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Thursday, November 13, 2003

 
Parallels to Vietnam: A Must-Read

Charles Glass of The Guardian on the lists the parallels between Iraq and Vietnam.

Go and read it.

One difference:
It took two years, from 1963 to the end of 1964, for American combat deaths to reach 324. The US has surpassed that figure in only seven months in Iraq, where 398 American soldiers have died already. In the last 12 days, 38 have been killed.
I believe the figure now stands at 400 American soldiers dead, with 40 in the past 12 days.





Wednesday, November 12, 2003

 
More on that England Visit...

From an article in today's London Independent:
The Stop The War Coalition said yesterday that it had been told by the police that it would not be allowed to demonstrate in Parliament Square and Whitehall next Thursday - a ban it said it was determined to resist. The coalition says that it has also been told by British officials that American officials want a distance kept between Mr Bush and protesters, for security reasons and to prevent their appearance in the same television shots.

...

Andrew Burgin, of the Anti-War Coalition, said: "We have refused to sign off the agreement over Parliament Square and Whitehall, and we shall certainly also refuse to do so on this whole idea of an exclusion zone." He said: "If there is no agreement by next week, we have a potentially highly risky situation with so many protesters in the centre of London."
That's our president, spreading peace and joy wherever he goes.





Tuesday, November 11, 2003

 
George the Lesser to Visit England

Most of the time, George the Lesser is well protected from his critics. Protestors in the US are confined to "free speech zones" well out of sight or earshot, on those rare occasions when Bush appears anywhere but at a fundraiser or a military base. He says he doesn't read the news because it's got "opinions" in it. And when he recently visited Australia, PM John Howard went so far as to physically hold back a Green party member trying to confront Bush [that's Howard front and center, with his arms out].

Now Bush is set to visit England, November 19 to 21, and he expects the same level of "protection". The Stop the War Coalition estimates a crowd of 100,000 to protest Bush, and the White House wants the protestors confined to an "exclusion zone." The mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, says it's impossible to keep that many protestors away from Bush without shutting down most of central London, incurring massive economic costs on top of the 4 million pounds that will be spent on security operations. The British government is involved in a nasty row as it is, over who's going to pay that cost. Meanwhile, Londoners are pissed about the idea of hundreds of Americans with guns descending on their city. (The 3,800 Metropolitan Police will, as usual, be unarmed.)

Even traveling by helicopter (they scrapped motorcades due to protestors), forgoing an address before parliament (many MPs planned to boycott the speech), and forgoing the traditional open carriage ride ("security concerns," don't you know), it seems impossible that Bush can be kept unaware of the massive and angry crowds. (British MP Jeremy Corbyn has put forth a motion to prohibit Bush's state visit, but I'm sure that won't go through.) I expect the American press will ignore or greatly downplay the protests, so be sure to check out the Guardian, the Independent, and especially UK Indymedia when the time comes. (Indymedia sites always have great coverage of protests with plenty of often hilarious pictures.) Among other things, protestors have planned to topple a mock-up statue of Bush in Trafalgar Square, while other plans include things like "Bare Your Bum at Bush."







Sunday, November 09, 2003

 
So, Did They Change Their Minds?

Apparently, either the Pentagon has had a change of heart regarding the possibility of a draft, or they're sorry they started a shitstorm by putting on the Web their announcement that they were trying to fill draft-board vacancies.

Which do you think it is? Heh.

In any case, the announcement has been pulled off the Web, but is available for viewing as a Google cache.

Meanwhile, the idea of a draft seems to be gaining traction even as the White House emphatically denies any thought of reinstating conscription. I tend to believe the White House, for one reason only: Dubya is more worried about re-election than about anything else in the world, and a draft would be mighty unpopular.

So it won't happen--unless he's re-elected. Then all bets are off.



 
Army Orders Mom to Abandon Children

Okay, that's putting it a little strongly. But I had a pretty strong reaction to this:
"I was told by the army to get on a plane," Simone [Holcomb] said. "I even told them it was unlawful and [the officer] said, 'I don't care, get on a plane.' It's against the law for me to abandon my children. I can no sooner walk out on my children than I can rob a bank just because the Army told me to."

Simone, a medic, is being treated as absent without leave. Army officials have already stopped her active-duty pay and are expected to begin the process of dismissing her from the military.
She and her husband are both soldiers sent to Iraq. The paternal grandmother moved into their home to care for the children, but the husband's ex-wife showed up demanding custody of two of the children, products of her marriage to Vaughn Holcomb. A judge ruled that one of the Holcombs must stay at home if Vaughn is to retain full custody of the two.

Simone stayed, and now risks prosecution.

The Army: be all that you can be. Like a deserting mom.





 
The Spin Just Keeps On Coming

Oh, for heaven's sake.

Get this gem from Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage:
I'm absolutely convinced we have a very solid plan to go out and get these people who are killing us and killing Iraqis," he told reporters during a visit to Iraq.
Well, I sure wish he'd let us all in on what the hell that would be.

Later on, seeming to hedge his bets a bit, he says, "I'm pretty convinced ... that we will take this fight to the enemy."

Oh, first he was absolutely convinced, but then he was only pretty convinced. Hmmm.

Of pressing concern is the question of how "we" are going to "take this fight to the enemy" when we don't even know who the enemy is. I'm pretty convinced that what that means is more bulldozing of trees and farmland, more indiscriminate shooting, more 500-pound bombs dropped on villages, and more mortars fired at homes of "suspected insurgents."

I'm also pretty convinced that for the average GI, "the enemy" is any Iraqi in sight. Never mind that we were supposed to be liberators. Now we're occupiers, and the Iraqis, as they keep forcibly reminding us, don't like occupiers. And we keep doing things to make them hate us even more.

It can't be a good thing when an army kills people and takes away their livelihoods, all in the name of "liberating" these very same people. And now Armitage seems to be promising more of the same. I can't see any other way to read this bit about "taking it to the enemy." We are shooting in the dark, while the Iraqis have excelled at intelligence operations.

And this administration hack has the gall to say that we "have the momentum"? Oh, puh-leeeeeze.



 
Number of Wounded

A couple of days ago I suggested that it's impossible to get a credible figure for the number of troops wounded in the Iraq debacle.

Via Antiwar Blog comes this from Stars and Stripes, in an article about a Congressional delegation visiting Iraq:
The delegation made a stop at the military hospital in Landstuhl, which has treated more than 7,000 injured and ill servicemembers from the Iraq war. The congressmen met with several injured soldiers, one whose arm had been amputated by a rocket-propelled grenade, and another who was injured by a homemade bomb.
This squares with a number I'd seen earlier but for which I couldn't track down the link.

In addition, the Antiwar Blog comment notes the number of 44 wounded per day being received at Landstuhl in Germany and points out that
A little bit of math shows that if this average goes back to, say May 1st, then the total number of wounded/ill is actually 8,000. Perhaps a phone call to CentCom will clear this up.




 
Amazing Grace

Sometimes amid all the discordance comes a note of grace, and the world doesn't feel quite so fragmented or so dark.

On Friday we drove up into the thumb of Michigan on an errand that turned out to be pointless, but if we hadn't been on that lonely country road outside Pigeon, we would have missed a heart-stirring sight.

Above a cornfield the sky suddenly flashed white. There were somewhere between fifty and a hundred swans winging through the air toward whatever their migratory destination is--possibly Alaska, if what we saw were trumpeter or tundra swans. There were about an equal number on the ground, feeding among the dried corn. To see such brilliant white in the drab November landscape made us gasp with surprise and sheer joy. The gleam of their feathers against a crystalline blue sky, in such numbers, is indescribable. As Estraven says in Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, "I am glad I have lived to see this."

In another of nature's extravagant displays, a lunar eclipse occurred last night. It was very cold and very clear, and the moon itself stayed visible throughout even the totality of the eclipse. Not only was it visible, but it hung as a red-glowing circle in that black sky. Because of the relative positions of the sun, earth, and moon, the light of the world's sunrises and sunsets bent itself through the earth's atmosphere and fell on the moon's surface, reflecting back to earth. That is something to think about: the light of all the sunsets and sunrises, all the beginnings and endings, gathered into one place.

We watched from the first appearance of the penumbra, the fuzzy outer shadow that first fell on the moon, through the gradual nibbling away of the silver disk, until the earth's shadow fell completely across it. James set up the telescope and the video camera on the balcony. We soon realized that the color and brightness of the moon were much more pronounced without the interference of glass between us and the sky. The best view of all, better even than through the telescope, came by watching the show through a pair of excellent binoculars (given to us some years ago by our daughter). At intervals I dashed in my bare feet, coatless, out onto the balcony for quick looks. I had never seen the moon that color, and I could understand how the ancients trembled to see their familiar moon so altered.

From the human sphere, too, came a reminder that there is wholeness and harmony to be found. It came, perhaps surprisingly, perhaps not, during a memorial service for the mother of a friend. Our friend's mother had been a person who, as my friend put it, "preferred a small world," who was "a bird in the nest." Yet it was clear from the attendance at the service and from the remarks made yesterday afternoon that she had touched many lives. The minister quoted from John Donne's "Meditation XVII:
No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, [the continent] is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.
Maybe it seems a cliche to quote these particular lines, but they spoke straight to me yesterday.

The minister (thank heaven he was a Unitarian minister! Begone, horrid memories of Lutheran funeral services!) also read a poem with which I was unfamiliar, but which spoke of how the author would have chosen mortality just to have experienced love, life, the world. I couldn't help but think of Wings of Desire, in which one of the angels chooses to become mortal just for the sake of being human, with a human's emotions.

My friend's eulogy for her mother was moving, evocative, and yes, funny. She showed a deep appreciation for her mother, and was honest, too, admitting that the "smallness" of her mother's world--a self-imposed "circumference," as my friend's partner put it--had sometimes frustrated her (my friend). Against that seeming smallness, my friend contrasted the richness and depth of her mother's experience, friendships, and very life. It moved me greatly and reminded me that none of us is small simply because our lives are unremarkable or unremarked. And it reminded me, too, of the responsibility we have, even within our small personal circle, to behave well and treat our family and friends well, because there is that ripple effect, and we cannot know how we might end up affecting another person.

I came away thinking, or more accurately feeling, that there is indeed a fabric in which we're all woven.

A funeral service, a hundred swans, a fiery moon: emblems of a mysterious whole, the tapestry we see only the wrong side of.







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