Saturday, June 11, 2005

War: Realities and Myth

This is a terrific piece written by Chris Hedges, a long-time war reporter and author of What Every Person Should Know About War. A few excerpts:

The vanquished know war. They see through the empty jingoism of those who use the abstract words of glory, honor, and patriotism to mask the cries of the wounded, the senseless killing, war profiteering, and chest-pounding grief. They know the lies the victors often do not acknowledge, the lies covered up in stately war memorials and mythic war narratives, filled with words of courage and comradeship. They know the lies that permeate the thick, self-important memoirs by amoral statesmen who make wars but do not know war.


This myth, the lie, about war, about ourselves, is imploding our democracy. We shun introspection and self-criticism. We ignore truth, to embrace the strange, disquieting certitude and hubris offered by the radical Christian Right. These radical Christians draw almost exclusively from the book of Revelations, the only time in the Gospels where Jesus sanctions violence, peddling a vision of Christ as the head of a great and murderous army of heavenly avengers. They rarely speak about Christ's message of love, forgiveness and compassion. They relish the cataclysmic destruction that will befall unbelievers, including those such as myself, who they dismiss as "nominal Christians." They divide the world between good and evil, between those anointed to act as agents of God and those who act as agents of Satan. The cult of masculinity and esthetic of violence pervades their ideology. Feminism and homosexuality are forces, believers are told, that have rendered the American male physically and spiritually impotent. Jesus, for the Christian Right, is a man of action, casting out demons, battling the Anti-Christ, attacking hypocrites and castigating the corrupt. The language is one not only of exclusion, hatred and fear, but a call for apocalyptic violence, in short the language of war.


We are losing the war in Iraq. We are an isolated and reviled nation. We are pitiless to others weaker than ourselves. We have lost sight of our democratic ideals. Thucydides wrote of Athens' expanding empire and how this empire led it to become a tyrant abroad and then a tyrant at home. The tyranny Athens imposed on others, it finally imposed on itself. If we do not confront the lies and hubris told to justify the killing and mask the destruction carried out in our name in Iraq, if we do not grasp the moral corrosiveness of empire and occupation, if we continue to allow force and violence to be our primary form of communication, if we do not remove from power our flag-waving, cross-bearing versions of the Taliban, we will not so much defeat dictators such as Saddam Hussein as become them.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Why Don't Young Republicans Enlist?

One would think that young Republican men and women, filled with chest thumping patriotic fervor and quick to label Democrats as traitors and anti-American, would be flocking to their local recruitment centers to support their president and go overseas, do a little Crusadin', and kick some Ay-rab butt.

So why, then, are we facing a crisis in our all-volunteer Army? The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the Army is likely to fall short of its full-year recruiting goals for the first time since 1999. The numbers are so poor that the Army reduced its recruitment goal for May, explaining that they needed to "adjust for changing market conditions". Yes, indeed, the market for young Republican chickenhawks is dropping like a rock.

Perhaps our Republican friends are simply emulating one of their heroes, Dick Cheney, who received five draft deferments during the Vietnam war and justified his cowardice by saying he had "other priorities in the '60s". They might be following the example of their beloved war president who ran to his daddy to keep him out of Nam and then deserted the cushy assignment he'd been given while the country was at war.

Perhaps our Republican friends have been spooked by the many scandals that have rocked military recruitment centers, where recruiters are so desperate for cannon fodder they've been reduced to intimidating teenagers and even kidnapping potential soldiers for our Imperial Army.

Or perhaps, as we suspected all along, our young Republican friends are simply cowards, ready to talk tough and slap yellow ribbons on the back of their SUV's but, when push comes to shove, they hide like frightened children and expect, as their leaders did three decades ago, poor people to fight their wars.

The Army, realizing that it was a mistake to appeal to the patriotism of young Republicans, is now considering a much more successful strategy - appealing to their greed. Army officials are considering asking Congress to double the bonus given to new recruits to $40,000, as well as providing up to $50,000 in home mortgage assistance for those signing up for an eight-year tour of duty (smart of the Army; they know they won't live that long after a few whirls through our new Empire, so this will be cash they can put in the kitty for our next war of aggression in Iran).

In the end, though, despite the attractive strategy of shoveling money at young Republicans to do what Democrats have always done for free, the "cash for your ass" plan is doomed to fail with this bunch. Reason? It's in the photograph above. They'll cheer for our country, smear political opponents for it, howl about "defending our freedom" for it, but they won't die for it.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Compassionate Conservatives, Part IV

Compassionate Conservative whackjobs at Perry's witch-burning event, praising Jay-sus, Jeebus, and possibly Beelzebub.

Compassionate Conservatives, Part III

Rick Perry, the Texas governor with the Really Nice Hair, on Sunday signed in true Compassionate Conservative fashion measures to restrict abortion and same-sex marriage in the gymnasium of a Fort Worth evangelical school. Perry is using these issues to appeal to the white trash voters he'll need for his re-election bid next year.

In an attempt to deflect criticism of this blatant violation of the separation of church and state, Perry's campaign finance director burbled that "people of all faiths are welcome" at the signing, and to prove this fact they trundled out a Jewish rabbi - impressive! - yet the New York Times spoiled this multi-faith funfest by pointing out that the rabbi was a member of the Beth Yeshua Messianic Jewish Congregation in Fort Worth, a Jews for Jesus group. Isn't it somehow un-Christian to tell big ol' lies? Don't you go to hell for shit like that?

The Times also showed uncharacteristic snarkiness with the rank hypocrisy of the event:

Pastor Lawrence White of Our Savior Lutheran Church in Houston said churches had long played major roles in American political life, as meeting houses during the Revolution and sanctuaries during the civil rights era. "Everything of significance in the United States of America began in her churches," he said to ringing cheers and applause.

"This is not about candidates and politics, Republicans and Democrats," he added. "This is about life."

He continued, "When the governor of Texas will stand for life and marriage and family, then we will stand with him."

But nobody mentioned Texas' position as the state with the most executions.

The Times also pointedly mentioned that Perry's plans to make a campaign video of this Jesus Christ, Superstar event had been cancelled when public reaction to the Christian stake-burning wasn't overwhelmingly positive.

But Perry didn't stop there. Apparently thinking that he hadn't gone far enough with the "Jews were to the Vaterland what homosexuals are to the Homeland" word game, he then proceeded to Support the Troops(tm) in true Republican fashion.

During a press conference after signing his silly little shit on Sunday, Perry was asked what he would tell gay veterans returning from Iraq.

"I'm going to say Texas has made a decision on marriage and if there's a state with more lenient views than Texas, then maybe that's where they should live," he replied.

Got that? Hey, gay Texas verterans, it doesn't matter if the job, home and family you're returning to happen to be in Texas. The governor thinks you should just move the fuck out of the state. Ding ding ding! We've got another fine Compassionate Conservative in the house!

Andrew Sullivan had a rare flash of common sense when he commented on Perrys' Git Outta Town, Git remarks. "What do you call a gay man who risks his life to serve his country? A faggot."

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Compassionate Conservatives, Part II

For years, Republicans have preached the mantra of removing the odious federal gu'mit from our lives, unless of course the issue involves homosexual sex or Janet Jackson's boob or Paris Hilton and a garden hose or any one of a million issues that offend our Christian overlords.

What the Republicans have succeeded in doing is removing many federal protections that our government, in saner times, provided to its citizens. They have been blazingly successful in appointing energy industry lobbyists to the EPA to gut the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and other environmental protections thought inconvenient to industry, and their glaring conflicts of interest in doing so are breathtaking in their corruption even by Republican standards. They've passed a bankruptcy bill that benefits their huge corporate donors like MBNA and have screwed the little guy who's lost his job or is facing staggering medical bills. What we have left, clearly, is government of the donors, by the donors, and for the donors. And still, the little guy keeps voting Republican, unaware that his societal or religious beliefs are being played in one of the most cynical manners possible by the Republicans and their corporate cronies, who no doubt laugh up their sleeves at the little rubes who keep them in power.

Perhaps no other scam on the American public demonstrates the utter filthy lie of Compassionate Conservatism better than the Vioxx scandal.

In September of last year, Merck was forced to pull Vioxx, a widely-used prescription drug, off of the market after a study showed that the drug doubled the risk of heart attack and stroke in patients. This study was hardly news to Merck, as their own 1999 pre-trial study of Vioxx also demonstrated an increased risk of heart attack and strokes. Given that profit always comes before human lives, Merck sought and obtained FDA approval of Vioxx despite the clear warning signs that were apparent from their own study. It's estimated that 50,000 Americans died as a result of the lethal side effects of Vioxx, and far too late it was removed from circulation.

Can we now say lesson learned, and attempt to clean up the FDA and their approval processes that are stacked in favor of Big Pharma? Quick answer from the Compassionate Conservatives: fuck, no.

In February of this year, an FDA advisory committee voted to bring Vioxx back on the market, although the conclusions reached in the previous studies of Vioxx had not changed. So why was this killer being unleashed again on the American consumer? Easy - ten members of the FDA advisory committee had financial ties to Merck, either having worked or consulted for the company. If these ten members had properly recused themselves from voting, the FDA panel would have reulted in a 14-8 decision that Vioxx not be returned to the market. These ten members, stooges for Merck, instead happily participated in the vote and threw the final decision in Mercks' favor. Even the normally compliant New York Times reported that, "The members with financial ties to the companies were 10 times more likely to favor the drugs as those without such ties." Merck stock soared on the news of the panels' decision, proving once again that it's better to be a part of our "ownership society" and its many exciting rewards than a poor sap who believes in the honesty of our drug approval process and fills a prescription for a silent killer.

The hypocritical fibbing of the Compassionate Conservatives does more than make me want to vomit on my sneakers, because they're not only poisoning our air and water, not only looting the treasury to send our taxes directly to garbage like Halliburton, they're murdering American citizens by putting their greed ahead of our lives. I know this first hand. Six weeks ago, my 47 year old sister died in her sleep from heart failure. She'd been taking Vioxx for over three years for a chronic knee injury. I don't know, and never will, if Vioxx contributed to her death, but the anecdotal evidence is clear from the studies. And now the Compassionate Conservatives want to kill a member of your family, too, while they bible-thump and preach morality at the same time that they and their corporate friends bring a known killer back to the market.

When - WHEN - will the American public wake up to the daily raping they're being subjected to by these people? It's a good thing, I suppose, that so many Chimp followers are insanely religious, because only God can help you under the evil regime we're living under. For the rest of us, we'll just have to figure out how to live without a friend of 45 years on our own.

Compassionate Conservatives, Part I

Ah, those poor New Yorkers. Those multicultural, liberal, Democratic voting New Yorkers thought they were done getting the Big GOP Screw after having to witness the horrific obscenity of the Republican National Convention in New York City last year, complete with elephant-clad assholes from Alabama wandering the area of lower Manhattan that once housed a lot of now-dead multicultural, liberal Democratic voters. I suppose it gave those Dixie residents a bit of a charge, a certain chill to the spine, to think that they, too, could be attacked by swarthy men in their trailer parks and dirt farms and so to prevent such an attack they told us to rally 'round President Primate to keep us safe, especially since God knows when North Dakota will be viciously attacked, taking out all 17 of its citizens. The hysteria and sniveling cowardice of the Red States would, indeed, be laughable if the results of their silly panic attacks were not so devastating to the rest of the country.

In any event, once the GOP circus left town New Yorkers could, one presume, draw an easy breath of the toxic air that George Bush's EPA assured them was safe. But now that the Republicans had finished their grave-robbing tour of Manhattan, it was time for them to put aside the fake sympathy since, after all, the election was now over and it was again Payback Time for the Blue States that Pay the Freight for Those Tax-Hatin' Red States, this time taking a turn breathtaking even for the whacked-out Republican House of Representatives.

The Associated Press reports the following bit of news courtesy of the Republicans who so recently shed crocodile tears for the Trade Center victims:

WASHINGTON - A congressional inquiry has found New York failed to follow instructions from Congress on the spending of $44 million in Sept. 11 aid and should give the money back or get lawmakers to pass a law allowing the expenditure.

A New York official countered Tuesday night that if the federal government persists with the effort, it would have to take the money back directly from Sept. 11 victims.

"The federal government authorized these funds to go to 9/11 victims and their families in the first place, and given that they originally approved it, it would be wrong for them years later to take the money back from victims," said Jon Sullivan, a spokesman for the state workers' compensation board.

The bad news for New York comes just as the House is considering whether to take back another $125 million in Sept. 11 workers' compensation aid because the state has yet to spend it nearly four years after the 2001 terror attack.

One of the niftiest parts of being a Compassionate Conservative is that you don't have to deal with inconvenient things like facts, since facts don't sell to "the base". Simply put, New York State wants to keep the $125 million in worker's compensation aid because this money has been earmarked for the WTC workers - you know, the "heroes" of Republican lore, those loveable hardhats who chanted U-S-A! while George Bush stood on a smoking pile of rubble and dead bodies with his silly little megaphone and vowed to find "the folks" who "knocked down these buildings," although to this day those "folks" are livin' easy thanks to our corrupt Pakistani "allies".

These same loveable props for our Chimp's photo op were, of course, breathing in toxic air and substances that will result - if not immediately, sometime soon - in lung and respiratory conditions the likes of those in I'm Skeered, Georgia can never imagine. Because the expected claims will be staggering, New York would like to keep these funds active - but the Compassionate Conservatives in Congress need the money, no doubt, to fund more of those snappy Faith-Based programs that keep the poor on their toes by singing hymns for their supper.

One might think that House Republicans and the GAO might find their time better spent investigating the $8.8 billion that went "poof" in the night in Iraq rather than taking money out of the pockets of 9/11 victim families and rescue workers. Investigatng their own corruption, however, has very little attraction to the party of Tom DeLay. Better to give a big whack on the snout to another one of those pesky, heathen Blue States - now that has traction with "the base".

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Flinging Poo at Latin America

Yesterday, our Chimperor continued his tedious lecturing of other countries about democracy - you know, the very thing he's intent on destroying here at home - by making unintentionally hilarious comments to the Organization of American States:

In a 15-minute speech, Bush lauded political change that has made democracy "now the rule rather than the exception" in the Western hemisphere but he said countries faced a choice between two visions.

"One offers a vision of hope. It is founded on representative government, integration into the world markets, and a faith in the transformative power of freedom in individual lives," he said.

"The other seeks to roll back the democratic progress of the past two decades by playing to fear, pitting neighbor against neighbor and blaming others for their own failures to provide for their people," he added.

Now, as sane people, can we immediately identify the above trends as they apply to our own sick, divided country and chortle with mocking joy that Bush has just perfectly described, in order, Democrats and Republicans?

Playing to fear? Have we not witnessed the Republicans playing to fear since 2001, dancing on the graves of the 9/11 dead at their appalling convention, dark warnings of "mushroom clouds", fake terror alerts and constant needling reminders that the big, bad, swarthy terrorists are going to "hit" us again? How can this dipshit say this crap with a straight face, when fear has been their ticket to looting the treasury and launching wars of aggression?

This is the stuff that makes you just say, "Jesus Fucking Christ" and overdose on vicodin.

Let's look what he cites next in his thundering condemnation of those who seek to roll back democratic progress - "pitting neighbor against neighbor". Don't you love this one? Don't you find that those who practice shit like this are the first to accuse others of the same habits? Our Chimperial Majesty - the uniter, not divider - has spent the last five years pandering to the Christian persecution complex, grabbed gays and lesbians by the neck and shook these Big Scary Boogymen to the electorate and gasped that these sinners actually want to marry, mocked liberals as traitors and anti-American...oh, shit, I don't need to go on. You know this guy's record as the most divisive "president" in our history.

If you aren't slack-jawed yet at this chucklehead's rank hypocrisy, the next monkey poo he flings will leave you as limp as his dick. Ready? Blaming others for their own failures. Once again - Jesus Fucking Christ! This little monkeyshit flung his poo everywhere for the "failures" of 9/11, for the "failures" of intelligence that led us to invade a country that had nothing more lethal than unsweetened black coffee in their arsenal, for the "failures" of an economic policy that turned the largest surplus in history to the largest deficit.

And he says this garbage with a straight face!

One can imagine Karl Rove and Karen Hughes snorting with laughter while he dribbles this shit out of his asshole, knowing he's doing little more than mocking his own unwashed masses and proving their own ignorance.

Needless to say, the OAS was less than impressed. The article states that "... some countries were wary of U.S. proposals to monitor democracy in the region." One word can explain that wariness: Diebold.

Monday, June 06, 2005

"The most powerful army in human history can't even protect a two-mile stretch of road."

Newsweek, the much maligned publication that was recently taken to task for -oops! - telling the truth about our gulag in Gitmo, seems to be growing a bit of a spine in the face of Scott McClellen's granny-like lecturing.

Newsweek's Baghdad bureau chief, Rod Norldland, blasts the imcompetence of our post-war occupation (although, sadly, he fails to recognize that the occupation is fueling the insurgency) as he leaves his Baghdad post after a two year assignment. It makes for interesting reading, especially contrasted with the either delusional or simply false assertions of the junta, such as Cheney telling Larry King last week that "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency," a lie that the Boston Globe rightly took him to task for.

Nordland's piece describes the bitterness and resentment in Iraq against our Crusaders and the leadership that brought us to this sorry point:

The four-square-mile Green Zone, the one place in Baghdad where foreigners are reasonably safe, could be a showcase of American values and abilities. Instead the American enclave is a trash-strewn wasteland of Mad Max-style fortifications. The traffic lights don't work because no one has bothered to fix them. The garbage rarely gets collected. Some of the worst ambassadors in U.S. history are the GIs at the Green Zone's checkpoints. They've repeatedly punched Iraqi ministers, accidentally shot at visiting dignitaries and behave (even on good days) with all the courtesy of nightclub bouncers—to Americans and Iraqis alike. Not that U.S. soldiers in Iraq have much to smile about. They're overworked, much ignored on the home front and widely despised in Iraq, with little to look forward to but the distant end of their tours—and in most cases, another tour soon to follow. Many are reservists who, when they get home, often face the wreckage of careers and family.