JUSTICE


Not a single mention of Iraqi civilian casualties in President Obama’s Iraq speech


George Bush and Dick Cheney invaded Iraq based on lies and deceptions. As a result, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lost their lives. Tonight, President Obama delivered a strong speech to mark the end of combat operations. One glaring omission: not a single mention of Iraqi civilian casualties. Only a line about sacrifices made by Iraqi fighters who fought alongside coalition troops.

Earlier I wrote the following:

When President Obama speaks to the nation about the end of combat operations in Iraq, he will avoid the elephant in the room: that America was deceived into war.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, and we won’t know it for years, an undeniable legacy of the Iraq war is that Bush and Cheney squandered America’s moral authority with the invasion and we’re still paying the price in blood and treasure.

We all know why Obama can’t talk about Iraq as a failure. It’s because we can’t tell the families of the dead that their loved ones died in vain.

But we don’t have to. They didn’t die in vain. Not if we’re honest with ourselves. It’s when we avoid the bitter and hard truths that we undermine their noble sacrifice.

Let’s pay tribute to the beautiful souls lost in Iraq by being brutally honest and by demanding the truth. Let’s learn from our terrible mistake. We owe it to the memory of those who gave their lives.

Obama has kept a campaign promise and has handled Iraq exceptionally well, but at the very least, one paragraph in his speech should have been devoted to the countless lives we destroyed, the families shattered, the babies and mothers slaughtered. It’s the least we can do.

There is no honest assessment of Iraq and no honoring the dead without admitting it was based on lies


When President Obama speaks to the nation about the end of combat operations in Iraq, he will avoid the elephant in the room: that America was deceived into war.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, and we won’t know it for years, an undeniable legacy of the Iraq war is that Bush and Cheney squandered America’s moral authority with the invasion and we’re still paying the price in blood and treasure.

So much ink was spilled over this topic that I won’t replay the debate in full. But here’s an excerpt of something I wrote in response to Karl Rove’s recent crowing about “success” in Iraq:

Saddam Hussein was a murderous dictator, one of several across the globe. Seeing him brought to justice was an exceptional thing. We don’t focus enough attention on human rights violations across the globe – specifically the wholesale oppression of girls and women – and I wish Saddam’s fate on every other human being who brutalizes and slaughters innocent people.

However, the Bush administration did not put forth human rights as the primary rationale or justification for war. Instead, they lied, claiming at the time of the invasion that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent, grave, growing threat to the United States. Countless articles, editorials, blog posts and reports have enumerated those falsehoods and exaggerations and I direct Mr. Rove to “the Google” to peruse them.

No amount of revisionist history will undo the immense and unfathomable death, pain, suffering, blood, gore, and torture unleashed by our ‘preemptive’ invasion, the shattered families, the psychological damage, among our veterans and the Iraqi people. The moral damage to America is deep. The resources spent in Iraq could have been allocated to millions of teachers, cops, firefighters, nurses, to education and medical research, to health care — saving thousands if not millions of lives rather than killing hundreds of thousands.

Nearly 400 Iraqis died in violence last month. The U.S. still maintains a massive troop presence there. Stability in Iraq is tenuous at best. By all measures in the preceding paragraphs, the Iraq fiasco was, is and always will be a failure. Perhaps less of an unmitigated failure than it could have been, but a failure nonetheless.

We all know why Obama can’t talk about Iraq as a failure. It’s because we can’t tell the families of the dead that their loved ones died in vain.

But we don’t have to. They didn’t die in vain. Not if we’re honest with ourselves. It’s when we avoid the bitter and hard truths that we undermine their noble sacrifice.

Let’s pay tribute to the beautiful souls lost in Iraq by being brutally honest and by demanding the truth. Let’s learn from our terrible mistake. We owe it to the memory of those who gave their lives.

UPDATE:  Katrina vanden Heuvel sums it up on Twitter:

7 years of fighting, 4400 US soldiers & countless Iraqis killed. $ 1 trillion & counting. Worth it? No.

Mr. Beck, America knew Martin Luther King Jr.; Dr. King was a friend of ours; you’re no Dr. King.


Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is among the handful of moral giants who have graced our planet. So it’s no surprise that when someone like Glenn Beck tries to piggyback on King’s greatness, the reaction is swift and harsh.

Glenn Greenwald:

I dislike the phrase “desecration of hallowed ground,” but if it applies to anything, it’s Glenn Beck’s obscene appropriation of MLK

Bob Herbert:

America is better than Glenn Beck. For all of his celebrity, Mr. Beck is an ignorant, divisive, pathetic figure. On the anniversary of the great 1963 March on Washington he will stand in the shadows of giants — Abraham Lincoln and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Who do you think is more representative of this nation?

…Jerald Podair, a professor of American studies at Lawrence University in Wisconsin, has called Aug. 28, 1963, “the most important single day in civil rights history.” This is the historical legacy that Glenn Beck, a small man with a mean message, has chosen to tread upon with his cynical rally on Saturday at that very same Lincoln Memorial.

Beck is a provocateur who likes to play with matches in the tinderbox of racial and ethnic confrontation. He seems oblivious to the real danger of his execrable behavior. He famously described President Obama as a man “who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Brave New Foundation:

UPDATE: A powerful piece by Steve Benen:

“We,” Glenn Beck recently told his minions, will “reclaim the civil rights movement.” “We,” he added, are “on the right side of history.” After all, it was “we” who launched the civil rights movement “in the first place.”

It’s not altogether clear who counts as part of “we,” though presumably it’s limited to those who share Beck’s twisted view of reality.

Leonard Pitts Jr. explained this week that this isn’t just shameless nonsense: “It is obscene. It is theft of legacy. It is robbery of martyr’s graves.”

Beck was part of the “we” who founded the civil rights movement!? No. Here’s who “we” is.

“We” is Emmett Till, tied to a cotton gin fan in the murky waters of the Tallahatchie River. “We” is Rosa Parks telling the bus driver no. “We” is Diane Nash on a sleepless night waiting for missing Freedom Riders to check in. “We” is Charles Sherrod, husband of Shirley, gingerly testing desegregation compliance in an Albany, Ga., bus station. “We” is a sharecropper making his X on a form held by a white college student from the North. “We” is celebrities like Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando and Pernell Roberts of Bonanza, lending their names, their wealth and their labor to the cause of freedom.

“We” is Medgar Evers, Michael Schwerner, Jimmie Lee Jackson, James Reeb, Viola Liuzzo, Cynthia Wesley, Andrew Goodman, Denise McNair, James Chaney, Addie Mae Collins and Carole Robertson, shot, beaten and blown to death for that cause.

Beck and his confused followers are claiming a legacy they don’t understand. They’re trying to lift a mantle that doesn’t fit on their shoulders. They’re adding their names to the same scroll they tried and failed to destroy.

Is drug legalization the answer to Mexico’s bloodshed?


Humans have a primal need to escape the limitations of mundane consciousness. Alcohol, drugs, music, dance and religion are just some ways people escape ordinary life and they will overcome any obstacles, legal or otherwise, to achieve the state of transcendence they crave.

Not for any religious or moral imperative, I stay away from tobacco, drugs, coffee and alcohol.  One of my primary objections to drug use is this: of the various ways we can trigger a transcendent state, imbibing or injecting a substance is more addictive, less durable and more harmful than things like music, meditation, art, nature, and physical activity.

Still, setting aside personal preferences, it’s difficult to avoid the idea of drug legalization when considering the unmitigated carnage in Mexico. When severed heads on the side of a road or seventy bodies in a mine shaft  are now seen as commonplace, it strikes me as an inevitable question: what would happen in Mexico if drugs were legal?

The legalization debate takes place largely out of the spotlight, since few politicians want to broach it. But there are thoughtful arguments on both sides and this one, linked to by Glenn Greenwald, is worth reading:

To many people, the “war on drugs” sounds like a metaphor, like the “war on poverty”. It is not. It is being fought with tanks and sub-machine guns and hand grenades, funded in part by your taxes, and it has killed 28,000 people under the current Mexican President alone. The death toll in Tijuana – one of the front lines of this war – is now higher than in Baghdad. Yesterday, another pile of 72 mutilated corpses was found near San Fernando – an event that no longer shocks the country.

Mexico today is a place where the severed heads of police officers are found week after week, pinned to bloody notes that tell their colleagues: “This is how you learn respect”. It is a place where hand grenades are tossed into crowds to intimidate the public into shutting up. It is the state the US Joint Chiefs of Staff say is most likely, after Pakistan, to suffer “a rapid and sudden collapse”.

So there is a growing movement in Mexico to do the one thing these murderous gangs really fear – take the source of their profits, drugs, back into the legal economy. It would bankrupt them swiftly, and entirely. Nobody kills to sell you a glass of Jack Daniels. Nobody beheads police officers or shoots teenagers to sell you a glass of Budweiser. And, after legalisation, nobody would do it to sell you a spliff or a gram of cocaine either. They would be in the hands of unarmed, regulated, legal businesses, paying taxes to the state, at a time when we all need large new sources of tax revenue.

The conservative former President, Vicente Fox, has publicly called for legalisation, and he has been joined by a battery of former presidents across Latin America – all sober, right-leaning statesmen who are trying rationally to assess the facts.

Every beheading, grenade attack, and assassination underlines their point. Calderon’s claims in response that legalisation would lead to a sudden explosion in drug use don’t seem to match the facts: Portugal decriminalised possession of all drugs in 2001, and drug use there has slightly fallen since.

Yet Mexico is being pressured hard by countries like the US and Britain – both led by former drug users – to keep on fighting this war, while any mention of legalisation brings whispered threats of slashed aid and diplomatic shunning.

Read the rest

Hard to envision a more noble set of objectives than the Millennium Development Goals


Imagine a world where we achieve these goals:

  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal primary education
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women
  • Goal 4: Reduce child mortality
  • Goal 5: Improve maternal health
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability
  • Goal 8: Develop a Global Partnership for Development

No justice on earth until girls are free from these horrors


There is no graver (self-imposed) risk to human existence than the ravaging of our planet and there is no greater outrage on our planet than the wholesale oppression of girls and women.

I defy you to listen to these stories without getting overwhelmed with horror and anger:

And if that wasn’t enough, read these examples of what girls and women endure every day and let the anguish sink in:

This:

Denis Mukwege, a Congolese gynecologist, cannot bear to listen to the stories his patients tell him anymore. Every day, 10 new women and girls who have been raped show up at his hospital. Many have been so sadistically attacked from the inside out, butchered by bayonets and assaulted with chunks of wood, that their reproductive and digestive systems are beyond repair. “We don’t know why these rapes are happening, but one thing is clear,” said Dr. Mukwege, who works in South Kivu Province, the epicenter of Congo’s rape epidemic. “They are done to destroy women.”

Or this:

13-year old Aisha Ibrahim Duhulow was stoned to death in Somalia by insurgents because she was raped. Reports indicate that she was raped by three men while traveling by foot to visit her grandmother in Mogadishu. When she went to the authorities to report the crime, they accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death. Aisha was forced into a hole in a stadium of 1,000 onlookers as 50 men buried her up to the neck and cast stones at her until she died. A witness who spoke to the BBC’s Today programme said she had been crying and had to be forced into a hole before the stoning, reported to have taken place in a football stadium. … She said: ‘I’m not going, I’m not going. Don’t kill me, don’t kill me.’ “A few minutes later more than 50 men tried to stone her.” The witness said people crowding round to see the execution said it was “awful”.

Or this:

According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year. According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, which includes crimes that were not reported to the police, 232,960 women in the U.S. were raped or sexually assaulted in 2006. That’s more than 600 women every day.

There can be no justice on earth until we address this greatest of travesties.

Behold America’s future…


The first minute of this video should give every American pause – it is a stark illustration of what the future might look like: explosive confrontations along religious and racial lines.

UPDATE: Apparently, the subject of the crowd’s wrath is a union carpenter.

This reminds me of an experience I had at an Iraq war protest. A small pro-war group started waving American flags and hurling insults at marchers. When I heard the words “traitor” and “Saddam sympathizer,” I walked over and calmly asked where they were when I was under fire in battles with Muslim fanatics in Lebanon. Silence.

It’s easier to practice intolerance than tolerance. The latter takes compassion and self-discipline, the former is based on crude emotions and ignorance.

Predictive Policing – fighting crime before it happens


No, this is not Minority Report, but it’s a step in that direction:

At universities and technology companies, scientists are working to develop computer programs that, in the most optimistic scenarios, could enable police to anticipate, and possibly prevent, many types of crime. Some of the most ambitious work is being done at UCLA, where researchers are studying the ways criminals behave in urban settings. One is trying to forecast the time and place of crimes using the same formulas that seismologists use to predict the distribution of aftershocks from an earthquake. Another builds computer simulations of criminals roving through neighborhoods to understand why they tend to cluster in certain areas and how they disperse when police go looking for them. “The naysayers want you to believe that humans are too complex and too random — that this sort of math can’t be done,” said Jeff Brantingham, a UCLA anthropologist. “But humans are not nearly as random as we think. In a sense, crime is just a physical process, and if you can explain how offenders move and how they mix with their victims, you can understand an incredible amount.”