Sep 23, 2010

Au revoir, les Enfants: Trotsky's Children Stomp Their Feet and Run Home

Iran's President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad made a speech today at the UN which caused US "diplomats" to pack up their toys and run home.
In his speech to the annual General Assembly, Ahmadinejad said it was mostly U.S. government officials who believed a terrorist group was behind the suicide hijacking attacks that brought down New York's World Trade Center and hit the Pentagon.
Another theory, he said, was "that some segments within the U.S. government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime" — his way of characterizing Israel.
"The majority of the American people as well as most nations and politicians around the world agree with this view," Ahmadinejad told the 192-nation assembly.
Shortly after walking out of the speech like spoiled little children, US envoys responded by written statement claiming Iran's president had offered up "vile conspiracies" and "anti-Semitism". Even if you accept that the translation of his statements are perfectly correct, it isn't clear at all that he claimed to believe the conspiracy himself, merely that a large number of people outside US government circles believed them.

In reality, it looks like Ahmadinijad is fairly well-informed though his claim that a majority think 9/11 was in inside job is a stretch. He's correct that there is a large number of people who do not accept the government's claim that it is entirely blameless (either by blunder or covert activities). Several polls have been conducted over the years and according to some, up to 70% of the American people do not accept the official story.

Iran's President is pointing out the US Government's horrendous credibility problem, not only amongst its own people, but among inhabitants of other countries who have watched its Administrations bully defenseless nations and people in the Middle East for a very long time. The acknowledgement of this credibility gap is what truly upset the US delegation. 

The US has been meddling in the Middle East for almost 100 years (since WWI); in and amongst countries which pose no threat to Americans (or certainly didn't before such policies were implemented) but produce the resources that make its economy tick. US policies have created, and made use of, the very terrorism its representatives claim to abhor. 

While there is some satisfaction seeing US diplomats squirm, their response and the aforementioned US actions are an abomination. If you're a US citizen and have a conscience, the number of innocent people killed as US forces went chasing what the government currently admits is now only about 100 Al Qaeda boogie men, can't be easily rationalized. Rational adults don't walk out with such pomp, especially if one is continually claiming that one is seeking common ground.

What Iran's president said, if this translation is correct, was that the number of people who do not trust this government and do not believe what it says, is far larger than those who accept the word of its representatives. It was certainly a middle finger raised up to the Trotskyites who have taken over US foreign policy. One would expect them to squirm, but they are supposed to be representing ideals far larger than their obviously over-inflated egos would allow them to acknowledge, but which they drape around them as justification at every opportunity.

Whatever one thinks of Ahmadinejad, it's  hard to dispute that the US has a serious credibility and image problem. It has no business lecturing anyone on its nuclear programs, especially not to countries who are signatories to the non-proliferation treaty and which have not violated its provisions. 

Today's diplomatic action is further evidence that policy makers and bureaucrats cannot admit that there is such a credibility problem, further exacerbating its credibility issues.

To the rest of the world and rational people in the US, it does not go un-noticed that all of this self-righteous indignation originates amongst officials working for the only nuclear-capable country that has dropped its technology on civilian populations.

Contrary to implications by Bush and Obama administration officials, Iran is nowhere near having the capability to produce nuclear material suitable for weaponization and have stated they have no intention of doing so. However, most people have no idea of the technical realities with regard to the production of nuclear weaponry. The general belief that Iran is dangerously close to doing this or that it has violated any conditions of its treaty agreements is the result of a relentless campaign of propaganda by US officials and Neoconservative ideologues, aided by an alleged "liberal" media that has yet to seriously analyze erroneous interpretations of US intelligence statements made by journalists and opinion writers alike. 

Like the infantile show of faux indignation, the statement issued by US officials was just as absurd and insulting to the American public it claims to be protecting.
Rather than representing the aspirations and goodwill of the Iranian people, Mr. Ahmadinejad has yet again chosen to spout vile conspiracy theories and anti-Semitic slurs that are as abhorrent and delusional as they are predictable.
The correct response would have been to ignore the statement rather than jump down in the mud with Ahmadinejad, if one was sincere in the belief that his statements were totally false and irrelevant. The diplomats assigned to the UN have actually done more to discredit themselves (and the US government) and draw attention to Ahmadinejad's comments than almost anything they could have otherwise managed. 

While it's probably fair to draw the conclusion that the obviously scripted walk-out, in which several European nations and Israel also participated, was intended to deflect attention away from its own credibility problems and toward Iran's "kooky" President, it is also fair to conclude that our US envoys and State Department are not staffed by people who show any serious diplomatic qualities. They are little children who seem to be more interested in mocking the process of diplomacy than engaging in it. 

In a perfect world, these diplomats would be fired and replaced with mature adults.

Aug 24, 2010

The Empire Tries to Strike Back

'All y'all dumb motherfuckers don’t even know my opinion on shit'.

If there was ever a defining moment in the 2010 midterm elections, I would have to argue that it occurred when the statement above was made by a black construction worker who had just passed through a gauntlet of “protesters”. The crowd had assembled in lower Manhattan to express their absolute hatred for Muslims, fueled by years of neoconservative propaganda (though it only seems like a few weeks). The unidentified man, wearing a skin cap, immediately assumed to be a Muslim artifact, made the completely appropriate statement, under the circumstances, when the crowd started directing their vitriol toward him.

Clearly, none of the protesters were interested in knowing his opinion but rather projecting it upon him. Yet, he probably made the most sensible and astute comment they had heard since tuning off Fox News before traveling to New York.

A few writers have pointed out that the controversy over the Park51 development is akin to short attention span syndrome, myself included. Glen Greenwald, and Ron Paul point out however that there is a sinister underpinning to the controversy that cannot be ignored. 
“The animosity and hatred so visible here extends far beyond the location of mosques or even how we treat American Muslims.  So many of our national abuses, crimes and other excesses of the last decade -- torture, invasions, bombings, illegal surveillance, assassinations, renditions, disappearances, etc. etc. -- are grounded in endless demonization of Muslims.” 
Ron Paul puts the blame squarely on those who deserve it:
“In my opinion it has come from the neo-conservatives who demand continual war in the Middle East and Central Asia and are compelled to constantly justify it.
They never miss a chance to use hatred toward Muslims to rally support for the ill conceived preventative wars. . . “
While the controversy has come to a head and may even have taken people by surprise, it shouldn’t have. The controversy stems from the preposterous claim that the U.S. is in danger of being converted to a Sharia law system, seeded by neoconservatives as early as 2007 during the run up to the 2008 Presidential election.

When I first heard this drum beat, I found the claims far too incredulous to even take seriously. More properly put, I couldn’t fathom that such could be stated with a straight face and figured it even less likely that anyone would believe.

When Newt Gingrich was first hinting he might toss his hat in the ring for the 2008 election, it was this very claim he used as a rationale for running.

In fact Robert Spencer, one of the main mouthpieces for the daily Muslim hate Fox hosts have been scheduling, writes Gingrich is “the first major politician to acknowledge that the problem America faces today from Islamic jihadists is not simply one of terrorism, but of a larger attempt to insinuate elements of Islamic law (sharia) into American society, and to assert the principle that where sharia and American law conflict, it is American law that must give way.

Gingrich may have been the first back in the 2008 cycle to use the word “Sharia” in this context, but he wasn’t alone in projecting the general sentiment that Islamic Jihadists were ready to take over the US. At the time, I believed, especially after 8 years of Bush/Cheney, that these ideas were unmarketable.

In January 2007, Mitt Romney, during a speech to the National Review Institute Conservative Summit, said:
“This [Jihadism] is Sunni, it’s Shia, it’s Hamas, it’s Hezzbollah, it’s Al Qada, it’s The Muslim Brotherhood, it’s financed by some countries that don’t even know they’re financing it in some cases, it’s preached to millions of people, it’s broadcast to the masses, it’s taught at schools in scores of nations and it is devastating to civilizations. Their objective is to replace moderate governments with a caliphate..” [It’s the Kitchen sink too!]           
I wasn’t the only one who couldn't imagine voters taking this nonsense seriously. David Weigel, when he still had a Job at Reason: 
“The GOP field is talking like the last seven years of war and horrible blunders didn't happen - the closest they come is McCain bitterly talking about the botched Iraq occupation. No one's challenging the candidates' hawkish talk about Islam and Iran, much less fact-checking it on the spot.”
As Matthew Yglesias at the Atlantic pointed out, the broad brush should have resulted in a far more incredulous response.
To put it bluntly, the trouble here is that the Muslim Brotherhood just isn't a violent terrorist organization, and certainly doesn't commit acts of violence against the United States. It's an extremely traditionalist multinational civil society organization. It's true that a lot of violent types used to be in the Brotherhood and now they're in terrorist groups, but used to be is the key phrase here, they left the Brotherhood because the Brotherhood wouldn't sign on for their agenda. In one clause, Romney's just gone and broadened the war to include a huge new category of people who have no intention of waging war against the United States or even against Israel.
I didn’t pay attention to how coordinated and consistent the message was among many of the 2008 primary campaigners nor did I suspect the  neoconservatives would continue market this nonsense following the election. After all, 2008 didn't turn out so well for Republicans. However, after a two-year, constant barrage of scare mongering, the topic of Sharia has hit a fever pitch. Andrew McCarthy from the National Review back in July breathlessly proclaimed:
"Henceforth, there should be no place to hide for any candidate, including any incumbent. The question will be: Where do you stand on sharia?"
In Oklahoma, politicians have taken this so seriously that they’re proposing a legislative ban!

The entire issue over Sharia law is fabricated. For the past two years, I merely ignored this talk of Sharia encroachment as ridiculous, kooky conspiracy theory. For one, that’s what it is. There is absolutely no evidence that Al Qaeda or any of the terrorist organizations we’re allegedly fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan will ever be able to penetrate our political system in such a way. For another, it’s simply bigoted nonsense that hasn’t been even remotely supported with empirical evidence.

That’s where the covert bigotry and the broad, unchallenged assertions (where the hell is the media?) become so devastating.  By linking the moderate, peaceful Muslim groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Sunni, Shia, Mosques across the US which have never asserted any militant tendancies and people like the Imam involved in the Park51 development (who incidentally worked with the FBI’s counter-terrorism group during the Bush administration), the neoconservatives are counting on their base’s ignorance and fear propelling them back into power come November. Clearly, Gingrich has been planning this for at least a couple of years.

It’s a coordinated effort where a prophecy seems to come to life right before our very eyes and Newt rides in on a white horse to save us from the terrible, evil Muslims. Shakespeare couldn’t have scripted it better.

It gets even weirder. The media play here is downright choreographed as noted by John Stewart in a brilliant skewering of Fox news and the neoconservative pundits to whom it devotes so much air. Stewart also points out that Fox, who appear to be working in concert with Gingrich, are themselves funded by the very Muslims they are hoping you will hate.

That aspect of it doesn’t appear to have a rational explanation at first glance. However, if you take into consideration that the neoconservative goals stated in its PNAC documents back in 1994 were to completely remake the middle east, it makes perfect sense.

The House of Saud, from whence Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal eminates, was the main benificiary of the region’s reconfiguration at the end of WWI. It has cooperated and helped to fund most of the CIA’s covert ops in the region ever since, most of which were designed to increase the oil profits of American and Suadi interests (the un-stated goal of the neoconservatives). 

This same Saudi Prince has himself funded the very Mosque for which the media company he’s bailed out is attacking.

It’s probably the largest political con-job I’ve had the sadness to witness and grasp in my lifetime.

The entire point of the exercise is to suck the American electorate into arguing and fighting over something that can achieve no good for the US no matter which side wins but for which the major players win whatever the outcome. More War! Hooray!

Gingrich is trying to frame the debate, with more than a little (once illegal before a recent supreme court decision) help from a battery of neoconservative columnists and media personalities such that the 2010 and 2012 elections focus on a single question: “Where do you stand on sharia?”, rather than the variety of questions that will determine whether or not we can climb out of this government-induced depression.

You are to forget that the trillion dollar foreign policy, which they foisted on this nation, is the solution rather than the cause of our looming bankruptcy, a growing hatred of US policy abroad, increased chances of terrorism and an entire generation of broken soldiers who will be dependent on the government for their health and well-being as they return from these same wars.

You are to forget that not one of them has any problem with the counterfeit stuff we produce and which is now losing its cache as the worlds reserve currency. You are to forget that the recent health-care bill and fascist bailouts of banks and auto companies were jointly foisted upon you by members of both parties claiming to represent you in Washington D.C.

But the support for their kooky conspiracies is also fabricated. In collusion with the media, and polling organizations the neoconservatives are creating a facade. We’re supposed to believe that the liberty movement is dead, that the tea parties have in a matter of weeks all succumbed to this nonsense and that the only thing we can do is avoid a conflict with anyone asking us our bonifides on the matter of Sharia. If you can’t answer that question, you are to be cast out from our political system and shamed into silence.

I have a feeling that this will backfire on them. It needs to backfire on them badly. Unless it does, you can just welcome more of the same disdain directed towards us from our “representatives” until the entire system finally collapses under its own dead weight.

Don’t despair though. Ron Paul has shown once again that merely shining the light on these cockroaches is the best defense. Shine your lights and speak out for liberty and we’ll send the bigots scurrying for cover. There’s nothing a bigot can say which dishonors his target.
To bigotry no sanction.” – George Washington
"Tell your commander that we are not here to make peace but to do battle to defend ourselves and liberate our kingdom. Let them come on and we shall prove this in their very beards." - William Wallace

Aug 21, 2010

Eat the Circus

It shouldn’t amaze anyone that the decaying entertainment providers in this country, even those which purport to be the alternative to “liberal media”, have, in the face of the second US depression, been promoting the least relevant current events. Some might go so far as to claim that this is by design. Whatever the truth is, if we are being manipulated on purpose or merely being given the titillation we crave, we are witnessing the actions of a lost and shell-shocked population who do not want to face the situation with which they are confronted. Instead they aimlessly stagger from the trivial to the benign with increasing volume and frequency.

There have been a very long string of emotional outbursts from the media which have diverted our attentions from what is important, timed just so.

On September 10, 2001, Donald Rumsfeld announced that the Pentagon had “misplaced” 2.3 trillion dollars, (yes, with a T) the amount of which could have paid for the subsequent Iraq war three times over. For obvious and legitimate reasons, the press never got warmed up on that story. But it also never revisited the matter to any significant degree and there are probably a great number of Americans who have no idea that so much money has been “lost”.

Today, our government is so far in debt, there aren’t enough Federal Reserve Notes in circulation to repay what has been borrowed. In spite of this, our well-born masters, when they’re not worrying about baseball players using steroids or who should be allowed to play in a BCS bowl game, are informing us that Muslims are about to completely take over our political and religious traditions, replacing them with Sharia law. (By building a cultural center?)

It hasn’t of course occurred to any of them that the majority of immigrant Muslims in this country fled nations that had instituted some tyrant’s idea of Sharia, because they didn’t want to live under such a system. If we follow the logic of Newt Gingrich and others to its conclusion, most came here because they hate freedom and are so mad about being free that they pine away for a society where their little girls cannot get an education, where their neighbors and wives are stoned or beheaded for what most of us would consider minor social faux pauxs, citizens routinely disappear at the hands of secret police and private property is confiscated by local warlords.

It is self-evident that this logic is faulty. Sadly, an argument that should be limited to those who have an ownership stake in the property under dispute has spread like wildfire and consumed the audiences of talk-radio and social networking sites as if the fate of the world rests in the balance.

If that topic doesn’t suit you, we’ve got pure sports talk gold! In 2008, Roger Clemens asked Congress to let him testify in order to provide a counterpoint to the accusations being made against him. Two years later he’s been indicted for perjury. What’s the lesson here? Why it’s that lying to Congress is more serious than any drug use, which is purely awful, especially if you claim it never happened. How dare he lie to Congress! How dare he claim his innocence! Nobody does that and gets away with it!

Unless of course, Congress has asked somebody to come and lie to them for selfish reasons.

In late 1993, Charles Schumer arranged for the testimony of then 14-year-old Kiri Jewell, a young lady who claimed that Koresh molested her when she was 10. Jewell’s father, who had been hustling Kiri’s story to every news outlet and Hollywood contact he could find, brought his daughter to Washington so she could add child molestation to the infamy of David Koresh. For Schumer it was a golden opportunity to run interference on behalf of the BATF and FBI who had been responsible for the largest and deadliest federal police-action in US history, though it was not the first time police had burned women and children to death.

Kiri’s testimony was uncomfortably salacious and crude even by Congress’ standards. It was also questionable. Kiri was not a resident at Mt. Carmel at the time she claimed the incident took place. She lived in California with her mother and grandmother. The reporter who discovered this fact, Ambrose-Evans Pritchard, a Washington correspondent for the London Telegraph, was not asked to testify. Had he done so, he might have let the committee know that it only took him 15 minutes to make the discovery.

The FBI may have burned to death 84 innocent people who were never alleged to have committed any crime other than failing to pay a tax stamp, but they at least got an alleged child molester in the bargain. Point being, the FBI had no incentive to prosecute Kiri for perjury or her father for suborning perjury. The public will ignore the most radical tyranny if the victims are sufficiently demonized. They certainly didn’t notice when Carlos Ghigliotti an expert at analyzing infrared (FLIR) footage died before he could testify on behalf of the surviving Branch Davidians. What a coincidence. Look! Zimbabwe!

In other recent news, the kind that shall go unnoticed as we amble through and gawk at train-wrecks, the US government announced quietly that Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons after all and it won’t have any soon, if ever. After spending the past thirty years demonizing Iran and claiming for the past eight that there was an imminent nukular threat, government officials conceded that Iran might actually be telling the truth about its nuclear program.

10 days ago, on August 20, the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee (the monopoly that determines interest rates for the country’s banks) admitted that its previous predictions about the economy’s recovery were premature.

“The pace of economic recovery is likely to be more modest in the near term than had been anticipated,” the Federal Open Market Committee said in a statement in Washington.

Their solution? To buy up more debt from a government that could not repay it even if it confiscated an entire year’s wages and corporate profits of the entire US population. What our masters are doing to us is similar to the funny prank that only works in b-grade comedies.

“Look! Behind you!”



( Queue laugh track )

President Obama has been doing his darnedest to ensure that the Federal Reserve has lots and lots of debt available for the aforementioned money printing scheme. This week he was at the home of an Ohio architect who had benefited from the economically brilliant plan of beg, borrow and steal from the productive to pay the leeches. He even got within a few feet of the plebes, braving pollen and mosquitoes for the edification of the masses.

When he’s done telling us how the government’s economic plans might take a decade to produce results, he’ll take a nice 2-week vacation in Martha’s Vinyard just like us. And we’ll get to watch it all in High Def.

When the bankers and Obama have driven most of us into unemployment and starvation, after we’ve finished arguing over who is the most evil non-threat to our freedom, perhaps we can eat the circus.

Apr 29, 2010

Judges lie about Jury Nullification

From a superb law review article on jury nullification (pdf).
The truth about jury nullification has long been hidden from most juries, but only recently has this judicial denial turned into outright deception. 242 In 1997, the Seventh Division of California’s Second Appellate District upheld a judge’s threatening of jurors with removal when the jury seemed poised to bring in a verdict contrary to the law.

The case was a felony-murder prosecution involving a robbery. Concerned that the defendant had not committed the physical murder, the jury asked the court if it could return a verdict finding the defendant guilty of second degree murder and robbery.

The court instructed the jury that if there was a murder committed during the robbery, the verdict must be for first degree murder according to the felony murder rule. The court then went on to lecture the jurors, threatening them with removal if they failed to follow the law. The appellate court upheld the trial court’s impromptu instruction as “direct, accurate, and easily understood.” The dissent, however, criticized the instruction for suggesting that the jurors would be subject to sanctions if they did not follow the court’s instructions as to the law. Continuing the trend of threatening jurors, California upheld similar threats made even before the jury was impaneled in 2002

Apr 27, 2010

Note from Arizona to its Citizens

We have failed to protect you from violent criminals. Therefore, we now need to punish you for our failure to do so. You will all be required to carry the proper citizenship papers and present them at our whim. Thanks for your cooperation.


Your Owners

Apr 6, 2010

Hate the Sin, Love the Soldier

When one sees an obviously grotesque action by the agents of one's government and speaks out about it, one can count on being immediately labeled with whatever epithet is convenient to prevent scrutiny of the State's activities.

On Monday, April 5, 2010, WikiLeaks published a classified Apache helicopter gunsite-video of a shooting incident in which two Reuters reporters and several unarmed civilians were killed. The shooting occurred on July 12, 2007.

Shortly after the reporters were killed, the military claimed that the reporters were killed in a gun-battle but that it had no knowledge about how two children, in a van being used to bring survivors to safety, were injured. Reuters attempted to get the video via FOIA requests but were denied for "national security" reasons. WikiLeaks somehow obtained a copy of this video through one of its sources. The Army has put WikiLeaks on its own personal enemies list and calls it a "threat to national security." While the video is extremely disturbing, the people at WikiLeaks have done the American people a great service.

The video makes it pretty clear that the military blatantly lied about facts and evidence it possessed even when it was claiming it had none. It opens with a shot of 8-10 men (alleged by a voice on the tape to be 40 men) casually walking along a neighborhood street in Baghdad, Iraq.

It appears as if there are two men in the group carrying rifles by the straps. As the main body of the group crosses the street, these two men hang back as if they might be security personnel. Hired by the reporters perhaps? Thus, the initial claim we hear on the video soundtrack, that there are men with AK-47's, can be debated. Maybe those are rifles, maybe they are not. What isn't debatable is the posture of the men carrying them. They did not threaten, brandish or even look up at the helicopter flying overhead nor did they act as if they were doing something that required any clandestine action. They weren't engaging in "suspicious" behavior at all. Clearly, they didn't look as if anything they were doing required disguising. It was broad daylight, a military helicopter is overhead and they do not attempt to hide or keep their weapons, if that is in fact what they were carrying, out of view.

Somebody in the aircraft at this point requests permission to "engage" and it is almost immediately given based only on the information that has so-far been relayed, some of which is clearly false. One of the most illuminating elements of the recording is that no follow-up questions by superior officers were asked at all. Nothing like...."are they threatening anyone?", which would seem to be a pertinent question given the superiority of firepower and armor the Apache helicopter and its crew enjoyed as compared to what appear to have been a couple of civilians with AK-47 rifles.

When the helicopter passes behind a building, the front of which gathers the victims, a person communicating from the helicopter claims that somebody has just let loose with an RPG. Yet when the helicopter comes back around to the front of the building, not only do we not see any of the tell-tale smoke one would expect from such a launch, the eight or so men milling around on the sidewalk aren't even looking up at the aircraft nor are they looking toward the "shooter" wherever he may have been. Nobody was ducking behind buildings or even looking at the helicopter at all, in spite of the fact that it is obviously just overhead.

And within moments, as soon as the gunner on the Apache can get a clear shot, he lets loose with a burst from the Apache's 30mm chain gun, which shoots some 10 rounds per second. For those who aren't aware, the 30mm is not designed as an anti-personnel weapon but as an armor-piercing weapon. The diameter of the round is over an inch. Whereas a .50 caliber machine gun round can take off a limb, the 30mm round can obliterate an entire body.

What appears to be the lone survivor can be seen moving and a discussion ensues over whether there will be any attempt to reach for his weapon. The general consensus is a desire that he do so and provide a proper excuse for the pilot to shoot again. Though, in fact, the man in question has no weapon at all.

Sometime later a dark van approaches the survivor and a few men get out and attempt to place the man in the van. The soldiers sound frantic and enraged and, in spite of the fact that this activity poses no threat to our beleaguered pilots, they beg once again for authorization and receive it, no questions asked. When the rounds are let loose, we get a spectacular view of their utility as the van is visibly moved sideways by the force of the rounds striking it.

The video also shows us that the military knew within minutes how the two children were injured in spite of the lies it issued later. Soldiers arriving on the ground can be heard reacting to the discovery of the two injured children in the van by remarking, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids into a battle”, and the response, "That's right!"

It would be very easy to allow oneself to resort to hatred after seeing a one-sided fish-in-a-barrel shooting-spree described as a "battle" by soldiers surveying the scene, but I am not sure this is an appropriate reaction for somebody sitting on this side of the conflict. Were it my fellow citizens, I would probably have little defense against resorting to hatred and it certainly gives me a much clearer perspective on how enemies are created; but I am instead led to question how it is that soldiers can act in this way with complete confidence that they are justified.

When this nation was founded, the architects were terribly suspicious of standing armies. They had good reason. Standing armies are nothing more than bureaucracies to administrate death and destruction. Their sole purpose is to indoctrinate and train soldiers to kill, without question, anyone put in their path. Whereas the citizen militia member spends most of his time in productive endeavors and is called upon only when the situation is dire enough to warrant it, a soldier in the standing army is idle most of the time and itches to go and act upon all of that training and indoctrination.

To compound this problem, the legislature and executive will, without a strenuous restraint to the contrary, find some way to scratch that itch, justified or not. It is exactly the situation in which we find ourselves at this moment, engaged in two open wars which have no objective moral or legal justification but which are rationalized by pundits, politicians and citizens alike. So what would we expect soldiers to do when deployed overseas while being told that the killing they perform is, in spite of what their conscience might whisper, the liberation of the nations they have invaded, conquered and occupied?

What are they to think when at every furlough, they are treated to a hero's welcome and told that anyone who opposes what they do is un-American or worse, traitorous? They are told, and often tell others because many of them actually believe it, that they are fighting for the freedoms of all Americans. However, for the Iraqis and the Afghanis they provide misery and death, two things which by definition cannot possibly promote freedom.

Case in point. Since the official Iraq "war" was declared "mission accomplished", U.S. soldiers have been systematically disarming the Iraqi people by executing house-to-house warrant-less search and seizures. This is, by definition, tyranny. Prior to the arrival of U.S. forces, Saddam Hussein and his government allowed Iraqi citizens to own, possess and carry fully automatic weapons. The U.S. government decided that in order to provide "security" (for whom?) it must confiscate these citizen's firearms, leaving them defenseless against criminals of every stripe.

There are a plethora of war supporters who have openly stated that such activity, if performed in their neighborhood, would provoke open, armed rebellion by themselves and those who think like them. But these same war supporters haven't even blinked in protest over the same behavior by the so-called heroes and liberators of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Do we think that the soldiers who are carrying out such orders aren't damaged in very significant ways by this obvious contradiction? What person who left our shores with any knowledge of our second amendment and its necessity, could engage in the behavior such a protection was designed to prevent without being profoundly, morally damaged by the experience? What would a person have to do to reconcile the obvious moral dilemma this creates? How does one take an oath to defend the Constitution, disarm people by force, and then convince himself he's fulfilled his oath?

Some simply can't. While there isn't a great deal of study on the details (the military bureaucrats are busy covering up as much about it as they can) the number of soldiers committing suicide is alarming. Over 400 soldiers have committed suicide since 2003.

But there is another thing we must consider: the effect upon our society of these returning soldiers. While one cannot broad-brush the entire military body by the actions of the soldiers captured on this video, a large number of them have been involved in the occupation of countries that posed no credible threat to the United States. Many have been involved in the house-to-house gun-confiscation program in Iraq. If there were any mass-objection within the ranks to this blatant program of tyranny, I certainly haven't caught wind of it.

Even if we could get them home and out of harm's way, what sort of citizens have we created? If one was to judge by the number of news stories relating violent crimes involving Iraq war veterans, our ability to re-integrate them back into society looks pretty bleak. Nearly 1 in 5 suffer from PTSD, many are crippled or suffer from serious brain injuries.

The common thread among war supporters in the media can be charitably described as insincere. It is easy to boast that U.S. soldiers are blameless, un-erring freedom fighters who have again defended our freedoms against threats having as many scary phrases attached to them as there are pundits seeking to coin them for infamy's sake. It is much harder to drop the sickening patronization and face the damage that will be felt by veterans and civilians alike for the next generation.

When many of the returning veterans take jobs in our towns and cities as law enforcement agents, how will they treat the citizens in their jurisdiction? Will every civilian be viewed with the same amount of suspicion, distrust and callousness they were trained to show Iraqi civilians? Will they escalate to violence at the slightest hint of protest because they have been encouraged to do this in Iraq?

There is a certain "conservative" slogan I often see and hear when morality and politics are argued: "Hate the sin, love the sinner."

If those who claim to do so really loved our soldiers and really loved liberty, they'd bring them home immediately, providing each and every one mental health support, deprogramming and heartfelt apologies. For too long they've been lied to and praised for behavior we would never tolerate within our own borders.

Like members of all standing armies before them, their superiors demanded they follow orders without question covered up criminal behavior and justified all manners of acts in direct contradiction to the oaths they swore to uphold.

Even if the Congress finally showed some courage, there are still criminals who need to be brought to justice. This isn't just for our own protection - the individuals in our society can't afford to have cold-blooded murderers lionized and taught that their behavior is acceptable - but also to ease the suffering of those in Iraq who deserve justice for the crimes committed against them. Perhaps, if we finally did the right thing, we'd create friends rather than enemies.

For these reasons, we need to not only prosecute the soldiers and officers involved in this incident, but also the criminal politicians who lied to the world about the reasons we went there. If they were tried by citizens of this country, it would send the most authentic message to the world that the citizens of the U.S. are serious about the principles we claim to hold dear. However, an extradition to the Hague would be an acceptable alternative. If we let what has occurred stand without any justice, we will reap what we have sown.

Jan 29, 2010

Russian Ark - Rent this Movie

I rented and watched a movie last night called "Russian Ark". I feel compelled to inform you that it was one of the most mind-blowing movies I've ever seen.

I just stumbled across the DVD by accident in the "special interest" section. On the cover was typed a blurb from an Ebert review quite effusive in its praise. The cover's picture framed dancers in what looks to be 18th century attire, and a promise that the last scene is worth the whole movie. "Hmm.. sounds pretty good", said a little voice in my head.

My assessment in the store was a gross understatement. This movie was far beyond "pretty good" though was not at all what I expected. I thought I would be seeing a period piece of some sort set in Russia, perhaps involving intrigue or scandal. There were some elements of intrigue but they are presented by one of the most ingenious concepts ever executed on film.

The movie has no "plot" per se. Its cast consists of one or two actors and some 2000 extras. I later found out that it took 4 years of planning to pull off director Alexander Sukarov's vision. That is because Sukarov would only be granted access to the Hermitage museum in St. Petersburg, where the entire movie is filmed, for 36 hours. His plan was to make the film using a single camera, producing a 96-minute, uninterrupted shot. The shot had to be planned and rehearsed in excruciating detail well before the director would ever shout "action."

The result is stunning. The art alone, pictured in almost every sequence, is worth the entire movie. Three hundred years of Russian history is stored in the former "Winter Palace" and we are given a look at it, including original Rubens, Van Dycks, mind-blowing sculptures that have to be seen to be believed and the architecture of the palace itself - far beyond my ability to describe it justly.

Fairly early in the movie we are taken through a hall that looks like it was intended to be a copy of the Vatican while the main character, seemingly back in St. Petersburg as some sort of ghost, tells the voice behind the camera that the Russians were excellent copiers (to the mild disdain of the proud Russian we never see but can "hear" behind the camera). The two walk from room to room and slip from century to century - evidenced by occupants they pass, interact with or ignore - and not in any particular chronological order.

The dialog between them is sparse, wry and informative (and in Russian, thus the necessity of subtitles) of the various eras through which they pass. To call this an educational film however would hardly be fair. It is actually a directorial masterwork. Even the brilliantly-costumed extras play their parts perfectly, paying no attention whatsoever to the camera and sometimes not even to the two main characters, though when they do interact with "the European" the result is sublime.

In the final "scene" we are treated to a magnificent ball replete with an orchestra and dancers and party-goers who seem to transport us back in time. It feels as if we're spying on an actual historical event rather than a mere re-enactment. This probably has a lot to do with the setting. It is, after all, against this magnificent backdrop that the entire movie scene is filmed. The real star of this movie is the Hermitage museum and when the movie was over I wanted to watch it again.