Just wanted to see if I could make "fighting keyboardist" logo that was a little less eastern european and to see if the writing came out okay.
(see yesterday's post)
I am currently working on a project to identify problems and solutions for military information operations. Just wanted to pause from the brain work and do something fun. Feel free to use the logos if you want too.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Thursday, April 27, 2006
So, you think you're doing nothing for the war effort? Do you want to do more? Too old to join the military or already done your service?
You can still do your part for victory in the War Against Islamist Terrorists. The Captain has the details:
Our friends on the port side of the blogosphere have had quite a time tossing around funny little nicknames for those of us who support the war on terror and use our blogs to express our convictions about it. We've seen the names here at CQ in the comments section -- the term "chickenhawk" has appeared more than once, and others in the blogosphere have assigned us to a unit called the 101st Fighting Keyboardists[snip]
I resolved to use the skills I had -- writing -- to make the case for fighting a forward strategy against terrorists. Eventually that led me to this blog, but in the interim I argued for a continued muscular offensive against the Islamofascists that had murdered thousands of our fellow Americans.[snip]
Is that the same as military service? Of course not. The men and women of the military do the real fighting, and we salute them and support them by supporting their mission. Milbloggers give us the best of both worlds by not only defending our nation and fighting (and beating) terrorists around the globe, but also by reporting on the fight first hand. There is honor in engaging in public debate for policies which we believe are in our nation's best interest as well. For many of us, we know that without presenting our arguments in the national forum, many in the media and the public will quickly overpower the debate and threaten the policies we feel give us the best long-term opportunity to defeat terrorism and the states that fund and shelter them.[snip]
That's why Frank J of IMAO, Derek Brigham of Freedom Dogs, and I have decided to create -- for real -- the 101st Fighting Keyboardists and adopt the chicken hawk as our mascot. First of all, the term "fighting keyboardist" describes our efforts pretty well, and we think the pseudo-military terminology is pretty danged amusing. Derek himself designed the logo.
And why the chicken hawk? When we looked into it, it turns out that the chicken hawk is a pretty impressive predator. It's the largest of its family. This species vigorously defends its territory, getting even more aggressive when the conditions get harshest. It adapts to all climates. Most impressively, it feeds on chickens, mice, and rats.
Frank, Derek, and I invite you to join the 101st Fighting Keyboardists (motto: We Eat Chickens For Lunch). I'm starting a blogroll and will post the code for other members to display on their blogs. We welcome all of those who feel they qualify for the unit, but especially those who have a sense of humor as well as a sense of purpose. This way, the next time someone refers to you as a chicken hawk for your blogging, you can remind them that as a member of the 101, your talons are your best weapon and that feeding time is near!
Great minds work alike. I had asked a friend of mine to do a flag graphic for the 101st Fighting Keyboardist because I thought that, despite its negative connotation from certain folks, that it did seem more than apt. We may not be able to carry a weapon or walk in the sands of Iraq or Afghanistan, but we can be part of an important fight, to keep our nation moving forward against those that would kill or oppress our people and many freedom loving people around the world.
Head over to the Captain and sign up today!
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Capt. Brian Chontosh. If his name does not instantly equate in your mind to "hero", you're not alone and you probably do not read many military websites.
He's the forgotten hero like the hundreds of others before and since he received a Navy Cross for actions that resemble Sgt York, Auty Murphy and a whole host of other military heroes that went beyond the call of duty.
Blackfive talks about him on Pundit Review and talks about the shameful treatment of heroes by the media.
Go listen to what Capt. Chontosh did to earn his medal and why, in a world where the press panders to every idiot actors schizophrenic kleptomaniac tendency, Capt. Chontosh is not a household name.
They are the few.
So it was with no small amount of suspicion that Staff Sgt. Martin Richburg observed an Iraqi civilian pacing nervously near the camp’s crowded Internet cafe that same evening.
It was around 9 p.m. on March 27, and Richburg was sitting behind the wheel of his “bongo” flatbed truck in the parking lot, talking to his wife on a cell phone.
“I saw this guy duckin’ and peepin’ outside the Internet [cafe],” said the 44-year-old Baltimore, native. “I said, ‘Let me keep an eye on this guy.’ ”
He did and now many people owe him their lives.
Read the rest.
So it was with no small amount of suspicion that Staff Sgt. Martin Richburg observed an Iraqi civilian pacing nervously near the camp’s crowded Internet cafe that same evening.
It was around 9 p.m. on March 27, and Richburg was sitting behind the wheel of his “bongo” flatbed truck in the parking lot, talking to his wife on a cell phone.
“I saw this guy duckin’ and peepin’ outside the Internet [cafe],” said the 44-year-old Baltimore, native. “I said, ‘Let me keep an eye on this guy.’ ”
He did and now many people owe him their lives.
Read the rest.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Team Accepts Donations
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
GODE, Ethiopia, April 22, 2006 – Ethiopian families in this rain-starved region are just barely surviving, and conditions stand to worsen as the drought in the area continues.
A team from the 96th Civil Affairs Battalion based here, though, has projects in mind that can help bring about changes, but just need a bit of startup money.
"We have a women's group that has a sound plan in place to farm sections near the river," said Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Starbuck, team sergeant. "All it will take is about $1,000 to get them what they need."
Medicines are another need. The team has refurbished a clinic in Gode, but there are no medicines. The team could buy medicines for the clinic from local sources, if funds were available.
And the Ethiopian children are just mad about soccer. "Everywhere we go, the kids ask us for soccer balls," said Staff Sgt. Terangelo Davis, the team engineer. "I would love to be able to give them some."
The team covers a region the size of Connecticut, and receives mail and supplies from its home base at the Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa in Djibouti every two weeks.
To help the people of Gode, send the team donations in care of Sgt. 1st Class Stephen Starbuck, E Company, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion, APO AE 09363. Clearly mark packages or envelopes as "Civil Affairs Donations."
The BBC says this about Ethiopia
The overthrow of the junta in 1991 saw political and economic conditions stabilise, but not enough to restore investors' confidence. This was dealt a further blow with the war with Eritrea in the late 1990s, which left tens of thousands of people dead.
A fragile truce has held, but the UN warns that ongoing disputes over the demarcation of the border threaten peace.
Ethiopia is one of Africa's poorest states. Its people are almost two-thirds illiterate. The economy revolves around agriculture, which in turn relies on rainfall.
Many Ethiopians depend on food aid from abroad. In 2004 the government began a drive to move more than two million people away from the arid highlands of the east in an attempt to provide a lasting solution to food shortages.
Other Mud Huts and Villages:
JALALABAD AIRFIELD, Afghanistan – Medical Marines from Task Force Lava kicked off a medical civic assistance program in Kunar Province on April 21.
Medical care was given to about 700 Afghan men on the program’s first day, with women and children receiving care beginning April 22.
The program, which is scheduled to continue through April 29, provides cost-free treatment to the province’s people. Many people in the mountainous rural northeastern province have only sporadic access to health care.
“Most of the people in remote provinces like Kunar have to travel miles and miles, sometimes across international borders, in order to receive medical treatment,” said Army Maj. Eric P. Zenk, TF Spartan public affairs officer. “Many people in Kunar haven’t seen a doctor or a nurse in months or years. This is a terrific opportunity for them to receive good health care in a timely, convenient manner.
The medical program is another sign of the growing partnership between the Afghan people and Coalition troops, Zenk said.
“This area was once known as a terrorist haven,” he said. “The progress is very heartening.”
MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (March 31, 2006) -- The Marines of Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division and the Iraqi soldiers who were manning the entry Control Point at the North bride of Ramadi by Hurricane Point had a tough morning May 3, 2005.
The vans carrying the insurgents seemed to be just like any other that came through the ECP. Seconds after the insurgents stepped out of the van to allow the Iraqi soldiers to search the van, the insurgents pulled out their concealed weapons and began attacking the base.
The insurgents weren’t alone. They had a mortar team to the north and more supporting fire to the east. All in all, it was a well-planned assault.
Not good enough to take out combat-tested 1st Lt. David T. Russel and Staff Sgt. Timothy R. Cyparski.
“It took us just a couple seconds to realize what was going on, then we stormed in and did what we needed to do,” said Russel, the 25-year-old from Georgetown, Texas, and platoon commander of Weapons Company, who was shaving at the time of the attack. “I ran outside with shaving cream still on my face, I looked like Santa Claus in a flak jacket.”
Cyparski, a 27-year-old from Erie, Pa. And section leader with the company, was no more than 10 feet behind Russel.
“You don’t have a chance to think about anything in that kind of situation,” said Cyparski, who was awarded his first bronze star for his actions in Fallujah on his first deployment. “Everything is a blur and all you’re doing is trying to take out the bad guys and keep the good guys alive.”
Soon after the intense fire fight began, Russel ran to assess the situation from the second deck. It was there he spotted an insurgent machine gun position and killed the insurgent with one shot. He also discovered that a Marine low on ammunition was isolated by the attack.
Russel then raced across approximately 75 meters of open terrain while under fire from at least six insurgents with Cyparski close by.
An enemy round struck Russel in the helmet, knocking him to the ground with a concussion.
The two Marines managed to get the ammunition to the isolated Marine with Russel bleeding profusely from wounds to his face and arms.
They then rushed back to direct the fight and establish accountability. Finding two men missing, the two Marines rushed across the open area again to retrieve a wounded Iraqi soldier despite explosions from more than twelve enemy grenades and a stream of machine gun and small-arms fire.
“The firefight lasted anywhere between 15 seconds and four days,” said Russel as he attempted to explain how time was distorted during the intense 10-minute firefight.
According to Maj. Mike J. Butler, commanding officer of the company, Russel’s actions before the firefight saved many lives.
“When Russel took charge of the ECP, he had the Marines set up a chain link fence protecting the open areas of the building where the platoon was staying,” Butler said. “During the attack, grenades from the insurgents were bouncing off the fence and back at them, which saved the lives of the Marines inside the building.”
For their heroic actions that day, Cyparski was awarded his second Bronze Star with Combat Distinguishing Device and Russel was awarded the Silver Star.
“I just want to tell 1st Bn., 5th Marines that it was an extreme honor to present these medals this morning,” said Maj. Gen. Richard F. Natonski, commanding general of the 1st Marine Division. “I couldn’t be any prouder of our awardees this morning and all of 1st Bn., 5th Marines for what they have accomplished on their numerous deployments to Iraq.”
Read more about Heroes in Action
Sunday, April 23, 2006
Up to 20,000 people turned out Saturday for a parade to welcome home the National Guard's 278th Regimental Combat Team, providing a big-city atmosphere powered by small-town values.
The rains that had been pelting the region ceased and the clouds gave way to bright sunshine for the two-hour Celebrate Freedom Parade 2006 through downtown Knoxville. [snip]
As part of the Dogwood Arts Festival, the parade included awarding two battle streamers to the 278th's colors. Bredesen; Maj. General Gus Hargett Jr., adjutant general of the Tennessee National Guard; and Col. Dennis Adams, the 278th's commander, attached two new streamers to the regiment's flag. One streamer denoted the regiment's efforts in the global war on terror, and the other was for the team's work during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"I thought it was great," Adams said afterward. "It's the first time since 1918 we've had something of this magnitude."
Adams said downtown Knoxville had not seen a military parade such as Saturday's since Gen. Lawrence Davis Tyson marched his troops through the city after World War I. The last time the 278th was awarded a battle streamer was for World War II, Adams said.
Officials said the 4,000 soldiers of the 278th stationed along the dangerous northeast border of Iraq captured or killed 550 insurgents. The soldiers encountered 288 improvised explosive devices, with 64 percent located before the objects could deliver fatal blows to soldiers or civilians. The soldiers built or repaired schools, government buildings, wells and mosques during their deployment, which ended for most of the 278th in late October.
As 67 parade units filled Gay Street, children squealed with delight at huge helium-filled balloons and adults swelled with pride at the accomplishments of their children or grandchildren in Iraq. [snip]
Gary Lee Reese Sr., of Ashland City, Tenn., lost his 22-year-old son Sgt. Gary L. Reese Jr. on Aug. 13, 2005, to a similar device. Serving in Iraq, Reese said, provided his son a perspective on life he never would have gained otherwise.
"I think the soldiers saw that these people should have the opportunity to have what we have," Reese said.
"He stood up for the right thing, and I'm very proud of that," Reese said. He added he rarely saw a picture of his son in Iraq without children surrounding the soldier.
"Those little kids who got to know Lee knew he wasn't there to teach them how to strap bombs on. He was there to help them have what he has.
Amen, Mr. Reese. I hope we have parades for all our men and women. They've earned it.
278th Regimental Combat Team Receives Parade in Knoxville
CAMP TAJI, Iraq, April 20, 2006 – While the fight against enemy insurgents continues, Iraqi and Multinational Division Baghdad soldiers provided medical and humanitarian relief to local nationals caught in the middle and those without means to provide care for themselves.
Iraqi soldiers secured the immediate area as the U.S. soldiers provided desperately needed care at the Taji soccer stadium April 11.
After arriving at the location, the soldiers secured the surrounding area and set security checkpoints to ensure safety and security for local nationals entering the area for treatment. MNDB soldiers then drove around broadcasting a message in Arabic to let people know about the operation and invite them to seek help.
As coalition and Iraqi medics provided care, physician assistants diagnosed problems, and dental technicians saw patients needing dental care.
"We're here to provide medical aid to local nationals, specifically the ones who live in the local Fedayeen camp," said Army Capt. Casey Coyle, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 7th Squadron, 10th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
He said the medical teams treated about 300 people. Most ailments the teams treated were skin infections and nose and chest congestion problems, Coyle said.
During the mission, civil affairs and Iraqi army personnel provided humanitarian supplies to locals after the families received medical care. "Our mission was to distribute humanitarian assistance," said Army Master Sgt. Ronnie Reece, civil affairs noncommissioned officer-in-charge of Company A, 490th Civil Affairs Battalion. "And if any of the area tribal leaders come, we engage them about economic, security and infrastructure issues."
The clothing, office supplies and soccer balls were donated by an assortment of organizations. Locals who took part in the operation were pleased about the care and assistance they received.
"I appreciate the help. I had eye trouble and back pain, and they gave me some medicine," Nehiah, a local woman, said. "Someone told us the American soldiers were here to help, and I came. God bless them."
Iraqi, USA Work together
Saturday, April 22, 2006
Part I: Imperial Idealist in Me and Manifest Destiny
Lies, Myths and Legends
They say that those that do not know history are doomed to repeat it. I disagree. Instead, I see history influencing the future. Like painting and wallpapering the same wall over hundreds of years without ever resolving or removing some previous layers. Eventually, the paint starts pealing and some of those old layers are bound to start showing up, no matter how neat or liberal you were with the paint. That’s when you realize that fifty years ago, some one had atrocious taste in colors and had no idea how to hang wallpaper.
An old history teacher once likened history to a path: without it you don’t know where you’ve been, where you are or where you are going. I would add to that and say, if you don’t know history, you might as well wear a blindfold, put your fingers in your ears and skip down the path singing, “la-la-la-la-la” so you can’t hear history screaming at you that the bridge is out up ahead and the drop to the ravine below is fifty feet.
Then there are those who always look longingly to the past, standing still or only ever slowly walking backwards into the future. Those folks always imagine the past as “better times”, more perfect and less fraught with worry or troubles. It’s easy to imagine that because things in the distance tend to look blurry, even to those with some of the best eyesight, disguising the blemishes as it slowly fades away.
The truth is, though, that most people don’t know much about history. We don’t need snap surveys from the Jay Leno show, asking the man (or woman) on the street to name the first president (and utterly failing) to know that. You could simply pick ten people from your family or friends and ask them a few questions about American history. Or, ask yourself. Could you name three people who signed the Declaration of Independence? What year was it signed? Who wrote it? What are the three “unalienable rights” listed? What country did we declare independence from? Who was the king? What year was the Revolutionary war over? What was the name of the document that was first used to govern the United States? What document replaced it? How many amendments were in the Bill of Rights? Who wrote it? What was the fifth amendment? How about the ninth?
If they are computer savvy, they (or you) could look them up, but the odds are they can’t tell you off the top of their heads even half the answers. One may wonder why that is. I’ve heard it theorized that it is because Americans by nature are forward looking people with little time for the past. Frankly, I think that’s a romanticized version of the truth. I am always reminded of my stepsister’s comment when she was sixteen and I was trying to help her with her history class that she was failing. She said, “Why do I need to learn this? It’s not like I’ll ever use it.” Of course, she said the same thing about algebra only to be surprised a few years later when she was trying to balance her checkbook and I pointed out that she was using algebra to determine if all the checks had been deducted and figuring her actual balance. Talk about shock. In fact, she originally did not accept my point and argued with me for fifteen minutes that it was simple addition and subtraction.
For the most part, Americans don’t know much about their own history because they do not find it pertinent to their daily lives. It’s not really that they are looking forward; so much as they are not looking around at all. In fact, we’re a very myopic nation. Yet, somehow, we keep stumbling forward on the path, blindfolded and deaf, without actually meeting with complete tragedy. Of all the things to admire about this country and its people, maybe this incredible dumb luck is the most importantt.
Why is history so important? Because; knowledge is power. It’s not just a silly cliché. Without knowledge, people can tell you anything and lead you around by the nose. How do you make good decisions without knowledge? Without knowledge, your decisions are a crap shoot; a game of chance. You might as well decide what to do next by playing “Eenie-Meanie-Minie-Mo”.
Take for example, Ward Churchill, a professor of American Indian Studies at Colorado University. Half of his lectures are made up of myths and half-truths; and he is a professor who has educated hundreds if not thousands of students and given hundreds of lectures to focus groups on the subject. His most famous “myth as truth” is that the American Government provided blankets infected with small pox to Indians on purpose, with malice afore thought, with the plan to wipe out this first “red menace”. I’m certain that many people have heard this myth before and did not need Ward Churchill to say it.
The truth is, the treatment of American Indians was bad enough without adding myths. Some things happened due to ignorance, some due to idealism, some due to corruption and greed and still more from an overabundance of all three. That wasn’t just the white settlers and government. The Indian population had their share of fellow travelers on all of these paths. Even today, corruption, cronyism and nepotism on Indian reservations is rampant. But, if you hear it from Churchill, the American government and white European settlers were the first fascists that committed germ warfare and genocide. He neglects to inform his students and lecture listeners of the fact that medical science had not yet learned how germs were carried and certainly did not know how to treat certain diseases like small pox. He neglects to inform his students that small pox was a major disease that wiped out large parts of the white population during the same period. Entire settlements were abandoned after small pox decimated the population. It was one of the major causes of early mortality among children. At some points, it was tantamount to the medieval plague.
Of course, the return answer to this is that none of this would have happened if the dirty, nasty, brutish white settlers had never landed on the continent in the first place. That is supposed to shut you up and ask no more questions. Apparently, it is quite effective. At this point, you are either a fully indoctrinated convert (oh, converts are the most passionate and blind) or, by Churchill’s standard you are simply an ignorant white, genocide-denying oppressor.
It’s effective because, even people who study American Indian history or brush up against it in their other studies don’t really know much about American Indians. In fact, most people come in two categories of knowledge. The first are those whose only contact with American Indian history is through movies where everyone is a grunting, bare chested, breech-cloth, war bonnet wearing savage wielding a bow and arrow or they are the fully indoctrinated that imagines the word “Indian” immediately confers a spiritual nobility that defies petty human emotions and frailties, insisting that the Indians never knew jealousy, treachery or hate and never experienced so much as a broken bone, much less cancer or heart disease before a white man stepped foot on this continent.
If you believe any one of these three myths, germ warfare, total savages or noble race, are the true history of American Indians and white settlers, then you have entered into the second stage of “knowledge of American History”: myth. These myths get bounced around and said enough, read enough, seen enough; eventually they are part of our common discourse. They become history in place of history.
Americans are not the only nation or culture that experiences myths as history. There’s Tamerlane, Genghis Khan and the Mongol hoard; Salahdin’s nobility in the face of savage “civilized” Christian Crusaders; Joan of Arc, Boudicca and even modern myths like the Alamo and Manifest Destiny. For the most part, myths are the simplified way that people remember their history. The Good Myth and the Bad Myth take hold and often obscure “history”. Then it’s all “O, Pioneers” versus “Wounded Knee”.
Then along comes someone like Churchill or my Socialist friend and they start talking about history from their point of view, some of which includes myths or twisting some events to fit a narrative and some of which is simply similar ignorance of history. They talk to other people whose grasp of history is equally or even more tenuous and then they too either start believing or at least they begin to doubt what they think they know because it seems like the person has a better grasp of history than they do. In the case of Ward Churchill, who has a tendency to call others Nazis and “little Eichmans”, he uses the same techniques that Hitler did to formulate “history”. One only has to read Mein Kampf to understand how this works. If you read it, Hitler sounds very sane and logical in his thinking. He points to certain economic and political issues, he talks about moments in history and in between that he adds his own narrative or twist to facts so that it sounds imminently practical and realistic. Compound this with a certain rhetorical style and the next thing you know, hundreds of thousands of people have bought it and swallowed it, hook, line and sinker. Then you get real genocide and mass murder.
Therein lies the danger of not knowing history. What you don’t know really can hurt you.
What troubles lie in the reprisal of American 19th Century history? The first is the narrative that shapes the future of the United States. But, just like modern American history cannot be told without reviewing the 19th or 20th Century, you cannot understand the 19th Century without understanding the cause and effect of 18th century American politics and thinking.
We’ll start simple with post Revolutionary United States. By this time, the rebels had gotten what they wanted: Free United States. There was no country running this country. There was neither king nor parliament. In other words, they were completely responsible for the failure or success of the new nation. The first thing they did was squabble amongst themselves on the best way forward. Strong Central Government or Weak Central Government with strong States Rights and Sovereignty. Having just fought a war that was won on a shoestring budget and came within a hairs’ breath of ending in defeat at the hands of a strong government with an organized, professional military, many were not interested in creating their own central government with the same ability to oppress them. The opposition, like Alexander Hamilton, argued that without a strong central government, the newly formed country was vulnerable to attack and any or all states could be economically jeopardized by blockades or boycotts. Further, the states would be competing individually for international commerce. The danger there was in undercutting any individual state’s economy that might lead to internal war.
Of course, there were many other arguments for and against a strong central government. It wasn’t resolved over night. The Articles of Confederation governed the nation for almost 13 years. Eventually, the problems with this document became apparent. The central government could not sustain a military to defend the people. It could not impose taxes to support the central government. The taxes that it did impose were difficult to collect because states would choose to arbitrarily disregard whatever taxes they felt were oppressive and the central government did not have enough money to field the number of tax collectors required to oversee the enforcement.
On top of that, each state printed their own money and even within those states, each bank would have their own banknote that would be honored or not depending on relationships with other banks inside the state or in outside. The value of these notes was based on the assets of the individual banks. Exchange rates were outrageous and inflation was running rampant. The nation was in danger of collapse just a few short years after being born into existence.
To combat this, the founders decided to create a central bank, the Federal Reserve. The value of the notes would be based on the value of the Federal Reserve’s assets and performance that in turn was based on the performance of the entire nation. Large deposits of gold and silver backed this up. Because the notes could be exchanged for tangible wealth, the currency stabilized. Bank issued notes did not disappear completely, but they did become less common and less traded. Eventually, all that was left of the previous system were bank drafts (ie, checks), cashier checks and money orders (something most of us are familiar with today).
Depending on whom you read now or noted thinkers and businessmen back then, the Federal Reserve was equally lauded and despised. There were many banks that owned many assets and controlled large gold and silver deposits. Their bank notes were very valuable and it made the owners very wealthy. When the Federal Reserve came in and developed one currency with a stable value, some banks’ assets were immediately devalued. Others complained that a central bank that controlled the largest gold and silver deposits put too much power in the hands of the central government that could choose at any time not to honor the obligations of individual banks. He who controls the money, controls the country. Others were highly suspicious of individuals involved in setting up the bank; many were prominent businessmen. These suspicions ranged from a back door attempt to control the central government to trying to put other banks out of business.
You can read all sorts of letters, newspapers and debates on the subject. These same questions still exist today. It is one of the foundations of the “wealthy capitalists businessmen control the US government” conspiracies. What the conspiracy ignores, however, is that the Federal Reserve did not guarantee success. It was a huge risk that these men were undertaking, for themselves and for the nation. Forgetting that or dismissing it as unimportant is the first necessity in buying the far left and Socialist conspiracy that America’s foundation and continued existence is to benefit wealthy businessmen.
Then there is the question of the military.
Today, it seems very logical that we should have a standing army to defend the nation. The size, scope and purpose we continue to debate. Some people may be surprised to find that this argument is the same argument we were having in 1789. At that time, the pros and cons were more concerned about the possible use of military internally to suppress the people versus protecting the people. Now we are concerned about the military being used externally to suppress or expand versus simply protecting the physical borders of the nation. But, in the end, it’s still the same argument: How big and what for?
Why did the government feel that a standing army was needed? Several problems existed. Indian raids on the frontier settlements were common. All three of the European superpowers of the time still had colonies and garrisons of troops on the continent. The British concocted some of the Indian raids. British troops routinely pushed down into contested territories. There was piracy and various internal rebellions. Ships carrying letters of marque regularly interdicted ships from other nations and the United States, interfering with commerce and endangering the economy. The European nations, who still had colonies on the continent, were constantly at war and the Americans feared that they would be constantly at the mercy of these wars when they bled over onto this continent or the seas nearby.
This was no idle threat or imagination of the founders. Many of them, including George Washington, had fought in the French and Indian Wars that involved the main armies of England and France as well as the use of different Indian tribes as proxies. They feared that this war could be repeated or that Indians would be used as proxies against their nation. France and England were still at war at the beginning of the 19th Century.
These issues drove the practical, pragmatic representatives; generally those who were already in favor of a strong central government. Then there were the idealists who came from both sides of the aisle, both the pro-military and anti-military. There was talk among some of the Americans that Canada should be invaded and annexed. Others began to talk about spreading freedom and democracy to every corner of the continent. This was the first manifestation of Manifest Destiny. It was equally billed as a divine mission and a practical necessity for defense. Others believed in American Exceptionalism. In other words, only here in the thirteen colonies could freedom and democracy exist. It was limited to this place because only the right people with the right beliefs lived here. Attempting to expand it might weaken the nation and unfettered immigration or inclusion of “others” might bring in people who did not agree with or understand the concept, thus, endangering the future existence of democracy.
All of these arguments should sound familiar because they are the same arguments that we hear today. There are even groups in Canada and the United States that advocate annexing all or part of Canada. People who talk about immigrants today use the same arguments that people have been using for nearly the entire 217 years as a nation.
The problem with learning about the “true” history of the United States is that certain classes, specific education paths and even political persuasion tends to push people towards emphasizing one part of history over the other. That’s if they know anything at all. Most people who think about Westward Expansion simply think that pioneers looked west into a vast, unpopulated, undeveloped areas and decided to go there. That idea comes from two factors: the mythologized “Manifest Destiny” history of the United States and “O’ Pioneers”. Not that the myth has it totally wrong. Once western territories were made available for settlement either by purchase or annexation, many citizens and immigrants chose to move west precisely because they did see vast tracts of (largely) uninhabited lands just ripe for people and development.
Even before annexation or purchase of territory, many pioneers chose to move to these areas, not at the behest of the government in an attempt to populate areas and then claim them for protection of their citizens, but because what they really wanted to do was to get away from the government. Those who felt the centralized government was going to be too strong thought that distance could protect them. On top of that, as immigration increased to the country, the price of land continued to increase at a speedy pace in the established colonies/states whereas a man could simply move his family into the Ohio Valley, stake out some land, clear it, build a cabin and proclaim it his own. Free of charge. That is until the government eventually reached the area and began to collect taxes. Also, as immigration continued, the land in the valley began to get a little crowded for some.
This had its risks. Pioneers who moved beyond the reach of the government were also beyond its protection. They either staved off attacks from hostile Indians on their own or created local militia. If someone was sick, they had to rely on local healers who had learned the “art”. There were few professional physicians running around the frontier. Education? Roads? Law enforcement and judges? It was hit or miss for most people. Problems were settled between the plaintiffs. If someone in the family could read or write, it was likely they were teaching their own children and the neighbors’.
For some groups, it was certainly a matter of divine mission and direction from God. For most, however, God only entered into it when they were praying that the crops would hold, the cattle would increase and their families would remain safe. Not to mention Sunday services. That’s not to denigrate or try to depreciate religion in the Pioneers or try to prove that there wasn’t any. We are talking about the end of the 18th century. Language and life were peppered with references to God, divinity and guidance. Many of the earliest pioneers were Protestant descendents of the Calvinist movement that tended towards the concept of pre-ordination and pre-destination. Sermons, books and political speech were peppered with the concept. Not to mention, difficult times and a life of hardship tended to make people look for divine intervention. Sometimes, divine intervention was closer than the local militia or doctor.
This was another factor in Manifest Destiny becoming a predominant theme in America’s history, myths and legends.
A soldier sees and feels a wider variety of sights and emotions in a year than most people will experience in a lifetime. ...
In my short time in the military I have experienced more suffering than I could have imagined before joining up. I have held the hand of a dying Marine who had only one last wish: that someone would be with him and hold his hand as he passed on. So I sat there with a strange man, holding his hand, not saying a word, until he died. ...[snip]
On one of those days in Iraq where I wasn't sure if I'd see my daughter again, I was working at a checkpoint near a small camp in the desert. ... The locals would gather around our checkpoints to try to sell us things, beg for food or water, or just hang around the soldiers.
On this particular day one of the locals had his little girl with him. She was shyly watching me from behind his legs. When I smiled and waved at her, she brazenly ran up to me with a big smile and held out her arms, expecting to be picked up. At first I was shocked at her sudden bravery, and it took me a second to reach down and pick her up. When I did, she immediately kissed me on my cheek and then nestled in as if she meant to stay a while.
You've got to click the link to find out why she did it. It's a legit story in a legit Seattle Newspaper (don't laugh).
(Warning: Tissues are required)
Dispatch from Iraq: A tiny bit of comfort
Just a little piece that started me thinking in the first two paragraphs, the more you think we are different, the more you know we are the same:
There are not too many addresses in Lebanon, in the precise, ZIP Code sense of the United States; they tend to be anecdotal, albeit spoken with authority. Such were the directions to Jdeidet, Marjayoun, a small Christian village tucked in a rugged corner of Lebanon, nestled between the improbable borders of Syria and Israel.
Go right at the larger-than-life portrait of Hasan Nasrallah, the leader of the Shiite Muslim group Hezbollah, I was told by my friend Hikmat Farha. At the picture of Musa Sadr, an iconic Shiite leader, turn left, he said. Then pass the posters -- and there are many -- of Shiite militiamen killed while fighting Israel. A checkpoint, Hikmat said, and from there you enter the stretch of Lebanon once occupied by Israel.
I had very similar directions trying to get to Chilahowie, Missour. Except, of course, the signs did not include "martyrs" and political leaders (well, all except the old Kerry is a poodle sign put up by the NRA last election and never taken down)
However, the rest of the story is a great read as well.
Lebanon, My Lebanon
BEIRUT (AFP) - The audience gasped in awe then broke into applause as the unashamed actress declared that her genital organ, "coco", was angry, in the first Arab adaptation of the US hit play "The Vagina Monologues".
After winning a tough battle with censors, the taboo-breaking "Hakeh Neswan," or "Women's Talk", has taken Lebanese theatre by storm with sold-out performances and rave reviews.
In a Middle East ruled by strict social and religious traditions, calling genital organs by their name -- let alone their nicknames -- is an act of courage.
Even in more avant-garde Beirut, where the stage has recently offered plays about women's liberation, "Hakeh Neswan" beats them all.
This is why Beirut is considered the Paris of the Middle East. It may still have Islamists and it may still have censors that are tougher than ours, but it is still one of the most liberal nations in the Middle East, right next to Israel.
But, it still has issues. Like many other countries there, it isn't exactly free with information about violence against women and children:
"Many things happen in the Arab world where everything is allowed if nobody talks about it. But now at least, these very important issues are put out in the open in a very interesting and courageous manner," said Khalil Hayek, a teacher.
"Women learned that other women have similar problems. And men understood that women are not just hysterical, but have real and urgent issues," he said.
On a sparse set, the four actresses provoke gasps, laughs and sometimes uneasy silence by listing the various names for the female genital organ, most commonly known here as "coco," and its discomfort from tampons, G-strings and medical check-ups.[snip]
In a scene describing often-unreported rapes, the actress playing the part of an 11-year-old girl raped by a friend of the family says: "I could tell my parents that Israel has invaded Beirut, but I could not tell them that your friend has invaded me."
A lot more interesting info about the play and the process to get in shown here:
Taboo-breaking 'coco' monologues steal show in Beirut - Yahoo! News
I am not the only one looking at how and why we view history different than our European or Socialist friends.
Read Winds of Change: Bruce Bawer
Bawer's observations do ring true to my own experience of Europe and Europeans. They believe the most audacious things about the danger and violence and cruelty and racism of daily American life. They really think there is no difference between Nazi Berlin and modern D.C. They think we went to Iraq just to kill Iraqis. They mock us for our ignorance of the world, and certainly they can talk longer about America than we can talk about any one of their countries. But if 90 percent of what they know about us is twisted or just plain wrong, does that count as superior smarts?
At the same time, they know little and care less about each other's countries. Months after the Theo Van Gogh killing, I would be explaining it to Germans who lived not two hour's drive from where it happened, who had never heard about it.
Friday, April 21, 2006
This article goes along with a previous post regarding the Shia split inside the UIA that has a lot to do with old sectarian politics: My Daddy Was Better Than Your Daddy.
Try not to cringe when you notice Newsweek playing footsie with Sadr's spokesman without calling him on certain things or even adding to the story by explaining the real situation. It's still a great way to get to know the politics on the ground so the continuing impasse (which apparently was resolved today) doesn't seem so bizarre and you are not confused by imagining that it is strictly a problem between reluctant Sunni and the new majority Shia government.
The very first part of the interview starts with Sadr's spokesman being completely disingenous and nobody calls him on it.
NEWSWEEK: There was a warrant out for the arrest of Moqtada al-Sadr in the assassination of Ayatollah Majid al-Khoei. What happened to that?
AL-SHEIKH: Those allegations were circulated during the time of [former U.S. envoy L. Paul] Bremer. They wanted to make Sayyid Moqtada an outlaw. He was not even near the location where Sayyid Majid was assassinated. They were trying to pressure him to drop his opposition to the occupation.
For those who don't know, al Khoei was assassinated on April 10, 2003; one day after Baghdad fell. At that time, Sadr was a little known factor in Iraqi politics. No one was speaking to him or about him. The assassination was conducted under cover of the war and was carried out for a number of reasons. Some of which, if you read the above article on the "family feud" in the UIA, is about long standing disagreements over the direction and leadership of the Shia in Iraq. Al Khoei had been in exile up to that moment and had returned to Iraq just that day.
The other problem that is glanced over and continues to be missed by most reporters is that he went directly to Najaf, the main seat of Shi'ism in Iraq. The Sadr faction, which had endured in Iraq during Saddam's reign, unlike al Khoei, took this as a direct challenge to their leadership and control of that mosque. Control of a mosque is a very powerful tool in Arab/Muslim society and politics. A mosque provides money through zhakat (charitable tax like a tithe) that is handed out to members and generates quite a bit of loyalty to who ever controls it. The money is also often used for "charities" or other programs like the development and arming of militias
Of course, it goes without saying that a mosque provides a "bully pulpit" and can swing the opinions of thousands of worshippers.
Al Khoei did come in on the tails of the American invasion, but don't let Sadr's spokesman fool you. That is not why al Khoei was assassinated. His family, like Sadr and Hakim, had a long history in Iraq and in Shia religious leaderhip. In fact, on the day he was assassinated, a very large crowd had come to hear him at the mosque. Two men ran out of the crowd and shot him, along with several other clergy and body guards, dead on the steps of the mosque.
Sadr's man is correct that Sadr was no where near the mosque at the time, but no one in Iraq doubts who was behind it or why. That was Sadr's first attempt to take over Najaf. Without the prestige of Najaf behind him, Sadr remains an uneducated wannabe cleric. The fact that he continues to be referred to as a cleric, simply because he preaches at a mosque or two, is false. To the Shia elite and those who are educated in Shia theological heirarchy (including the main body of Shias), do not see him as a possible leader of all Shia because of his lack of education. Any prestige that he has comes strictly from his father's place in Iraq history, reverence for his position as a highly educated Shia cleric and because the Sadr name has a long history of leadership in the Shia religious schools.
Sadr tried to take over Najaf again in 2004 with an armed militia. Unfortunately, not only was his credentials questioned, but his ham fisted treatment of the locals caused him to be in serious trouble and he was eventually "escorted" out of Najaf by Sistani after his militia was almost destroyed by the US army. Again in 2005 during the first elections for a parliament and again, right before the final election in December 2005, Sadr's followers tried to drive out Al Hakim's political offices.
Sadr does oppose US occupation. Largely because it has worked with Sistani and al Hakim's SCIRI party to set up government and because, while working with this group to set up the TAL (Transitional Authority Law), it was agreed that any three provinces (or more) could choose to become a federal state within Iraq. If this break up occurs, Najaf will be in the federal state controlled by Hakim's SCIRI in Basrah.
Sadr supported Jafari for several reasons. First, Jafari is actually an educated cleric, though standing for political office, which is the cover that Sadr needs considering his own lack of completed education. Second, Jafari is from the Dawa party which is also a rival of SCIRI in the UIA. He expects that lending his support to Jafari that Jafari will in turn lend his support to Sadr. Even possibly that, as the Prime Minister whose chosen sit on internal minstries, Sadr may be given certain mosques or provided with, what amounts to, a letter of cache that will move him up through the Shia ranks past his current position and prestige. Jafari opposes federalist Iraq and that worked in Sadr's favor. Sadr probably hoped that his support would influence the US to withdraw sooner rather than later. If it does, then the favoritisim shown to Sistani and even to SCIRI will be gone, along with any protection. Sadr imagines that he will then have an open field to either politically or physically depose his rivals. Sistani to Sadr is a limited threat in his eyes. He's old and bound to die. Further, even if he doesn't do so soon, Sistani's most important message has been to keep the Shia together as a majority and not break up since this is what has made it so easy for Saddam and past regimes to dominate them. Sadr must imagine that if Hakim and others were out of power or physically gone, Sistani would not oppose Sadr becoming the "leader" and would urge Shia to support him inorder to maintain unity.
It's a big game that Sadr is playing. In short, he hopes to by pass the normal process for clerics and noted theologians and jump right to the top. He uses his anti-occupation stance to attract the disaffected and grow his followers and militia. Regardless of his firey "patriotic" speeches on the subject, his reasons are totally selfish and pragmatic. These speeches are simply a cover; bread for the masses to chew while he sits and plots.
However, Sadr has several problems already outlined:
1) He never completed his education to become a cleric.
2) He is young and considered uncouth and untested.
3) It is widely acknowledged, though never mentioned, that he orchestrated, ordered or otherwise implied to his followers al Khoei's assassination (think, at least, Henry II and Thomas A Becket) on the steps of a Mosque. For one cleric to engage or be responsible for the death of another in that fashion, is very damaging.
4) He tried to forcefully take over Najaf, which many Shia see as the center of Shi'ism in Iraq and, to some degree, the neutral city where all scholars meet.
5) His brutish forces tortured and arbitrarily killed citizens of the city; setting up unauthorized Sharia courts without control or permission form the main Shia leadership
6) He was defeated by the Americans (at least his militia; fairly humiliating) and had to be saved by Sistani (such a thing engenders a certain obligation on Sadr whow will lose even more face if he goes against his will or attacks him directly which is why Sadr was attempting to use politics to move it in his favor without directly going against Sistani's wishes)
7) He is stuck in Sadr city. He not only has to fear arrest from the government or capture by US forces, but the Mahdi and Badr brigade have been clashing and it is very likely that he could be assassinated.
In fact, as I have said in earlier postings, do not imagine that all is goodness and light inside the UIA or Shia controlled areas. Many of the deaths (particularly of Shia clerics in Shia controlled areas) being attributed to "Sunni/Shia" sectarian fighting are actually infighting inside the Shia sect. Fortunately for the Shia, the Sunni and Al Qaida violence has provided them a cover. They can blame the violence on outsiders so that the face of the UIA still appears strong and unified. Further, they can continue to convince their constituence that the enemy is the Sunni and the reason why they need to maintain a militia. It also allows them to continue to do revenge killings and run Sunni ethnics out of the region to solidify their control.
All the killings are not strictly Shia on Shia. No one could say with any clarity what that percentage is. The Sunni definitely retaliate for the treatment of their people and are definitely trying to press their political wishes with violence agains the Shia in hopes of using the secession of violence as a bargaining tool for their demands. There are definitely ex-ba'athists and Islamists in the mix. Though, again, one would be hardpressed to define with any accuracy how much of any of these actually accounts for the violence and death.
Sadr definitely has bloody hands: both Sunni and Shia. No one should doubt that for a moment.
Sadr Spokesman: �He Is Not an Ogre� - Newsweek: International Editions - MSNBC.com
The resolution to the impasse came with Sistani's mediation. A very important part of this equation is in this paragraph:
But in a letter Thursday to the executive committee of the United Iraqi Alliance, the Shiite coalition, al-Jaafari wrote that he was prepared to "make any sacrifice to achieve" the organization's goals. "I tell you, you chose me, and I return this choice to you to do as you see fit."
"I cannot allow myself to be an obstacle, or appear to be an obstacle," al-Jaafari said in an emotional address on national television. He said he agreed to a new vote so that his fellow Shiite lawmakers "can think with complete freedom and see what they wish to do."
However, Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman said al-Jaafari's change of heart followed meetings Wednesday in the Shiite holy city of Najaf between U.N. envoy Ashraf Qazi and both al-Sadr and Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the nation's most prestigious Shiite cleric.
"There was a signal from Najaf," Othman told The Associated Press. "Qazi's meetings with (al-Sistani) and al-Sadr were the chief reason that untied the knot."
Aides to al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Shiite alliance, said the ayatollah was frustrated over the deadlock in forming a government and alarmed over the rise in sectarian violence that followed the Feb. 22 bombing of a Shiite shrine in Samarra.
Just so you understand, Sadr continues to be protected by Sistani, but Sistani still holds the reins of power. Further, whenever you hear one Shia leader or other calling for peace and an end to "sectarian violence" do not imagine that he is talking about or largely concerned about the Sunni/Shia problem. They are often urging their own people to stand down against one another. Sistani rightly sees the future ability of the majority Shia to rule Iraq is endangered by the continuing power struggle within the Shia body politic and the UIA.
This is a great piece and it speaks about how important information is in shaping opinion and what happens when that information is not allowed to flow freely:
I was unceremoniously fired this month by my Saudi newspaper, a leading English-language daily called Arab News.
It didn't matter that I had been the senior columnist on the op-ed page for nine years or that my work was quoted widely in the European and American media, including this paper. What mattered was that I had committed one of the three cardinal sins an Arab journalist must avoid when working for the Arab press: I criticized the government.[snip]
But this is not just the story of an Arab journalist losing his job. It is a story with implications for the current American administration's efforts to "introduce" the Arab countries to democracy, of which independent, free media are a major building block.
What Arabs, including those masquerading as their newspaper editors, have yet to learn is that a free press, a truly free press, is a moral imperative in society. Subvert it, and you subvert the public's sacrosanct right to know and a newspaper's traditional role to expose. If the Western democracies work better than many others, it is because to them the concept of accountability, expected from the head of state on down, is a crucial function of their national ideology.[snip]
Democracy may be a political system, but it is also a social ethos. How responsive can a country be to such an ethos when its people have, for generations, existed with an ethic of fear -- fear of originality, fear of innovation, fear of spontaneity, fear of life itself -- and have had instilled in them the need to accept orthodoxy, dependence and submission?
The Arab world today, sadly, remains a collection of disparate entities ruled for the most part by authoritarian regimes that rely on coercion, violence and terror to rule, and that demand from their citizens submission, obedience and conformity. And that includes those citizens who call themselves "journalists," to whom, by now, responsibility to truth and logic has become irrelevant.
Read the rest:
How to Lose Your Job at a Saudi Newspaper
h/t: Terrorism Unveiled
This goes right along with our discussion about seeing the world through a specific prism.
I would also like to suggest reading Wahabism
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Words have meaning. Since the first caveman grunted to another, we have been trying to interpret the meaning of each word, its level of application, the inflection indicating sarcasm, sincerity, anger, joy or disbelief. Over tens of thousands of years, we've added tens of thousands of words because one word or another just didn't seem to say what we wanted or what we meant. Even the production of a dictionary could not stop humans from arguing over the exact meaning and application of a word. Alliances have been made with words and wars have started over words. You watch politicians speak and they pick over their words hoping to say something without actually saying something. Writers make their livings conveying images and ideas via words and they've been lambasted over the use, appropriateness or lack of words.
In this medium, blogging, I have noticed that some of the biggest arguments begin over principle and end over semantics. In fact, I have participated in just such a discussion recently on several websites. At the Redhunter (a fellow blogger at Conserva-puppies with his own site), a very polite British Leftist dropped in and wanted to discuss American Idealism and what he (I believe the name belonged to a "he") believed was "the only redeeming quality" in America's current foreign policy. Therein ensued a discussion that meandered from such topics as American 19th century history, manifest destiny and modern politics that turned into a discussion about whether modern Americans believed in Manifest Destiny and, based on our current ability to project military, economic and diplomatic power around the globe, why the United States simply did not openly declare that it had an American Empire and admit other countries or territories under our "protection" as states, since they are affected by our policies, so that they may have a vote in our policies and actions, and that they may benefit from our best ideas on liberty and democracy.
Don't laugh. He (and many like him) are perfectly serious. Find out in the "read more" section.
Not the first time that I have heard this suggestion. In fact, I recall just such an opinion piece in the British Guardian newspaper during our last election (2004-Presidential) when the Guardian tried some activist journalism and attempted to get a town in Ohio to trade votes with British subjects accept that they were not advocating joining our union so much as insisting that, as a country affected by our policies, they should be allowed a say in our politics. That went over like a lead balloon.
In all of these discussions, including some great comments (and some not so great) at Harry's place, I have learned a great deal (though, I am sure its not enough) about foreign views of not only our modern politics, but even our shared history. In fact, these discussions have proved clearly a discussion I had not long ago at the Castle that truth is in fact, subjective. It can't be helped; we are a product of our own history, as individuals and nations, not to mention indoctrination through education and political persuasion.
So, there I was having a discussion with my Socialist English friend about American Idealism, Empire, History and Manifest Destiny. Our discussion, not surprisingly, ended with a disagreement over the meaning of Empire and whether it applied to modern American adventures and expansionism. Fortunately for me, I have learned a great deal about Socialists in the United States and Europe or I might have simply made some sarcastic remark about his political persuasion and gave it no thought.
For instance, did you know there are several kinds of socialists? There are the Stalinists and the Trotskyites as two examples. If I understand my political persuasions, Stalinists still believe that Stalin's USSR with its forced community farms, state owned industry, re-education camps, political gulags, aversion to free markets and, what these followers term, anti-imperialism, had it right. Even on to defending or excusing forced famines, re-distribution of lands, invasions of Eastern Europe and purging his political enemies. These are all blamed on circumstances that forced Stalin to make "terrible decisions"; circumstances that these folks believe were largely forced on him by imperial capitalists. Of course, don't dare to use the concept of "terrible decisions" forced by other circumstances as an explanation for actions of others. It is simply inexcusable. But, you understand, they still believe in universal human rights. One may be excused to wonder if being imprisoned for 20 years in a gulag, as forced labor is a universal human right.
Where as the Trotskyites (after the famed Communist and anti-Stalin Leon Trotsky who was eventually murdered by the KGB in South America) believe that Stalin perverted Marxist ideology, that Stalin's Communism was a disgusting totalitarian concept, that the lack of democracy in the USSR under Stalin betrayed Marxist ideology which stated that socialism required democracy and capitalism to flourish and that Stalinist Socialists are in fact impure heretics. Something both sides often throw at the other as they struggle for control of their party. Christopher Hitchens is a modern Trotskyite.
In England today, it appears that the Stalinists have control of the Socialist Party. These are the folks that run the SWP (Socialist Workers Party), which is supposed to be a Trotskyite organization, that had George Galloway as a front man and made alliances with various British Islamic (Islamist?) groups to form RESPECT, the anti-war political party. I am not totally up on the political make up of the British Parliament, but I believe that they won three seats, Gorgeous George being the most famous. Interesting that while he was appearing on Al Jazeera and trekking to Syria, amongst other places, making denunciations against England, the United States (dirty, imperialist, capitalist controlled by the Zionist lobby), Jews (Zionists) and insisting that Saddam Hussein was not a bad man (of course not, George had received a large chunk of money and oil vouchers from the fellow; he couldn't be all bad) he was defended and lauded by party members. Don't dare suggest to them that Saddam might have bribed him or that he had diverted funds from the Miriam charity that had accepted these oil vouchers from Saddam. It is all just a lie to discredit George.
Right up to the moment that George appeared on the British version of Big Brother, in a leotard, pretending to be a cat. Suddenly, George disappeared as the face of the SWP and Respect. Or, at least he hasn't been in the news quite as much. One could forgive SWP and Respect if they started to believe in the conspiracy that the Labour movement (which George had left in protest against the Iraq invasion) had sent George as an infiltrator or an agitator in order to discredit their movement. Then again, reading even current comments on the subject, he is still being defended like a principled prince of the people.
Ah, well. It's not much different than our own political structures here where you have the Liberals, the fringe left, Republicans, True Conservatives and Rinos, all of which seemed bent on defining their parties and jockeying for power before the next election, determined that they are the right message at the right time and that the rest are simply heretics to the cause.
You've heard it all before.
Trotskyite's like Christopher Hitchens are pro-war in Iraq in so far as it supports democracy and played to the humanitarian cause of relieving Iraqis of a genocidal maniac. Though, even in these ranks are those who support the war have various feelings on the subject including their own mixed guilt for supporting something that they half (or three quarters) feel was the result of a lie (WMD) and is part of the continuing hegemony or even new age imperialism of the United States that has resulted in a large number of deaths for Iraqis. I believe that my socialist friend at Redhunter (an interesting place, if you understand the gist of the name, to meet a socialist and converse) falls into this category.
One may wonder why this is at all important considering the title of this post. I believe that, to understand or even solidify our own ideas, you must compare them to others. As in trying to receive the objective truth, one must muddle through the subjective truth as provided by all witnesses. Even then, we’re likely to be missing something because, again, everyone experiences history through his or her own medium.
Which brings us to American History, or more distinctly, the history of the United States. Having been raised in the rural and suburban Mid-West, even in the post civil rights-Vietnam-rise of Liberalism (capital “L”; or, as my conservative friends like to say, hippy, free love, libertinism) era, American History was portrayed with a bit of triumphalism for the Great American Experiment and Manifest Destiny. We’re talking grade school through High School, not university. I can’t recall any teacher telling me or implying in anyway that I should be ashamed to be an American or of our history. While we discussed and debated Federalism v. State’s Rights and the causes of Civil War; slavery and John Brown; Locke v. Adams, the creation of the Monroe Doctrine; while we learned about Pilgrims and Pioneers, the Indian Wars and other events, no one ever said that these were Bad Things. Bad things happened for sure, but no one ever painted them as Things That Never Should Have Been. They were simply events in history. We were not asked to analyze them or even revise our opinions of America based on What We Know Now. It was all “America the Beautiful” and "Oh, Pioneers”.
We learned about the Trail of Tears and the internment of Japanese during WWII, but no teacher ever implied to me that I should feel guilty about these incidents. They were the past; events that occurred under different people and a different set of circumstances. At most, we looked at them as distasteful and Things That Should Never Happen Again. They were lessons in how, during such fantastic achievements of the nation, even the best intentioned could do terrible things in the name of National Security or greater movements and we should not forget lest we do them again. But neither “guilt” nor “shame” was implied as the outcome of that lesson.
That difference in how we view our history creates the difference in how we view our current endeavors. That difference is not simply between Americans and Europeans, but between the left and the right in America. Depending on how far left you go, the more guilt, shame and desire to change America today in order to make up for the past. We’re not simply talking about having learned lessons and never doing it again. I mean, some would go so far as to cut up America and give parts back to grievance groups. If you go far enough to the right, you can find such people as Buchanan who sees the US as having expanded beyond its original intent, whose military should be strictly used to defend the homeland and who is roundly referred to as an isolationist. Historically, he would have been the fellow that argued against such expeditions as the Banana Wars, the Panamanian excursion, interference in WWI and insisted we stay out of WWII. He would have read the Monroe Doctrine in its strictest interpretation and believes that it should be our guiding document on American Expansion or lack thereof.
Europeans, having a much longer history of expansion and contraction of Empires, have much more to feel guilty about. Particularly in light of new political ideology such as Communism and Socialism, which are not so dead on that continent and that rejects expansion of state’s power onto other nations as “imperialist”. The history of European Empires can be viewed as lessons in racism and how not to treat “subject” nations and their people. Self-determination was not an idea that these empires were familiar with or engendered in these subject nations. At least, not until post WWII when Empires began to totally break apart because damaged European nations could no longer support them financially or protect them militarily. Nations won or were given their independence, others were independent but became part of things like the British Commonwealth, an economic and security pact, but certainly no longer Empire.
But, it was the treatment of subjects during Imperial Europe that most troubles those on the left. Some, like my socialist friend, don’t see it as a total loss since they believe that England’s colonial rule of India provided the base of laws and ideas that led to the creation of Democratic India. That can’t be said for every imperial nation or subject country. For that reason, modern day left feel the need to flagellate themselves consistently, even if it was their great-great-grandfathers that did it, and look upon every action of modern states, every war that knocks off regimes, temporizes potential external and internal security threats and results in securing resources, as just another version of Empire Building.
One should not dismiss lightly the effects of colonialism on the modern world. Many continuing problems can be traced back to their imperial beginnings, but just as many problems began even long before. However, it is not simply modern European Imperialism that has changed the face of the world and affected the condition of modern nations. From Asia to the Americas, ancient empires to modern super powers, every nation has had an impact on the other. From genetics to culture, language to architecture, the expansion and contraction of empires have etched their imprint on every nation. Whether these expansions resulted in Empires as we imagine them with subject nations or simply wars that resulted in armistices or created client states, it is a matter of history. From the left’s point of view, these expansions and contractions are not simply episodes that have affected mankind, but are considered the worst of mankind and the cause of most of the world’s problems today.
Never mind that seems a little egotistical and self-indulgent of a well-developed guilt complex. I am unaware of any student in Mongolia feeling guilty about their Mongol ancestors and their Empire. I suppose that Europeans would be more apt to forgive that lack of guilt because Mongolians have been alternately invaded and oppressed as a subject nation by modern states and they are by no means a modern colossal able to project power beyond their borders. Because they are weak now, they are forgiven. Or maybe it’s a matter of subconscious racism that assumes that Mongols of the time were savages and could not know better, having not experienced the Enlightenment prior to or during the expansion of Empire so they had an excuse?
It is difficult to understand who gets a pass for Empire and under what circumstances. Then again, maybe it is simply a matter of modern psychology where guilt over actions is considered a purifying concept and not thinking about it and accepting that guilt is considered denial? That is almost exclusively a modern Western concept.
No real student of history would forget that civilizations, from the tribal to the city state, have expanded and contracted throughout history, even in pre-historic times, becoming dominant and then sometimes disappearing into other cultures all together. It is the history of man, not simply the history of modern nations. Some must feel that the evolution of thought since the Enlightenment should or would change that behavior. As if they could change the primal behavior of man with a simple thought. Rejecting that is a rejection of enlightenment and the universal rights of man. In fact, multi-cultural tendency is to try to preserve certain cultural aspects of other nations against the incursion of other nations’ culture brought on by globalization and advanced communications. This is considered progressive and enlightened. Others may reject that as rejecting the advancement of humanity, but that is another discussion.
The ego is a wonderful thing. For instance, there are British who still remember when Brittania ruled the waves and considers the British Empire to be a shining example of their nations ingenuity, creativity, strength and drive. They are rightly proud of their accomplishments. That is an expression of ego and some believe is denial regarding the reality of British Empire. There are others who see this period as an example of mankind’s worst towards others, oppression and rejection of modern British Principles. What they imagine is that, without the British Empire, some place like India would be different. If not better, at least it would not have changed at their hands. This is also an expression of the ego, imagining that all things in India stem from British Imperialism.
Some are even more conflicted since they believe that the British Empire was both good and bad. For instance, having spread British values on humanity and freedom, they may have injected humanitarian principles on an otherwise medieval or savage culture. One such principle was that colonial governors insisted that the practice of widows throwing themselves on the funeral pyres of their late husbands be stopped. On the other hand, they certainly exploited the cheap labor of indigenous tribes, took large amounts of resources with varying degrees of exchange for modern infrastructure, economy and education of the masses, recruited local men into the armed forces and used them to put down internal revolts against their own or other tribes.
Of course, maharajahs had been using the caste system and slave labor for centuries before the British came, fighting internecine wars, digging out jewels and metals, exploiting the system to gain wealth and land. The problem was, the British came and took advantage of the same system making their hands unclean in the Continuing Oppression of People. Which for socialists and other enlightened folks goes against all modern principles of universal human rights that should be looked upon with at least some aversion if not down right disgust. If not for the transplant of other British principles of equality that began the break up of the caste system, it would be totally irredeemable.
Not that the caste system is gone. You wouldn’t have Naxalists (communist Indian Maoists) running around India trying to overthrow the government if all was sweetness and light.
The point is, people have a tendency to imagine they are the sole arbiters of change, good or bad. They sometimes ignore the actions of others, insisting that through a tweaking of that, a dollop of this and not doing other things all together, the outcome would be, not just different, but better. They also have a tendency to look for redemption in their actions or those in the past while simultaneously flagellating themselves with guilt. It’s very Freudian. Worse yet, if modern history of a nation such a Germany includes other terrible acts in the not too distant past that included the rapine of nations and genocide of peoples, the guilt can overwhelm any attempts to find redemption. From that position, not only do they judge themselves, but the history of all nations.
To be continued....
Part II: American 19th Century History - Divine Mission or Pragmatism?
Read this excellent article. While there are some points I would disagree with, for the main part, it helps explain that the violence in Iraq and the political issues are not all Sunni v. Shia or Al Qaida v. Iraqis, but in fact include some rather violent clashes between rival Shia organizations for control of the Shia masses, mosques and the money that goes with it, not to mention the post of Prime Minister.
At Heart of Iraqi Impasse, a Family Feud
Wednesday, April 19, 2006
I've just heard at Iraq the Model that their brother in law was assissinated.
Last week our little and peaceful family was struck by the tragic loss of one of its members in a savage criminal act of assassination. The member we lost was my sister's husband who lived with their two little children in our house.
It was the day he was celebrating the opening of a foundation that was going to offer essential services to the poor but the criminals were waiting for him to end his life with their evil bullets and to stab our family deep in the heart.
Grief and pain is killing me everyday as I hold my dear nephews, my sister is shocked beyond words while my parents are dead worried about the rest of us.
My heart breaks for them. Iraq the Model was the first blog I ever read and inspired me to write my own blog. After two years, they are more like family than anonymous bloggers in another world. Without them, I cannot say that I would feel the same about Iraq or believe as deeply as I do in the dream, their dream. As always, even in the worst of times, the words of the brothers always give me strength.
They think by assassinating one of us they could deter us from going forward but will never succeed, they can delay us for years but we will never go back and abandon our dream.
We have vowed to follow the steps of our true martyrs and we will raise the new generation to continue the march, these children of today are the hope and the future.
What a difference between those who work to preserve life and those who work to end it…it's terrorism and crime and there are no other words to describe these acts.
They will keep trying to steal life from us and we will keep fighting back and we will keep exposing them but not with bullets and swords, we never carried arms and we will never do because we are not afraid and because we are not weak unlike those cowards who know no language but that of treason.
April will always be there to remind us of the sacrifice and remind us of the dream we fight for.
Our founding fathers would have recognized these men as what they were: Patriots.
Monday, April 17, 2006
The most interesting part of the entire article which pretty much tells you what sparked the uptick in attacks was all the way at the bottom:
Another 17 bodies of people believed victims of sectarian reprisal killings were found Monday, including one in Basra and the rest in Baghdad. They included the body of Taha al-Mutlaq, brother of leading Sunni Arab politician Saleh al-Mutlaq, who was found in a Shiite area of west Baghdad.
The problem of course is that he could have been killed by Shia militia. Maybe he went to talk to one group or the other to try to move something forward for his brother who has cabinet aspirations and whose name has come up several times for President or Prime Minister along with that of Alawi. Although, why any Shia militia would be so stupid as to kill the brother of a highly visible Sunni politician and leave his body in the Shia area, thus sparking more sectarian violence, is a mystery. It seems quite foolish, unless of course it was Sadr's Mehdi militia who seem much more like trigger happy goons who probably wouldn't care who they killed as long as their identity card gave their sect as "Sunni". (I keep wondering when they are going to issue non-denominational ID cards).
Or, maybe al-Mutlaq's position seemed to be too conciliatory for one of the Sunni group and they killed his brother in warning.
Or, maybe the Sunni Islamist never liked al-Mutlaq in the first place, killed his brother and then tossed his body in a Shia area in order to stir violence. It could be a number of things. It will be interesting to find out what the Iraqi media indicates al-Mutlaq had been doing just prior to the murder.
In any case, it certainly could serve to harden Mutlaq's position against the Dawa or Sciri Shia in the Assembly.
One would need to be omniscient to know for sure what happened, but its very likely the Sunni insurgents decided to take reprisals against anyone they thought was involved.
On another note, according to the story, the Marine's fought of 50 insurgents (estimated). I support the effort there and our soldiers, but is anyone else wondering why in Ramadi 50 insurgents can seem to coalesce and attack our forces unnoticed in a secure area? We don't have more lookouts or patrols? Or, does anyone notice that every time an attack is being noted out of this area, somebody there consistently gives the number as "50"?
Who commands Ramadi? Is the commander a body count guy? Is this coming from our Iraqi counterparts who may be boosting the number of insurgents to off set the number of casualties his unit took? Two Iraqi soldiers died. Unknown wounded. Five insurgents died. Unknown wounded. But they fought of 50 attackers? And only took two KIA?
It stinks a little and I hope that the military is not turning in crazy numbers. I understand that this was a coordinated attack with two car bombs and just maybe that would mean 50 insurgents, but I still can't get past that number being replayed through every attack in Ramadi the last month or so.
If there are that many insurgents able to coordinate regular attacks, maybe Ramadi is ready to be Fallujah part II?
U.S. Marines Repel Coordinated Assault - Yahoo! News
Sunday, April 16, 2006
I suggest reading this article. It discusses what the real issues within Al Qaida are from ideological compatriots and other mid-east experts. The main problem is that there is no real agreement on strategy, tactics, who and what they should be fighting and certainly their is a problem with even the ideology since there are many sects of Islam, not just Sunni and Shia, but Sunni Wahabi, Sunni Ashouri, etc, etc, etc.
Some of the best parts of the article:
CAIRO -- In January 2003, one of the two most wanted men in the world couldn't contain his frustration. From a hiding place probably somewhere in South Asia, he tapped out two lengthy e-mails to a fellow Egyptian who'd been criticizing him in public.
"I beg you, don't stop the Muslim souls who trust your opinions from joining the jihad against the Americans," wrote Ayman al-Zawahiri, deputy leader of al-Qaeda. He fired off the message even though it risked exposing him.
"Let's put it this way: Tensions had been building up between us for a long time," explained the e-mail's recipient, Montasser el-Zayat, a Cairo lawyer who shared a prison cell with Zawahiri in the 1980s and provided this account. "He always thinks he is right, even if he is alone."
Zawahiri's visibility, eclipsing Osama bin Laden's, reminds al-Qaeda's enemies that the network is capable of more attacks. But a closer look at his speeches and writings, and interviews with several longtime associates in radical Islamic circles, suggest another motive: fear of losing his ideological grip over a revolutionary movement he has nurtured for 40 years.
In fact, this has been a problem all along and why all of these movements, while seeming popular, can never achieve the type of popular support they would need to bring themselves to power. The last letter to Zarqawi was pretty plain that he did not agre with Zarqawi's tactics or with his insistence on arguing with his local counterparts about which Sunni ideology would govern Sharia law as well as his compatriots enforcing a strict Sharia court and system on all areas they were invited to, of course finding "apostates" and other violations, and inflicting their severe punishment on their hosts.
Another issue, which this focuses on, is the difference in thinking on what constitutes the main objectives of the movement. The main they agree on is to establish the Islamic Caliphate, but whether it is to make Egypt an Islamic state first or whether it is Zarqawi's plan to over throw Jordan's King and create and Islamic state there, or other such considerations. They do not agree and each of the loosely associated groups continue to persue their own local agendas.
He is risking his credibility among Islamic radicals by speaking out on so many subjects, according to Osama Rushdi, an Egyptian who spent three years in a Cairo prison with Zawahiri in the 1980s and now lives in exile in Britain.
"He's trying to stay in control and give the impression that he's behind everything in the Middle East and everywhere else, fighting against the Americans in Iraq and against Britain in Europe," Rushdi said in an interview. "He is trying to take responsibility as a leader for what is going on in Iraq. But he knows, and everyone knows, that that is not true, that he has nothing to do with anything in Iraq."[snip}
"What they've started has taken on a momentum of its own," said Maha Azzam, an associate fellow at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. "Obviously, this is a global movement. And it has global support, and it can't be controlled centrally as much as perhaps they'd like it to be. It's almost as if Zawahiri doesn't want to be left behind. They don't want the events on the ground to supersede them."
Please read the rest and discuss.
Johng Chapter 3
13And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven.
14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up:
15That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.
16For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
17For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.
18He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
19And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.
20For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.
21But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.
It was a radical message. In that day and age when men toiled at the behest of the state, when they could be made slaves for as little as denying that Caesar was a God, when life was oft a mean existence and the Pharisees took all power and governed life through their pronunciations that which was left after the Roman state had its say, when the God of the Pharisees was an angry and vengeful God who demanded sacrifices of bulls and turtle doves, when bribes to the Pharisees could buy a man absolution for the worst of sins, a new messenger came.
In his works he ministered to the poor and the rejected, those that the Synagogue and its righteous leaders had already condemned on earth as worthless or not worth their time because their condition was proof that they were sinners and already condemned.
But Jesus was the first to promote egalitariansim in his messages and works. He healed the poor, the sick and the lame, giving them a message of hope in a life in the hereafter. Men of wealth he admonished to do good works because money could not buy righteousness nor forgiveness. Forgiveness was not bought, but given. The cost of which was simple and required no gold, but simply that a man believe.
Jesus taught that men and women were his brothers and sisters, they were all sons and daughters of God.
It is understood that the Age of Enlightenment was an age of discovery spurred by science and great literature, but this age could not have existed without this message being resurrected. The message of equality in the eyes of God. Equally loved and equally deserving of his forgiveness and love. It was a message that, like that of Jesus, was radically different than that given by the church which supported Royalty and Nobles as being the few ordained by divine right, by God, to rule and decide on the fate of men.
It was this message of equality of men that the forefathers of the United States used to determine that men should be free and had "unalienable rights" "endowed by their Creator". Eighty years later, it was this message which spurred the abolitionists and convinced Lincoln to emancipate the slaves and truly live up to the founding of the nation, that all men are equal in the eyes of God.
This is a world of compensations; and he who would be no slave, must consent to have no slave. Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves; and, under a just God, can not long retain it.
-Letter to Henry L Pierce, 1862
The tyranny of slavery is the same tyranny of kings:
It is the eternal struggle between these two principles -- right and wrong -- throughout the world. They are the two principles that have stood face to face from the beginning of time; and will ever continue to struggle. The one is the common right of humanity and the other the divine right of kings. It is the same principle in whatever shape it develops itself. It is the same spirit that says, "You work and toil and earn bread, and I'll eat it." No matter in what shape it comes, whether from the mouth of a king who seeks to bestride the people of his own nation and live by the fruit of their labor, or from one race of men as an apology for enslaving another race, it is the same tyrannical principle. October, 1858
It was the message of equality and forgiveness as taught by Jesus that spurred such men to fight and to determine that, in the final analysis, it was better that a whole nation perish than to not live by these principles, set forth by our founders and based on the teachings of Jesus and proof in his ministry to the poor, the lame and the sick, that all men are deserving and equal in the eyes of God:
The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offences! for it must needs be that offences come; but woe to that man by whom the offence cometh!" If we shall suppose that American Slavery is one of those offences which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South, this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offence came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a Living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue, until all the wealth piled by the bond-man's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord, are true and righteous altogether" Innaugural address 1864
These are the principles which all enlightened Christians should be embued. Not simply to "love one another" nor to mouth the words that purport all men to be equal and deserving of God's love, but to practice it. In practicing it, it does not mean that we accept that men in another nation who are oppressors and that others are slaves and that we find the nation and those who practice it to be equal to the idea of liberty and equality, but that we should endeavor as did Christ in his teachings to spread the message, even and most especially in the face of tyranny, that all men are equal in the eyes of God and deserving of his love, deserving of unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The chains created by injustice are cruel. Men who purport to be given the divine right by God to enslave men, to abuse them and use them in such ways as no man would want to have inflicted upon himself, are no better than Caesar in Rome or the Pharisees. Those who would say otherwise, that God gives them the power to tell a man whether he should pray, whom he should marry, that he is not worthy because of his color, his ethnicity or his religion, that a woman is less deserving than a man, are, in fact, false and we should not accept them or their creed.
In the final moments of Easter so long ago, the stone was rolled away from the tomb. Jesus appeared to his followers resurrected so that they would know the truth of his words and continue to minister as he wished, to spread the word. His resurrection, celebrated in the spring, is the symbol of hope for all men, a symbol of renewal.
Today, I pray for all of our men and women in harms way who may feel from time to time that this struggle we are in is never ending and wonder whether they toil in vane, that they receive this message of hope and renewal, that they may be renewed in their courage and their belief in a just cause. I pray that they find the message of Jesus, not only of forgiveness and love, not only the hope of the resurrection, but his message that all men are equal and deserving in the eyes of God.
I pray that those who have lost loved ones will remember the message of the resurrection, that there is life after death, that "who so ever believeth in him, shall not perish, but have everlasting life." That they shall be comforted in the knowledge that, just as Jesus rose from the tomb and was seen again by his disciples as proof of his message, that they too will see their loved ones again. I pray that they also recall Jesus's message of love and forgiveness even for those who took away his life. That they recall his message in his ministry, that all men are created equal in the eyes of God, equally able to receive his blessings, love and forgiveness, and that for this message Jesus gave his life. His Father gave his only Son to perpetuate this message and his mother wept at His feet as he hung upon the cross. Yet, the truth of His love and His message remains 2000 years later, just as the memory of their loved ones will remain and their efforts be forever known by future generations.
I recall from Psalms, "sorrowful, yet rejoicing" and that is the message of Easter.
Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them,[a] came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared. 2 But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb. 3 Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. 4 And it happened, as they were greatly[b] perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. 5 Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead??
Rejoice, Jesus is resurrected and lives.