Thursday, April 20, 2006

On Patriotism

BushCheney has accomplished one thing that I never expected: he restored my patriotism. I thought my patriotism died in Vietnam. I returned from southeast Asia profoundly angry at my country for sending me there and disgusted with myself for passively by accepting those orders when I knew better. For the next three decades I felt no love for America. Anger blinded me to the many attributes of the United States that have been traditionally a source of our national pride. Whatever good my country may have achieved during that time was completely irrelevant to me. All I saw were America’s economic and military imperialism throughout the world, the same forces that took me to Vietnam.

But I now understand that I can still be a patriot, that I can still love my country, despite the horrible crime of my youth. Yeah, the Vietnam war was wrong for America, wrong for Vietnam and wrong for me. But a nation is a creation of human beings and, because of that human origin, America is also flawed. A patriot always hopes that the flaws are few and not terribly damaging but they exist and a patriot needs to come to terms with them. Just as few humans are characterized solely by their flaws so too with nations. But for the last 30 years, I have had great difficulty seeing past America’s great crime in Vietnam and my participation.

The reason I say BushCheney restored my patriotism is that I realized that I do still care very much about my country. Not in the sense that the United States is the “greatest” or “superior” to all others but rather that I live here. So do my family, friends and many, many other good people. I also recognize that, for all of our failings, Americans created a unique society and system of government that is well worth preserving, protecting and perfecting. Our system and values are the product of our unique history and culture but they also reflect universal truths (“all are created equal”) that offer hope to all, regardless of their circumstances. Not at the point of a bayonet but rather through the force of our ideals. That’s what American patriotism is all about in my opinion.

My anger and alienation abandoned a potent symbol and perspective to truly malevolent forces. By rejecting patriotism, I left it to others who would use it in pursuit of distorted ideas and ideologies. I had to reclaim patriotism in order to save my country. I could not oppose BushCheney’s disastrous wars unless I cared about America. Without patriotism, without a concern for my country, its people and its future, why would I care what happened to it?

Traditionally, American patriotism has been framed in the words of Stephen Decatur’s famous toast: “Our country! In her intercourse with foreign nations may she always be in the right; but our country, right or wrong." Decatur’s words reflect a newly born nation, struggling to assert its independence in a world dominated by established powers. Another view of patriotism was stated by the German-American statesman Carl Schurz: “Our country right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.” Schurz spoke about 60 years after Decatur and had served in the Civil War. By this time, America’s independence was no longer at risk but the nation’s ability to cope with difficult issues was more than evident.

Following Schurz’s lead, I recognize a patriotism that is informed and understands America’s greatness, flaws and contradictions. For three decades I have been unwilling to say “I love America” because I believed that statement meant endorsing all actions taken in her name. Now I know that I do love America, the nation where my family found life and (some) economic security, the nation founded upon the highest ideals of human thought. Because I love America I am willing to protect her and, most important, to work toward “the more perfect union” for which the Constitution was created . That is why I believe it is my obligation to oppose BushCheney and his corporate handlers who would create an America that is a mere shadow of the ideals one which this nation was founded.

Thanks to BushCheney, I can now recognize myself as a patriot and proudly speak on behalf of the America that I love.


Real Time in Adhamiya

Zeyad at Healing Iraq provides a first hand account of recent fighting in the Baghdad where he was trapped in a relative's house.

The Adhamiya battle in a nutshell: Iraqi security forces from the Interior ministry (some believe to be accompanied by militiamen) attempted to enter Adhamiya from the Raghiba Khatoun area around 1 am, Monday. Adhamiya residents and its dozens of watch teams responded with heavy fire and thwarted the perceived attack.

The same, or another, force later attempted to enter from the other side through Omar bin Abdul Aziz Street. The attack was repelled and several vehicles were burnt. 7 to 12 residents were killed in the clash....

Tuesday, 6:45 am: a speeding vehicle drove by and fired a few shots at a lethargic National Guard unit near the corner of Omar bin Abdul Aziz and Siham Al-Mitwali streets. The unit responded with a rabid barrage of Douchka and PKC fire, damaging several stores and hitting the nearby Al-Anbia' mosque. The mosque guards snuck to Dhubat Street from back alleys, took positions on a 3-floor building and started taking potshots at the National Guards at the intersection of Omar and Dhubat streets. Other watch teams thought it was another attack, and by 8 am the whole district erupted into an inferno of machine gun fire. Amidst the chaotic firefight, we could make out the familiar buzz of an American unmanned surveillance plane in the air....

"Please refrain from firing at the mosque. Does a house of Allah have no sanctity to you?" a haughty voice was broadcasting from the Al-Anbia' mosque loudspeakers to the National Guards. "You are supposed to restore order. Cease fire immediately or face the consequences. He who has warned is henceforth excused."

The message only served to provoke heavier fire from both sides.

American Humvees entered Adhamiya and returned fire at everything that moved. The fire was random now and at 1 pm the situation had calmed down again....

Zeyad's account is more coherent than the official word in yesterday's Washington Post which presents conflicting, confused interpretations. Zeyad includes aerial photos maps that delineate the scope of the action.

I note that when the Americans arrived, they opened up on everything that moved. No doubt this is a good strategy in the middle of deadly chaos but not something that adds much to the quality of life in the neighborhood. Notice, too, that the Iraqi National Guard responded to potshots with a rabid barrage. We have made them in our own image.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Report Card

As it turns out, BushCheney isn't very good at protecting the homeland.

Some Notice

USA Today reports on the new US embassy in Baghdad. The embassy compound will be the size of Vatican City and wholly self-contained. We are building it for almost $600 million witn non-Iraq labor. It's the only construction project in Iraq that is on time and on budget. I bet the bases are on schedule as well.

Perhaps the American public will notice that our military plans to stay in Iraq. The Iraqis certainly have.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Canadian Nukes

Jim Borynec's guest editorial at Informed Comment reads almost like a sales brochure for a Canadian nuclear power reactor that uses unenriched uranium but it also addresses the entire Iranian nuclear power program and the rest of the world's fear of a nuclear armed Iran.


The Washington Post has a good article about female amputees from the Iraq war. They are the first American women to suffer the iconic combat wound. Nothing new for a nation accustomed to maimed men returning from war; America seems to be taking female casualties pretty much in stride.

...[T]he fact of female casualties has produced little public reaction. Before Iraq, many assumed that the sight of women in body bags or with missing limbs would provoke a wave of public revulsion.

"On the whole, the country has not been concerned about female casualties," said Charles Moskos of Northwestern University, a leading military sociologist. Politically, Moskos said, it is a no-win issue. Conservatives fear they will undermine support for the war if they speak out about wounded women, and liberals worry they will jeopardize support for women serving in combat roles by raising the subject, he said....

Women have now achieved the same anonymity in war as men. Faceless casuaties, occasionally seen, disturbing. The women will get some attention for their novelty but like legions of veterans before them they will fade into the war's history. But while they have our attention, we should recognize their sacrifice and ask our leaders what these sacrifices have achieved for this nation.

Best quote from the article:

The advent of female combat amputees has left an enduring impression on many hospital staff members. "We have learned not to underestimate or be overly skeptical about how these women will do," said Amanda Magee, a physician's assistant in the amputee care program. "Sometimes they arrive in really bad shape, and people are really worried. . . . But we've learned they can move on from a devastating injury as well as any man."

Be sure to check out the photo link in the story. The little girl brushing her mother's hair made me want to cry.

Iraq veteran and amputee, BD, is the focus of this week's Doonesbury. BD's life after losing his leg is some of Gary Trudeau's best work ever. His wit and humor make visible a very difficult journey. For the complete story, read his collection, The Long Road Home.

Monday, April 17, 2006

View From Reality

Canadian Ian Welch at Firedog Lake:

I’m in the odd position of being a Canadian who does most of his blogging on American politics for US blogs. It’s a kafkaesque exercise at times, and the recent Iran mess has reminded me yet again, that to a foreigner, the US really is “through the looking glass”.

Because to me the conversation on Iran isn’t sane. In fact, the idea of bombing Iran, either large scale conventionally, or, even worse, with nukes, is one I’m astounded is even being considered....

There are only two nations in the world who constantly talk about how they’re willing to nuke people without even being attacked first: The North Koreans - and the UNITED STATES.

...[T]o stop Iran would involve you in a war you cannot win – or at least no victory worth having. You can’t occupy Iran, so are you going to really glass Tehran or the entire country? Do you know what the world reaction would be? Do you know what would happen to the dollar? Are you out of your minds?

Why is this even being discussed? And why is it that I can’t simply dismiss it as diplomatic posturing? When did the US step through the looking glass? When did insanity become reasonable?


Juan Cole at Informed Comment:

If the US had not run off to the Iraq quagmire, and had stayed the course in Afghanistan and properly rebuilt it, we could have completely uprooted al-Qaeda and the Taliban, put an end to the poppy trade, and created an economic efflorescence that linked major Asian powers in the kind of trade networks that discourage war and instability.

Instead, Afghanistan is still a mess, and Iraq is ever more of one. Bush has the opposite of the Midas touch-- everything he touches turns to rubble.

Not Political

BushCheney says that Iraq is not a "political war" like Vietnam where the politicians did not listen to the military. Here's how he listens to his generals.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Good

"But what about the good things we are doing in Iraq?" The dwindlng number of Americans who support the Iraq War complain that the media and critics ignore "all the good things America is doing in Iraq. Today's Washington Post takes note of those good things of which their creators can take justifiable pride. But the scope of those good things is not the whole story. They are necessary and desireable but not sufficient. Success in Iraq must be measured by the quality of life in Iraq, on security, prosperity and freedom. So far America has done some good but that good is still far outweighed by the destruction and chaos we have wrought in Iraq. The United States has a big deficit here too.