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In many ways, the U.S. has already lost the war on terror. Even our grandmothers have been forced to sacrifice their dignity for the illusion of safety.

Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
Benjamin Franklin (11 November 1755)

Three weeks ago, a group of Palestinian youth posted a manifesto on Facebook excoriating every internal and external political force at work in Gaza today. The manifesto begins:

Fuck Hamas. Fuck Israel. Fuck Fatah. Fuck UN. Fuck UNWRA. Fuck USA! We, the youth in Gaza, are so fed up with Israel, Hamas, the occupation, the violations of human rights and the indifference of the international community!

The whole thing is worth reading, as well as this follow up by the Observer. I was struck by certain parallels between the situation of Gazan youth and undocumented youth in the U.S.

There are many differences, of course. War does not touch the borders of the U.S., while Gazan youth have faced invasion and occupation. Gazan youth are not at risk of exile simply because of the passport they hold, as Dreamers are. But rather than engage in the dread oppression olympics, I'd like to draw out certain similarities between both groups.

Both groups are physically trapped, unable to travel beyond the borders which confine them. Both have been jailed by their own governments. Both sit beyond many of the benefits and protections of the purported democracies in which they live. Both face depression, suicide, and other social maladies that come from living life without a future.

Both have started to raise their voices. From the manifesto:

Drone.jpgToday's New York Times story titled "Pakistan Reported to Be Harassing U.S. Diplomats" highlights the hypocrisy of the Pakistani government in accepting U.S. aid and military support while refusing to renew visas of U.S. personnel and subjecting American diplomats to routine vehicle checks. Certainly Pakistan's government doesn't have to accept the billions of dollars the U.S. government is giving it. But there is more to this story.

First of all, the U.S. wrote the book on denying visas for opaque, often senseless reasons.

The State Department has a history of denying visas for political reasons, and should not be surprised when other countries do the same from time to time. (I believe denial of the right to travel is rarely justified, but this is an oft-used tool of U.S. foreign policy.)

Second, the U.S. is unpopular in Pakistan because it bombs Pakistanis using unmanned drones and has this year pressured the Pakistani military to take action that led to societal upheaval and mass suffering. This has had the not unforeseeable consequence of making the current Pakistani government's relationship with the Americans somewhat toxic.

But this is mostly missing from the Times story. Only near the bottom of the article do we get any indication of why Pakistanis might not be grateful for the presence of the Americans in their country:


This week's Music on Monday is a movie. It's called Waltz with Bashir, and I haven't seen anything quite like it before.

The film represents director Ari Folman's efforts to deal with his memories of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. He was a teenage soldier in the war. Folman told the International Herald Tribune last year:


The film talks about lost memory and how you may have a different memory from what actually happened. It asks the question I had to ask myself: where does memory hide? And I hope that audiences will start wondering about themselves. Hopefully, when you've seen it, you think about yourself - not about the guy in the film.

My goal here is not to review the movie. Watch it in the theater if you can. It's amazing.


(Watching the movie also resulted in Public Image Ltd.'s "This is Not a Love Song" being stuck in my head in a continuous loop for the last two days. See if the same thing happens to you.)

As powerful as the film was, I left the theater feeling unsatisfied. I knew I had to blog about it. [Spoilers below.]

Bush's Parting Gift - Shoes

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Think Progress has the videos of an Iraqi journalist, Muthathar al Zaidi, throwing his shoes at George Bush:



Perhaps some poetic justice for a country ravaged by war, and for the millions of Iraqi refugees that have had to flee the country.

the theatre of war

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I wanted to drop a couple of links to an insightful pairof posts over at Obsidian Wings. First, Eric Martin quotes Henley:

Insurgency can't pose an existential threat to the country. Is there a single instance of insurgency warfare conquering foreign territory? Even if you consider South Vietnam and North Vietnam to have really been separate countries, it was, as certain hawks never tire of pointing out, Hanoi's regular Army that conquered the South. The FLN could kick France out of Algeria, but it could never rule France. Hezbollah drove Israel out of Lebanon in the 1990s using guerrilla warfare. It couldn't use the same tactics to drive Israel out of Galilee. Insurgencies can prevent foreign or local governments from consolidating control over the insurgents' "own" territory. Guerrilla movements that get big enough have been able to take power in their own countries.

But they can't conquer. Insurgency is fundamentally reactive and, if not always merely "defensive" . . . parochial. A guerrilla army swims in the sea of the people, like the man said, and foreigners make a lousy sea. Even if all "the terrorists" wanted to follow us home after we "cut and run" from Iraq, they could never have remotely the effect here that they manage in Iraq. Here they lack a sea.

By and large, a country like the United States only needs to commit to an ongoing posture of counterinsurgency if it is also committed to serial military domination of foreign populations. In fact, the United States is currently so committed, on a bipartisan basis. But that's an unwise and immoral posture that will lead to national ruin in the medium to long term. The Iraq defeat offers one of those rare moments for real national reappraisal, an openness to genuine reform. Rather than work at getting better at executing an unwise and immoral grand strategy, let's choose a different one.


I can't emphasize enough how much these foreign policy discussions bleed into and encompass the immigration debate. The barbarians are at the gate, so we must fight them over there and build a big wall to keep them out.

Scarily, the argument is as reductive as that. The common orientalizing conception of non-Americans, fostered in part by inculcation of the heroic national narrative in All Dutiful Children, allows us to simultaneously posit that the savages can't run their own societies without our military oversight and are clever enough to infiltrate our Great Nation's border and defeat us from within.

Part two comes from Publius:

And that brings us back to the real problem with terrorism - its potential for success. Terrorism gives way to a nationalistic fury that is hard to contain or to channel in constructive ways. Even the most reasonable people get outraged - and are right to be outraged.

Even worse though, most countries (India and USA included) have hyper-nationalist parties ready to seize upon tragedies like these for domestic gain, regardless of the collateral damage the parties' proposed policies would cause. Of course, the outrage these parties exploit is perfectly understandable, and it's universally shared. And the terrorists know this - indeed, they're counting on it. That's what often makes their strategy successful.

It's just infuriating -- you want to get mad, but getting mad is exactly what they want. Indeed, it's part of the plan.

In other words, the act of terror and the response are carefully choreographed episodes played by wealthy elites, symbolic gestures that happen to grind up real lives. And the cannon fodder believe in the drama most passionately--that is, after all, the purpose of the theatre.

I haven't written much about George W. Bush in a while.  It's a testament to his irrelevancy.  He's been doing interviews looking back on his presidency as of late, and I was surprised to find this in an interview Bush did with ABC's Charlie Gibson:

Bush said that one of his biggest disappointments was the failure to pass a comprehensive bill on immigration reform.

"I firmly believe that the immigration debate really didn't show the true nature of America as a welcoming society," he said. "I fully understand we need to enforce law and enforce borders. But the debate took on a tone that undermined the true greatness of America, which is that we welcome people who want to work hard and support their families."
Lauren Sher - ABC News (1 December 2008)
I've often been criticized for caring so much about migrant rights and allowing that passion to cloud my perception of other battles that need to be fought.  If that were true, I could very easily say that George W. Bush got it right on U.S. migration policy.   

Acting from fear, stealing life

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Taj hotel fire.jpg

My thoughts go out tonight to the victims of the terror attacks in Mumbai.  One upsetting aspect of these crimes is the selection of targets by nationality. 

When I see evidence of the dedication and resourcefulness of these young bombers brought to bear to kill other human beings, I think "what a fucking waste." 

You could have used your gifts, your energy, your life to bring life to others, to make other lives richer.  Instead, you brought death.  You stole life. 

Times like this call for personal and public affirmation of the principles of nonviolence to which Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave their lives.  Violence begets violence unless a conscious choice is made to break that cycle.

[Image: AFP]

From the NY Times today:

KABUL, Afghanistan -- An airstrike by United States-led forces killed 40 civilians and wounded 28 others at a wedding party in Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said Wednesday. The casualties included women and children, the officials said.

The United States military and Afghan authorities were investigating the reports about the latest attack, the American military said in a statement, but it gave no confirmation of the strikes or any death toll.
By now, this is a familiar pattern.

The outlines of a cynical strategy emerge: deny, deny, deny for the first week or two until the story recedes from the front pages, then concede in bits and pieces until the story is broken up and defused over time and new distractions materialize. 
But this strategy only works if you stop blowing up wedding parties or villages every other month.
dead Afghan babies.jpg
Today was a day for remembering, and for asking hard questions.

El Loco at Latinopundit remembers 9/11/01 and 9/11/73, and the tragedies that occurred on the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and in Allende's Chile on those dates.

Karima Bennoune at IntLawGrrls says that

both our contemporary human rights and security discourses on terrorism need to be broadened and renewed. This renewal should be informed by the understanding that international human rights law protects the individual both from terrorism and the excesses of counterterrorism, like torture.
She reminds us that

Counterterrorist policies that violate international law clearly undermine the endeavors of people like Sifaoui and Kheddar. But a human rights response that focuses solely on the impact of counterterrorism, and not of terrorism itself, hinders their work as well. Instead, international lawyers need to develop what Gita Sahgal has called a "human rights account" of terrorism. Perhaps that could be our best contribution to commemorating the terrible events of September 11, 2001.
Duke at Migra Matters recounts the tragic events of 9/11 and then the tragic two weeks that followed during which the Bush administration began preparations for the war in Iraq.  This war has led to the death and displacement of a far greater number of people than the 9/11 attacks.

Nezua provides a very personal look into his world on 9/11 and the subsequent days and weeks. Tracing his ideological and emotional trajectory will hit close to home to many readers, myself included.

And here are my scattered recollections of that day in lower Manhattan, recorded two years ago. I've probably grown even more skeptical since then of those who claim to lead us and of U.S. claims of the efficacy and good faith of its actions abroad. It is a strange experience--I feel at once more cynical and more hopeful than I have felt before.

Cynical when I think of our upcoming election and the ways I feel the U.S. will be stuck in the status quo regardless of who wins the presidency. Hopeful in the potential I see for transnational organizing and a youth movement that knows no borders.

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