Monday, April 09, 2007

"Are You Mad At Me?"

This must be the most infuriating question in the world. The person who asks it - usually in a whiny, high-pitched sort of "You're soooo meeeean" voice - doesn't want to hear yes, even though their question might lead you to think they suspect they're irritating.

An friend of mine asked this question when I didn't look thrilled at having to get up from what I was doing so she could borrow something of mine. She's asked the question more than once, too, usually in situations where I didn't look sufficiently joyful.

Why is it that unless you're bouncing-off-the-walls, happy-fucking-bunny-on-crack happy that you must be "mad." Or worse, "depressed"? Why is every non-smiling face we make turned into "You must be mad." You know what? Maybe I am slightly annoyed that you keep asking that stupid fucking question.

Sometimes you just have a bad day. Sometimes you're fine, but there's no particular goddamn reason to smile. Maybe you're sick of listening to boring, pointless chatter about a subject you don't really care about.

And taken to the extreme, your failure to smile, laugh, or be happy means you might need some medication. Because no one just has a bad day any more. In fact, no one just has a regular day any more. If you're not happy, you must have some sort of chemical imbalance.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Execution of Saddam Hussein

The administration's attitude toward the execution of Saddam Hussein is that it was perfectly acceptable for a lynching to take place because it all happened under Iraqi law, and whether we find capital punishment morally repugnant ought not to enter in to the equation. It's all part of this "sovereignty" bit by the architects of the disaster in Iraq.

Even if we ignore the the fact that the current Iraqi law was written under US occupation, rendering Iraqi lawmakers subject to US authority, the execution cannot be excused by explaining that "that's how they do things there."

When China imprisons dissidents for writing nasty things on the Internet about the Hu Jintao, or Saudi Arabia prevents women from driving cars, or Afghan warlords stone women to death for showing an ankle, do we pass it off as "that's how they do things there"?

Even liberals and moderates have expressed a pro-execution point of view, because, well, Saddam was a Bad Guy. And I don't deny that he was, but this execution wasn't about seeking retribution for the tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost under his regime. If it were, he would not have been tried first for the lesser crime of the murder of 148 Shiites in Dujail; he would have been tried for the massacre of several thousand Kurds.

And why not try him for those crimes? Because Donald Rumsfeld might have to testify about that little handshake in 1983, when he sold chemical weapons to Hussein? Because George H.W. Bush might be called to testify about what he and other Reagan administration officials were doing?

Thursday, October 12, 2006


655,000 more Iraqis have died since the invasion in March 2003 than would have died had the US not invaded. That's saying a hell of a lot. 655,000 people would be alive if Saddam Hussein were still in power. Saddam Hussein. He wasn't known in that part of the world for being a particularly nice guy, but 655,000 people would not be overcrowding the morgues (or lying buried in ditches) if he had not been deposed by this arrogant adminstration.

What's all this bullshit about bringing "freedom" to the Iraqi people? What kind of freedom is it when you have a damn good chance of dying either at the hands of American soldiers or at the hands of one of the many religious militias now roaming Iraq. It's definitely worth mentioning that there didn't used to be fundamentalist militias walking around in Baghdad chopping off heads.

And those Iraqis who are lucky enough not to be among the 655,000 (a far larger number than the 30,000 usually cited by the adminstration and their cohorts in the mainstream media) aren't much better off. The central government is weak. Maliki controls about as much of Iraq as Karzai does of Afghanistan. The electrical grid isn't reliable for more than a few hours every day. Many cities have no running water (I wonder just how much of that water is contaminated by all the depleted uranium shot into the air). The Interior Ministry is rife with corruption (guess where all those death squads are coming from).

And the US military is planning to stay there until 2010.

You Know You Live in DC When...

Last night I was watching Platoon during the last battle scene heard explosions coming from the TV and, I thought, from outside. I opened the curtain and looked outside. No smoke. No burning buildings. No destruction at all. I didn't expect anything to have happened at all, but it seems to be instinctual, even among generally level-headed people like myself who aren't preoccupied with terrorist attacks, to be hyper alert.

A few minutes later the rain began, accompanied by several more thunderclap "explosions". Good freaking God on a stick.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Poor, Defenseless...Israel???

The right wing has made much of the fact that the entire world with few exceptions is opposed to the Israeli bombardment of Lebanon. True, without the United States' veto, the resolution calling for a ceasefire would have passed, and true, the United States is one of two nations to veto every resolution calling for an end to the occupation of Palestine and the building of a wall along the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Yes, Israel does not have many countries on its side when it comes to these matters.

But really, is it fair to characterized Israel as being constantly under threat of annihilation from the Arab states? Israel has nuclear weapons at Dimona and it doesn't want anyone to know. Ask Mordechai Vanunu, who spent 18 years in an Israeli prison for revealing that secret. Now, it's not so much a secret anymore as Simply Something One Mustn't Talk About, probably because it would prompt a dialogue over why Iran is being scolded for its enrichment of uranium, while Israel isn't.

In addition to having a nice nuclear arsenal, Israel also recieves four billion dollars per year in aid from the United States, as well as missiles and the odd bunch of F-16s. The Israeli Defense Force is one of the best, most ruthless armies in the world, and its intelligence agency (Mossad) is unparalleled.

So let's go through that again: Unconditional US veto on any issue regarding Israeli military operations, even when such actions violate international law (Yes, bulldozing homes is collective punishment, and that is a war crime); $4 billion/year in aid; Made-in-the-USA missiles and F-16s (to be fair, other countries are the recipients of such largesse as well. Pakistan comes to mind.). Defenseless? No.

The Israeli Invasion

Ten days ago, Israel began bombing targets in Lebanon following the capture of two soldiers. It was reported by several newspapers at that time that the Israeli forces were on the Lebanese side of the border. However, since then most of the mainstream media have claimed that the capture occured in a "cross-border raid", often refusing to specify just who was doing the "raiding" and on what side of the border it took place, or that the attack occured on the Israeli side of the border.

Even if Hezbullah did attack and capture the soldiers on the Israeli side, the disproportionate response is not appropriate. Mossad has deeply infiltrated Hezbullah. Would it not have been more beneficial to the well-being of the prisoners for paramilitary elements of Mossad to free the soldiers, instead of endangering their lives by indiscriminately bombinb Lebanon?

Think also of the groundswell of support for Hezbullah, Hamas, and other organizations that will be a result of this military campaign. Lebanese Shiites in the affected areas who have had their homes, families, and economy destroyed will become radicalized, just as previously moderate Iraqis have been radicalized by the American occupation of their country. Often it is hard for Americans to imagine how anyone could support a terrorist organization, living in a country that is thankfully free of such problems. But what are the Israelis to the Lebanese (and Palestinians) but terrorists, people who use military force against a civilian population to coerce its government? And what would you do, if your country was occupied by a military power (foreign or domestic) that understood no difference between civilian and military targets?

Friday, June 16, 2006

Nonexistant Iranian Nuclear Weapons and the Coming War

Out came the news today that the Pentagon has created a new Iran directorate ( directorate_as_intelligence_0615.html). This is being compared to the Office of Special Plans, the secret Pentagon group headed by Douglas Feith, that fed incorrect intelligence to the military and other intelligence agencies and covertly pushed for war with Iraq.

Because this administration had brought back so many Reagan and Nixon officials, it should come as no surprise that the same type of covert activity is being carried out. Michael Ledeen, a former Reagan official, recently met in Rome (according to Raw Story) with Manucher Ghorbanifar, the Iranian arms dealer who helped Ollie North sell weapons to Ayatollah Khomeini as part of the Iran-Contra operation. It is unknown what, exactly, Ledeen and Ghorbanifar discussed, as he has denied the meeting ever took place, citing a trip to Naples with his wife and plans to write a book.

So it's pretty clear, between the new Iran directorate, the secret meetings, and the posturing from the government about Iran's enrichment of uranium, that something is about to happen. One of the most serious claims is that the Iranian government is clandestinely enriching uranium, part of the process used in making a nuclear weapon.

However, recent reports indicate that Iran has a grand total of 164 centrifuges ( that are capable of uranium enrichment. Iran would need thousands to produce enough uranium to make one nuclear weapon. Earlier in the year, the International Atomic Energy Agency determined that traces of uranium found in the centrifuges at one site came from Pakistan, from whom the centrifuges had been bought on the black market by the Iranian defense ministry.

So it is entirely possible that Iran is not attempting to develop nuclear weapons, but is in fact trying to create nuclear power stations, at the government claims. But let's, for a moment, entertain the possibility that Iran is trying to. After all, there are many reasons for them to want to develop such weapons, and not all suppose the Iranian government is preparing to go to war with America, Israel, or other enemies:

1) Iraq, a country with no nuclear capability, a fact which was known before March of 2003, was invaded by the United States.
2) North Korea, a nation which has declared that it has developed nuclear weapons, has not been attacked (of course, there is no reason to believe the DPRK is telling the truth).
3) Many of Iran's enemies, including the United States and Israel, have nuclear weapons. Neither of these countries allow UN inspectors to visit the sites, and neither Israel, Pakistan, or India, three allies of the US, have been pressed by our government to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty, of which Iran pulled out, an action that country has been roundly criticised for.
4) The United States continues to develop nuclear weapons (bunker busters), in violation of the NPT, for reasons of "National Security".
5) The United States gives $4 billion dollars a year in aid to the government of Israel, an enemy of Iran.
6) For fifty years the US and USSR (and later China) had nuclear weapons, and not once did those countries engage in direct warfare with one another.

Surely we woudl be better off if no nation had nuclear weaponry. But in the absense of total disarmament, does not it at least make sense that the possession of nuclear weapons by enemy nations (otherwise disproportionately disadvantaged) creates a balance of power? After all, the United States does not go to war with nuclear states. But will the American people allow themselves to be lied into another war, one for which we cannot afford to pay for in dollars or in human lives?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Right-Wing Amendment Batshittery

The right-wingers in Congress have been trying to push through two crazy amendments recently. The first of these is the gay marriage ban, which would write into the Constitution that marriage only exists between a man and a woman. Since when has the process of amending the Constitution been used to take rights away from people (other than Prohibition)? There is no evidence that children who grow up with straight families are better wel-adjusted than those who grow up with gay families. Not that the welfare of children is the only thing that should be considered in marriage. I'm awfully sick of hearing about how certain things should be done "for the children". Newsflash, right wing: Not all marriage is about children. I know it breaks your freaky little hearts to hear this, but not everyone was cut out to be breedstock for the Christian right.

Second on the list of ridiculous amendments is flag-burning. We realize it is distasteful to others to see the American flag burned in protest, but have they considered this: That most people who burn the flag are not doing so because they "hate America" or because they hate Americans. Rather, burning the flag is generally doen in response to some militaristic US policy. Because for all the talk about the American flag standing "for America" (which I do not deny that it does, Americans being very symbol-minded people), the flag also stands for American policy.

When the Pentagon bombs another country, do the flags on the fighters stand for America and all Americans, or in that case for the American policy that is being carried out by those planes? Americans have become far too attached to the flag, and they often forget that what looks like destruction to them of a symbol of America is not done in disrespect of Americans, but out of a desire to change foreign policy. None of us want to see the US military invade a country under false pretenses. None of us want to see America earn its reputation as a country that waves around its military power and threatens other nations. None of us want the United States to kill hundreds of thousands of civilians in some ill-defined war for "democracy", or against terrorism, or to find WMD, or for American business interests (which is really what most wars in the past 50 or so years have come down to).

There will always be the risk that someone is offended by your actions or remarks. And in the cases of those two insane amendments, both which would limit the freedoms of Americans (in their private lives and in their public speech), the best answer is "FUCK YOU!" Because some people ought to be offended, and on a regular basis.

The Kerry Amendment

John Kerry's recent call for a pullout from Iraq by 31 Dec 2006 has been hailed as adding one more voice to the number of those who have called for such an action already. However, the Kerry Amendment to the war spending bill for 2007 did not call for complete withdrawal from Iraq, it called for complete withdrawal of all US troops not necessary for training the Iraqi military.

The report by UPI says:
Under Kerry's plan, not all U.S. troops would leave Iraq. Those "essential to completing the mission of standing up Iraqi security forces would remain," the announcement said.

So the question remains: How many US troops are essential to completing this mission? It is plausible that we could see a situation in which the bulk of US soldiers are kept in Iraq, but as "military advisors", who officially do no fighting but supposedly train the Iraqi military (which has proven to be hopelessly inept).

There are reports to the effect that the United States is planning a massive air and ground assault on the city of Ramadi, and yet we are told that the situation in Iraq is improving, and that Iraqi forces will soon be able to control the country with minimal assistance from the US. If things are going so well, why did the Pentagon send 3,500 more troops to Iraq

As the article cited above says,
The U.S. military said Monday it was deploying the main reserve fighting force for Iraq, a full 3,500-member armored brigade, as emergency reinforcements for the embattled western province of Anbar, where a surge of violence linked to the insurgent group al-Qaida in Iraq, has severely damaged efforts to turn Sunni Arab tribal leaders against the insurgency.

Does this signal an escalation of the war? Whoops, I think "escalation" is one of those unpatriotic left-wing crazy-talk words. But what else do you call sending more troops to quell and insurgency that was supposedly in it's "last throes" over a year ago?