:: Sunday, March 30, 2003 ::
CNN had an antiwar night last night
:: Sunday, March 09, 2003 ::
CNN had an antiwar night last night. Well, not precisely antiwar, but for about 3 hours of primetime, the message from analysts, including ex-US military, and reporters, mostly not embedded but some embedded as well, was that this war is a big mistake. We're pretty much back to normal today, still, of what's available on broadcast and cable here, CNN is the best choice.
And for the Bill Hemmers who wouldn't know hard news if it hit him in the face -- or unless his producer spoke in his ear -- there are the Ben Wedemans. He interviewed Al-Qaeda guys who were at Tora Bora in Afghanistan in late 2001. In February 2002 he was in Pakistan reporting Daniel Pearl's abduction and murder. A month later he was in the West Bank during the terrible siege by the Israeli army. Back in fall 2000 he was shot while covering a story in Gaza. And a year after the West Bank siege, he's in northern Iraq with other CNN Middle East bureau chiefs: Jane Arraf who was in Baghdad before she was expelled and Brent Sadler from Beirut.
Aaron Brown was talking to him during a report the other night. Aaron mentioned being embedded in northern Iraq and then corrected himself, confirming with Ben that Ben wasn't embedded, and then adding "and knowing you, you probably prefer it that way", meaning not being embedded. Ben didn't respond -- it was the end of the spot -- and who knows, but my sense is that Aaron probably made a true statement.
I trust Ben Wedeman's reports, and I look forward to thte stories he tells. I hope he's got a book in him from his years of living in the Middle East and observing the world. The book of his reporting observations is written in the CNN archives, but the book of his own observations isn't part of that.
Horizontal and vertical prayer
:: Wednesday, March 05, 2003 ::
Who'd have thought a movie critic would clear up a lifetime of puzzlement about religion.
Religion as such was never much of a part of my childhood. We were Episcopalians, but the times I remember going to church with my parents I can practically count on one hand. As a young child (my childhood has two parts: before and after my dad died, which was about a month before my 7th birthday) my favorite holiday was May Day, when I'd make paper-woven baskets, fill them with violets picked from the yard, and leave them on the doorsteps of our neighbors.
But I was always interested in religion, and as an older child and a teenager, I even started going to church, belatedly got myself confirmed, and even taught Sunday School for a while.
At the same time, at youth group meetings, our priest almost just told me to shut up, because I kept asking those questions -- you know, like, just who was it that Cain married? and what about those dinosaur fossils? why did Mary have to be a virgin -- and wouldn't it have been even more miraculous that a normally born human being would become the Son of God?
And then there was the time when I was in college that he got so worried about how I was getting involved with Judaism that he drove the 90 minutes to drop in on me to try to convince me out of it. Sheesh.
I liked the Episcopal Church though -- I liked the singing and the structure of the services, but mostly I respected that nobody seemed to really much care what people believed ... whatever they believed was between them and God (or whatever). Everybody was happy to leave it that way, and the point of actually going to church was to provide some social or psychological benefit not some religious benefit. Even a religious benefit of communing with your creator privately-in-public was that in-public part ... you could commune at home or anywhere privately, but for some reason, doing it privately-in-public filled some need of its own, and not a religious one.
It's just that I was always looking for something else -- what came before in human's religious thought? (thus the explorations in Judaism) Out of respect, I refrain from asking the question of my Muslim friends, the one that goes "[X Middle Eastern country] has such a long, ancient history ... don't you wonder about the religious and spiritual beliefs and practices of your ancestors before Muslims from another country came in and converted people?" (which actually stands for the question "don't you ever feel the urge to explore your pre-Islamic roots?" which is even less respectful)
So, over the years I dispossessed myself of organized religion. Although the standard explanations held, I still felt vaguely disquieted. Maybe I just didn't believe enough to want to find people who shared my beliefs. Maybe I was just masking antisocial tendencies by not wanting to join up with people for the purposes of something religious.
But I never really believed those things, and while I know that I thought that religion as an institution was about politics and social control rather than spirituality, it all finally came into focus with the distinction between the horizontal and the vertical. Thanks Roger!
Changing the subject ....
Here's an update on the UTA student who was deported. They gave his friends 25 minutes to get his things together and drive to Dallas to give them to him to take home with him. What's the point, when it takes 25 minutes just to drive to Dallas from UTA, let alone packing up his stuff, getting it into the car, and then parking once you get there.
The print version of The Shorthorn had a sidebar to that story:
The Road to Jordan
Jordanian graduate student Tahir Ibrahim Aletewi's month-long detention by U.S. authorities ended Thursday [Feb 28, 2002] with his deportation to Jordan. His departure is the latest in a joint terrorism task force investigation that apparently began last year.
- Spring 2002 FBI and INS agents initiate regular interviews with Aletewi at his apartment on Center Street near campus. Friends familiar with the questioning say they began as informal conversations, and at one point officials attempted to recruit Aletewi to provide intelligence.
- Sept. 10 The State Department notifies Aletewi by a letter sent to his family's residence in Jordan that his student visa has been revoked. According to friends, Aletewi was later assured that the matter was resolved by one of the immigration officials who had been interviewing him.
- Fall/Winter 2002 Aletewi tells friends that the federal interviews are growing more intense as agents pointedly question him about his political and religious views.
- Jan. 31 Federal agents ask for and are given consent to search Aletewi's apartment and later ask him to accompany them to their office for an interview. He later tells friends that he was interrogated extensively over the next week while being held at the Euless City Jail.
- Feb. 2 After not hearing from Aletewi for two nights, roommates try contacting the FBI, but cannot reach anyone on a Sunday.
- Feb. 3 FBI Special Agent Robert Fowler notifies Aletewi's roommates that he is in federal custody awaiting a deportation hearing for violating his student status. The detainee is allowed to speak with friends on the phone, and, later that week, receive visitors after he is transferred to the Dallas County Jail.
- Feb. 7 U.S. Immigration Judge Anthony Rogers orders Aletewi deported, reportedly within five days. A court spokeswoman now says there was no time stipulation on the order.
- Feb. 22 A friend is allowed to visit Aletewi in jail for the first time since the judge's ruling, the friend says.
- Feb. 27 Aletewi is deported, according to a government source. He is not known to have contact with any friends here since his departure.
Oh boy ....
:: Sunday, March 02, 2003 ::
Oh boy ....
here's a version from the Albany paper
Amazing -- at least people in Albany are protesting.
But, hearing about how wearing a t-shirt can get you arrested, after hearing about the draft of "Patriot Act II" ... boy, makes you start thinking about all those frequent flyer miles you've got saved up...
I like that site and try to visit every weekend to see what she's got to say. Sure, it's a fan site -- appealing to newsies, CNN-lovers, those lucky enough to see Shihab on CNN (I never do, but I only see CNN US which rarely includes its international feeds anymore). But she's always got something insightful to say. Since the page changes more or less weekly, I'll reprint her essay below:
"Why, of course the people don't want war ... but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."
-- Nazi military leader Hermann Goering interviewed by G.M. Gilbert, Nuremberg trials, 1946. From Gilbert's "Nuremberg Diary."
I Ain't Too Proud to Beg
for our "leaders" to rethink our military's spring agenda, but it seems a lot of Americans are. In an article in the 3/02/03 NY Times by Tom Zeller, Mark A. Schulman, the president of the American Association for Public Opinion Research gives us one take on the matter:
"It's the general thrust of things, the symbolism and the ideas those symbols evoke," Mr. Schulman said. "That's what people take away with them."
If that's true, then assuming anything less than the worst of Mr. Hussein, particularly with the monthslong buildup toward war, may simply seem unpatriotic to a sizable chunk of the populace.
"To say that there is no involvement of Saddam Hussein in Sept. 11 is implicitly to question what our leaders are saying," Mr. Schulman said. "And that is to start down a road toward suspicion and Watergate-like politics that no one wants."
So, I guess, what this boils down to is that a large chunk of the population of this country is too proud to admit that it may have elected a self-serving, power-hungry, megalomaniac for a president. Ouch, the truth hurts, doesn't it?
But it doesn't hurt quite as much, I wouldn't imagine, as the pain those innocent Iraqis who lose their mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters and children will feel. And I shouldn't even have to mention the pain those U.S. servicepeople's children, whose sad faces have already been so extensively presented to us in news footage from shipyards and military bases in practically every state, will feel when they find out their mothers and fathers won't be coming home because they've been killed in this selfish war.
Oh, but to this administration, the numbers of "collateral damage" look fine, good, very promising, I'm sure -- nothing that can't be quickly forgotten or supressed sufficiently with large amounts of cash or the application of a little carefully applied pressure to the media. Ah, the pursuit of happiness in its ugliest form ever. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams would weep.
I've never been so close to denying my American citizenship as I am right now. But I'm not alone. Nope. My father, a moderate until this past year (he even voted for Reagan the first time around -- do you realize the shame I feel at admitting that?), told me that Canada's looking pretty good to him. He feels unrepresented by the democrats in congress. He feels the problems of this country's senior citizens are being ignored. And, like his daughter, he's embarrassed by how uninformed and easily fooled so much of this population is.
My dad served in the Navy in the 50's. His dad was in the Navy during WWII in the Pacific. There's an American Legion post in Arizona named after this grandfather of mine. We are not an unpatriotic family. We are, however, a family who makes use of each and every liberty afforded to us: we vote; we right letters to our congresspeople when we don't like something; when we sing the national anthem, we sing it like we mean it ... or, at least, we did. But lately, every week, it seems, another of those much coveted liberties vanishes in the interest of "national security". We ain't buyin' that angle. And if the left-brained 68 year old engineer and his 38 year old right-brained (he may argue bird-brained) artist daughter agree on something, well, that is news. In this case, pretty bad news.
We both agree this current administration is the last bunch of people who should be responsible for setting up any democracies anywhere. We're both convinced that if a democracy is defined as government ruled by the voice of the people then France, Germany and Turkey are far better examples right now than the government of this country or its so-called allies. If things don't change pretty soon, Canada may want to think about putting on the coffee and changing the sheets in the spare room because company's coming. Let the proud sheep be herded into the barracks by the madmen. Their slaughter is nothing we care to watch. Angela
by Pablo Neruda
translated by Alastair Reid
And now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still.
For once on the face of the earth
let's not speak in any language,
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.
It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines,
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.
Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.
Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victory with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.
What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
(Life is what it is about,
I want no truck with death.)
If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.
Now I'll count up to twelve,
and you keep quiet and I will go.
Penelope in Montreal sent me this in email. She was nice enough to let me put it on the site. Please, if you're against the idea of a war with Iraq, find a demonstration in your area and show the world how you feel.
"I have to tell you my war story.
On the weekend I was cleaning out stuff at my parents' place, and I found a letter that my grandfather had written to my uncle (my father's brother) during the war. I brought it home in order to send it to my aunt who is the sole remaining member of the family. What is so sad is that it is dated 18 June 1944 and my uncle was killed on 25 June 1944, which of course means he died before the letter arrived. It was returned and I guess my grandparents decided to save it. What I couldn't handle were statements like "when you and Garry (my dad) get home, we are going to have a big party". By the time I was halfway through the letter I was sobbing. Then he talks about an officer in my uncles division who was killed and he says "we all know that not everybody comes back". The idea that my uncle died while the letter was in transit is too much. Then he told him some mundane stuff like "your cousin got married and we went to the wedding". And even that simple stuff was making me cry. By the time I got to the end I was bawling hysterically. Quite an experience, really. I could just feel the heartbreak my grandparents suffered when they got THE telegram a few weeks later. They kept that telegram too. How awful.
I wish those who are rah rahing for war would think of things like this. It's so damn sad."
The US Presidency is trying to have a war -- if only this time it'd be a war where nobody came.