Defending America?

The Left Coaster, in Dead-Checking discovers that war crimes might be part of our military doctrine.

“It doesn’t matter if later on we find out you wiped out a family of unarmed civilians.”

I understand the need to protect yourself and others in combat. But for Americans, being in combat assumes that you are in that situation because you are fighting to defend America and Americans.

From the post,

As one marine said: “What does the American public think happens when they tell us to assault a city?” one of them said. “Marines don’t shoot rainbows out of our a**es. We f**king kill people.”

So, did “the American people” tell them to assault a city? If so, why? What American interest was served?

Is what we did in Fallujah, and are doing now in the Sunni Triangle, about defending America? Is what we are doing in Iraq about defending America?

Many so-called “conservatives” will argue that all of this is justified by long-term goals of democratizing the Middle East. (At least, those “conservatives” who accept this particular justification-of-the-day.) Is that why we’re there? Other “conservatives’ will give different justifications for the invasion.

Why did we invade Iraq? You get different answers depending on who you ask. And that ought to tell us something about all of this. Even conservatives, I would think.

It is said that democracies do not choose go to war, unless attacked. In fact, this is part of the justification for the “democratizing the Middle East” argument. And maybe there was justification for invading Iraq if our government really did believe Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and had the means and immediate intent to use them against us. That was certainly the justification used to sell the war to the public. (A second war at a time when we were already engaged in another war – against al-Queda.) But it has long since become clear that this argument was only used to trick the public into supporting the invasion. (Even war-supporters have to admit this.) In any event, Saddam and his party are no longer running Iraq, and we know there are no weapons of mass destruction and weren’t any for a decade.

Here we are, going on two years since we invaded, and no one can even really pin down why we did it. Everyone has their own theory.

An Email From England…

Here’s an e-mail I received from England:

After numerous rounds of “We don’t even know if Osama is still alive,” Osama himself decided to send George W. a letter in his own handwriting to let him know he was still in the game.

Bush opened the letter and it appeared to contain a coded message:


Bush was baffled, so he e-mailed it to Colin Powell. Colin and his aides had no clue either so they sent it to the FBI. No one could solve it so it went to the CIA, and then to the NSA, then to the Secret Service. With no clue as to its meaning, they eventually asked Canada’s RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) for help.

The RCMP e-mailed the White House. “Tell the President he is looking at the message upside down.”

The Waters Above the Firmament: Christians will be judged too

Evolution isn’t the only problem for creation science. There are also some troublesome passages in Genesis relating to cosmology:

“And God made the firmament and separated the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament. And it was so.

And God called the firmament Heaven. And there was evening and there was morning, a second day.

And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so.

God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good.”

Genesis 1:6-7

What are the “waters above the firmament”? For that matter, what is the firmament? It seems to mean the sky, and the idea seems to be that the firmament is something solid holding the stars in place, and that water was above the firmament, just as water surrounds the earth and is below it.

The problem is that this seems to have nothing to do with the astronomical system we know about and live in. Not only liberal Christians, but most Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Christians give this (and many other passages in scripture) figurative or metaphorical rather than literal interpretations.

Unfortunately, the first principle of the majority of American conservative Christians is that every word of the Bible is literally true, and as a result fundamentalists are forced to come up with some kind of explanation for “the waters above the firmament”. Even a century ago (or as far as that goes, 1400 years ago at the time of Cosmas Indicopleustes) this concept was pretty far-fetched, but when men walked on the moon in 1969 the idea became ludicrous. But the fundamentalists soldier on, retranslating the Hebrew, postulating massive changes for which there is no evidence, and finding signs of water on Mars. They might just as well try to prove that the earth is flat, too, while they’re at it, but they never seem go quite that far any more — God knows why.

(There’s also the theory that the waters above the firmament are sentient beings, though few fundamentalists seem to have involved themselves in this aspect fo the question either: “Let the waters that are above the heavens praise the name of the Lord” — Psalm 148:4; “Ye waters that are above the heavens, bless the Lord.”– Deuteronomy 3:60).

And then there’s the seven-headed dragon rising from the sea. A lot of our fundamentalist friends not only believe that Armageddon is nigh, but they are praying that it will come soon, so that they can see their enemies (us) dying horrible deaths.

Many of the fundamentalists I have known have been kindly, decent people, but they were also terribly fearful people who live in a very small world, and the mandates of their belief essentially required them to reject most of science. It’s not just evolution — anything that goes against the literal word of the Bible must be rejected. Granted what we know about their approach to science, it’s not hard to understand how they could believe George W. Bush on WMD and al Qaeda. Essentially, they have made a principled rejection of all rational and critical thought, and for them Science is an enemy, an adversary of religion which must be resisted or destroyed.

Recently the odious George Will and the egregious twit David Brooks have been happily explaining to us that our failure to respect the deeply-held religious beliefs of a big chunk of the Republican core constituency proves that we are elitists. You have to give these guys credit for not bursting out laughing when they make these pronouncements. Brooks and Will are plump, prosperous scam artists who make their living suckering the Republican core constituency, among others, and nobody in the world has less respect for their victims than these two do.

All in all, while I recognize the political problem for the Democratic Party in trying to win elections when so many voters hold these irrational, cruel beliefs, it is hard for me to understand why why these voters should be respected. And (going a little further, and speaking a language that Christians can understand) it seems clear to me that the Armageddon Christians are doing harm, and that instead of relying on the mercy of Christ to rescue them from the consequences of their actions, they should stop and think.

For Christians will be judged too.

PS: This is double-posted from my other, less-political site, Idiocentrism, where you also will find a number of links to creation scientists, etc. While I actually think that Democrats should make overtures to moderate Christians, this whole debate has been given an obnoxious conservative Christian spin. The Armageddon Christians speak of their enemies as evil and of themselves as good, but they suffer from a desperate need for self-examination, and until they look at themselves, they are at risk of continuing to function as evildoers.

How the media works

“In 2002, I was an on-air commentator at MSNBC, and also senior producer on the “Donahue” show, the most-watched program on the channel. In the last months of the program, before it was terminated on the eve of the Iraq war, we were ordered by management that every time we booked an antiwar guest, we had to book 2 pro-war guests. If we booked two guests on the left, we had to book 3 on the right. At one meeting, a producer suggested booking Michael Moore and was told that she would need to book 3 right-wingers for balance. I considered suggesting Noam Chomsky as a guest, but our studio couldn’t accommodate the 86 right-wingers we would have needed for balance.”

There’s more….

Blog Hero Award

Matt Stoller is hereby awarded the coveted Seeing the Forest Blog Hero Award, for his piece today, How I Refound My Optimism. Naturally you gotta go read the whole thing. But here’s a bit:

“As the bloggerati became irrelevant in the glare of the final days, and organizing that we could not do took over, people sat, fidgeted, and bitched at each other online to get offline and ‘do something’, echoing the Ashcroftian idea that dissent is unpatriotic, only this time asking me not to dissent against Kerry, a man who refused to stake out a coherent set of ideals to run on, and did so in my name and the name of my party.

[. . .] This is not a conservative country – Kerry ran a horrible campaign, and still received 48% of the vote. But it is a country whose ability to pick leadership at all levels is in utter shambles. The depth of the loss brought that home. Democrats are in the opposition, which is tremendously freeing in that irrelevancy allows us to ditch all the special interests who have sank their teeth into our necks.

[. . .] I cared about Kerry’s election for one reason – I didn’t want the American people to ratify torture. But we did. So the loss was awful, but I never expected ‘everything to be alright’ even if Kerry had won. Still, the reaction to what happened was incredibly discouraging. Democrats have still not figured out, and apparently will not figure out, how to act like an opposition.

[. . .] [. . .] Americans have decided that everything is basically ok, and don’t want to rock the boat. The right knows this, that they cannot legitimately change the constitution, so they put airy rhetoric to the test and claim a mandate to slip in a reversion to Medieval times in the backdoor. It is wrong, but it comes because we have not led. When we do, and when Americans are ready to put their minds to genuine constitutional change, the right will fall, as the Confederacy did before them.”

Now you gotta go read it.

I’ve met Matt. Matt is going to be at least a Senator some day.

People, Listen To This Man!

Now only Bush can stop the neocons’ wars:

“What is happening in Washington today is that those who were skeptical of the Iraq war and warned the White House against going in are being purged. And those who assured President Bush it would be a cakewalk, that we would be welcomed with flowers and not suicide bombers, that democracy would take root in Iraq and spread through the region, that he would be the Churchill of his generation, are being promoted. Those who were wrong are being advanced, and those who were right are being dismissed.

[. . .] With neoconservatives even more zealously committed than he to the “Bush doctrine” of pre-emptive strikes and preventive war on “axis of evil’ nations seeking weapons of mass destruction, and using U.S. power to effect regime change on defiant nations, only Bush can now prevent them from realizing their vision.

The United States, with 80 percent of its ground forces home from Iraq, in Iraq or on the way, does not have the ground troops to fight another land war. Indeed, there may not be enough troops in-country to defeat the spreading insurgency in Iraq.

Air or missile strikes on Iran would bring Iranian support for anti-American guerrillas in Afghanistan, in the Shiite areas of Iraq, in Lebanon, perhaps in Saudi Arabia. The Middle East could erupt in war. Who would support us in such a war that would send the price of oil and gas soaring and plunge the West into recession?”

I’m making you go there to see who wrote this. He is one of very, very few “Conservatives” who have not been bought off by the corporate/crony movement. He is someone who sticks to his principles and tells it how he sees it.

Got $500,000,000.00?

First of all, we need to spend about 500 million dollars on a complete new media system. We need national TV and cable networks, a high quality national newspaper, and a national radio network. Everybody in the country, as near as possible, should have access to all of them. Air America is a start, but only reaches 50% or so of the population.

I don’t listen to the radio, but when Air America came to Portland (already a liberal city) I noticed a change in ambience. You started hearing liberal ideas unexpectedly and accidentally in public places. You heard apolitical people talking about things that normally only political people talk about.

A lot of people have no real political ideas of their own, but just pick them out of the air. These are the undecided voters that I call fluff voters. The fluff voters’ votes are decided by the free and cheap media that they passively receive, and by and large these cheap media are hard-right or center-right.

What should this new media be like? In some ideal world I suppose we should just ask for a fact-oriented, fair-minded, professional media, but whether or not that’s even a valid, attainable ideal at all, it won’t work now. Because that’s exactly what the major media claim to be, and the major media (network TV, the WaPo, the NYT) are the biggest part of the problem.

What has happened is that the Republicans have adopted the big-lie tactic, and if they are called on their lies they immediately make loud accusations of media bias. The answer to that one is “If the truth is partisan, print the truth”, but none of the major media have the guts to follow that policy in the face of well-organized opposition.

As a result, what we have in the press is a lot of solid conservatives, a lot of neutral centrists, and a lot of wimpy, intimidated liberals of the Kristoff-Applebaum-Cohen type who fall all over themselves trying to avoid right-wing criticisms by criticizing both sides equally. (Novak, Safire, and Will were all Republican operatives before they became columnists. Who do the Democrats have to match them? – and don’t say Stephanopolous or Estrich).

Anyway, I think that the major media are hopeless. And the new media should be more accurate than Fox, but equally fair and equally partisan. They’re going to be accused of partisanship anyway, so they might as well earn their reputation. The thing most missing in the passive media is simply the partisan expression of the liberal Democratic point of view, and above all, the partisan reporting of the facts which support the liberal position.

Yeah, 500 million bucks is a lot of money. But I really think that that’s what it’s going to take. Does George Soros happen to be listening?

P. S. Later I’ll talk more about the fluff voters, but this piece in the New Republic is required reading [login “gorevidal/ gorevidal”, or go to this summary]. The gist of what I’ll be saying is that we have to do whatever is necessary to communicate with that segment of the electorate, because even if we don’t like them, they’re part of the ballgame. Prissiness really hurts us.

P.P.S. A commentator mentioned the Minnesota DFL Party, and I thought I’d post this link to the “Floyd B. Olson Page”. As the Farmer-Labor Governor of Minnesota, Olson was as radical as anyone who ever held power in the US.

I’m back

Well, during my little break I pretty much got on top of my various computer and financial problems, and also got my family Christmas plans squared away. So I’m back on duty at Seeing the Forest.

With the election over and done with, it’s now time to concentrate on the longer view, and I’ll mostly be writing about the broad overall picture rather than about timely stuff. The two main focusses will be, “How paranoid should we be?” and “What should we be doing from here on out?”

On the first question, I’ve decided that, Godwin’s law or no Godwin’s law, Bush is not Hitler. He’s a Juan Peron for the middle class. Peron got total control of the government, bought enormous popularity while bankrupting his nation, and intimidated his enemies by fair means and foul. (The Broadway musical “Laura!” still remains to be written — let that be a hot tip for an up-and-coming young librettist out there somewhere.)

As for “What should we be doing?”, I’ll be writing about that later today.

So anyway, I’m still with you. But I have started a new, less-political site called Idiocentrism. During my two-and-a-half years of political obsession I’ve neglected many of my other interests, and if I let politics take over my life completely, Bush and Osama win.

From John Kerry

I suggest reading this message from John Kerry. Then go to the website to join and co-sponsor the bill to provide health care to every child. And note the line that I bring out with bold type.

I want to thank you personally for what you did in the election — you rewrote the book on grassroots politics, taking control of campaigns away from big donors. No campaign will ever be the same.

You moved voters, helped hold George Bush accountable, and countered the attacks from big news organizations such as Fox, Sinclair Broadcasting, and conservative talk radio.

And your efforts count now more than ever. Despite the words of cooperation and moderate sounding promises, this administration is planning a right wing assault on values and ideals we hold most deeply. Healthy debate and diverse opinion are being eliminated from the State Department and CIA, and the cabinet is being remade to rubber stamp policies that will undermine Social Security, balloon the deficit, avoid real reforms in health care and education, weaken homeland security, and walk away from critical allies around the world.

Regardless of the outcome of this election, once all the votes are counted — and they will be counted — we will continue to challenge this administration. This is not a time for Democrats to retreat and accommodate extremists on critical principles — it is a time to stand firm.

I will fight for a national standard for federal elections that has both transparency and accountability in our voting system. It’s unacceptable in the United States that people still don’t have full confidence in the integrity of the voting process.

I ask you to join me in this cause.

And we must fight not only against George Bush’s extreme policies — we must also uphold our own values. This is why on the first day Congress is in session next year, I will introduce a bill to provide every child in America with health insurance. And, with your help, that legislation will be accompanied by the support of hundreds of thousands of Americans.

There are more than eight million uninsured children in our nation.

That’s eight million reasons for us to stay together and fight for a new direction. It is a disgrace that in the wealthiest nation on earth, eight million children go without health insurance.

Normally, a member of the Senate will first approach other senators and ask them to co-sponsor a bill before it is introduced — instead, I am turning to you. Imagine the power of a bill co-sponsored by hundreds of thousands of Americans being presented on the floor of the United States Senate. You can make it happen. Sign our “Every Child Protected” pledge today and forward it to your family, friends, and neighbors:

This is the beginning of a second term effort to hold the Bush administration accountable and to stand up and fight for our principles and our values. They want you to disappear; they are counting on that. I’m confident you will prove them wrong, and you will rewrite history again.

Here is what I want you to know. I understand the strength, commitment, and passion that are at the core of what we built together — and I am determined to make our collective energy and organization a force to be reckoned with in the weeks and months ahead.

Let’s roll up our sleeves and get back to work for our country.

Thank you,

John Kerry

Go join.

Regardless of the outcome once the votes are counted. Wow. Think about what he’s saying.