Stealing Heaven From The Lips Of God
Writer & Artist, Dee Rimbaud reflects upon politics, religion, art, poetry, the meaning of life,
the nature of God and why toast always lands butter side down on carpets.
Heart and Mind, Fully Engage ... a poet's website.
Seabiscuit I'm too young to have memory of Seabiscuit but I grew up with a fondness for horse racing, primarily because Santa Anita was close. The superstar of my childhood was a horse named Citation, the triple crown winner of 1948 (more about Citation), and I can still remember when he was upset by a gray horse named Miche because my grandfather had a bet on the underdog.
Here is a site where you can listen to some of the great races of Seabiscuit in audio: Seabiscuit races on the radio. This is the Internet at its amazing best, bringing up documentation and thrills from yesteryear. Now where is that radio broadcast of Miche upsetting Citation?
I did find this information on the net, however: "Jan. 26, 1950: Citation's 16-race win streak came to an end in the La Sorpresa Handicap at Santa Anita. Despite giving 16 pounds to the winner, Miche, Citation, carrying 130 pounds, lost only by a neck." My granddad made quite a bundle, as I remember, and all the kids ate lots of ice cream that night.
3/31/2003 01:48:00 PM |
Twisting the polls to support what you want them to support. Peggy Noonan on the Wall Street Journal editorial page quotes Rich Galen, whose research showed how 34% war support was really 85% war support.
Peter Arnett fired for his anti-American propaganda on Iraqi-state-TV. Arnett apologized on the "Today" show.
Sunday, March 30, 2003 The Word Spy This is a website "devoted to recently coined words and phrases, old words that are being used in new ways, and existing words that have enjoyed a recent renaissance." Go to Word Spy now.
3/30/2003 07:04:00 PM |
The tease of Spring A cold front moving in after our spring-like weekend, the usual Oregon tease. This week we'll have rain and lows in the 30s.
I got a lot of lawn work done, mowing yesterday and edging today, enjoying the meditative hum of the reel mower yesterday and hanging onto the rumbling power weed-eater today. The next time we dry out, it will be time to do it all again.
We have a small cottage off the street, surrounded on two sides by trees and orchards and on the other two by neighbors (one hidden by a fence, the other by trees). For living in the city limits, it's rustic and secluded, short of owning an expensive estate. The size is fine for us. I have my office in the basement, and Harriet has her art studio at the back end of the cottage, an addition we added last summer. We also raised the roof and put in skylights. When we recently refinanced, it was assessed at almost 50 grand more than we paid for it only five years ago. We don't expect to be here longer than 7 more years, though -- when we reach our 70s, we expect we'll want a home with less maintenance than our large yard requires.
Have my online class ready to go. It takes more preparation than the University class. Have met three of my seven students so far, one in Spain, one in New Zealand, and a teenager in the U.S. It's always an international mix. Try arranging a live chat with people scattered all around the world!
The novel: plan of attack Here's how I'm going to attack the conversion of the script Love in the Ruins to a novel. I'm going to do it in 2-3 page segments, taking that much of script and rewriting it (and no doubt expanding it) into fiction prose. I do this 30-50 times and I have a draft of the novel. Maybe I can get it done before summer. I don't know if I'll set aside the novel Character I've been working on (over 100 pages into a draft) or try doing both at once. I'm usually pretty good at working on many projects at once, so I might begin this way and see how it goes. But I think I want to make Ruins the top priority since the story is more topical and because I actually have the entire story down in writing, which means it should go much more quickly than the other. Also, with Character, I'm still not sure I have the right tone for the storytelling. Onward.
3/30/2003 08:45:00 AM |
Movie culture I've just started reading A Year at the Movies by Kevin Murphy, in which the author recounts his adventures through movie culture after seeing at least one movie a day for an entire year. The book, recommended to me by a student, is a fun romp through same. I recommend it.
I also heard an intriguing book review this morning on NPR: Is This Heaven?, a story of the magic that continues to happen at the movie site of Field of Dreams, now a tourist attraction. Sons meet long-lost fathers, a woman who dreams she must have a hotdog at the site at midnight does so -- and meets her future husband in the process. Sounds like another romp, this one through the hope of positive magic, not bad medicine for the times. Not sure how well this book is doing since my library doesn't have it and hasn't ordered it. I don't think I want to read it enough to buy it.
3/30/2003 08:40:00 AM |
Iraqis in exile On the radio this morning I heard a BBC interview with Iraqi women in exile in Egypt. They have changed from anti-Saddam to pro-Saddam because of the war. What I found fascinating is that they expressed their anti-Saddam roots without any reference to tyranny or the "war crimes" of his rule; they could have been Democrats talking about Republicans or vice versa. There was absolutely no outrage about the acts of the Saddamists.
This suggests many things. Perhaps the tribal and class structure of Iraq makes people (many people?) immune to the atrocities committed there, which have been well documented. If so, then the task of the coalition will be more difficult because of it. And the longer the war lasts, the more difficult it will be to win the hearts and minds of Iraqi people who initially and naturally are against the regime. Who will be in greater numbers, those who say bring on the war, nothing can be worse than this, or those in whom a sense of nationalism rises against the invading coalition? For all the confidence of our military and political leaders, to me this war looks far from easily won.
3/30/2003 08:34:00 AM |
The case for "Isolationism" In April, 2000, Earl C. Ravenal argued that "Instead of continuing the forward deployment and contingent use of its military forces in a vain effort to defend a lengthy roster of client states and maintain an illusory global order, the United States should concentrate on developing strike warfare—long-range retaliatory capabilities—to be used to defend only its indisputably vital interests." Full text of Foreign Policy Brief No. 57.
This argument is too late to apply to Iraq, of course, but perhaps not to what the future holds after Iraq. Of course, it was written before 9/11.
3/30/2003 03:58:00 AM |
Dark Mission I'm writing the libretto to an opera with composer John Nugent. Our story is based on what history calls the Whitman Massacre (information here) but which we see as a tragedy of cultures in conflict as missionaries try to Christianize natives whom they consider to be "heathens" needing to be saved. We see a rationale in the native uprising that killed the missionary and doctor Marcus Whitman, his wife Narcissa, and others in 1847.
Are we on a "dark mission" in Iraq? Is our attempt to democratize the Middle East as misguided as the attempt to Christianize natives in America (many of you probably would disagree with me on this point)? We shall see. Before we do, however, we are on "a mission" that I consider noble and humane, to free a people suffering under the rule of a barbaric tyrant, a tyrant who also presents a long-range threat to our own culture. This is why I believe in the war. But after the war comes the peace, a very complex situation.
In the meantime, this term I hope to make more good headway on my libretto, perhaps even finishing it. I am sending scenes in free verse along the way, to which John sets music. Then I will have to rewrite to match the more important flow of the music itself. It's an exciting project.
3/30/2003 03:34:00 AM |
Saturday, March 29, 2003 Saddamist tactics From USA Today:
"One overriding impression left on U.S. troops by the first week's combat is that the Iraqis have developed an elaborate set of "dirty" tactics to capitalize on Americans' reluctance to endanger civilian lives. According to troops here, Iraqi forces have:
Forced women and children to act as human shields in buildings occupied by Iraqi troops.
Located headquarters in schools, day care facilities and, in one case in Nasiriyah, a children's hospital. More than one Iraqi prisoner of war has told American troops they do not need to worry about bombing schools because the schools have all been turned over to Iraqi militia forces.
Lured U.S. forces into an ambush by pretending to surrender.
Positioned artillery in residential areas so that even when radar systems locate it, U.S. commanders won't pummel it.
Used ambulances with the Red Crescent symbol — the equivalent of the Red Cross — as personnel carriers, ferrying reinforcements to Iraqi positions under the noses of U.S. troops.
Worn U.S. uniforms.
Forced women and children to retrieve dead Iraqi troops and their weapons.
Forced Iraqi civilian men and regular soldiers to fight by threatening to kill them and their families if they refused."
Dorothy Parker (again) Today's light verse is by Dorothy Parker (links). I'm presenting a dramatic appreciation of Parker and her work this summer at the Unitarian Church. In the past I've done other dramatic tributes there:
It's a way to keep my feet wet in theater now that I call myself "retired" as a playwright. Putting together the Parker show, which I'll begin soon, will be fun, I think. I also produce and direct the piece. They go over well, I think, because I have a long rehearsal period for what amounts to a staged reading. Many of the actors are practically off book when they perform. And there are some dynamite readers/performers in the congregation. This time I also had a composer friend set two Parker poems to original music for the choir. I need to write this in April so I can cast it in May. Onward.
3/29/2003 06:54:00 PM |
Small pleasures I really enjoyed mowing the lawn this afternoon, at least until company arrived. Company and meditation don't mix. Later the mail came and brought more good news, a check I've been waiting over a month for. Taking it to the bank ATM to deposit, I rolled down the car window -- the sun is out today! I can't remember the last time I drove with the window down. Of course, this is Oregon, and the forecast for next week is rain and more rain. But today is a reminder of spring.
Counting my blessings. Having never lived under tyranny, I find it hard to imagine the horror of those in Iraq who have reached such limits that they prefer our invasion, even if they die, to our reluctance to do what it takes to rid them of Saddam. But if not now, when? We already are fighting with the 7 year-olds to whom we passed the buck a decade ago. At least this time we aren't passing the buck to our children again. We have to hold our resolve. But it's bound to get a lot uglier than it already is. We need to counter the horror of war with clear communication of the horror of Saddamism to remind the world, and ourselves, why we are there.
3/29/2003 03:20:00 PM |
Smuggled tape to be shown on ABC This may be a break-through in challenging the propaganda of the Saddamists. From the Command Post blog: "Assyrian Ken Joseph Jr., a committed peace activist, recently visited Iraq as part of his effort to prevent the war with Iraq. He came away convinced that he was completely wrong, by the very people of Iraq who he visited to save from the impending war. Joseph claims to have brought back tapes of ordinary Iraqis who wish for war to end the brutal tyranny of the Baathist regime. These tapes will be shown by Barbara Walters next week, according to Joseph's web site."
Joseph's story is at his website, don't miss this. An excerpt: "From a former member of the Army to a person working with the police to taxi drivers to store owners to mothers to government officials without exception when allowed to speak freely the message was the same - `Please bring on the war. We are ready. We have suffered long enough. We may lose our lives but some of us will survive and for our children's sake please, please end our misery.'"
If the cliche "the truth will set us free" really has bite, the more hard evidence the yet-unconvinced get about the brutality of the Saddamists, the better chance to change minds and win allies to the cause of overthrowing this brutal regime. This sounds like a program not to miss.
3/29/2003 01:39:00 PM |
A stunning gesture "Iraqi civilians fleeing heavy fighting have stunned and delighted hungry US marines in central Iraq by giving them food, as guerrilla attacks continue to disrupt coalition supply lines to the rear." Read full story.
Stressed out? These are stressful times for all of us. By my guess, the war front in Iraq is going to get worse before it gets better, especially now that the Saddamists are adding suicide-bombers into their active strategy. Here are some links to help you deal with stress:
I find that managing this blog does a lot to relieve my own stress. And this afternoon I'm mowing the lawn, activity that will do the same.
3/29/2003 11:35:00 AM |
Need company? I don't care what your opinion is, you are bound to find support for it in these 40 pages of links to op-ed pieces and editorials from around the world, courtesy of Yahoo! News. Go there now.
3/29/2003 11:22:00 AM |
Iraqis losing hope Some Iraqis in southern Iraq are losing hope that we will liberate them. They expected more from us and sooner. Read the story.
In a similar story in today's Oregonian, Sudarsan Raghavan interviewed refugees who managed to escape from Basra. They, too, are impatient with us. "...many refugees hoped U.S. and British soldiers would enter Basra. 'Otherwise, we will all die at the hands of Saddam,' he said."
This is the growing horror: we are reluctant to be as aggressive as we need to be for fear of putting civilian lives in danger, even though many of these civilians seem to prefer this risk to the consequences of our being less aggressive than it takes to win. As I've suggested before, advances in civilization seem to plant the seeds of destruction, and cultures become too squeamish for their own good. The problem in Baghdad is the problem in Basra magnified many times over. Do we bite the bullet and enter the city? Or do we show patience and surround the city and hope for an uprising? How do we protect civilians? To listen to the Iraqis quoted in two stories above, they want us to bite the bullet and invade the city, their own risk be damned. This, of course, would result in many deaths, the worst kind of publicity. What's more important, our image or the fate of the Iraqi people?
3/29/2003 10:16:00 AM |
Dry weather! Forecast today is for our second consecutive day of dry weather before the rains return tomorrow. So today is the day to mow the lawn, one of my favorite activities since I bought a manual reel mower a few years back. And the women's basketball tournament picks up again today. Looking good. Onward.
3/29/2003 05:48:00 AM |
Strategy First there was an announcement of a 4-6 day pause in trying to secure Baghdad. If so, why announce it to the enemy (unless it is a ploy)? Now it's being denied.
What we need is a Trojan horse. What we need is some ingenious strategy to get into and take Baghdad with a minimum of lives lost, especially considering the Saddamists' strategy of using the civilian population as human shields. We also need patience. But another news report has the DOD putting pressure on the military to take Baghdad quickly. Civilian politicians and military leaders typically see the situation differently.
This is a momentous time in history. We could really use a creative military genius, the kind of mind that came up with the Trojan horse idea. I don't see any candidates but would love to be surprised. Saddam is determined to make the battle for Baghdad a street-by-street, door-by-door affair, putting everyone including civilians at great risk, and if we let him dictate the conditions of the fight, I worry this would be a great mistake. Who has a Trojan horse idea?
From Blogs of War comes a letter of support from Poland: "You are doeing good job! It's the same situation as in Poland in 1939 year when Hitler and attack my country - Poland. At now we have to get freedom for Iraq people. People in Poland know it well - in 1939 France and other european country left us alone and II world war has been start. If in those time all the Europe strike on Hitler there wasn't be many dead people." Amen.
3/29/2003 05:31:00 AM |
Friday, March 28, 2003 The Lessons of History The Lessons of History is a slim volume by Will and Ariel Durant. It presents a summary of their many volumes of world history, a series of ten volumes bringing the story of civilization to 1789. They then asked themselves the question, Of what use have your studies been? They try to answer it in this short book.
Here are excerpts from their chapter called "History and War."
War is one of the constants of history and has not diminished with civilization or democracy. In the last 3421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war. We have acknowledged war as at present the ultimate form of competition and natural selection in the human species.
...The general smiles. "You have forgotten all the lessons of history," he says, "and all that nature of man which you described. Some conflicts are too fundamental to be resolved by negotiation; and during the prolonged negotiations (if history may be our guide) subversion would go on. A world order will come not by a gentlemen's agreement, but through so decisive a victory by one of the great powers that it will be able to dictate and enforce international law, as Rome did from Augustus to Aurelius. Such interludes of widespread peace are unnatural and exceptional; they will soon be ended by changes in the distribution of military power. You have told us that man is a competitive animal, that his states must be like himself, and that natural selection now operates on an international plane. States will unite in basic co-operation only when they are in common attacked from without. Perhaps we are now restlessly moving toward that higher plateau of competition; we may make contact with ambitious species on other planets or stars; soon thereafter there will be interplanetary war. Then, and only then, will we of this earth be one."
The optimists An optimistic (overly optimistic?) assessment of the war from Ralph Peters in the NY Post on March 24th. Access now.
Along the same lines, Newt Gingrich writes today in USA Today that "this is a remarkably successful campaign." Full story.
Without a doubt, embedded journalists can only report on the small portion of action they experience, and on TV it can be difficult to see the larger picture. The worst consequence of TV coverage, in my view, has to do with time: broadcasting a war 24/7 is rather like waiting and watching water come to a boil, a strain on one's patience. Winning this war will require considerable time and patience and resolve, and it remains to be seen if the American majority can bear this burden.
3/28/2003 08:40:00 PM |
The Human Experience of Wars in the Arts and Literature Syllabus and comprehensive reading list for Vesna Danilovic's Political Science class at Texas A&M. A few hot links. Access now.
3/28/2003 05:41:00 PM |
Benefit of the doubt Another thing that drives me up to wall is how much more quickly some in the Left give the Saddamists the "benefit of the doubt" without giving the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt. Look at the civilian casualties at the market in Baghdad. The Saddamists say it was our missile. We say we don't know what it was but that we didn't have a target in the marketplace. We suggest an errant Iraqi missile or anti-aircraft fire. The fact is, repeat, the fact is, we don't know what happened. Yes, missiles can make mistakes, theirs and ours. But we also know the Saddamists deliberately fire on their own people: they've done this in the past and British soldiers have witnessed them doing this on civilians, including women and children, trying to flee Basra. They fire on their own people when it serves their purpose to do so, so it is not stretching credulity to suggest the Saddamists may be targeting their own marketplace deliberately for its propaganda value. I'm not saying this is what happened but I am saying that this is more likely than the official explanation of the Saddamists, that we are deliberately choosing civilian targets. If we did it, and we may well have, it was a tragic accident. This is war. Tragic accidents are to be expected.
The bottom line is, we don't know what happened at this point. Yet many are quick to jump on the official explanation of the Saddamists, giving them the benefit of the doubt, and not giving the Bush administration the benefit of the doubt even when our explanation is less accusatory, more tentative, and more sensible. We, after all, admit our casualties from friendly fire. The Saddamists never do this. Why do people give Saddam the benefit of the doubt?
3/28/2003 02:45:00 PM |
Columbia professor calls for U.S. defeat This is the kind of rhetoric that drives me up the wall: at a teach-in at Columbia, a professor called for the defeat of the U.S. and the victory of "the Iraqi people," as if the forces defending Saddam represented the will of the Iraqi people, which is the equivalent of saying Saddam is not a barbaric tyrant at all. And students loudly applauded when he said, "If we really believe that this war is criminal ... then we have to believe in the victory of the Iraqi people and the defeat of the U.S. war machine."
If he said this in Iraq, his tongue would be cut out and he would be left in the town square to bleed to death. The only reason he gets to say it safely here is that countless people gave their lives in defense of liberty and our way of life.
My dictionary defines treason, in part, as: "the offense of attempting by overt acts to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance ..." A belief is not an overt act. Is a rousing speech, like shouting "fire" in a theater, an overt act? I don't know. Probably not. In these matters it is best to err on the side of liberty. But his remarks still drive me up the wall. Read full story.
3/28/2003 01:15:00 PM |
Life goes on Finished my syllabus. Off to take it to the copy center. Also did a polish of the screenplay after some great feedback. Someone whose opinion I value a great deal loves the script and the story, and she had excellent suggestions on what to beef up in the novel. Still some reading to finish before the term starts but I have time.
3/28/2003 11:09:00 AM |
International Alliance for Justice condemns the exactions perpetrated by the death squads of Saddam Hussein’s regime This organization, located in France, joins the movement to charge Saddam with war crimes, writing in part:
"...repression is still taking place against the Iraqi population in order to prevent any uprising attempt and to eliminate the elements that could potentially resist the regime. It confirms what many Iraqis have always claimed: the Iraqi population cannot get rid of such a system without support.
"International Alliance for Justice repeats its condemnation of the repression of the population by the militias of Saddam Hussein’s regime, at a time when the regime’s propaganda is trying to make the world believe that the population is resisting. Iraqis have no other choice today than to protect their own lives and their relatives’, who are threatened by groups known for their extreme violence towards the population."
Thursday, March 27, 2003 Tiger Woods With all the press Hollywood actors get for speaking against the war, it's refreshing to see a celebrity take a stand in support of the goal of our troops. From Tiger Woods' official website:
I have great respect for the men and women fighting overseas to protect our way of life in Iraq and other parts of the world. As the son of an Army officer, I understand the strength, courage and discipline required to successfully carry out their missions in hostile environments and feel tremendous pride they are representing us.
Obviously, no one likes war. Our Congress and President tried hard to avoid the use of force, but ultimately decided it was the best course of action. I like the assertiveness shown by President Bush and think we owe it to our political and military leaders, along with our brave soldiers to be as supportive as possible during these difficult and trying times. I just wanted to take this opportunity to let our forces know that I am thinking about you and wishing you and your families the best.
Iran Students for democracy in Iran call for boycott of official government anti-war (i.e. coalition war in Iraq) rally. Read the story. So not everyone in that part of the world is against us, which is the impression you can get from much of the media.
3/27/2003 08:19:00 PM |
Walk the walk Because of security precautions, you can't send care packages to anonymous troops any more. But there's still a way to send them items and gifts. If you care about the troops and want to support them, here are two secure, approved ways to do so:
Operation Interdependence. It takes a couple weeks to be approved after you register at this site. You will be approved to send items for the troops via a regional coordinator.
USO Care Package Donations are a bit easier. You can send items direct from manufacturers or you can donate $25 for a care package, including paying online.
Defending freedom I stumbled across this letter to the editor by a student at the University of Western Ontario on September 21, 2001. I recommend it. Read the letter now.
I'm reminded of what Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure."
3/27/2003 01:00:00 PM |
Canada: Try Saddam for genocide Canada did not join the coalition. But get this: "The Canadian house of commons called unanimously on Thursday for the establishment of an international tribunal to try Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and other Iraqi officials for genocide and other crimes." Full story.
Okay -- so how do you do this unless you confront the Saddamists head-on? You think he's going to show up voluntarily? Maybe it's time to join the coalition, Canada.
3/27/2003 11:50:00 AM |
Pictures and words We are losing the propaganda war, in part, because the Saddamists and their sympathizers are showing more horrifying images than we are. We are too prim and proper. An example is when the networks and cable decided not to show video of captured and killed coalition troops, some of whom had a close-range bullet hole in the center of their foreheads, evidence of execution. We needed to see those images. We need to show the American public and the world the visual images of the depravity of the Iraqi regime and its Saddamistic goons. It's time to take the gloves off in the propaganda war.
Images can be heart-warming, too. On Sixty Minutes II last night was a story about bringing relief supplies to a town liberated by the coalition, and the overwhelming welcome by most of the Iraqis there. Especially moving were the faces of the children, enough to bring tears to one tough Marine being interviewed, who said, "This is why I am here."
Sixty Minutes II had a chilling story as well, an interview with an Iraqi officer who defected in 1996 and helped organize the paramilitary troops willing to put down their lives for Saddam, those who have been causing us so much trouble in the south. His description of their training and tactics reminded me of how tough our task will be, how heroic our soldiers must be, and how much support we must give them.
Perhaps we choose sides in this war according to our belief in Evil. Those we have a hard time accepting that evil exists, or that Saddam is as depraved as history and facts tell us he is, those who like to give people the benefit of the doubt, who like to say that all people have something good in them ... these same who were late to condemn Stalin and Hitler, also are late to condemn Saddam or to condemn him with rhetoric without bite, unwilling to walk their talk ... these people see the world as a nicer place than a cold clear look at world history tell us it is.
On the other hand, those who see evil everywhere, who believe everything not in agreement with capitalism or democracy or whatever their most cherished principle might be is evil by definition ... these people see themselves as more superior and righteous than they are among the world's families. We ourselves, in our own history, have acted this role before.
But this is not one of those times -- at least not yet. There is early evidence that many Iraqi people will welcome us once they can trust that they are safe from repercussions, that this time we are not going to abandon them, that this time the Saddamists will not return. They have to feel safe to make this leap, however, and we have to do whatever it takes to make them feel safe from Saddam's revenge.
3/27/2003 11:22:00 AM |
Translating Dante There is a new surge of interest in Dante, with numerous new translations of his works coming out. I wrote earlier about John Ciardi and my wonderful experience as an undergraduate at UCLA hearing him read from his translation of The Inferno. Compare his translation to others. Here are three versions of the first three lines of Canto V:
So I descended from the first enclosure
down to the second circle, that which girdles
less space but grief more great, that goads to weeping.
So I descended from first to second circle--
Which girdles a smaller space and greater pain,
Which spurs more lamentation. [Minos the dreadful]
So we went down to the second ledge alone;
a smaller circle of so much greater pain
the voice of the damned rose in a bestial moan.
The last is by John Ciardi (the first by Allen Mandelbaum, the second by Robert Pinsky), definitely the one I prefer although this is clearly a matter of taste.
Translating literature is no easy task as I learned when I translated Chekhov's The Seagull for my ambitious Seagull Hyperdrama. (Don't know what hyperdrama is? Now you do.) I translated it so I would own it and could use it in my hyperdrama, but the task took me far longer, years, than I expected, mostly because my Russian was so rusty. Plays actually are easier to translate than other works, I think, because of so much dialogue in them.
One of my reading goals before I pass on is to read Chapman's Homer, both volumes. They came out in paperback some time ago but I haven't had the block of time and concentration to take it on yet. I would like to follow this with Kazankakis sequel to The Odyssey. Now there's an ambitious reading project, three weighty volumes in a row. Maybe I'd better begin soon.
The rules of war I'm fascinated by the concept of "the rules of war," which has been in the news lately in the context that the Iraqis are not playing by "the rules." Why on earth would someone facing superior fire power and defeat play by some pre-determined rules? What are the origin of these rules in the first place?
It seems "the rules of war" are an attempt to justify our worst half to our best half. We forever deny two aspects of our nature from which social problems arise: aggression and sex. Our aggressive natures lead to war, more than peace an institution in human affairs over the centuries of world history, and our sexual natures lead to prostitution, more than marriage an institution in human affairs.
At any rate, I've done some snooping about the rules of war and here are some links:
Revisiting 'Rules of War' in age of terrorism. A book review. "The rules of warfare were developed in Stone-Age times ... and the goal is to make the enemy do something he doesn't want to do," said Bevin Alexander, a professor of history at Longwood University in Farmville, Va., talking about his book, How Wars are Won: The Thirteen Rules of War From Ancient Greece to the War on Terrorism. Here "rules" is used in the sense of "strategies," not in the sense of "humanitarian restrictions" as above.
War is horrible, always has been and always will be, and it gets more horrible the less "personal" it gets, the more we develop technology that lets us kill from a distance, without personal face-to-face conflict. However, even the horror of primitive war did not result in its ban. Modern horrors of war, whatever their motivations, from the Crusades to the Holocaust to Hiroshima, have not resulted in any kind of permanent peace. The only way "war" makes any sense as human activity, which indeed through history has been a major activity, is to understand that it must be natural, it must be wired into our behavior. In this context, "the rules of war" are an attempt to mitigate this inevitable tendency with behaviors that will decrease its horrible consequences.
But why should someone losing play by the rules? And aren't the rules themselves culturally determined? On TV last night a Marine complained about the hit-and-run guerilla tactics of the Iraqi paramilitary groups. "Why won't they fight like men?" he asked. A primitive warrior could make the same complaint: "These cowardly Americans drop bombs on us from the sky, why won't they fight face-to-face, one man with a sword against another, why won't they quit hiding behind their machines and come out and fight like men?"
3/27/2003 05:18:00 AM |
Encouraging news, if true ... In a day without much encouraging news, here may be some (encouraging from the point of view of overthrowing Saddam):
Iraqis tell allies where to bomb their city By Martin Bentham and Patrick Bishop near Basra
Iraqi civilians were reported to be emerging from Basra yesterday to pass critical intelligence information to British-led forces to aid attacks against Saddam Hussein's forces within their own city.
British intelligence officers said there had been a steady stream of information coming from the population in Basra, Iraq's second largest city, about the movements and activities of paramilitaries loyal to Saddam.
That information was proving crucial in identifying targets for British and American attack aircraft on bombing missions over the city.
"We are receiving a lot of information from inside the city," said one British officer. "Most of it is coming from Iraqis fed up with the regime and who are sneaking out across the bridges to tell us what is going on in the city. It is very risky but the fact that so many are prepared to do this indicates the level of opposition to Saddam within Basra," he said.
On the personal front ... Another quick rewrite of the script and a final printing, a copy for my wife and her feedback. Next week I'll start the novel. Haven't decided whether I'll do more with the script-as-script or not. Otherwise, I'm already behind on the reading I have to get done this week. And good basketball games coming up: Arizona-Notre Dame tomorrow, Oklahoma-Butler Friday, and I'm rooting for the underdogs.
3/26/2003 03:45:00 PM |
How to lie with statistics One of the best courses I took in high school was a senior current affairs elective in which a wonderful teacher, Paul Finot, used (among other things) a book called How to Lie with Statistics. In this class we elected a fictitious person as student body vice-president with a write-in campaign. It was incredible.
All this rushes back with a current example of lying with statistics. Maybe you read that American confidence in the war has faltered from 71% on Saturday to 38% on Monday. This was misleading: try from 80% Thursday (or 93% Saturday) to 85% on Monday). It's how your define your categories, folks. Details here. Again, this shows how all of us manipulate the "facts" to reinforce what we already believe -- which is to be expected in times of great flux and confusion. Everybody probably should just shut up until this is over. Of course, I won't.
3/26/2003 01:44:00 PM |
Propaganda wars We are fighting an enemy in Iraq that we're not used to. They use hospitals for military storage areas, they remove uniforms for civilian clothes, they wave white flags and then open fire on approaching troops. They fire on their own people when it's in their interests.
At the same time, we make mistakes. We kill our own in friendly fire. Clearly it's possible we kill innocent civilians by mistake.
But it's hard to say what happened in Baghdad with the bombing of a neighborhood -- our mistake or their propaganda. Many Iraqis clearly believe it was our doing, which may be all that matters. If it wasn't our doing, it's brilliant propaganda. If we did, it's an example of the unfortunate accidents that happen in war.
In the short run, it is difficult to know what is actually going on. Reports from the field become contradictory. Propaganda from both sides does not clarify matters. It's hard to present or find hard evidence in the middle of a war. Consequently we all probably sift out the news that reinforces what we already believe and dismiss the rest.
3/26/2003 12:14:00 PM |
College filmmakers Christian Moger has started a website for college filmmakers: College-Film.com. A central cyberstation for discussion, networking, uploading and reviewing scripts and films, and more. The success of a website like this depends on how well it builds a sense of community. If you are a college filmmaker, or thinking of becoming one, check this out.
3/26/2003 10:05:00 AM |
If we win, if we lose ... More than once the U.S. has won the war and lost the peace. Of course, Iraq is not "the war," it is a front in the context of a much larger war. But clearly many dangers await us, no matter what happens in Iraq.
If we "win" in Iraq, which means overthrowing Saddam, what happens next depends on many things: will the Iraqi people welcome his departure, as we assume? Since I cannot imagine why anyone not in a privileged position would enjoy living under tyranny, I assume so. But will they also welcome us staying on as guardians? This is where we have to be very careful and not make the mistake we made in the Philippines, being blinded by our own sense of moral righteousness in helping "the poor Iraqis." We have to give them an immediate sense of being in control of their own lives, which after all is what freedom is about.
If we lose in Iraq (and here is an American who believe our defeat is inevitable), then our challenges are even more profound. Personally I think we then need to reassess our assumption of being a world power and policeman. I think we need to put our own national self-preservation over the well being of our allies in other parts of the world. I think we need to define a new kind of enlightened isolationism where we emphasize defense and self-reliance, including economic self-reliance (of course, international corporations would have none of this). This would include very strict immigration laws since, after all, our open borders are one way in which terrorists easily enter the country -- and if we are not going to go after them, then we have to make it harder for them to come to us.
There seem to be many more things that can go wrong than can go right. However, this does not mean all is lost in the short run -- yet. My larger concern, as I've stated, is with our so-called allies, those refusing to stand up to Saddam. I don't know what it would take to turn them around. Maybe this: victory, the articulation and evidence of his barbaric regime (including trials for war crimes), and the winning of the Iraqi people who would consider us liberators. Today this seems a long way off. But, in my view, not yet impossible to hope for. (Of course, I'm the guy now rooting for Butler in the NCAA tournament!)
3/26/2003 09:48:00 AM |
A future problem? Mention of McKinley and the Philippines earlier came to mind when I read the following this morning:
TEHRAN (AFP) - The Iraqi opposition has called on Iraqis to prepare for an uprising against President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites)'s regime and the army to desert, a spokesman for the main Shiite opposition group said.
Mohsen Hakim of the Iran-based Supreme Assembly of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (news - web sites) (SARII) quoted a statement put out by the leadership of the various opposition groups after a meeting which ended late Tuesday at Salaheddin, near Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan.
Hakim said the seven-point statement asked the US and British coalition fighting to topple Saddam and the international community to recognise a transitional government and parliament to be installed by the opposition after the war.
The opposition asked the coalition to begin negotiations with these bodies for the disarmament of Iraq and prepare a timetable for the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country, he added.
This is reminiscent of what happened in the Philippines. The "opposition," led by Aguinaldo, expected to become active in installing a transitional government. When "the liberators," the U.S. under McKinley, denied them this power and responsibility, they in turn rebelled against us, and an even bloodier war than the one with Spain began. If this history gets repeated in Iraq, we have a very bad scenario indeed: First we fight the forces of Saddam to liberate "the people," then we fight "the people" who don't want us setting up their government for them.
3/26/2003 08:13:00 AM |
McKinley It all started with President William McKinley. He was in office during the war against Spain, when we "liberated" Cuba before creating the conditions that led to a communist revolution there. But the most telling moment was in the Philippines (about which I wrote a history play, A Brown Man's Burden). The issue was this: after fighting Spain to free the Philippines, should we abandon them or colonize them? Considerable debate was heated on both sides of the issue.
McKinley had a dream. He dreamed it was his Christian duty to save "our little brown brothers" from their own inability to govern themselves. As it happened, the leader of the rebels against Spain, Aguinaldo, was a student of and admirer of the U.S. Declaration of Independence and Constitution and patterned his fight for his country's freedom after our own -- and so felt betrayed when the U.S. decided to stay on and oversee government in the Philippines after kicking Spain out.
What if the isolationists had won the argument as the 19th C. became the 20th C.? What if we had decided a virtual colony in the Philippines was not in our best interests? This, to be sure, was the start of our adventures beyond our borders and the first step of our striving to become a world power.
Mark Twain was very much against this tendency and the war with Spain. He thought we should mind our own business. This is what inspired him to write in Puddn'head Wilson (and I paraphrase from memory): Columbus Day: It was nice to discover America. It would have been so much nicer to have missed it.
Politicians, soldiers, journalists Although I see very little in common between the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, one thing they do share is the difficulty in learning what actually is going on. This is true even now in the most media-covered war in history. Something else they share is this: politicians always will put the best spin possible on events. Before the war started, some of them such as the Vice-President were suggesting a cake walk, our troops immediately welcomed as liberators. Military leaders were more realistic but even they have been surprised by the level of resistance so far. What defeated us in Vietnam was guerilla warfare, and this appears to be the strategy of Saddam's forces. We shouldn't be surprised. Indeed, before the war started, I recall seeing news of training for this very tactic.
Although embedded media are everywhere covering this war, I'm not sure this raises the truth level of the information we get. All reporting in very limited by necessity, so it's hard to get a grasp of the big picture. It's also pretty obvious whether a given reporter is pro or con this action by the rhetoric s/he uses.
At the moment, Basra may be a sort of test case in miniature of what the conflict in Baghdad may look like. Urban and guerilla warfare, a civilian population in hostage. Today may be a key day as the British attempt to gain control in the city. If they do, it will be revealing to see how the civilian population responds. But the urban conflict may take days, god forbid even weeks. Tough days ahead.
3/26/2003 02:59:00 AM |
FADE OUT Two very sweet words to put at the bottom of a script! Finished a good rewrite. This is the draft I'll base the novel on. Although this is unmarketable, I might enter the script in a competition just for the hell of it. But I'd like to start the short novel as soon as possible. If we win the war, if the Iraqis love us, this subject matter may even become fashionable!
3/25/2003 03:41:00 PM |
Rewriting Rewrote the first 30 pages of the script this morning and will keep at it for a while, hoping to get to the midpoint. Love in the Ruins is a Romeo & Juliet clone, a star-crossed romance between an American student and a Muslim woman against the backdrop of 9/11. The woman, Hayaam, is a character I am falling in love with, a Muslim feminist (yes, they exist!), bright and articulate, feisty and confident that she is more liberated than American women (whom she sees as slaves to sexist fashion) ... this is an interesting script to write in time of war, part therapy, part wishful-thinking. Onward.
3/25/2003 11:29:00 AM |
Blogs of War Here's the best site I've seen for up-to-the-minute war news, Blogs of war, with a minimum of editorializing. From this morning: "The people have risen up against Saddam Hussein's regime and the Iraqi soldiers who are still within the city are starting to fire mortars upon their own countrymen. - Richard Gaisford, BBC reporter in Basra." This is a pattern that makes sense to me: the people hold back from fear until they believe they have a chance to rebel with success, then come out against the Saddam regime. From another report I saw on CNN, apparently our troops in the area are defending them against their own soldiers presently.
3/25/2003 11:24:00 AM |
What spring break? My classes start a week from today -- and looking at the preparation I have to do before then, I realize I have no spring break, or rather that it was the weekend in Eugene. I'm using two new books in my University class, which means a new syllabus, which will take several days to write. I'll try to get some writing done in the mornings as well, focusing first on rewriting the new screenplay.
As much as possible, I'm going to try to leave the war alone here and in my head. I feel like I've said everything I have to say on the matter. I hope support at home remains strong but this surely depends on how it goes. This will be a test of American will and patience.
I appreciate the emails of support some of you have sent me. Unlike when I published my open letter to the peace movement, I haven't received any hate mail. That was a real hoot, getting hate mail from the peace movement!
3/25/2003 07:46:00 AM |
Monday, March 24, 2003 Modern fiction A highlight of my visit to Eugene was visiting with my brother, who is younger and a poet (more about him here). Bill can't read modern literary fiction -- in fact, he says, if he reads anything written after about 1970, he probably will find it far too "precious and cute" for his taste. "It reads like creative writing," he says, using the reference pejoratively.
He has a point. I've been reading a lot of recent fiction, or trying to, but only get beyond the first chapter (if I even finish that) in about ten percent of what I pick up. Neither of us could stand the "book of the year" last year, The Lovely Bones, though Bill read more into it than I did. I believe Bill has a point about modern fiction, however, because in the sixties there was a dramatic change in the way most fiction writers got trained.
In the 1960s there was a great explosion of MFA programs in this country. Today most writers are trained in graduate writing programs, getting MFAs and going on to teach others to write. I myself am a product of this. Prior to this, however, most writers were trained in the "school of hard knocks," newspaper or magazine writing. The contrast is startling. Journalists write in the real world, meeting deadlines, and interpreting and creating material presented to them. Graduate writing students study what others have read and must create their own stories from their imaginations. What the latter are losing is the incredible experience gained by the former. I think one reason modern fiction is so precious and cute, to use Bill's description, is that form has triumphed over content. Journalists are sent off on assignments where they have incredible experiences from which to draw on later. Students sit in classrooms and read and study the work of others. I think the former training may well develop better storytellers.
3/24/2003 07:00:00 PM |
You can't go home again Eugene remains my favorite town in Oregon. I lived there from 1966-1975, getting my MFA in playwriting from the University of Oregon and then teaching while my wife at the time finished up her Ph.D. Then we moved to Salisbury State College on Maryland's Delmarva peninsula.
My graduate school experience in Eugene was wonderful. Uncharacteristically for graduate students, we were rolling in dough. My wife had a full fellowship for her Ph.D. studies. I was a T.A., then later received a Shubert Playwriting Fellowship. I also was a regular contributor to Northwest magazine and performing weekly as a folksinger (ditto for my wife). One nine-month school year, we saved almost five thousand dollars, and this while keeping most of the graduate students in the English department in beer and spaghetti.
So Eugene is close to my heart. Still, the cliche is true, you can't go home again. Everything is different now. But I have many, many fond memories in Eugene, despite the marriage breaking up (my wife came out of the closet ... see my play, The Half-life Conspiracy).
Saturday night's basketball games were fun. The first was close for a while, the second a slaughter from the start (#1 seed LSU against a small college in Texas). We decided not to stay for tonight's game because they moved the start time back to 8:30pm, so we came on home and can watch it on television, or a more competitive game.
The tournament was dampened by the war, of course. The more thought I give to war, the more I believe that when civilizations advance they put down the seeds of their future destruction -- the abhorrence of war. It's perhaps the greatest irony the gods have created ... as we get too "civilized" for war, we set ourselves up for defeat by the "barbarians" who have not grown too "advanced" for war. I don't see us winning the long-range war, however many battles we win along the way, because I don't think the west has the stomach for the cost it would take to win. I'm not depressed by the war but by the outrage against it. If a war against the most barbaric tyrant since Stalin isn't "a just war" (especially in the context of 9/11), then there's no hope in the long run. What is happening to us, it seems to me, is what happens to all civilized nations throughout the history of the world, and I find it sad and tragic but less surprising the more I think about world history.
So ... the immediate battle with Iraq will be longer and bloodier than we anticipated apparently. I expect we'll prevail. But then lose the peace, which probably already has happened. I still hope the Iraqi people themselves "save us," as only they can, but we betrayed them a decade ago, encouraging them to rebel and then leaving them to Saddam, so I don't blame them for not trusting us again. I have no idea what will happen this time through. I just have this gut feeling the longer war is already over. Very sad.
3/24/2003 05:08:00 PM |
Lying in bed, I found myself unable to get the war out of my mind. And although I believe it is going better than expected thus far, I found myself in despair that we probably are winning the battle but losing the war. We have embraced the role of leading the western world in the defense of our very civilization but are coming off as unilateral bullies, splitting the western world even more. I, and according to polls most Americans, accept this role and believe it is necessary but apparently the majority of those we presume to be defending do not welcome our sacrifice. Even if everything in Iraq goes according to plan but we end up with greater divisions among our (former) allies, the terrorists will have made gains. Indeed, if I were a terrorist, I would lay low and let this play itself out because immediate acts of terrorism might only serve to patch up our increasing differences. I suspect emotion more than reason drives a terrorist to behavior, however, and we might yet luck out and find ourselves reuniting against upcoming atrocities. We are perfectly capable of defeating ourselves but this may be too sophisticated and emotionally unsatisfying a strategy for terrorists to embrace.
So what should the U.S. do? Iraq obviously is not the only problem. But if we move from rogue state to rogue state, confronting each as necessary, which is exactly what needs to be done in my view, we will split the west even more because clearly there are huge numbers of people who do not believe terrorists and rogue states have to be confronted head on, or at least not now. In fact, I wish I could believe in this theory but I see absolutely nothing in history that supports it. When tyranny is appeased it does not go away, it grows and sets up a far worse confrontation in the future. Yet it is clear to me that most of the world does not see it this way. In my view, this is tantamount to surrender. And I see nothing gained by the U.S. moving forward alone.
But what can the U.S. do? The only alternative I see is not attractive and goes against the kind of open society we have. It is this: if we cannot lead the world in the defense of civilization as we know it, and if we continue to believe the threat against our civilization is real (as I believe we must until evidence suggests otherwise), then we must defend ourselves and let the rest of the west go its own way. We retreat from our alliances, we withdraw from our international business interests, we terminate immigration and expel non-citizens, we build an Iron Curtain around our borders, and we try to maintain a free, open society here and let the rest of the world go its own way. Let them defend themselves, their way.
Obviously this is not going to happen. We are not going to become independent, closed, an open society within our borders but also like a walled medieval city, keeping the rest of the world out. We are going to participate in the world. Probably as the self-appointed leader, looked at as a bully. And this won't work. If we listen to the majority, and don't confront tyranny head on, this will result in some short-term relative tranquility but I truly believe such a policy only plants the seeds for our future destruction.
So I'm left with this: it's already over. We already lost. We lost the moment the U.N. failed to unite in confronting Saddam head-on. It's over. The question now is only about timing. We have shown we don't have the will to face up to and combat tyranny head on. We've gotten too fat and lazy and "civilized" to defend ourselves. We've lost our sensitivity to evil -- or rather, we play the magic trick of ignoring the true evil in the barbaric acts of a madman and replacing it with an abhorrence for war, calling war "evil," although war always has been the final arbitrator when civilizations clash. Freedom is defended not by rhetoric but by blood. War and evil are natural human parameters but only the former can be used as a tool to rid, at least temporarily, the world of the latter.
We don't have the will to win because we haven't accepted the reality of the confrontation.
I hope my analysis is wrong. I don't think it is; I see no example in history when appeasing tyranny led to long-range good. Maybe this is the first time that will happen. In the meantime, I have a more immediate goal: not to let such a pessimistic outlook get me down. Being 63 helps considerably -- I may not live long enough to see the worst come to pass. I certainly feel blessed in my own life, and I'm damn happy I am not younger than I am. It might have been nice to have been born in a small civilized country like Denmark, but what the hell, you don't choose your native country any more than you choose your parents.
The world is a beautiful place, much of it, and one thing to do is to appreciate it while it's still around. Existential hedonism, let's call it. My opinion about the world and the future matter only to me, in the final analysis -- I'm certainly not going to change anything. I'm a writer, primarily, a storyteller, and my charge is to tell stories that matter to me ... and survival in the face of adversity has always mattered to me. I've had a great ride. I have no right to complain about anything. What happens, happens.
3/22/2003 03:16:00 AM |
Friday, March 21, 2003 Existentialism I came of age intellectually at the tail end of existentialism's fashion in philosophy. Although existentialism has been out of fashion for decades, this approach still influences my thinking, most notably in my belief that individual behavior and responsibility are the final parameters of our character and morality. "No excuses" is the apt title of a series of taped lectures I have on this approach to philosophy. Here are some links:
How minds change Thanks, KB, for sharing this UPI story with me. In part, it reads:
A group of American anti-war demonstrators who came to Iraq with Japanese human shield volunteers made it across the border today with 14 hours of uncensored video, all shot without Iraqi government minders present. Kenneth Joseph, a young American pastor with the Assyrian Church of the East, told UPI the trip "had shocked me back to reality." Some of the Iraqis he interviewed on camera "told me they would commit suicide if American bombing didn't start. They were willing to see their homes demolished to gain their freedom from Saddam's bloody tyranny. They convinced me that Saddam was a monster the likes of which the world had not seen since Stalin and Hitler. He and his sons are sick sadists. Their tales of slow torture and killing made me ill, such as people put in a huge shredder for plastic products, feet first so they could hear their screams as bodies got chewed up from foot to head."
The Iraqis told the young pastor they would commit suicide if the bombing didn't start. They were willing to lose their homes in bombing raids to gain their freedom. And so he changed his outlook.
3/21/2003 05:42:00 PM |
Dorothy Parker Today's light verse is by Dorothy Parker. If you like Parker, don't miss the film Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle with its eccentric yet brilliant performance by Jennifer Jason Leigh. I am doing my own tribute to Parket with a dramatic presentation here in Portland in July. Here are some links:
Letting go ... This blog, like so many, has been obsessed with the war lately ... time to let go and try to approximate normalcy. Leaving town tomorrow will help -- if I write here at all for 3 days, it will be from a cyber cafe in Eugene. In the meantime, I again am encouraged to learn that the commander of the Iraqi army defending the country's second largest city just surrendered. So far, so good.
On other fronts, Oregon just played its worst game of the season and still managed to lose only narrowly to Utah. But boy did they stink! All four other Pac-10 teams made the first round.
I'm printing out my script this afternoon to take with me. I'll get some rewriting time early in the morning while I'm waiting for my wife to wake up.
Shock & Awe The bombing campaign has begun in earnest and on the tube the images are shocking and awesome indeed. It looked like the entire city of Baghdad was being destroyed. An aerial analysis, however, revealed only selected military targets were being hit, but this probably will be ignored by those who will use the horrific images to fuel their reactions of violent protest. Now things will probably be getting worse before they get better for a while, though how the end game plays out remains to be seen.
War is not for the weak of stomach. Nor is the defense of freedom. I quoted John Stuart Mill earlier. He is worth quoting again as food for thought:
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
Strong stuff. I believe there is at least one exception to this as I've noted before: the existential pacifist, who refuses to fight for personal moral reasons but who also accepts the social/political consequences of his actions and who acts on personal principle, not a desire to change minds or cause disruption: someone with the true integrity and courage of his convictions. I also believe most protesters are well-meaning but do not accept what I believe is true and irrefutable in the history of our species, that our freedoms only exist to the extent that we defend them by force when necessary, and that we are in a world conflict that makes this such a time. I believe in Saddam we encounter a kind of evil we haven't seen since Stalin.
3/21/2003 01:01:00 PM |
How the left is changing? Here's an email from a former left activist like myself, someone who left after 9/11 for similar reasons to mine. This is from Chip Joyce's About the War (and how America is losing) blog. Link to email.
It's hard to say how representative this is. When my Open Letter to the Peace Movement was published all over the Internet after 9/11, I received 100s of letters in response. They were closely divided in half among those calling me an idiotic traitor and those applauding me -- but most of the latter were somewhat gloating welcomes from the right, which in fact I haven't joined, and perhaps only 1/3 of these, or 1/6 of the total, letters that expressed the same difficult intellectual journey and change of mind that I was going through.
The real test of whether the peace movement can change will be this: if this operation in Iraq results in the best case scenario and we are welcomed in the streets of Baghdad as liberators after little loss of life, will the peace movement admit it made a wrong judgment or will it quickly knee-jerk in protest over something else? Is the peace movement itself capable of change and evolution?
There certainly are legitimate issues, such as civil liberties for our own citizens, to be worried about. But if the Bush administration proves right on Iraq, what will be the response of the protesters then? If American soldiers come home to great victory parades, as liberators, freeing a populace from a cruel tyrant, will protesters join in the celebration? If not, why not? Of course, such an outcome is by no means certain. In a war of this kind, the goal is considered worth the risk by those who make the decision to wage it.
3/21/2003 08:30:00 AM |
Spring break Well, I should be able to wrap things up today and officially end the winter term. I have some online scripts to read and I'll be done.
Meanwhile, the war is going better early on than anticipated and hopefully the "shock and awe" strategy, which has been delayed, may not even be needed. There is intelligence saying eye witnesses saw Saddam injured after the initial attack, and he appears to be cut off from command. There have been few casualties so far, there have been surrenders and some early Iraqi welcomes, one Iraqi man shouting out in English, "Saddam butcher!" Of course, in a war one never knows what is just ahead. But I have very guarded optimism. I didn't vote for Bush but I would love to see him coming out of this affair smelling like a rose. (I should add that I didn't vote for Gore either -- I'm one of those eccentrics who hates the two-party system).
The NCAA tournament is off and running but with fewer upsets than I rooted for thus far. Today Oregon plays, and I'll definitely watch this one, hoping for Oregon to win so they can face Kentucky, giving me a huge upset to root for. Tomorrow it's to Eugene for the women's tournament! I'll print out the script to take with me and also take the Alphasmart with me.
I feel good this morning. Sure, Portland (which is known as "Little Beirut") had its protesters on the streets for hours and hours last night, many finally getting arrested, and idealists everywhere are protesting our action in Iraq, but I feel strongly we are doing the right thing. As I said before, the support of Iraqis in this country, the smiles on the faces of those I saw interviewed, really raised my spirits.
3/21/2003 05:34:00 AM |
Tony Blair Blair speaks with passion and eloquence in his address to the nation, saying among other things: "Retreat might give us a moment of respite but years of repentance at our weakness would, I believe, follow. It is true that Saddam is not the only threat but it is true also as we British know that the best way to deal with future threats peacefully is to deal with present threats with resolve."
3/21/2003 05:02:00 AM |
Thursday, March 20, 2003 Hopeful signs Hopeful signs after the first full day of war: late intelligence reports say both Saddam and two sons were in the home bombed last night. Intelligence still trying to find out results of the attack. And high ranking Iraqi officers are in communication with us, possibly discussing terms of surrender. Apparently this is why Bush hasn't released a full bombing raid yet. With a little luck ...
3/20/2003 09:09:00 PM |
Iraqis on Iraq This was posted on the The Iraq Foundation website back in February, 2003. It should be required reading for anyone protesting our armed conflict with Saddam.
This is an appeal to all anti-war and peace organizations. We don't want war, but your so-called humanitarian and peace-loving groups have let the Iraqi people down for more than 30 years. Now, you came to demonstrate in our name to avert the only possibility left to remove the nightmare that has descended on our land.
Iraqi people were dying in the hundreds of thousands while you were busy strengthening the Iraqi regime by insisting on so called peaceful solutions and containment. Your solutions have only brought us sanctions, isolation and suffering. Meanwhile, the butcher and his gang were getting bloodier and richer and more influential in the world with the money he is stealing from our people - to pay for the support of many organizations in the west who are now demonstrating against the war that would topple the ugly, fascist regime.
Our families still live in Iraq. They told us that they and the majority of the Iraqi people are waiting for the day of liberation from one of the most vicious and bloody regimes in the history of mankind. This is what the Iraqis want!
The Americans have found out (finally) that their interests are now in helping the people in creating a democratic, peace-loving Iraq, and if there is another country who is willing to help, then we will welcome it with open arms. Oil is our fortune and misfortune. Until now it has been our misfortune, with Saddam Hussein selling the oil fields of the country to France, Russia and others. That's why those countries are opposed to the war - not because they are afraid for the world order and the UN. And if the oil is what is making the Americans interested in helping us, then we are only thankful for this!
I ask you in the name of humanity and peace: why you don't ask the Iraqi people and the Iraqis living among you about what they think before you go out to demonstrate?
On behalf of a group of Iraqis in Switzerland, Germany, Denmark and Canada, I say: your anti-American cause is not our cause!!
The home front On the home front today, I was most encouraged by interviews at Iraqi centers here in the U.S. Total support for our action from Iraqis who escaped Saddam, most of whom have family and friends back there. A very telling remark by one of them: "Saddam is not our president, he is your president, you set him up. Now it's time for you to get rid of him so we can go home."
Need to remember the joy on those Iraqi faces when I see all the scowls on the faces of idealists in the streets, angry at our policy of facing a tyrant head on, trying to disrupt business as usual. Where is their anger at the barbarism of Saddam? Where is their professed concern for the people of Iraq who are the real victims of this barbarism?
The legacy of war What a sad irony on TV today, switching between the competition of a basketball tournament and the competition of a war, our best and worst natures laid bare. Our worst selves, unfortunately, are as much a part of our nature as our best. We haven't been able to improve this aspect of our nature over centuries of experience. Apparently we never shall.
Here are what others have said about war:
So long as there are men there will be wars. --Albert Einstein
The purpose of all war is ultimately peace. --Saint Augustine
It is in vain, sir, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, Peace, Peace--but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that sweeps from the north will bring to our ears the clash of resounding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why stand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death! --Patrick Henry March 23,1775
Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction....The chain reaction of evil -- hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars -- must be broken, or we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation. --Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968)
It is fatal to enter any war without the will to win it. --General Douglas MacArthur
In war there is no prize for the runner-up --General Omar Bradley
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature, and has no chance of being free unless made or kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. --John Stuart Mill
Fighting terrorism is like being a goalkeeper. You can make a hundred brilliant saves but the only shot that people remember is the one that gets past you. --Paul Wilkinson
War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today. --John F. Kennedy
War is only a cowardly escape from the problems of peace. --Thomas Mann
Everyone's a pacifist between wars. It's like being a vegetarian between meals. --Colman McCarthy
The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other bastard die for his. --Gen George S. Patton
You can't say civilization don't advance... in every war they kill you in a new way. --Will Rogers
I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. --John Adams
The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it. --George Orwell
The fear of war is worse than war itself. --Seneca
And now for the news in "my world" ... Just turned in my University grades. Still have my online students to catch up with, but then I'll be done for the term -- later today or tomorrow.
The men's basketball tournament has begun! After consultation with the government, NCAA officials decided not to delay it. But CBS, scheduled to telecast it, has given it to ESPN so the network can continue its day-long coverage of the war.
Eager to get back to writing as well. Got some great feedback on the new script, which will inform the next and maybe final rewrite. Then I'll jump right into the novel version.
The loneliness of the University hawk A university is a lonely place for one who supports war with Iraq. Not only is there a strong student movement for peace on many campuses, but many faculty members also belong to the peace movement. Indeed I did before 9/11. So I find myself on the opposite side of the issue from colleagues with whom I once had much in common. They think of me as something just a tad less than an irrational hawk. I think of them as something just a tad less than an historically naive wimp.
The Unitarian church to which I belong has come out strongly against war, so I also feel isolated in my congregation. In fact, when I tried to add a notice in the church bulletin to network with other "hawks" in the congregation (since the minister assured me there were some who agreed with me), my submission was refused! Doves could announce their meetings and marches in the bulletin, but I couldn't try to network with those of a different persuasion! Needless to say, this has changed my relationship to the church in a major way.
I find some solace in the fact that, in the early polls, 2/3 of Americans support our war effort in the new front of Iraq. And my sister-in-law, a lifetime liberal herself, recently emailed me that the peace movement "disgusted" her in its naive view of the Middle East. My wife has been marching for peace, so this introduces some tension in the home, though thus far we have respected our differing views.
All this reminds me how Vietnam tore apart the fabric of the nation, and there is the potential this will happen again. This only reinforces my cynical side, seeing all of this as the beginning of the end of western civilization, which will fall precisely the way civilizations usually fall, because the citizens get too comfortable, too fat, too lazy, and (let's say it) too cowardly and morally bankrupt to defend themselves. You don't need the biggest guns to win a war, Vietnam showed that. You must have the greatest will to win.
Fortunately, in Iraq, there is the great potential that the people will welcome getting rid of Saddam. We may win this battle. But this is a long war, and even if Iraq turns out for the best, will the peace movement learn anything from this? They had better because there will be other fronts in this long war. This is going to last a generation or more. The terrorists are not quitters. The question is whether or not we, the west, are. The U.S. can lead the way to victory in a war here and there, but it will take the unity of the entire western world to win the war. Do we have the unity, the patience, the fortitude, the deep belief in the principles of the Enlightenment to meet the challenge?
Past advances in civilization have planted the very seeds of their own destruction: a belief that war is not necessary. An idealism that man is more rational, evil less a threat, than history ends up proving. Hence the constant attempt to appease tyrants. To delay confrontation with tyrants. So much of the western world, the people themselves, are against confronting Saddam that I wonder if our defeat in the long run is already sealed. Well, I won't live long enough to find out. But I may live long enough to see the west wake up and get its collective act together. I hope so but, as usual, I'm not taking any bets.
3/20/2003 08:09:00 AM |
Edmund Burke: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Another example of the rhetorical bankruptcy of the peace movement is its cute slogan, "Support the troops. Bring them home." What condescension! What an insult! What disrespect! This is a volunteer military of men and women who have shown courage and made great sacrifices to serve their country. They deserve our thanks, our respect, and our prayers.
3/20/2003 07:21:00 AM |
Civil Liberties A state of war requires considerably more security efforts than a state of peace, obviously, but history tells us that governments easily go too far in restricting civil liberties in the name of security. The Bush administration already has moved in this direction.
Language and war As writers, we are guardians of the language. Part of my defection from the peace movement shortly after 9/11 was because of its failure to understand how context determines meaning.
Now that even the peace movement cannot deny that we are in a state of war (which, in fact, we've been in since 9/11), it is important to understand how a nation moves from a state of war to a state of peace: by victory; by defeat; by surrender (defeat without fighting); or by negotiation. As far as I'm concerned, two of these options are unacceptable: surrender and negotiation. You do not negotiate with a barbaric tyrant like Saddam. You do not surrender to a tyrant. Yet these are precisely the two options suggested by the peace movement in its steadfast refusal to present alternative strategies in the war against terrorism. They act as if "peace" is simply a matter of quitting, of withdrawal, which in fact is tantamount to surrender. One might excuse this attitude as being a result of stupidity, its refusal to accept that we were in a state of war, but now that the front has been widened to Iraq, even peaceniks must understand the nature of our reality.
So do they still want surrender? Negotiation? How do they propose to move from a state of war to a state of peace?
People of good will, it seems to me, will pray for victory as quickly and with as little loss to life as possible. There also are those among us who would like to see our defeat. In a state of war, this is called treason.