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1/31/2003

In God We Trust

      5:29 am

    The politics of pre-emptive war centers around issues of trust. In his State of the Union address, Bush declared that we (Americans) put our confidence in “the loving God behind all of life and all of history". With thoughful leaders like Bush, that certainly is our best hope. Yet despite this important and well recieved assistance from our Heavenly Father, we certainly cannot relax and trust our adversary abroad:

    “Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why?

    The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate or attack.”

    The United States has outdone Saddam in this respect thousands of times over during the last fifty plus years - does the same “only possible explanation” apply? The United States recently vetoed a global inspections protocal to enforce a 1972 treaty banning biological weapons citing concern that inspections would hurt the US pharmacetical companies and biodefense programs. Without inspections, the ambitions of American biolabs must be left entirely to trust. While asking the world to trust their good intentions, the Bush administration is demanding ongoing inspections of Iraq. The ethical double standard at work can be summarized as “might makes right".

    What if just as the United States does not trust Iraq, Iraq does not trust the United States? Isn’t it possible that the Iraqi leadership considers their secret weapons defensive? After all, the United States is openly preparing to invade their country, topple their government, manage their oil fields, liberate their people, all in the name of self-defense.

    Each side has ample reason not to trust the other. It has been reported that in the 80’s Iran-Iraq war (over 350,000 deaths), Saddam was given assistance by the United States. He later found out that he had been betrayed, that the United States had been secretly assisting the Iranians at the same time! The words the president spoke against Iraq could also apply here:

    “If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning”

    Now Iraq faces an angry United States which has been demanding that they disarm ever since defeating their army in Desert Storm.

    Assuming Iraq is secretly hiding weapons, which is a plausable assumption, what would happen if they did reveal them to the United Nations and destroy them as requested? What if Iran then attacks? Who would defend Iraq? What if the United States accuses them of hiding even more weapons, and attacks when those weapons aren’t shown? What defense would they then have? Considering the past history of the United States in their region, on what basis should Iraq trust America?s good intentions?

    The use of weapons of mass destruction even for “defensive” purposes is deplorable and must be condemned, as these weapons are indiscriminately destructive. Unfortunately, Iraq would not be alone to rely on such tragic measures. Several nations, including the United States, maintain nuclear weapons as a last resort defense policy. The problem inherent in this type of strategy becomes clear in situations such as this one, where the line dividing offensive and defensive use becomes quite blurry, for the United States is aready threatening first use of nuclear weapons in retaliation to any possible chemical or biological counter-attack (defense?) by Iraq in response to a pre-emptive (defensive?) invasion by the United States.

    There is a tremendous double standard here being imposed by force. The United States expects the world community to accept on the basis of trust that it will not recklessly use any of its 10,000 plus thermonuclear weapons or violate the biological weapons treaty in its many secret laboratories, while insisting that Iraq cannot be trusted and must be continously inspected, and at the same time dropping hints about the possibility of using nuclear weapons as either super bunker busters or weapons of retaliation in the event Iraq should try to “defend” itself with the only weapon it supposedly has which could even potentially make an impact against such an overwhelming military force. Yet even the threat of a secret military buildup by a weak-enough-to-easily-defeat rouge state demands a response, and effectively forces the United States, a nation otherwise commited to peace, to set aside its ideals and attack.

    “And if war is forced upon us, we will fight with the full force and might of the United States military, and we will prevail.”

    How is war being forced upon us? Simply because the United States believes that
    1) Iraq has secret weapons of mass destruction and
    2) They might use them against the United States, either directly or by passing them on to terrorists without fingerprints.
    Has any evidence of the second point been presented? No. But as in all things political, the accusation alone confirms guilt.

    The U.S. and global economy very well might not survive another major terrorist attack. This war is about avoiding that threat at all costs, even if the cost is 100,000 Iraqi civilians and a world where the use of nuclear weapons is considered an acceptable means of warfare.

    1/30/2003

    $ 5 Billion per year for ??

        3:49 am

      Cost benefit analysis: the ongoing Israel investment is a failed policy. The United States pays, and gets a smelly reputation in return. Most plans to prevent terror cost money. Perhaps someone can come up with a way to improve the image of the United States and save money at the same time. Any suggestions?

      1/29/2003

      The State of Disunity

          7:14 am

        A strong speech by the President making the case for corporate tax breaks and pre-emptive war to secure the peace.

        He presented a good though brief critique of Saddam. Easy enough to point fingers. But what about the role previous Republican administrations played in Iraq’s war with Iran and arms buildup, and why hasn’t the 1980’s history of past relations with Saddam been discussed? Bush didn’t even mention that part. He probably wanted to keep the speech under an hour. Why can’t everybody just come clean? Maybe then dialogue would have a chance. Also notice the manipulative/inflative language: the UN didn’t say the toxins had actually been created but that the materials had been in place in Iraq to do so. Bush says none of these materials have been accounted for, but on first listen it sounded more like the agents had been created in those quantities discussed and then hidden. It is unlikely that they know for certain that these agents were actually made in those quantities mentioned, despite the implied accusation. The complaint here is that this is manipulation of public opinion, he is making a case for war, not honestly presenting the facts.

        Human rights should apply to one and all, though, or else we should just call them “American” rights, or perhaps “wealthy American who can afford health care” rights, and ignore everybody else.

        The war will certainly involve an attack on Bagdad, a city will millions of people. There will probably be large numbers of casualties - a lot of the inhabitants won’t live to see the faces of their liberators or to learn of the destruction of the enemy currently ruling them. The survivors may also face an environment polluted with chemical or radioactive waste. But those who live will be free, and that’s gotta count for something.

        1/26/2003

        We retaliate against ourselves

            3:56 pm

          The tactic of retaliation doesn’t work in the arena of weapons of mass destruction, for in order to hurt the one who ordered their use, it is necessary to hurt so many more who didn’t, effectively amplifying the criminality of the initial attack. A short clip on the televised news showed a soldier writing on a Iraq bound bomb, “To Saddam, compliments of …".

          Sadly naive, for in all likelyhood, the bomb will merely kill more of Saddam’s victims. Unfortunately this simplistic mentality goes all the way to the top.
          From AP

          And Andrew Card (Bush’s chief of staff), raising the threat of a U.S. nuclear strike, warned: “Should Saddam Hussein have any thought that he would use a weapon of mass destruction, he should anticipate that the United States will use whatever means necessary to protect us and the world from a holocaust.”

          Again the lopsided logic. Responding to a holocaust with another holocaust doesn’t protect anybody from anything. In this arena, prevention is the only cure, and though threats such as this might have the desired effect of intimidating a cornered man and his cornered military, they also may not. In the event this nuclear bluff is called, the United States will be in a very precarious position indeed, for at that point, if it doesn’t use the bomb the credibility of these threats is weakened for future use, and if it does, it gains the abominable reputation of pre-emptively invading a country and then using nuclear weapons after a desperate chemical or biological defense.

          This unfortunate outcome would mar the standing of the United States for a long time to come, and in fact, the people of the United States would eventually lose their minds when they realized the severity of the moral offense they had committed.

          1/24/2003

          The guilty look

              4:26 am

            The picture in this online washington post story says too much. These sick worried expressions you see on the faces of Rumsfeld and Powells seem to confirm the main point of the article, that they have made up their minds to start the killing.

            Who knows when it will stop.

            1/22/2003

            Invasion - that’s what you call it

                4:57 pm

              A lot of people realize that the attack which the president is about to order, and perhaps has already ordered, is both stupid and immoral. Stupid because it is liable to provoke the very thing it rhetorically aims to prevent - the use of weapons of mass destruction, and immoral, because killing human beings is immoral generally and particularly immoral when one is the aggressor. But what’s harder to come to grips with is the notion that just as the Iraqi people are about to be held responsible for the actions of their leader, the American people, even those who oppose the war, who go to the demonstrations against it, will be blamed and hated for it simply because they are Americans.

              Over four million people live in Bagdad. Many amoung them who are alive today may soon be killed. They will be shot or bombed and when they fall to the ground they will never get up to walk again. Their broken bodies will bleed, they will suffer, perhaps panic as they go into shock, and die. And as people they are not really very different from people anywhere else in the world, except that they live in Iraq. And the leaders of the occupying invading army have such delusional self confidence as to present themselves as a concerned parent intervening. Colin Powell explains how the United States will benevolently hold the Iraqi oil industry in trust,

              “If we are the occupying power, it will be held for the benefit of the Iraqi people and it will be operated for the benefit of the Iraqi people”

              He looks and sounds like a concerned human being, a friendly man who wants what’s right. Unfortunately, this is the calm and rational talk before the slaughter. George Bush has already threatened a nuclear retaliation if weapons of mass destruction are used by Iraq in the fighting - and since that catagory includes both chemical and biological weapons this threat could therefore mean first use of nuclear weapons by the United States - presumably against the Iraqi population whom he has ‘no quarrel with’. These types of public threats should put the ‘concerned parent’ model into quite a different perspective. There is a psychology of power and dominance at work behind these orchestrated and reassuring public explanations. And soon even critisism such as this will be condemned as anti-patriotic. “Support our troops!” they will say, but where are the calls to support our troops now?

              Say it in plain english - these troops are part of an invading army. This pre-emptive war is an invasion. Call it whatever you like, it doesn’t look like democracy to me. The only way to support these young people is bring them home now before they either become killed or become killers. They will be shooting into the darkness, dropping bombs from above. Often times they will not see their victims, nor will they necessarily hate their victims. They will simply follow orders, marching off into a living video game hell, seeing through infrared googles and breathing through gas masks, and a lot of ordinary people living in an already difficult situation will say goodbye to this world.

              1/20/2003

              The president wants to know?

                  4:27 am

                The Bush White House has an “opinion” line for you to call. So call and
                give your opinion of the proposed war in Iraq. The line only accepts
                calls from 9-5 EST., Monday thru Friday. Just call the White House at
                202-456-1111. A machine will detain you for only a moment and then a
                pleasant live operator will thank you for saying “I oppose” or “I
                approve.” It will only take minutes. Note that the weekends are closed
                for calls.

                The president has said that he wants to know what the American people
                are thinking. Let him know.

                1/19/2003

                From the past to the future

                    5:39 am

                  Greetings and many thanks to all the demonstrators for Peace around the world. It’s heartwarming to see it.

                  Let’s hope the little Pinnocchio W becomes a real boy with real ears and learns to listen! A conscience would help too.

                  History marches on though. Lewis and Clark was only 200 years ago. The American landscape today seems like a million years later. We’re surfing on a tidal wave of change, and there’s no telling where this wave is going to break next. Anyone looking at the long term future? Even 50 years ahead? Mr. Science has the genetic codes now, and that means us. Look what he did when he cracked the secret to the atom…

                  1/13/2003

                  The Walrus was Paul

                      12:10 pm

                    Greatest Oil Reserves by Country, 2002 (Latest available data)
                    * (The figures below do NOT include Natural gas reserves.)

                    Ranking by Country; Proved Oil reserves in 1000s of barrels:
                    (The number in parenthesis indicates each country’s respective percentage of the world’s population.)

                    1. Saudi Arabia: 259,200,000; 25% of the world’s reserves, (0.33%)
                    2. Iraq: 112,500,000; 10.8% of the world’s reserves, (0.5% )
                    3. United Arab Emirates: 97,800,000; 9.4% of world’s reserves, (0.08%)
                    4. Kuwait:94,000,000; 9.1% of the world’s reserves, (0.03%)
                    5. Iran: 89,700,000; 8.7% of the world’s reserves, (1.2%)
                    6. Venezuela: 76,862,000; 7.4% of the world’s reserves, (0.39%)
                    7. Russia: 48,573,000; 4.7% of the world’s reserves, (2.8%)
                    8. Libya: 29,500,000; 2.9% of the world’s reserves, (0.05%)
                    9. Mexico: 28,260,000; 2.7% of the world’s reserves, (1.7%)
                    10. China: 24,000,000;2.3% of the world’s reserves, (22%)
                    *** USA: 21,800,000; 2.1% of the world’s reserves, (4.8%)

                    Ranking by Country; Proved Oil Reserves Per Person:

                    1) Kuwait: 44,760 barrels of oil per person
                    2) United Arab Emirates: 40,500 barrels of oil per person
                    3) Saudi Arabia: 12,960 barrels of oil per person
                    4) Libya: 5,460 barrels of oil per person
                    5) Iraq: 4,700 barrels of oil per person
                    6) Venezuela: 3,285 barrels of oil per person
                    7) Sultanate of Brunei: 2,860 barrels of oil per person
                    8) Iran: 1,350 barrels of oil per person
                    9) Russian Federation: 335 barrels of oil per person
                    10) Mexico: 273 barrels of oil per person
                    * USA 76 barrels of oil per person
                    ** China 18 barrels of oil per person

                    1/10/2003

                    The best defense is a good offense

                        2:52 am

                      A strange new prediction: The Iraq war won’t happen - but the military buildup will remain, and the threat will be extended as long as possible.

                      Why?

                      Because it is working. As long as the US/British forces don’t strike, pro-arab terrorists will not carry out any major attacks, because they know that if they do, the US military will suddenly have all the justification they need to take over Iraq, and in so doing change the balance of power in the middle east for some time to come.

                      This policy could be called, “assuming an unreasonably threatening posture to confuse the enemy". Reagan assumed a similar threatening attitude to defeat the Soviet Union ("the bombing starts in five minutes") in the cold war era, drawing them into an costly arms race which ultimately broke them.

                      So we can all relax now. The peace is secure.

                      1/8/2003

                      American Dreamed

                          2:20 pm

                        The America that many are preparing to defend with a pre-emptive war is no more. The enourmous burden of fighting a nameless unseen enemy has already been used to allow the republican right to revoke the constitionally protected rights of american citizens. This is not the first time these inalienable rights have been alienated, as they were during the internment of the the Japanese-Americans during world war II. Soldiers will be marching off into potential chemical and biological attacks faithfully believing they are protecting freedom, while the man directing them in his very act of taking power violated the most basic of those rights which has defined America - the right to vote - and to have your vote counted.

                        The old mythical America isn’t. Globalization and the requirements of multinational capital cannot allow it. Extreme inequality invariably produces resentments and tension. What is this inequality? It is everywhere, in economics, in power relations, in consumption, in military power, in communications.

                        The United States is the greatest military power in the world, with a tremendous arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Yet the US leaders look quite comfortable threatening a pre-emptive war to prevent Iraq from acquiring a very small amount of that which they already possess in such deadly abundance. Is equality in the area of weaponry something to be encouraged? Hardly. But there is an ethical irony in all this, and an ethical void. What was in those pages that were removed from the Iraqi arms declaration? Did it list the contributions the United States and US based corporations made to the militarization of Iraq? Why would that be removed?

                        The big red totalitarian warning flag here is the constant manipulation of the information being released. Without knowing that the United States military played a big role in the creation of the Taliban, Al-Quida, and even the militarization of Iraq, how can the citizens be counted on to react intelligently. Those crucial suppressed details might dispell the certainty of “us” vs “them", since in fact “we” helped create “them". Democracy in a climate of enforced ignorance does not function.

                        But ignorance is no defense. However evil the attacks of September 11 were, it is myopic to describe them as simply an attack by evildoers opposed to freedom, even though that is exactly what they achieved in their foolish insanity. In fear and anger, the keys to the kingdom have been handed to the right wing of america. And the laws are being rewritten, the military is fully engaged and en route to the Middle East preparing to start a war. The old growth redwood trees are falling yet again. Freedom is falling too. So what are the soldiers preparing to defend in faraway lands? An empty promise back at home.

                        The America that is being defended could be summed up thusly: property rights, economic priviledge, national supremacy perhaps. The ideals of the old myth, justice, equality, democracy, sadly, that is what is missing now. What good is a war without that fine rhetoric of freedom and democracy? Hardly worth fighting for, certainly not worth dying for.

                        1/1/2003

                        It’s the economy, stupid

                            9:38 am

                          When the propaganda fails try telling the truth. As you may have read here earlier, the real panic behind the war antics is the fear of economic collapse which would follow a serious attack:

                          “An attack from Saddam Hussein or a surrogate of Saddam Hussein would cripple our economy,” said Bush.
                          The quote, in it’s half-truth, reflects the short-sightedness of the administation, for it doesn’t really matter where an attack comes from, the result will be catastrophic for the economy whether the attack is from Al Queda, Saddam, Timmy McVeigh, The Riddler, The Joker, or any of the other evil-doers we know so well.

                          The United States economy and the world economy are vulnerable. The twin towers attack was symbolically enourmous but from a military point of view rather mild. Yet as a result, United Airlines has declared bankruptcy and the economy is still down well over a year later.

                          Unfortunately, the preoccupation with attacking Iraq and the adoption of a pre-emptive policy make the United States appear paranoid and domineering. No one wants to be attacked, but it goes against common sense to start attacking others as a viable means to prevent an attack. There is a cost to living in a world with so many advanced weapons systems. The war on Iraq is an attempt to transfer that cost well away from the borders of the United States. Wouldn’t it be cheaper and more effective to scale down the global arms industry?

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