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This Content From 2003 (or earlier) see index

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(Political Ideas Less than 100% Baked)

I'm Freaking Out (War is Bad)

"Next the statesmen will invent cheap lies, putting the blame upon the nation that is attacked, and every man will be glad of those conscience-soothing falsities, and will diligently study them, and refuse to examine any refutations of them; and thus he will by and by convince himself that the war is just, and will thank God for the better sleep he enjoys after this process of grotesque self-deception."

- Mark Twain

It looks very likely that my home country will go to war with Iraq in the coming year, and I'm freaking out about it. This is something I adamantly oppose with every fiber of my being. I reject out of hand the reasons stated for going to war:

  1. Clear and Present Danger
    I just don't buy it. There isn't the evidence. Saddam doesn't have the bomb and doesn't seem to want to come after us. However, if we say "hey, you're dead sucka," there's no telling what he might do. Seems to me like going after him is more of a liability, not less.
  2. Weapons of Mass Destruction
    1. If we're truly worried about weapons of mass destruction falling into terrorist hands (and we aughtta be), there are many places in addition to Iraq that we should be concerned with. Are we going to war in all these places? No. Then this isn't a real reason to do it here. And even if we were, war isn't the way to handle this issue. Invoulentary disarmerment by force has never worked and plays directly into terrorist/gurilla hands. This reason is pure doublethink. Vast and rigorous weapons inspection programs are a far more realistic way of eliminating the threat.
    2. Look, here's a little scenario for you: suppose we invade, and suppose we conquor, and suppose we occupy, and suppose we're not able to establish Total Law and Order -- which we won't be able to do (c.f. Afghanastan) -- don't you think there is then a real threat that some of those chemical or biolgical agents that are supposed to be really well hidden might be spirited away by some stateless bad guys? War creates exactly the sorts of chaotic conditions that allow sinpers, assassins and terrorists to act with impunity.
  3. Building Democracy
    This is a great cause, building Democracy. However given our record of alliances, one has to consider this sort of reason to be pure propaganda. We support Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (among others), and mostly because they've got us by the balls. But to prop up repressive dictators and then go to war under the flag of democracy using the terrirory of dictators as a launching pad is really too hypocrytical, even for realpolitik. If this is really what we're about (and I really hope we are) we need to clean up our own house before we go busting down someone else's door.

Those are the big reasons that seem to be getting airplay, and those are my answers. There are other reasons you'll hear aroung the edges of the conversation (e.g. Iraq routinely ignores UN Resolutions), but these are equally hypocritical (e.g. we routinely ignore the will of the international community as well). The whole thing is intensely fully of lies and doublethink, and I really believe it's going to end badly.

I watched the News Hour on PBS last Friday and I felt sick watching the wrap-up discussion between Shields and Brooks. It's so clear watching moderate conservatives like David Brooks that they're just cought up in the momentum, the joy that their guy is walking tall and kicking ass, that he's the tiger of the world. They're corrupted by power. Not that I'd be any better, but it's still sad to watch. And then there's poor frumpy earnest Mark Shields, trying to get across the point that lots and lots of people will die if we do this and there's just isn't a good enough reason to go forward with it.

And that's really what bothers me. War is bad. Lots of people die. The honest truth is that people are generally behind this because we think we can do it without getting a lot of our people killed. At the same time we're fine with the idea that we're going to kill lots and lots of them. And it's not about solders and civillians and collateral damage: it's about a butcher's mindset. "We've got some work to do and sure enough it's going to be bloody. But if you want to make a really big omlette..."

The intellectual questions are "who is this omlette really for?" and "how much is it going to cost?" The emotional questions are deeper, much harder to answer with a sound byte. They concern the value of human life. Unfortunately neither intellectualism or humanism tends to get good ratings, so there's just not a lot of coverage. But it's going to be a bad one. We're thinking this thing is going to be like a movie about World War II but I fear greatly it's going to be a lot more like one about Vietnam. Even if it is just a big sequel to the Gulf War, is that really a good thing: kill 100,000 people and tank the economy?

War is bad. It sould be the last resort. There are alternatives. There are better solutions. They need to be found.

Update: even the Cato Group agrees on this!

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Trips in Space and Time 8/02/03

Big Wheels in Berkeley
I scored a set of west-coast wheels today at the Ashby BART station flea market. It's a very tall schwinn road bike, black, deceptively heavy but smooth-riding. Thirty-five dollars to boot. I oiled and cleaned the works, dialed in the bakes and took it out for a shake-down cruise immediately. Nice riding on a beautiful saturday, realizing how out of shape I am as I wheezed my way though the hilly area behind the Berkeley campus.

After about an hour I started to get the swing of it. Made some minor mechanical adjustments (including a free wheel truing at the bike collective on Shattuck), drank a few liters of water and started finding my groove, cruising up and around and ending up with a beautiful view of the whole bay. The roads here are not kind to the speed inclined -- too many stop signs and crosswalks and lights -- but it was good to get out and proj for a while. This changes my summer dramatically.

...older trips...


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