Thursday, January 1, 2009

Musings: A Tough Resolution

Well, it’s New Year’s Day, which means, at least in my mind, that “the most wonderful time of the year” is officially pau. Yes!

My neighborhood dispatched 2008 and welcomed 2009 in its usual grand style: a lengthy aerial fireworks display, enough firecrackers and homemade cannons to mimic a military offensive, cheering spectators, howling, yipping, trembling dogs and plenty of drifting smoke.

The faux war scene — without (at least, to my knowledge) the blood and gore of actual fighting — underscored the words that had been echoing through my head all day, ever since I heard the Democracy Now! broadcast of Harold Pinter’s 2005 acceptance speech for the Nobel prize in literature prize. He died on Christmas Eve, so Amy guys apparently thought it worthwhile to celebrate the life of the renowned British playwright, poet, activist and actor by replaying his powerful words of wisdom in two parts, the first of which aired Tuesday.

Using the Iraqi invasion as an example, he raises the compelling question of just how it is that some leaders are deemed dictators, mass murderers and war criminals, while others are hailed as freedom fighters, democracy-spreaders and liberators, when in the end, they’re all engaged in the same things: killing, oppression, maiming and destruction:

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don’t exist. They are blank. They’re not even recorded as being dead. “We don’t do body counts,” said the American general Tommy Franks.

Early in the invasion, there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. “A grateful child,” said the caption. A few days later, there was a story and photograph on an inside page of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. “When do I get my arms back?” he asked. This story was never referred to again. Well, Tony Blair wasn’t holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you’re making a sincere speech on television.

Pinter goes on to speak about America’s policy of “full spectrum dominance,” and its means for achieving control of land, sea, air and space and all attendant resources:

The United States now occupies 702 military installations throughout the world in 132 countries, with the honorable exception of Sweden, of course. We don’t quite know how they got there, but they are there all right.

The United States possesses 8,000 active and operational nuclear warheads. 2,000 are on hair-trigger alert, ready to be launched with fifteen minutes warning. It is developing new systems of nuclear force, known as bunker busters. The British, ever cooperative, are intending to replace their own nuclear missile, Trident. Who, I wonder, are they aiming at? Osama bin Laden? You? Me? Joe Dokes? China? Paris? Who knows? What we do know is that this infantile insanity, the possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons, is at the heart of present American political philosophy. We must remind ourselves that the United States is on a permanent military footing and shows no sign of relaxing it.

And I thought, yes, we have to remind ourselves that America, despite our finger-pointing and hand-wringing over the atrocities of other nations, is the only one to have used its atomic weapons, the only one to have justified the mass murder of civilians as a means for achieving peace.

It made me think of the words uttered often by a Japanese-American friend, born and raised on Kauai, who had learned the phrase from his father, a Nisei who had lost his hearing fighting with the 442nd — and numerous family members when the bombs were dropped on Japan:

“Fuck Pearl Harbor. Remember Hiroshima. Remember Nagasaki.”

Pinter then offered his version of a speech he’d write for Bush to give:

“God is good. God is great. God is good. My god is good. Bin Laden’s god is bad. His is a bad god. Saddam’s god was bad, except he didn’t have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don’t chop people’s heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don’t you forget it.”

Then I thought about how Obama, on his way to play basketball at Punahou, wouldn’t even acknowledge the group of protestors who stood near his vacation rental with signs urging a new approach to the Middle East, one that calls for reining Israel in a bit. And all week long he’s been working out at a gym on a military base constructed on Hawaiian lands whose theft the government is now trying to legitimize and seal.

Yeah, he’s the new man in the White House, but is his moral authority also going to be the clenched fist? Americans elected someone that they believed stood for change, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of America’s militarism, the bloody foundation, alongside consumerism, of our economy, the cornerstone of our foreign policy, is he going to be any different than all those who came before him?

I really don’t think so.

As Pinter observed:

I believe that despite the enormous odds which exist, unflinching, unswerving, fierce intellectual determination, as citizens, to define the real truth of our lives and our societies is a crucial obligation which devolves upon us all. It is in fact mandatory.

If such a determination is not embodied in our political vision, we have no hope of restoring what is so nearly lost to us: the dignity of man.

It’s a tall order for 2009, but ultimately, the only resolution worth making.


Anonymous said...

-- much of the text in the blog entry is typically the talk of people who just don’t like certain foreign policies

-- how is/was sadam’s iraq, n. korea, and a few other spots diff than the UK, japan, italy, etc?

here is one pretty easy way to distinguish – just look at the local court system RE the rate of execution w/o any sort of due process (this problem has also popped up at various times in certain african countries, places like brazil/argentina in the 70s, the days of stalin, etc)

-- the 2 ww2 nukes on japan were justified (and ill shed as many tears for them as they did for what they did in china)

-- i like how during the last hurricane where the US navy was doing all that work on kauai is never mentioned. typical

Anonymous said...

Think about that reporter dink in Iraq. Do you suppose he would have dared to chuck his shoes at Saddam when Saddam was in power? Of course he wouldn't. He would have been killed for it. Anyone who cannot see the difference is an idiot.

Anonymous said...

Yeah! We invaded Iraq to give them the freedom to throw shoes at politicians. Now it makes perfect sense.

Anonymous said...

Liked this observation here because itʻs been kind of bothering me and I rationalized that itʻs for security reasons:
"And all week long he’s been working out at a gym on a military base constructed on Hawaiian lands whose theft the government is now trying to legitimize and seal."

I donʻt expect much change under him but he will want to look good on his big promises for a little while. But he really has no choice in the direction of the country.

The dynamics of witch hunts are amazing, such as the one thatʻs had americans foaming and frothing at the mouth for the blood of people they are absolutely clueless about. And this would be due to the ignorance of military troops, their cheerleading wives, etc.They are taught how to shoot a gun, drop a bomb but....thatʻs it. To think the average american kid who can only find his way to the nearest Burger King is sent oversees to destroy peopleʻs lives in a land he does not belong, is beyond heinous.

Oh but NOW, itʻs a completely different dribble spewing out of their mouths: need to get out of Iraq. And why???? Because of what itʻs done to the economy!!!!! Occasionally, a contientious media person will mention the Iraqi casualties but probably at the risk of losing position.
Not because of the murders of Iraqi people. The thought never entered the peas inside their neanderthal craniums.

It is truly a pity. I really am disgusted and ill with the way americans behave. And donʻt believe I will ever be able to unring this bell.

Anonymous said...

"Do you suppose he would have dared to chuck his shoes at Saddam when Saddam was in power?"

He wouldnʻt have had 100,000 + reasons to throw his shoes at Saddam.

Anonymous said...

January 1, 2009 3:38 PM -- true true

January 1, 2009 8:04 PM -- ohhhh nice one! kudos

January 1, 2009 9:48 PM -- points taken. our troops should be better informed, and led, and trained, and equipped

January 1, 2009 9:51 PM -- "He wouldnʻt have had 100,000 + reasons to throw his shoes at Saddam." nice try?

January 1, 2009 2:32 PM

Joan Conrow said...

From an Advertiser story today on Obama's vacation in Hawaii:

The visit also served as an opportunity to demonstrate support for the military, including a Christmas visit to a mess hall on the Kane'ohe Marine base.

Anonymous said...

Supporting the military is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

> Supporting the military is a good thing. <

You betcha. The lessons of 3,000 years of state-sponsored imperialism can't be wrong.

Anonymous said...

He wouldnʻt have had 100,000 + reasons to throw his shoes at Saddam.

Unless he was deemed an enemy of the state and his infant offspring was tortured in front of him to extract a confession, or unless his relatives were dropped into plastic shredders, or raped by one of Saddam's sons out on the night. The list of atrocities of the regime is long and well documented. It's one thing to oppose military intervention, but don't insult us by pretending the regime was anything other than vicious and terroristic towards its own people.

Anonymous said...

When did Saddam Hussein become evil? Was it before or after he invaded Kuwait?

Anonymous said...

January 1, 2009 9:51 PM probably also denies that the Holocaust ever happened.

Joan Conrow said...

Howard Zinn, in the speech broadcast today on Democracy Now! makes the point of my whole post far more eloquently than I:

So, yeah, and I began to realize certain things, that war corrupts everybody, corrupts everybody who engages in it. You start off, they’re the bad guys. You make an interesting psychological jump. The jump is this: since they’re the bad guys, you must be the good guys. No, they may very well be the bad guys. They may be fascists and dictators and bad, really bad guys. That doesn’t mean you’re good, you know? And when I began to look at it that way, I realized that wars are fought by evils on both sides. You know, one is a little more evil than the other. But even though you start in a war with sort of good intentions—we’re going to defeat fascism, we’re going to do this—you end up being corrupted, you end up being violent, you end up killing a lot of innocent people, because you’ve decided from the beginning that you’re right, and then you don’t have to ask questions anymore.

Anonymous said...

I'm all for state-sponsored imperialism. Supporting the military is still a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"You betcha. The lessons of 3,000 years of state-sponsored imperialism can't be wrong."

-- what you talkin about, the romans? ancient egypt, some chinese dynasty? kinda lost ya there

"When did Saddam Hussein become evil? Was it before or after he invaded Kuwait?"

-- he always was a bad guy, but (as i suspect you know) he was only mostly vilified after fighting iran (for us), after he wrongly thought we tacitly green-lighted his sacking kuwait, and when it looked like he wanted to take over the region (saudi)

-- and sorry, but im still not seeing the big game changing insight from zinn. no new news there

January 1, 2009 2:32 PM

Anonymous said...

"You betcha. The lessons of 3,000 years of state-sponsored imperialism can't be wrong."
January 2, 2009 10:42 AM

or state sponsored TERRORISM.

Anonymous said...

"but don't insult us by pretending the regime was anything other than vicious and terroristic towards its own people."
January 2, 2009 12:28 PM

Donʻt get yourself all worked up now and talking stink about one of Americaʻs finest specimens...oh yes he is a creation of the U.S. govt.

By the way, Iʻm curious how you know about all those atrocities allegedly perpetrated by S. Hussein.
Iʻm not agreeing or disagreeing - why? because I donʻt know. Only what American news stations via the lily whites in D.C. tell us.

Iʻm pretty sure he executed treasonist soldiers and rightly so. And the methods used, firing squad, etc., are not the same as America. In fact it must seem atrocious to you because in U.S. they get promotions.

Nevertheless, what he purportedly did pales compared to what Bush & Cheney have done.

If you donʻt agree and you need to keep your poster-boy-enemy in view to keep your balance of good and evil, go for it, you are typical and thatʻs what wrong with your country.

Anonymous said...

"January 1, 2009 9:51 PM probably also denies that the Holocaust ever happened."
January 2, 2009 1:51 PM

No, things are not that simple, simpleton. Of course I do not deny the holocaust happened.
I canʻt believe the sad saps on this are somewhat entertaining in a way one doesnʻt have to think to hard to respond.

Anonymous said...

to January 2, 2009 5:17 PM:

"he is a creation of the U.S. govt."

-- funny most people in iraq knew him as a guy who rose up in the secret police on his on accord

"atrocities allegedly perpetrated by S. Hussein [...] because I donʻt know"

-- agreed, you prob dont have a clue

so dude...are you for real? its not that hard to promote/express your views and maintain historical accuracy

January 1, 2009 2:32 PM

Anonymous said...

Thatʻs my point. And you even call it "historical accuracy".

You get all pumped up like the rest of the idiots and, hey, guess what??? Your own govt, if they were reading this, would be in stitches on the floor, high fiving each other at how good they are.

So, got to ask again, whatʻs your historical fact???

The woman that testified about the babies in the incubator, the chemical gas used when U.S. news was covering Kuwait and the soldiers there wearing their ʻisraeliʻ gas masks for 23 hours only to find out there was no gas???

What is it, I want to hear your F A C T S.

Anonymous said...

im gonna try and not be (too) judgmental here.

firstly, i am not “pumped up” or overly excited. secondly, you are in no position to be calling anybody an idiot. thirdly, this current discussion/problem mostly stems from your not knowing very much about the world or history (which is fine, there is no “rule” saying you must know some of these things)

for example, if i say ~ “taking into account population growth, the murder and battery rate in europe in the middle ages was much higher then that it is today”...would you really challenge that? i suspect you might, even though it is about as questionable as noting (or “claiming,” according to you) that ethiopia was never “colonized” by any european power.

in most circles i run in, such things are commonly known.

if i were to make some outlandish claim like “i have cold fusion” and/or “the chinese visited north america 1000 years ago,” then certainly the burden of proof would be on me and you would be reasonable in demanding some facts/proof

now, why such things might matter to you? frankly, when you make some of the statements that we have seen here you loose need to be more sure of what you are saying...and yes a certain baseline threshold body of knowledge certainly helps

i hope this is not seen as being critical; i am trying to be helpful to you

anyways, i am not your teacher (somebody else had that job), but sure, ok, ill help: are you wanting info on the use of chemical weapons by saddam, or are you wanting the 101 on how the guy came to power? or how about this - look into it yourself

look into how the baath party got started, how the guy rose up it and eventually pushed out the old man who was head of state

as to the gas/chem weapons - review their use against iran (along w/ a lot of hardware we and others sold him) and why he used them against the kurds

now, should you feel stupid for not knowing the above? i guess not, lots of americans dont have a very good handle on it anyways

Anonymous said...

Next, Andy, er um, anonymous will be insisting that Saddam was all a figment of our imaginations.

Anonymous said...

"in most circles i run in, such things are commonly known."

Yes, I would agree you ʻrun in circlesʻ and so what? if itʻs known in your circles. I asked for F A C T S. You were unable to dispute my contentions.

"now, should you feel stupid for not knowing the above? i guess not, lots of americans dont have a very good handle on it anyways"

Like you.

You went all over the page trying to impress with ʻwordsʻ avoiding specifics and being unable to stay on point.

I guess whenever someone disputes your comments you have to insult their education. Well if you are insulting my purported and assumed ʻamericanʻ education - whoʻs to blame? Your deficient education system. By the way, Iraq had excellent learning institutions until the likes of you arrived. I donʻt think I should inform you of my origin of schooling in that it would only add to your fodderist mind set.

Anonymous said...

doesn't matter what side you're on.
like the infamous king said, "can't we all get along?"

Anonymous said...

haha so what were your contentions? one of these?...

saddam was a "creation of the U.S. govt."...? (i could give you some baath party related "facts" to help your contention, but finding them is your job)

"atrocities allegedly perpetrated by S. Hussein." you contend there were none? you need to be more specific

anyways, not to be lazy, but this al jazeera bio shows a lot:

here, jazeera notes the same things i have noted on this post (which you, for some reason, have seen fit to challenge). this stuff is very commonly known information

tho now i suspect you will argue al jazeera takes orders from the "lily whites in D.C."...?

and for the record -- i am not assaulting your education, i am criticizing your judgment and attitude

Anonymous said...

""atrocities allegedly perpetrated by S. Hussein." you contend there were none? you need to be more specific"

Did I contend there were none? No.

Do I have to take the whole package you present just because you ʻmayʻ get a couple things right? (to me still no F A C T S)

No I do not because I donʻt take orders from little dictators, american or otherwise.

Where you and I differ: I am constant. You waver - hypocrisy.

Anonymous said...

well kid you gave it a shot. nice try

in the future, if your heart is set on making saddam a creation of the US gov, you would be best off by arguing that: but for US support and assistance, the baath party would not have (or would not have so quickly) risen to power inside iraq, and this party was one of saddam's key power bases and "launching" platforms and tools

the US supported similar groups/parties/movements seen as "anti ussr" in greece, italy and elsewhere

Anonymous said...

In July of 1982, several Shiite militants attempted to assassinate Saddam Hussein while he was riding through the city. Hussein responded by ordering the slaughter of some 148 residents, including dozens of children.

Masoud Barzani led the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), an ethnic Kurdish revolutionary group fighting Baathist oppression. After Barzani cast his lot with the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq War, Hussein had some 8,000 members of Barzani's clan, including hundreds of women and children, abducted. It is assumed that most were slaughtered; thousands have been discovered in mass graves in southern Iraq.

The worst human rights abuses of Hussein's tenure took place during the genocidal al-Anfal Campaign (1986-1989), in which Hussein's administration called for the extermination of every living thing--human or animal--in certain regions of the Kurdish north. All told, some 182,000 people--men, women, and children--were slaughtered, many through use of chemical weapons. The Halabja poison gas massacre of 1988 alone killed over 5,000 people. Hussein later blamed the attacks on the Iranians, and the Reagan administration, which supported Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War, helped promote this cover story.

Anonymous said...

No, we can't just all get along. Never in the past, present or future.

There will always be wars, large or small, somewhere. The 20th century displayed an unbroken string of regional to global wars for the entire 100 years.

All you peace/love people...enjoy your little enclaves where they exist like the transcient bubbles they are, but don't for a minute think it will catch on overall.

Sooner or later, your bubble of tranquility, if you have one, will be overrun by unstoppable forces.

It's just the way of things. Get used to it. Profit from it.

Anonymous said...

"Sooner or later, your bubble of tranquility, if you have one, will be overrun by unstoppable forces.

It's just the way of things. Get used to it. Profit from it."

Sick fella.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps anon would like to join the Reagan administration in promoting the cover stories for Saddam's terror.

Anonymous said...

Very sick.

Again, whereʻs the F A C T S? Keep getting regurgitated american spin.

182,000 people killed. That is a lot, right?


How many international crisis were directly linked to U.S. manipulation? So they could steal someoneʻs resources?

And at least most other nations have free (and quality) healthcare, excellent education standards and a smaller prison population. What does all that tell you about a society? Anything?

Anonymous said...

I'd love to be the patent holder for Kevlar...imagine the royalty checks coming in!

Anonymous said...

Boring already. Goodbye.

Anonymous said...

January 3, 2009 4:42 PM, is that you again?

are you a teacher in a hawaii public school?

January 1, 2009 2:32 PM
January 2, 2009 9:17 PM
January 3, 2009 1:31 PM
January 3, 2009 2:45 PM

Anonymous said...

January 3, 2009 4:42 PM's idea of facing facts:

*fingers in ears* "lalalalala I can't hear you lalalala it's all just spin lalalalala don't bother me with facts lalalala"

Anonymous said...

"It's just the way of things. Get used to it. Profit from it."

somebody needs a hug!

Anonymous said...

Don't expect much out of Obama, he's more of the same old, same notch above W.

Anonymous said...

If you need a hug, get it from some leftwingnut infesting your little island. I'm too busy making money from the fear of the masses.

Anonymous said...

The profit margin is great for armored Humvees and Kevlar vests!

Anonymous said...

I'd be happy to have the contract to make bullets!

Anonymous said...

great. a blog populated by deranged hippies and naked war profiteers. perfect match

January 1, 2009 2:32 PM

Anonymous said...

but you should see our potlucks at bingo parties!

Anonymous said...

I'm not naked or deranged.

Anonymous said...

I strive to become a naked deranged hippie war profiteer like my uncle.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, but there's only room for one of us in this sorry a-- world.

Anonymous said...



Anonymous said...

nice non-sequitur dude

Anonymous said...

The "over the hill and inadequate" is a typically childish ploy of the less successful to position the more successful (and distainfully proud of it) in a reduced status relative to themselves. They need to win at something to maintain their self-worth.

Childish. What's next: "my father can beat up your father"?

I pity the poor bastards.

Anonymous said...

I saw you typing your comments at Kapaa Library. It's nice that they let vagrants use the computers.

Anonymous said...

Had to post there quick to get back to your momma in the back seat of my car. She's the best ride in the islands. The good time that was had by all!

Joan Conrow said...

OK, nuff already you guys

Anonymous said...

My mom is on the mainland. Must have been your momma.

Joan Conrow said...

OK, time out for you 8:12.

Really, I mean it. I don't want this kind of crap on the blog.