Saturday, November 29, 2008

Neo-Cons Old and New

I finished reading America's Rasputin and was unsurprised to learn that the author sees his subject much the same way I described Rostow in a previous post. Rostow's career as policy maker self destructed in 1968 but he never quit believing, insisting that America's effort in Vietnam was necessary and beneficial. The Epilogue clearly ties Rostow's certainty to the current generation of American Crusaders.

Just as predictable as the failure of the Neo-Con imperial fantasies will be their future insistence that Iraq and Afghanistan wars were right and proper.


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Cycling Weather

Olympia is turning into winter these days. We’ve had a frost one day this week and more than a few near-freezing mornings. What truly signals winter is the wetness, which is definitely here to stay for the next few months. This fall is drier than normal but all that means is less heavy rain and more showers, mist and fog. Combined with the short daylight hours, it’s easy to see why people find it depressing. The weather discussion yesterday used the term dreary. The day was gray and damp. It’s the damp that seeps into a body and chills deeply, a not particularly fond memory that I retain from days at Fort Lewis. As a civilian these days, I have much better winter/rain gear than I had in those days and don’t have to stand around in the cold and damp. Last night at the weekly peace vigil was the one time I was actually cold but I enjoy the company and the opportunity to remind my fellow Americans that there’s a war going on. That kept me warm enough.

Trees are mostly bare now. What foliage remains is brown. On a clear day I can see the capitol dome from my balcony again. The open canopy changes the feel of the landscape allowing the maximum amount of the limited available light to reach the ground. During the bright summer, the feel is just the opposite. A few places on my bike routes are thick with evergreens and are especially dark. Too much of that would indeed make for a grim landscape but my limited time passing through isn’t enough for the darkness to overtake me.

Last weekend I rode my first 30 mile route since moving to Olympia. I pretty much linked all of my shorter routes and a long section of the Chehalis Western Trail and ended up with 30 miles. The route took me through some pretty rural areas that are not far from the center city where I live. I passed woods, pastures, horses and cows. I saw students at the wooded campus of The Evergreen State College and rode the Chehalis Western north for the first time. The day was partly sunny-partly cloudy and cool. I wore my rain jacket the entire ride and never broke a sweat.

The previous day’s ride was my first wearing winter gear since the summer, which was good because it was also my first rain soaking. Unlike Sunday, Saturday was wet, with some possible clearing later in the day as drier weather was moving in. By mid day I could see some possible clearing and decided to ride out and see what happened. Starting out the air was cool enough for me to climb the very steep hill from my place wearing my rain jacket. Even cranking up to cruising speed after the climb didn’t warm me up that much. I took the Olympia Woodland Trail to the Chehalis Western, encountering the random raindrop as I rode. That ended after about five or six miles when the rain started coming down in no uncertain terms. The rain shower lasted for a while and was enough for me to put on my rain hood under my helmet. My rain gear worked well enough, as did my fenders so it wasn’t bad.

This morning is foggy and overcast. The fog’s not thick but visibility is limited—I can barely make out the ridge on the west side of town, maybe a mile away. The forecast is for wet but nothing major so I think I’ll find an opening to ride by late morning.


Friday, November 28, 2008

I Object!

In the past few weeks I learned that I am a Conscientious Objector to war and that I have been most of my life. Except for that one time when I was ordered to war and said “okay”. But even though I objected to war and THAT war in particular, I didn’t fit what the government’s criteria for conscientious objection and I didn’t push the point. As a veteran however, I know how truly wrong war is. I don’t consider myself a pacifist; if someone’s coming at me with lethal intent, I will respond in kind if that becomes the only option.

But my willingness to act forcefully in my own defense in an immediate circumstance does not translate into a requirement that I support or participate in wars at the order of my government. After a lifetime of watching successive American presidents lie, dissemble, misinform and mislead the public, simply hearing my government yell “Fire!” does not mean that I must pull the trigger.

As a citizen, I reserve the right to question my government’s use of war and military force. My government must tell me why. About the only answer that will make me re-think my objection to war is that someone is attacking the United States with lethal intent. A response, up to and including sustained counter attack, may well be warranted Absent that kind of threat, no war is justified. Special Operations at specific targets of known intent and capability are okay, especially when done with the cooperation of the “host” nation and without civilian casualties.

All that said, I still believe myself to be a conscientious objector. I object to war because I have thought deeply about what war requires of me as a human being and I cannot in good conscience carry out those actions. When I went to war, I ignored my conscience because I was afraid to challenge my government. My conscience didn’t quit, though, it kept reminding me. If ignoring my conscience years ago was surrender, then my lifetime support of peace and justice, longtime objection to war is resistance, a resistance all the stronger because I saw war up close and personal.

My thoughts on conscientious objection are hardly new and certainly not exclusive. Many others have articulated the same in far better prose. Hell, if I’d listened to them 40 years ago, maybe I would not have gone to war. What is new is that I recognize myself as a Conscientious Objector even now. I don’t need a sky god or organized church to support my conscience; I can come to these beliefs on my own. That is one of the most fundamental individual freedoms.

Thinking of myself as a life long conscientious objector is also a valuable reminder that the struggle against war, and toward social and economic justice for all is never-ending. My generation—and the rest of the country, too, I might add—thought that after Vietnam and Watergate we had seen the worst that history had to offer and went on with normal lives. But the Monster (*) was only wounded, not dead and the past decade has certainly demonstrated how truly alive the worst of humankind remains.

(*) Video here.


Thursday, November 27, 2008

You May Notice

...the photograph newly added to this page. By way of explanation, the image is my own. Its title is "Monument Valley Take-Out". I refer to it as my statement of independence from Ansel Adams.

Anything else is up to you.


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Talk of War

Reports of the latest US drone attack in Pakistan in the Washington Post read considerably more definitively than the at the BBC. Both sources identify the primary target but the BBC is more circumspect on the status of the remaining dead. The WP reports them as extremist fighters, no doubt simply repeating the Pentagon press release.

Of course extremist fighters and enemy dead can often mean civilians. Civilian dead from air strikes has a long and infamous history, of which this war is only the latest episode. For a truly grim account of US attacks on civilians in Vietnam and the subsequent cover-ups, I recommend Nick Turse's article about Operation Speedy Express in The Nation

The drone war on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border is the "bloodless war" for the United States. No American human beings are at risk, a luxury not afforded to anyone down range from the drones' gun sights. No pilots will be shot down and subjected to the unspeakable retribution of these primitive people. No, the pilots guide their craft via remote control from Nevada. A while back I read an article about the pilots working in a war zone and living in Nevada that raised questions about the kind of post-traumatic stress reactions likely from this kind of duty.

Which brings me back to my on post traumatic stress, my constant urge to scream at my fellow Americans, "DON'T YOU KNOW THERE'S A FUCKING WAR GOING ON!" The urge seems to be growing these days, probably a combination of the new administration and the likelihood of little real change in American policy. Late November and early December are also the dates that recall my own transition into Vietnam so I'm probably that much more aware of war and its consequences these days.

Of local note, the 81st Brigade of the Washington National Guard is now deployed in Iraq (second tour) and one of the 2nd Infantry's Stryker Brigades is preparing to deploy from Fort Lewis for its second tour.

Yeah, there's a fucking war on. And it's not all bloodless drones.

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