Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Yes, Mr. Bush, Musharraf is in fact a dictator

So Pakistan is now offically under martial law.

Bush won't do anything and won't cut off funding to terrorism, even though the opposition, made up of lawyers (!) opposing Musharraf's extraconstitutional attempt to be reelected,are being beaten.

With friends like these...

On Waterboarding

I'm just going to post some links here, because I don't have time to comment.

Here's Malcom Nance, former SERE instructor, on why Waterbording is most certainly torture and why intelligence gained from torture is at best useless and at worst devastating.

This is no hippie peacenik--not that there's anything wrong with that. He write in the article that
I would personally cut Bin Laden’s heart out with a plastic MRE spoon if we per chance meet

Yuck. But i get the point. This is not *just* a humanitarian issue. Even if you're a psycho wingnut warmonger, this is bad policy.


ATT Whistleblower on Telecom Immunity


Thursday, October 18, 2007



Chris Dodd has just placed a hold on the FISA bil, which would extend retroactive immunity to the telecom companies that illegally shared private call records with the US Government. There were enough idiotic, spineless, cowardly democrats (Hello, Diane Feinstein!) to pass the bill-- but Dodd's hold will force the issue to come to a vote-- and theoretically, Dodd could filibuster, which would require 60 votes to overcome.

(Thanks to Kagro X for his excellent analysis of what the hold means.)

This is pretty damn impressive. Dodd is really sticking his neck out. Here's what he says on his web site:
The Military Commissions Act. Warrantless wiretapping. Shredding of Habeas Corpus. Torture. Extraordinary Rendition. Secret Prisons.

No more.

I have decided to place a “hold” on the latest FISA bill that would have included amnesty for telecommunications companies that enabled the President’s assault on the Constitution by illegally providing personal information on their customers without judicial authorization.

I said that I would do everything I could to stop this bill from passing, and I have.

It’s about delivering results — and as I’ve said before, the FIRST thing I will do after being sworn into office is restore the Constitution. But we shouldn’t have to wait until then to prevent the further erosion of our country’s most treasured document. That’s why I am stopping this bill today.

I can't say that I'm officially a Dodd supporter now ( I like Edwards and Obama, for feasible candidates, and Gore as a pseudocandidate) but this is heartening for an activist like me getting more and more cynical about the Democratic majority by the minute.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Just what we needed

Turkey's parliament has voted that the Turkish Military can invade Iraq.

This clusterfuck of a regional war doesn't get any simpler, does it, Mr. Bush?

Accuracy in polling


Mark Blumenthal, the Mystery Pollster, on how to identify potential spin and bias on every poll.

Starting today we will begin to formally request answers to a limited but fundamental set of methodological questions for every public poll asking about the primary election.

This will be an enormous help to those of us who try to parse the polls this year...

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

You're joking, right?

The NY Sun and Fox News, unable to acknowledge Gore's Nobel Peace Prize victory without getting their hypocritical, twisted tongues caught in their throats, have wasted no time attacking him for all manner of illogical faults. That doesn't surprise me.

This, though, is something else. You really do have to be living in an alternate universe to nominate General David Petraeus, currently the architect of a major war that's causing, um, anything but peace in the Middle East, for "The Next Nobel".

Oh, wait- half of Congress (and 28% of Americans) are living in an alternate universe.

What's a little torture among friends?

TPM reports that Mitt Romney's security advisor openly supports torturing prisoners, quote:
I'd stick a knife in somebody's thigh in a heartbeat.
When did this become an acceptable form of discourse in America? How did this -- OPENLY SUPPORTING TORTURE -- become the preferred stance for legitimate Republican presidential candidates?

Oh, yeah. Because Gonzales told us so:
physical torture "must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

Frank Rich is right. We are the Good Germans, the Mitlaeufer, the ones who went along and said nothing.
Martin Niemöller:

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr, der protestieren konnte.

And when they came for me,
There was no one left who could protest.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cruelty of Ignorance, redux

Meteor Blades at dkos quotes Juan Cole expanding on the ramifications of Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's absurd denial that homosexuals exist in Iran. First, he agrees with me:
The ultimate in denying people their rights is to deny they even exist (the nonexistent obviously have no rights...Of course, gays are punished very severely in Iran, in reality.

But here's the money quote-- Cole compares this denial to the American right:
It would be nice for the US Right to have us forget that they pull the Ahmadinejad act with regard to gays every day. Denying gays the right to marry is a way of erasing them from civil society. It is a way of denying that they really love one another, as straights do. It is a way of asserting that they do not exist.

The "don't ask, don't tell" policy in the US military (so unlike the one followed by many NATO allies) is also a way of erasing gays. They don't exist unless they themselves press the case that they exist. In order to remain in their jobs, they are forced to erase themselves by their silence. The 'don't ask, don't tell' policy is a way of pretending that there are no gays in the US military. For if it could be proven that anyone is gay, he is immediately expelled. It is just as silly as what Ahmadinejad said, and just as pernicious. That policy is supported by the entire American Right, which is no better than Ahmadinejad in this regard.

My sentiments exactly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Shades of Brown

The BBC is reporting that Shah Rukh Khan, the Indian megastar, is promoting a skin-lightening cream called 'Fair and Handsome.' Predictably, activists are up in arms-- and just as predictably, distributors defend the product wholeheartedly, citing the demand (skin lightening products are apparently a $200 million dollar industry in India) and its efficacy, saying rather stupidly, "It does what it says. It makes you fair and handsome."

Whatever. It's clearly a stupid, superficial product that reinforces racial (and in India, caste) stereotypes. But to me, it's also not appreciably worse than any number of stupid, superficial products Westerners consume in huge quantities-- Botox, breast enhancements, and (irony, anyone?) cancer-causing tanning salons come to mind.

So: Shah Rukh is certainly not to be lauded for appearing in this commercial--I find it unfortunate and uncomfortable-- But I also think that Fair and Handsome has every right to sell its products, as long as they're not harmful. If activists want to stop the sale of skin-lightening creams, they should target the source-- lingering cultural prejudices and the (light-skinned) beauty norms promoted by the (almost exclusively light-skinned) Bollywood machine. So yes, criticize Shah Rukh for doing the ad. But if you ban the products without eliminating the cultural preference for lighter skin, people are going to resort to other, much more dangerous, methods of attaining 'fairness'.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The cruelty of ignorance

So Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke at Columbia university today. I don't like the guy, especially when he's denying the holocaust or suggesting Israel get wiped off the map. That said, he gets completely ignored on the points he gets right-- particularly on the Iraq war. His statements on Palestine today- particularly questioning why the Palestinians are being punished for a Holocaust they did not commit- are also valid and well within mainstream Middle Eastern thought(though they're made much scarier by his support for Holocaust deniers and David Duke).

Interestingly, the Times has a piece today that suggests that the US media is placing way too much importance on Ahmadinejad's role in the Iranian government. I agree, and I would also argue that he's been made into a caricature, a larger-than-life Bad Guy, to help prepare the American public for a (possible) invasion of his country. That's not fair, to Iran or to Ahmadinejad.

But then there's this. According to Mr. Ahmadinejad, "In Iran, we don't have homosexuals like in your country. In Iran we do not have this phenomenon."

I don't even know how to respond to that. Communities all over the world exclude and oppress minorities, particularly sexual minorities. But denial that the community even exists -- that's far, far more dangerous. Because if gays don't exist, then how can anyone claim they're being prosecuted for being gay, if the government says otherwise? And if they never existed in the first place, what's stopping Ahmadinejad, or some other hard-line lunatic, from killing them all?

The shadow army

Anyone who has more than a Fox News-level understanding of the ongoing quagmire in Iraq should not be suprised that mercenaries from the huge paramilitary group Blackwater USA have gotten themselves into, um, a little bit of trouble for murdering iraqi civilians.

These guys are ruthless and answer to virtually no one, and they've been doing the "dirty work"in iraq for quite a while.

The iraqi government tried to kick them out, and then, presumably chided by their puppetmasters in washington, thought better of asserting their independence.

But the wingnuts are going to have a hard time spinning this one-- they've got video.

Remembering Adam Smith

El Cabrero has an excellent post up at progressivehistorians on the appropriation of Adam Smith, the Wealth of Nations author and free trade advocate, by the corporatist/capitalist global elite.

Smith, as any right wing hack will tell you, was an advocate of independent businesses, unregulated by the government; he argued that with unfettered competition, the
public good is often promoted as if by "an invisible hand."

Sounds like a great icon for global capitalism-- except that, as always, the people who quote Adam Smith seem to be picking and choosing pretty carefully from Smith's body of work. Get this: he believed workers deserve a living wage, that the rich should pay more taxes, and he didn't trust capitalists or monopolies.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A different kind of Christian

Just ran across an old favorite of mine, Back in 2002 and 2003, when no one in the mainstream press were nothing more than cheerleaders on the Iraq war, the freeway bloggers were out there, putting up signs like this one and this one.

But my new favorite, which I'd never seen before, is this:
'Quit Bombing My Children' --God."

Makes me remember when 'Christian' and 'Right' didn't automatically go together...

"Sorry W, I'm the Decider; Dems in '08"

I've never liked James Carville. I don't trust people who claim to be hard-core Democrats-- and then marry Bush Repbulicans. Nor do i think he's a very good actor. But i do like this slogan. It's a lot less wimpy than those the Dems generally come up with; it attacks Bush directly; and it doesn't tie us down to one particular signature issue this far before the election.

Cheers to the DSCC for actually asking Democrats what they think.

"Giuliani's Princess Bride"

Vanity Fair has a blistering
article about Rudy Giuliani's third wife, Judith.

If it weren't so horrible, it'd be hilarious.
This is a woman who, quite literally, reserves a seat on her private jet for her handbag.


Monday, August 27, 2007

So long, sucka.

Alberto Gonzales is gone.

This man was the orchestrator of the Law(lessness) for the Bush Administration, and the perfect example of our 1984 America: The top prosecutor in the country, the top cop for all American crimes-- who also happens to be a Perjurer, a Torturer, a Liar, and a political stooge willing to fire DAs not willing to toe the (Republican) party line and investigate Democrats.

We have always been at war with Eastasia.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Falwell is dead.

He was the father of the moral majority, a hater of (gay!) teletubbies, a lover of apartheid, a rampant, unrepentant homophobe, and a racist, sexist, prejudiced pig.

Not that I like to speak ill of the dead. But I certainly won't miss him.

As Shannon O'Connor of Atlanta, Georgia comments on

As a committed Christian, I think Falwell's legacy can already be seen in the negative attitudes so many people have toward Christianity. His intolerance and hate-filled rhetoric drove people away from God, rather than drawing them closer. I know that wasn't his intent, but you know what they say about good intentions.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

A sad day in America

I'm not quite sure how to start this post. Abortion rights have never been an issue I've followed intently, mainly because i felt that Roe v. Wade was solidly entrenched in American jurisprudence and that, despite the rantings of the Wingnut right, American popular opinion would not support a supreme court decision that would force American women to go back to using coat hangers (see the horrifying photo at the bottom of MSOC's diary) to save their lives.

Once again, I was wrong.

"Dilation and Extraction," or, as its detractors call it, "Partial Birth Abortion," is now officially banned by SCOTUS fiat. Why is this a problem?

Well, as Maryscott O'Connor notes, people who wait that long to have an abortion aren't just having 'abortions as birth control.' They're having procedures done because they're medically necessary. So the Supreme court of the United States has just ruled that the (theoretical) health and well-being of unborn fetuses, which may or may not have overwhelmingly catastrophic health issues, take precedence over the health of an (alive, breathing, functioning, rational-decision-making) pregnant woman.

Mind you, under the current system, a pregnant woman undergoing a difficult pregnancy could very well choose to have a baby anyway. (And they often do-- there was a NY Times article a few weeks ago about women who choose to carry to term fetuses who will die immediately at birth.)

What this ruling accomplishes is the beginning of the end for independent choice--not just in this arena, but in others as well. Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy are legislating a contrived morality from the bench-- imposing religious beliefs on the uteruses of American women.

To underscore this point, go read wiscmass's heartbreaking diary of his family's experience with partial - birth procedure -- an experience which saved his pregnant mother's life.

Bush keeping a national database of drug prescriptions

John at Americablog notices that the Bush administration has a database of everyone who's ever been prescribed antidepressants and, presumably, every other drug ever prescribed.

Gee, i feel really secure about my personal information now.


It's the muslims! It's the muslims!

So apparently a bunch of idiots in the wingnutosphere have been clamoring and screaming that Cho Seung-Hui, the Va Tech Killer, is somehow a muslim terrorist because he had "Ismail Ax" written on his arm.

The always useful Eteraz debunks the bullshit.

UPDATED: Today, the NY Times is reporting that Cho stated that
Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ...
Now, I'm not saying that Christianity had anything to do with Cho's massacre. Clearly it didn't. But imagine - stell dir vor, if you will -- that Cho had said,
I die like Mohammed
or, more plausibly,
I die like a palestinian martyr
How fast do you think that Limbaugh, Malkin, Redstate, LGF, and the rest would be all over this latest 'muslim' terrorism?


The end of Bangladesh

Mash at Doc Strangelove has a post up about how the Bangladeshi military has taken over, effectively ending any last vestiges of Democratic rule.

And in today's NY times, we learn (Warning: may be behind subscription firewall) that the Military-led government is not allowing the opposition leader (and former prime minister) Sheik Hasina Wajed to return to Dhaka.

Bush, of course, hasn't moved a muscle. You see, we're in the business of exporting freedomand democracy.

We've got priorities, see?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Obama taking funds from shady military contractors

Just saw this snippet on Obama's fundraising from a NY Times article:

Mr. Obama also drew from alternative investments, including $35,000 in contributions from employees of the Carlyle Group and the Blackstone Group.)

I'm sure that the other candidates are getting funding from these warmongering, imperialist bastards, too, but it's still pretty depressing to see from the darling of the college left.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Gunman Kills 31, including himself, at Va Tech


I have nothing more to say.

मेरी हिंदी बहुत अच्चा है !

Wow, this is awesome.

You can just type hindi words, in any phonetic spelling, and the script equivalent just pops up.

मैं बहुत 'अमज़द' हू!

Now i have absolutely no excuse not to brush up on my devanagri.

On War Memorials

Unitary Moonbat's excellent post yesterday at Progressive Historians about a proposed war memorial for a fallen Navy SEAL got me thinking about the politics of memory and the construction of popular history in America. Moonbat asks whether we, as left-leaning (and antiwar) historians, should support monuments to American casualites in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Here's my response:

First of all, thanks for bringing this up. You're right that this is off the radar for most progressives in this country.
To answer your question, i think it's quite useful to look at the politics of memorials in Germany, where they (obviously) are much more fraught with the ambiguity of good war/bad war than the bombastic, patriotic, and decidedly one-dimensional memorials in this country. In Germany, they actually make a distinction between monuments meant to commemorate a great event- `Denkmal', roughly `think about it', or `remember this', and memorials meant to warn about a past tragedy- `Mahnmal', from the verb mahnen, to warn.

For progressives or anti-war activists in this country, it is very hard to support a Denkmal for a criminal war we did not support. (And yes, for the record, I am talking about Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, here.) It's a question of frame-- Are we more interested in memorializing one soldier, who fought and died bravely "for his country", obeying the orders of his superiors, regardless of whether we support the war, or are we more interested in lessons for the society as a whole? (For the record, I do agree with your distinction between the motives of individual soldiers on the ground and the disastrous and evil policies of the political and military brass in Washington.)

Do I care that by memorializing a brave man who sacrificed his life for his country--- but whose life, as you said, was defined by violence, at the expense of the peoples the United States military oppresses around the world--- I'm also implicitly condoning what his idiot bosses decreed from Washington?

For me, it all comes down to the formation of public memory- what the Germans (again, sorry) call Vergangenheitsbewaeltigung, "coming to terms with the past." What do we want our children and grandchildren to glean from their whitewashed, simplistic history books in 50 years about the Bush years? Do we want them to see violent monuments glorifying war and conquest, or do we want them to see a Mahnmal reminding them of the tragedy of imperial hubris and the thousands of Americans (and hundreds of thousands of non-Americans) who died because of it?

I think my answer is pretty clear from the rhetorical question. Obviously, I'd rather our children learn from our mistakes, not repeat the idiocies of manufactured patriotism and start more wars.

But to come back to your main point, that does not mean that I would necessarily oppose this particular Denkmal. Honestly, I'm pretty indifferent to it- there are much more important things for us to oppose than this. Let the town commemorate their fallen son. And the concept of portraying him without his weapon is just ludicrous-better to depict the warrior with his tools of destruction than whitewash them.

Me, I'm too worried that one of us will have to be the next Gibbon, writing the Decline and Fall of the American Empire.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

lyric of the day

I'm listening to Bright Eyes this afternoon, and came across this:

We made love on the living room floor
With the noise in the background of a televised war
And in the deafening pleasure I thought I heard someone say
“If we walk away, they’ll walk away”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I want YOU to be a prejudiced, hateful f*&k!

The chairman of the military joint chiefs of staff, Gen. Peter Pace, has declared that
I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts, < snip >
I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is OK to be immoral in any way.

hmm, i wonder if that applies to Matt Sanchez?

Stupid, hypocritical bigots.

Thursday, February 22, 2007


Wow, you just gotta love this. The German newsmagazine Der Spiegel has a front-page story about the "Tearful Verdict Over Anna Nicole Smith's Body." I guess i shouldn't be surprised, but i guess i was holding onto the false hope that the MSM in other countries cared at least a little bit less about dead, drugged, washed-up gold-digging pseudo-celebrities.

Oh well. At least they're also covering the reports of widespread rapes in Baghdad.

Maps of War

It's a little crude, but the flash animations at 'Maps of War' kept me fascinated for at least, i don't know, 5 minutes or so. The 'history of religion map is particularly interesting, if you disregard the rather glaring caveat that the map conveniently ignores all non-monotheistic religions except Hinduism, the divisions within Christianity and Islam, and the fact that religions, well, overlap, it's a nice overview of how major monotheistic religions spread.

UPDATE: OK, now I'm not so sure how much i like them: The American Leadership and War map seems to be making the claim that democrats are more prone to causing American deaths in warfare by making a running comparison of who was president during all declared American conflicts. Nevermind that since WWI and WWII were both fought under Democrats, the comparison becomes rather tenuous at best. And, of course, they're counting Lincoln and the Civil War as 'Republican', which also doesn't really hold water, since Republicans and Democrats have switched ideologies since then...

But on the plus side, you can click on any war to see the casualties. And it does chronicle how many fucking 'undeclared actions' there there have been in the last 200 years. Anybody else heard of the 'First Barbary War against 'African Pirates?'

And that's just the ones we know about...

Riverbend's heartbreaking comparison

Riverbend at Baghdad Burning has two new posts up this weekend which play on the unfortunate juxtaposition of what's playing on Oprah and Al Jazeera:
As I write this, Oprah is on Channel 4 (one of the MBC channels we get on Nilesat), showing Americans how to get out of debt. Her guest speaker is telling a studio full of American women who seem to have over-shopped that they could probably do with fewer designer products. As they talk about increasing incomes and fortunes, Sabrine Al-Janabi, a young Iraqi woman, is on Al Jazeera telling how Iraqi security forces abducted her from her home and raped her. You can only see her eyes, her voice is hoarse and it keeps breaking as she speaks. In the end she tells the reporter that she can’t talk about it anymore and she covers her eyes with shame.

Here's an excerpt from the victim's testimony:
I told him, ‘I don’t have anything [I did not do anything].’ He said, 'You don’t have anything?’ One of them threw me on the ground and my head hit the tiles. He did what he did- I mean he raped me. The second one came and raped me. The third one also raped me. [Pause- sobbing] I begged them and cried, and one of them covered my mouth. [Unclear, crying] Another one of them came and said, 'Are you finished? We also want our turn.'

So how does the US-supported leader of Iraq respond to these allegations:
He denies them, rewards the accused for "having to endure fabricated charges", and accused"Sunni politicians...of inventing the claims in an attempt to undermine security forces during the Baghdad security operation." (links from here. As riverbend writes,
Al Maliki is claiming the rape allegations are all lies. Apparently, his people simply asked the officers if they raped Sabrine Al Janabi and they said no. I'm so glad that's been cleared up.

Now, it might make sense to al-Maliki, in his sheltered little world, that a 20-year old Iraqi woman would publicly lie on international television, and claim that she was raped, in order to "discredit" his pathetic little operation.


P.S. I know that Riverbend is widely linked by the dkos set-- but this post is just amazing. Please go to the original and read it in its entirety.


that's the number of countries with U.S. Bases and Troops, U.S. Troops, and no U.S. military presence, worldwide, according to a rather terrifying graphic posted at rose covered glasses.

And they say the U.S. is not an Empire....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Censoring Communal Strife in Gujarat- who's to blame?

In the New York Times today, there's an interesting article (warning: may require login)by Somini Sengupta about the film 'Parzania', which chronicles the 2002 Gujarat riots in which over 1,000 muslims were killed in the backlash surrounding a train bombing (attributed to muslim extremists by the rioters) which killed 59 Hindus.

The article goes on to note that although the film is showing in other parts of India, it's not showing in Gujarat, where the riots occurred. Yet strangely, Ms. Sengupta places the blame for this censorhsip on the theater owners in Gujarat:
In Gujarat, the director's home state, theater owners have said it is too controversial and have refused to show it.

Buried within the article is the real real reason for the censorship: fear of retribution by right-wing Hindu (read: Shiv Sena/BJP) militia. The theater owners aren't declining to show the film because of their personal beliefs; they're doing it out of fear for their own safety.

The article's title is In India, Showing Sectarian Pain to Eyes That Are Closed. (my emphasis). Fair enough-- but i would argue that the eyes are being kept closed by an active and dangerous Hindu right, not an ill-defined cabal of 'theater owners.'

Just sayin'.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Die Leiden des alten, dreimalgeheiratet Republikaner...

This can only be bad news for republicans. Kos just frontpaged a Gallup poll of republicans. Click through for full results- but hre's an excerpt:

If your party nominated a well-qualified Candidate For WH '08 who was _, would you vote for that person?

Yes No
Mormon 72 24
Married for third time 67 30
72 years old 57 42

Comfort- With Would
able Reserv- Not
ations Vote
Black 84% 9% 5%
A woman 78 10 11
Mormon 58 14 24
72 years old 43 15 42
Married for
third time 54 13 30

Why does this matter? Well,

McCain will be 72 years old in 2008.

Mitt Romney is Mormon.

Rudy Giuliani is married for a third time.

Newt Gingrich is married for a third time

Goodbye, Cruel World- the history

Nonpartisan has a fantastic look at political and military leaders' farewell speeches. It's also on the rec list in Orange, but give a little love to ProgressiveHistorians. They deserve it.

military budget out of control

Rose Covered Glasses has an amazing pie chart of the U.S budget.

In case anyone's counting, that's more than half of the U.S. budget and more than the rest of the world combined.

Gee, george, who else d'ya think we should invade?

oh, yeah, welcome, and stuff...

Hello. Welcome to the Damned Villain. No one's here yet, but welcome anyway. I'm mrbubs, and I'm here to rant and rave about politics, human rights, and social justice, with the end goal of condemning all of the damned, smiling villains in the U.S. Government and elsewhere to imprisonment or obscurity.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the name of this blog comes from Hamlet, Act 1, scene 3 ( i believe), when Hamlet sees the ghost of his father and learns what Claudius has done. He says, "O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain! ... That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!"

I think that pretty much sums up the Chimp for me.


How to avoid preaching to the choir- my reply to a leftist colleague

Recently, I read a passionate but inflammatory article by a good friend and colleague describing the ignorance, callousness, and hatred exhibited by some of her military students in a Social Justice class at Loyola University in Chicago. It’s a harsh, jaded piece, condemning the US military and the global military-industrial complex and, implicitly, including most individual servicemen as complicit in the “rape, plunder, and profit” motives of the U.S. Military.

On the one hand, it’s a hardnosed invective against the American Empire and all it stands for, filled with strong denunciations and a little too much tongue-in-cheek hatred. At the same time, the article is full of valuable insight into the convoluted and violently self-interested outlook that this horrible and immoral war has imposed on our soldiers’ psychologies (see below fold for a quote).

Below the fold, I’ll post my letter to my friend, along with my thoughts on how to present radical views in a way that engages, rather than alienates, the Democratic and moderate masses.


To give you some context on the article, here's a quote i found particularly disturbing:

One student proudly said that he is willing to kill for money, a better standard of living and an education. Another student, who had done two tours of duty to the Empire in Iraq, justified killing and torture, citing the importance of staying on top as the world’s number one super power so that his family could have the highest standard of living and unlimited access to the world’s oil supplies.

Once the post circulated in the blogosphere, it was linked by Sean Hannity’s site and was (unsurprisingly) inundated with comments full of rightwing vitriol and horrible, vicious attacks full of right-wing talking points.

Without further ado, here’s my (slightly redacted) letter to my friend.
I've blockquoted the entire letter- i hope that doesn't make it too difficult to read.
Hi June,

Like the others on our newsgroup, I'm appalled to read the comments on your article. As you know, I agree with most of the sentiment in your piece- the blind 'support the troops, no matter what they do' meme is disastrous and horrific; American military action in the last century has by and large served only the corporate and military-industrial interests of the global elite; American soldiers have indeed perpetrated horrible crimes against native peoples on every continent.

But I also think that this particular post is less subtle and reasoned than it could be. I have talked to you at length about these issues and I know the depth of your reasoning and the extent of your compassion and care for the oppressed peoples of the world. Your activism has inspired me and reminded me not to get so caught up in 'mainstream' Democratic politics that I forget the gross failures of the 'democratic' system. Yet I feel that your points are much more lucid when you dispense with just a little of the revolutionary bombast and cynical namecalling and back up your (radical, and on the whole quite correct) arguments a little more, well, calmly.

I guess I wanted to write you about this because to my horror I understand not the content, but at least the pretext for the wingnut rants in the comments to your article. As someone who is without a doubt a revolutionary, you have, unfortunately, a much higher burden of proof than pundits blindly parroting the administration line. And if we want to do anything more than talk to the already convinced, we've got to present a lucid enough argument that people without the background we have on the subject can follow your line of reasoning. If you give them something to bite on to that's not as well supported as it could be, that’s offensive without needing to be, people will harp on it and miss the baseline truths you address.

For instance, you write,
Yet another soldier-student said that there would always be wars and someone had to do it. The ”it” is killing, rape, and plunder for profit. Some of the soldier-students agreed that military terrorism was thrilling. Stopping and killing people at checkpoints in order to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in the USA was worth the risk of being killed or maimed.

How much of this came from their mouths, and how much of this is your editorializing? I have no doubt that the particular soldiers who visited your class exhibited ignorance and hatred. But what did they actually say? Did they say 'military terrorism is thrilling' or did they say they got an adrenaline rush when they were out on patrol? They clearly didn't mention 'rape and plunder,' although that's not clear from your phrasing. Nor did they say, 'it's worth it to kill people so my family can be comfortable,' did they?

When you write that
Their plan is to secure the oil, the diamonds, the gold, the water, the guns, the drugs, and the bling for their masters, who they hope will cut them in on the swag,
are you really talking about each and every member of the entire military? I agree with you that that's the goal for many of the political, military, and business elites who compete to control the world's resources. Certainly some, maybe many, in the military leadership are corrupt, greedy, and waiting for their cut of the swag. But it's not like the private cleaning the mess hall or working in the burger king on base is really in any position to take advantage of the plundering of the world's resources, even if they wanted to.

I guess I'm afraid that in some of this article you're falling prey to a sort of moral absolutism, that scourge of the radical left. No matter how much we detest the institution of the American military (and I do!), and what they have done in the world (especially recently,) it does not follow that every soldier and every cook at a military base, for instance, is interested in rape, plunder, and profit. Note that I am not dismissing the crimes committed in Haditha, in Abu Gharib, and at any checkpoint in Iraq where innocent people are interrogated, humiliated, or shot, victimization of detainees held without trial in CIA extraordinary rendition torture centers the world over. But some people do join the army out of economic necessity-- yes, it's 'for money,' but doing something to get wages, or to get money to go to college, does not automatically make you a criminal. And if you're a victim of the capitalist system working a dead-end minimum wage job, who wants to go to college, the military has become the escape route of choice. Yes, it's a bribe, I suppose, but it's also an attempt to escape from a predatory American capitalist system where CEOs make 400 times what the average worker does. And some people do enlist out of a distorted sense of 'patriotism' which is (as you say) intentionally instilled by a complex interaction of sociopolitical factors. But does that make the soldier who is subject to this propaganda automatically culpable for the crimes of his institution, before he or she participates in them? Blame the generals, sure; blame the political and military leadership; blame the moribund media, the asinine and violent entertainment; and of course, spare no effort to blame and punish any soldier who commits these crimes. And of course, teach them, as you do- teach them to examine their "motives, beliefs and actions in an evil, illegal, immoral and unjust invasion," as you so clearly put it. Ask them to resist, to question illegal orders, or to refuse deployment as Lt. Ehren Watada has done. Or make the argument on a personal level, appealing to their self-interest, that the short term monetary gain is not worth a lifetime of psychological and sometimes physical pain from participating in an unjust and morally bankrupt invasion.

But prejudging classes of people as evil by nature - which is what I am afraid it sounds like you're doing in this piece- is starting down a slippery slope to the sort of arbitrary groupthink that perpetrated mass persecutions in Communist countries (say, the Kulaks in the USSR in the 30's, for example). Now, obviously, I know exactly where you're coming from. I know the kind of abuse you've been subjected to for speaking truth to power for your entire adult life. I know that the soldiers and future soldiers in your classes were probably insufferable and rude and may have sounded incoherent and brainwashed. But I think your argument, and your article, would have a lot more power if you let the statements of these military men and women speak for themselves.

We have the tendency on the Left to write from the perspective of the already convinced (because we are). Since we have discovered that so much of the accepted historical narrative is a lie, we are wont to make grand statements that make a point, but don't stand up to a rational and thorough inquiry. And when we're preaching to the choir, this exaggeration to make a point is an effective argumentative style-- the cynical phrasing like 'will kill for booty', the conclusion-then-supporting-evidence approach, the tongue-in-cheek hatred for oppression and suppression of objective truth.

But if we're trying to speak truth to the masses, that approach will give fodder to those who hate us, and won't convince many that don't already understand where you're coming from.

< snip >

The beauty of blogging is that it's a community, an interactive enterprise. And when you post a radical revolutionary piece replete with harsh criticism of the American military and the military-industrical complex, you're going to get hammered by the right wing. So I guess I just want to make sure that we're ready for that hammering, and make sure we you haven’t made any claims that can’t be sufficiently backed up by the available evidence. You have enough to go on without reaching too hard.

Ok, so I guess there is some moral absolutism in my own Weltanschauung- I firmly believe that the Left is right, and the Right is wrong. I believe that theirs is a worldview constructed largely on lies and prejudices. But I've also talked to a lot of wingers and moderates who are curious and willing to listen, especially since the 2006 election and since Iraq became the disaster we all said it would. And if we want to change the world, we've got to speak to those who might be willing to listen.

Yours in Peace and Solidarity,


So-- What is the best way to engage moderates and wingers in rational debate without compromising our views? Is this kind of criticism of our military so hurtful to our cause that it should be disavowed by mainstream democrats?

UPDATE: I just received an email from Dr. Terpstra detailing a little more specifically some of the offensive statements her military students made. Here's an excerpt from her email:

As for facts......The facts are that one of the marine students stunned the classroom by saying that he killed 4 people at a checkpoint in Iraq, that he was arrested and exonerated for "following the rules." He said that the people he killed were collateral damage. He and another marine said they made it possible for me to teach. One even asked what I would teach if there were no injustice! The facts were that another marine said that he knew and that the other marines in the room had to agree with him that there was a thrill to the violence, it is a rush. Several said they absolutely joined for the sign on bonuses and education tuition coverage. One marine did say he wanted the US to get the oil and maintain power to ensure he and his grandchildren a higher standard of living.

I'd also like to mention one more thing from her email, partially in response to dennisl in the comments:
I did not share this article with my students. I did not put it on my website nor would I.

This article was on an international activist website, not a personal or academic blog.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

NYT: Fox to unveil 'business friendly' news channel

According to this morning's New York Times, the executives at Fox News are planning the release of a new business news channel with a more 'Business Friendly' take on the news.

See, because current news coverage is so exceedingly biased against big business, they have to do their 'fair-and-balanced' thing and counter the left-wing smear jobs.

Rupert Murdoch, head of the News Corp: the Fox Business channel will be
“more business friendly than CNBC,” which he said was quick to “leap on every scandal.”

Right, because reporting on business scandals would be a bad idea, because they’d -reveal their own complicity in the corruption- focus overmuch on a few bad apples instead of highlighting the good ones.

Hmm, does that rhetoric sound familiar?

And guess who’s going to be in charge of running the new station? Roger Ailes. That’s right, it’s this guy:
"we could take a month's worth of video from CNN International and do a documentary 'Why does CNN hate America?' ... CNN International, Al-Jazeera and BBC are the same in how they report-mostly that America is wrong and bad."

And in case it’s not exceedingly clear to you whose side he’s on, Ailes goes into some detail on the project:

”Many times I’ve seen things on CNBC where they aren’t as friendly to corporations and profits as they should be." (emphasis mine)

You know, I’m quite used to reading things that depress and disgust me. But does he really have to be that blatant about the purpose of the channel? Not to report on business news, but, quite literally, to be friendly to corporate profits.

It's almost like they're testing us, trying to see what they can get away with-- just like Bush was when he proposed fucking Henry Kissinger, internationally wanted war criminial, to head the 9/11 commission.

We don’t report. We misguide.