over, and we support a new authoritarian government (one that hopefully won't include institutional rape), there will be many uprisings. And do you know who has an advantage in that situation? Fundamentalists terrorists similar to al Qaeda. That would pose a true threat to America, and more so to Iraq's neighbors.

No doubt that democracy will not be easy. No one ever claimed that. And while it is true that the US has supported authoritarian governments in the past (Saddam for instance), the United Nations and (gasp!), the United States are committed to nation building following a post-Saddam Iraq. Nation building that will go a long way in spreading democracy throughout all of Iraq, and not just its Northern hemisphere.

Once Saddam feels as though he will lose, he will want to take whoever he can with him. He will burn his oil fields, giving us a nice ecological crisis to deal with. He will then use whatever biological and chemical weapons he has, mainly on the Kurds. He'll launch missiles at Israel and other nearby nations. Once he's cornered there is no telling what horrible things he is capable of.

Perhaps Saddam will use biological or chemical weapons. This would assume he has them in the first place. If he does in fact have these weapons, that is a significant reason for striking Iraq, to prevent the proliferation of these weapons. So far, Saddam has done almost none of what Marc has mentioned, except to burn 9 oil fields out of his collection of nearly 500 (ironic considering he swore he would never burn oil fields on national TV only weeks earlier). These oil field fires have been put out and are now under coalition control.

And of course, there are the Kurds. There are many constants in life: we need to breathe, we need to eat, gravity rules the Earth, and the Kurds always get screwed over. When Saddam committed his worst atrocities against them in the 80s, he was our ally. And the Reagan administration helped to suppress inquiry into the attacks. Thanks to our help after the first Gulf War, they are in a better place now then they had been in a long time. And that security is threatened once again. What can they do? Where can they go? Saddam is brutal to them, Turkey is brutal to them, and Iran hasn't been much better. They are a long-suffering group of people with no country, and this war will make them refugees once again.

Indeed the Kurds have been screwed over countless times. So should we simply forget about them as Marc seems to suggest, or help them? I will quote Tony Blair when he said today, "This time we will not let you down".

My gut has guided me against this war, and so has my mind. But all of these arguments I have made feel futile now. Not the arguments themselves, but the act of arguing.

I am 20 years old, and a sophomore at AU. Since coming to DC from a town of 20,000 on the coast of Maine, I have witnessed 9/11 and its aftershocks, seen our mail get shut down for weeks due to anthrax, heard all of the helicopters fly overhead, and lived near where a sniper was killing random people. After awhile, I became somewhat desensitized, along with many others. When confronted with such horrible events, sometimes humor is the only way to stay sane. I figured that was how I would handle us going to war.

But I was wrong. No matter how hard I try, I am scared. I am angry that my president wouldn't even consider other options, and the opinions of others. But the anger has turned over to sadness.

One thing that we need to remember is that people fighting on both sides are not simply the good guys and the bad guys. Everyone fighting is a living, breathing human being. Every person killed was a brother, a sister, a husband, a lover, a friend....every person killed meant something to someone else. And for every person killed there is someone mourning his or her death.

Morally equivalizing American soldiers with those who fight alongside Saddam Hussein, a man whose atrocities are well documented and hence do not need to be repeated here, is quite simply - disgusting.

War, whether one agrees with it or not, is a sad affair. I've talked to countless people who have relatives and friends in the armed forces right now, and they are worried. I'm worried for them. No joke seems funny anymore. No college assignment feels meaningful when our fellow friends and family are risking their lives.

These are somber times, and to laugh or toast champagne when we start the bombing isn't only ridiculous, its shameful. I have run the gamut of emotions on this...

If you oppose this war, than it is your duty as a world citizen to voice that opposition. It is vital not to allow yourselves to be cowed by the voices of those who wish to silence you. It is important that you do not allow yourself to feel helpless, as easy and understandable as it would be. Stand up, be counted, and speak your mind because it is YOUR mind to use as you will. Even if Bush isn't listening, your voice matters. It always matters. Take these current events and learn from them.

First off, no one, I repeat, no one is trying to silence you. Let us be thankful that we live in a country where we can repeat ad nauseum such asinine rhetoric as "Bush = Hitler!" in front of the White House and walk home untouched 5 minutes later. These freedoms are worth defending.

It is also vital that we stick together, regardless of differing opinions. In a time when so many people are frightened, friends and family take on a whole new meaning. We are each others' support group, we provide each other shoulders to cry on. Take this time to sit back and appreciate your loved ones. Talk together, laugh together, live together.

Because in these tough times we need to appreciate every bit of life we have, and we can't allow ourselves to waste a second of it.

I am agnostic, and therefore do not have a belief about the spiritual realm. But tonight I am offering up a prayer, just in case there is some power that is listening. I pray for our soldiers and their families. I pray for the Iraqi citizens. I pray that one day a just peace will rule the land, and that war will be seen as unnecessary, and useless.

War has solved nothing except: ending slavery, ending fascism, ending Nazism, and ending communism. But I also hope for the day when war will be considered unnecessary and useless as well. Ending the totalitarian regime of Saddam is hopefully the begginning of this outcome.

I pray for my family, my friends, and the soul of the human race.

I am an agnostic as well. But I will do the same.

CUTE BUT STUPID: Here's a report on the recent "die-in" (their words, not mine) at my school, American University.

“The time has come to stand up for what we believe in. We hope that [students] will carry in your hearts the images of what war means,” said Elizabeth Falcon, one of the principle organizers of AU Against the War.

Funny but I don't remember any pro-libertation advocates claiming there would be no casualties in this war. Unfortunately, the whole anti-war argument seems to be comprised of asinine rhetoric, i.e. "No Blood for Oiiiiiiiiiiil!!!", or obvious statements such as "War is bad", of which you will find no disagreement from me or any of my pro-liberation colleagues. I'm willing to bet my life savings that half these people have no idea that many Iraqis want war as long as it means removing Saddam Hussein from power.

THANKS...I THINK: I see my hits are up quite a bit lately, many coming from Yahoo or Google searches for "Michael Moore booed", regarding his recent comments at the Oscars. As Glenn would say: "Heh".
MINE SWEEPERS: I've heard reports on the news of coalition forces using dolphins to clear mines out of the water through their use of sonar. That actually makes a lot of sense but this is just weird.

Monday, March 24, 2003

WHY YOU ARE WRONG MICHAEL: Straight from the mouth of a "human shield": "I was a naive fool to be a human shield for Saddam" (bold words mine)

We on the bus felt that we were sympathetic to the views of the Iraqi civilians, even though we didn't actually know any. The group was less interested in standing up for their rights than protesting against the US and UK governments.

I was shocked when I first met a pro-war Iraqi in Baghdad - a taxi driver taking me back to my hotel late at night. I explained that I was American and said, as we shields always did, "Bush bad, war bad, Iraq good". He looked at me with an expression of incredulity.

As he realised I was serious, he slowed down and started to speak in broken English about the evils of Saddam's regime. Until then I had only heard the President spoken of with respect, but now this guy was telling me how all of Iraq's oil money went into Saddam's pocket and that if you opposed him politically he would kill your whole family.

It scared the hell out of me. First I was thinking that maybe it was the secret police trying to trick me but later I got the impression that he wanted me to help him escape. I felt so bad. I told him: "Listen, I am just a schmuck from the United States, I am not with the UN, I'm not with the CIA - I just can't help you."

Of course I had read reports that Iraqis hated Saddam Hussein, but this was the real thing. Someone had explained it to me face to face. I told a few journalists who I knew. They said that this sort of thing often happened - spontaneous, emotional, and secretive outbursts imploring visitors to free them from Saddam's tyrannical Iraq.

I became increasingly concerned about the way the Iraqi regime was restricting the movement of the shields, so a few days later I left Baghdad for Jordan by taxi with five others. Once over the border we felt comfortable enough to ask our driver what he felt about the regime and the threat of an aerial bombardment.

"Don't you listen to Powell on Voice of America radio?" he said. "Of course the Americans don't want to bomb civilians. They want to bomb government and Saddam's palaces. We want America to bomb Saddam."

ASSHOLE ALERT: Guess who was at the Oscars promoting himself as the godfather of justice and morality as he always tends to do? That's right! Michael Moore! And the self-righteous asshole got booed on stage!

SPRING BREAK: I have been away for the past week on spring break in Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium. This would explain my lack of posts lately. I will probably limit my commentary on the war as my views in the past speak for themselves. In any case, I hope that even those who are against the war support our troops even as they protest.