Sunday, June 29, 2008

Somalia: The World's Forgotten Catastrophe Part 4

I'm going to end my Somalia series as I've found a blog that devotes itself to Somalia. Unfortunately, it isn't updated that frequently, but Mr. Crigler seems to be a more qualified expert and his seems to be the best blog about Somalia so far. Here's a report from Al Jazeera about the conflict (any little bit I can do to get stories and videos about this crisis more hits):

Monday, June 23, 2008

In Rememberance of Carlin

The great George Carlin died today, a great American who in his own way showed the hypocrisy of American society and the government that afflicts it. He was someone who deserves many tributes, as opposed to that shill Tim Russert. Here's one of my favorite bits his:

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Once Upon A Time

I haven't posted much recently, because of school, work and laziness. I just want to comment about some Arthur Silber articles that I've been reading. Recently, he's been belittling the efforts to stop the Telecom amnesty bill from going through. This is namely because, in the end, it won't make difference because FISA itself is a system that is designed to allow surveillance to be conducted with just a rubber stamp court anyway and the U.S. government and its connected vested interests are more than able to prevent any meaningful punishment to those involved in the domestic spying. Now I can see his point that this is fruitless exercise ultimately because it is not at all reasonable to assume that the guilty will be punished. Their money, and more importantly, connections to the political power structure make them immune to any consequences of their actions, other than perhaps comparatively ridiculous "scandals" regarding extramarital affairs or homosexuality. What I would contend, though, is that his focus for what should really be focus of activism should be, against war with Iran, isn't much better.

The consequences of a war with Iran would be disastrous, but I don't see how action against it would in reality be more than quixotic, even with the best results. What peace movement in America has ever ended war? The Vietnam protest movement didn't do it, that war churned on year after year, even after opposition had already become overwhelming. American involvement did not end until the situation was totally untenable. The great myth of Vietnam, that "Antiwar Unrest Ended the War", is utter fiction, the end of that war was do to different factors entirely. The myth has been perpetuated by many but most importantly, "conservatives" (advocates of America's unilateral intervention in every conflict in American "Interests") and those in military as a Dolchsto├člegende because they have much to gain if Vietnam was only lost due to lack of support on the home front. Their discredited ideas would gain currency once again and further wars could be waged. So even if a large scale movement against a war with Iran could be setup, would even matter? As much as I'd like to think it would make a difference, I seriously doubt it, in part because of essays Mr. Silber has written and what I've seen just in the past year and a half of Congressional behavior. In all likelihood, if it even took off as a major movement, it would merely be co-opted by some scheming opportunist for their own political gain.

Now as much as I wish this wasn't true, I've been reading and learning about foreign policy more and more lately, I haven't seen contrary evidence. Even the collapsed Soviet Union gave rise to a kleptocracy and now a dictatorship. While advocating for abolition of the oppressive and criminal state of the U.S. is all well and good, I'm not holding my breath for that miracle. In the end, a slightly less abusive government is all that can be realistically be hoped for, most unfortunately.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Iron Man and Memorial Day

I'm back from vacation and I thought I would remark on a few incidents I had while I was away. First, I saw the Iron Man movie with my brother and his kids. The movie is a celebration of the military-industrial complex, despite Stark's questioning of his purpose in life after his kidnapping. The Slate review sums it up fairly well, but does miss a few points that I would like to cover. One, the Raza character who leads the Ten Rings terrorist group, the one that captures Tony Stark and the only one even mentioned in the movie, states that he desires to conquer all of Central Asia and perhaps beyond. Though al-Qa'ida, who I assume the Ten Rings is supposed to be a more palatable surrogate for, does wish to eventually take over the whole of the Muslim world, this is not only unrealistic, it conflicts with al-Qa'ida's stated goals. The main reason for resistance in Afghanistan is the same as in Iraq, the people who live there don't wish to be occupied. So the idea that the main problem there is the "Ten Rings' evil doers" are hurting innocent people is ridiculous, not to say the many local warlords have not been doing so, it's that the occupation is causing the problem. That brings me to another point, the actual occupation of Afghanistan is not dealt with at all. American forces are in the movie, but they are not shown fighting the resistance, other than the Ten Rings people. Third, the whole plot point about Obadiah dealing "under the table" being the primary reason for the terrorists getting Stark weapons is profoundly misleading for the viewer. The U.S. government supplied weapons to Afghans throughout their war with the Soviets, through the ISI, to those who now considered terrorists by the U.S., like Gulbuddin Hikmatyar

Of course the quality of the special effects were great and the acting was quite good too, but the movie is still propaganda at its core. It trumpets the righteousness of the War on Terror by ignoring or manipulating the key facts about it, supporting the vision most Americans already have about it. That brings me to the other incident that I wanted to discuss. On Memorial Day I went to a service at a cemetery to mourn those soldiers who have died in the wars the U.S. has been involved it through its history. There were a few different speakers from the local VFW there and they gave the typical nationalistic and "fighting for freedom" talk. But I want to point out some of what the father there brought up when he spoke.

There were two main issues I had with his speech: he described the wars that U.S. has been involved in as flaring up of "evil" and that we should learn from the Romans and take up responsibility for defense of the empire ourselves. He said that "anyone who has seen war would rightly describe it as Satanic" (I think it was "Satanic" or evil, I'm only going on memory here) and while it is true that war is evil, his description of it as evil just flaring up is misleading in that it does not take into consideration the political, economic and social reasons for war and, usually, prior U.S. involvement in said country. This makes it seem as if these people are possessed by evil and need to be exorcised (his is a Catholic after all) with bombs and bullets or that they just "hate us for our freedom". And as for the call to arms to defend the empire, unlike the Romans who relied on local tribes for defense, that can be dismissed when you think about why those tribes were hired by the Roman empire. That reason is because: they were the people who lived there. It's only natural that the people who live somewhere should the same to defend it, the question should be why were the Romans there ruling it? Spreading "civilization" by the point of a sword. The father's analogy was apt in ways he did not intend.