Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Illegal Root of It All

In all of the mainstream discussion of Amreica's wars, very few note their illegal nature. Dahr Jamail is one of the few who remind me that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are illegal under a treaty ratified by the United States. Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq attacked the United States which, therefore lacks a legal basis for using military force in either of these nations.

Each of these adventures, aside from its dubious legality, has its share of atrocities. Occupying forces, desperately seeking a foe who seems to melt into the population, will, of necessity and habit, attack the population. Even if not attacked directly, the populations can easily be in the way of the highly lethal force that the US military can unleash. Just ask those Afghanis who were siphoning fuel last week. None of this makes America "safer". It just digs deeper the hole into which we are pouring our sons and daughters, our ethical traditions, our treasure and our future.

The article has an interesting comment thread that offers some useful historical context.
...[I]t may be true that the Soviet Union went [to Afghanistan] to die, but I don't think it was where the British Empire went to die. Britain, after a bloody reign of denial, got to die peacefully in bed with India at its side.We should be so lucky.

Another comment reminds us that the British played havoc with tribal areas when it drew post-colonial boundaries. Remember,too, that the same story is played out in Africa.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Funeral Pyre

The central Phoenix building that became The House burned early Tuesday morning. It closed as an art space a couple of years ago and spent its remaining days abandoned except for the various transients who broke through the fencing to make it their home.

I have a very sentimental attachment to the place so it's final demise saddened me a bit. On the other hand, what better way to go than a literal blaze of glory.

Here are a couple photos. The first is copied from a newspaper article published just after we set up studios there 1995. The second was taken the in April 2007 when the last artists vacated the premises.

Good-bye, old friend.

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

What That Photo Tells Me

At Truthout, Michael Winship reflects on the image of the dead American Marine. His point is well taken: The photograph starkly presents the cost of American intervention in Afghanistan. The dead Marine and his buddies desperately trying to save him are the reality of the American mission.

I fault neither the photographer nor AP for the image despite the pain it causes the next of kin. Photographer Julie Jacobson did exactly what she was was supposed to do: record the scene. AP did what it was supposed to do: inform us. Nothing about war can be more informative than a dying soldier. Gone are the patriotic words and martial glory. Nothing left but the might-have-been for family and friends and another day of war for his comrades.

Not said in any picture from one moment in the war, the sacrifice brings no gain to America. Not in a foreign occupation against local forces with strong nationalist and cultural traditions. Read the rest of Winship's piece and you'll see that American prospects in Afghanistan diminish the longer we stay. Remember, too, that current policy envisions a long term US presence in that country.

The US invaded Afghanistan to destroy Al-Qaeda and punish the Taliban for allowing sanctuary for Osama bin Laden. That was somewhat accomplished before CheneyBush went to war in Iraq and turned Afghanistan into the forgotten war. Now we are trying to forget Iraq and remember what it was we were supposed to do in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Al-Qaeda has evolved, now more dispersed and decentralized. At the same time intelligence and law enforcement organizations around the world have learned how to identify potential terrorists and disrupt their organizations. It's not foolproof--no system ever will be--but it's far better than before 911.

Bottom line for me is that continued American combat operations are NOT the answer in Afghanistan and that every effort should be made to end it. First off, I would call for a cease-fire and open discussions to resolve differences among the combatants. I know that sounds Pollyannish and that for one party--the US--to unilaterally and suddenly reverse policy is not advisable but that is a worthy direction to head. Our current policy is unsustainable and not particularly desireable--more dead Americans, more dead Afghans and more dollars poured down a military rat hole.

Then Americans would not have to look at pictures of dead Marines. Until that time, though, we should never stop looking.