Monthly Archives: January 2009

Obama and Air Bombing Afghanistan

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It’s almost as if Bill Moyers was reading my mind because on the same day that I wrote my long diatribe on human shields and collateral damage, Moyers discussed “America’s Policy of Air Bombing” with former Pentagon official Pierre Sprey and Marilyn Young (author of Bombing Civilians: A Twentieth Century History). In his introduction, Moyers says,

The bombing of civilians from the sky is an old and questionable practice, argued over since the moment the military began to fly. It was deliberate strategy in World Wars I and II. American presidents approved it in Korea and extensively in Vietnam, again in the first Gulf War, then in Bosnia and Kosovo, and six years ago during the campaign of “shock and awe” over Iraq.

But what lifted those reports last weekend out of the routine is the simple fact that for the first time the air strikes occurred on President Obama’s watch. As he said during his campaign, and as Secretary of Defense Gates reaffirmed this week, Obama is escalating America’s military presence in Afghanistan. He may increase it to as many as 60,000 troops this year.

Both Sprey and Young express their concerns and disappointment about Obama’s Afghanistan policy and the backwardness and counter-productivity of the very premise of the “War on Terror”. Continue reading

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Corporate Citizenship

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I just realized that the solution is not with the U.S. tax payers, but Exxon Mobile. That’s right, we should get Exxon Mobile to pay for the stimulus. Think about it. We have already given Exxon Mobil hundreds of millions in tax breaks and incentives (we almost gave them free range to our coast lines), and we handed them our entire U.S. armed forces, including 4,000 dead and thousands wounded. After billions of dollars to fund the war, oil prices sky-rocketed and the economy sank and then the banks crashed. But Exxon Mobil reported once again record profits. If anyone has benefited from the Bush presidency’s intervention into the free market, it’s been Exxon Mobil. So now I think it’s payback time. Let’s call it corporate citizenship.

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Obama’s Stimulus and Bush’s War on Terror

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Believe it or not, there is a similarity between Bush’s War on Terror and Obama’s proposed stimulus package. Back in 2001 after 9/11, the country faced an unprecedented national crisis. President Bush asked for a series of reactionary measures and by in large he was shown bipartisan deference. Flash forwards to today’s economic crisis, and President Obama is also asking for drastic measures for the unprecedented crisis. But this time, the president has encountered overwhelming partisan dissent from House Republicans.

Had anyone voted against the Patriot Bill, domestic surveillance or the War(s), the Republicans would have questioned their patriotism. So what’s the story today? Don’t the Republicans believe in the severity of the economic crisis, or are they simply playing petty partisanship? As we all know, they cannot honestly believe that tax relief is the answer. Continue reading

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Human Shields and Collateral Damage

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I was just reading Michael Gerson’s article “Tackling a Fallacy in Gaza” which positively likens Israel’s actions in Gaza to the success of the surge in Iraq and summarily dismisses the civilian tragedy in Gaza as the fault of Hamas’ use of human shields. Gerson writes,

This augury of futility was wrong. Israeli forces, responding to an intolerable provocation, inflicted lopsided casualties on Hamas, which displayed a discrediting combination of cowardice and brutality. Hamas fighters used civilians as shields instead of shielding civilians — and some Palestinians seemed to resent it. Hamas leaders hid in the basements of hospitals while ordering public executions for Palestinian rivals, acting more like members of a criminal gang than a nationalist movement. Allies such as Iran, Syria and Hezbollah provided little practical help to Hamas, probably calculating that its rocket campaign against Israel was suicidal or at least foolishly premature. The international boycott against Hamas is holding. And the scale of missile attacks on Israeli citizens has been dramatically reduced.

But since when has destroying the human shield to reach the enemy been justified? Furthermore, there is an undertone to Gerson’s argument, which has also been expressed in other rationalizations for the Gazan death toll, that a dramatically high number of civilian casualties serves to undermine Hamas’ leadership and deter Iran, Syria and Hezbollah by reinforcing Israel’s superior might and resolve. While the latter argument is an admission of having committed war crimes and crimes against humanity (targeting civilians for strategic military gains), the notion that human shields are acceptable collateral damage highlights a grave duality underlying how we fight our battles: political cowardice and high tech warfare. Continue reading

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Israel’s Public Relations Disaster and Limited Options

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Israel has always gotten a free pass from the American press, but it seems like that day may be coming to an end. In the past two weeks, there has been a sudden and unprecedented burst of “objectivity” from the American press. Early in January, there were two very critical pieces in the New York Times and an op-ed by Jimmy Carter in the Washington Post. Bill Moyers followed shortly thereafter, and then Bob Simon appeared on the Charlie Rose Show discussing the bleak future of the peace process.

On Sunday, 60 Minutes did its Bob Simon expose on whether peace was out of reach and discussing the de facto Apartheid in Israel. Later in the week, President Carter appeared again, this time on the NewsHour, echoing Bob Simon’s assessment of the situation. According to Simon, 60 Minutes and Carter, as a two state solution becomes less likely – mainly due to the Israeli settlements on the West Bank – Israel is left with three options:

  1. Ethnic Cleansing. Further exile the Palestinians from any lands that Israelis wish to occupy.
  2. Democracy. Allow the Palestinians to become full-fledged citizens of Israel with voting rights and civil liberties. This threatens Israel because the Arab and Christian Palestinians would be in the majority.
  3. Apartheid. One state but with complete segregation. Continue reading

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The Line of Beauty

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Last night I finished The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst, and true to the title, it was filled with lines of beauty. Like its namesake, Hogarth’s s-shaped Line of Beauty, the story is comprised of long curving sentences, so well-crafted that they feel like they could stand alone. But just as the words may be a thing of beauty, the s-shaped narrative (and syntax) also at times led my mind adrift and me to temporarily lose interest along the way. Nevertheless, the overall effect of the book is powerful. Set in the Thatcherite 80s amongst the snobby British elite, a young middle-class homosexual man, Nick Guest, steps into the dangers and hypocrisies of the times. Although it’s not a suspense or a who’s done it, I am reluctant to say more. Instead, I will give you one of my favorite lines from the beginning of the story, Continue reading

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Self Geo-Location on Google Maps

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OK, I know I have better things to do than browse Google Maps, but that’s what I was doing. Sometimes I like to take little virtual walks down the street, and today I thought I would check out Boca Grande, Florida where I spent Christmas this year. I tried to use Google Maps’ street level view, but it wasn’t available for Boca Grande. That’s when I recalled that sometime this past year, I saw a Google Maps car adorned with multiple cameras drive right in front of my building in Madrid. So I went straight to my address on Google Maps and guess what I found?

That’s right! There I was, geo-located, standing in full view. Imagine if I were captured in some clandestine act . . . other than looking like the mailman. Unfortunately for my readers, my life is not that interesting.

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