I'm supposed to be writing

Instead I'm thinking about the blog post I'm not going to write. No, no, stop me, I beg my computer Don't let me rant.

I lose readers when I rant. People email me to say, "I want to read your books but your political POV puts me off. I'll never read your stuff now." I understand that--hey I can sympathize with it.

Here's what I want to post but I know is inappropriate, alarmist and overwrought, not to mention so left-wing it makes my teeth hurt.

Chemical warfare[warning: link has graphic images], torture, secret prisons. Who's the bad guy again?

To stop myself from obsessing about this and getting to work (not to mention not posting this damned entry in a romance rioter blog, Teresa) I went looking for reassurance that we're really not a Bad Guy. First of all, the above methods seem to be seriously stupid actions in the circumstances--not the way to win the hearts and minds of a country we "liberated" and want to retain as an ally. But the reason I'm obsessed with the issue is more personal and emotional. I'm a patriot and I want to know that the country I love is not involved in these activities--particularly the first. I remember that image of the kid running down the road naked.

Those three--chemical warfare that hits civilians, torture of prisoners and the secret prisons--go against everything we as Americans are brought up to believe.

- We went to war against Sadam because he used chemicals on his civilians. (Once the WMD were discovered to not exist, that became the reasoning I heard in the political speeches.)

- We study basic government in grade school and learn that torture is classified as cruel and unusual punishment--it goes against the basic tenets of our country. Basic Human (and not just American) rights.

- Our leaders used the existence of Eastern block secret prisons to scare the bejesus out of us--this is what went on behind that Iron curtain and why the Soviets must be stopped. Remember? A free and open society does not have secret prisons where people just "disappear". Remember The Gulag Archipelago--a lot of us read it in high school.

I figured it would be easy to find a middle ground so I could calm down and work. . .and not post this entry. I want someone to tell me that this stuff is exaggerated. Most of the sources of my information are far-left blogs and news groups (and The New Yorker and the Washington Post and Salon.). I really want find out that at least some of this stuff is rumors spread by rabid anti-war activists.

I wish.

1. Chemical warfare? Italian mainstream media ** has clips of the use of white phosphorus at night and vivid descriptions of what it does to people who are unfortunate enough to be near the stuff. As the rant on kos in link above puts it: it melts the skin off kids. We're taking up where Sadam left off. An army magazine confirms we used it in Iraq.

Okay--what about the other side of the issue? Is there justification for this stuff? Here's what I found: Use of white phosphorus is "legal". It's used to help our soldiers fight at night. Napalm was legal too. Remember napalm? It was used to clear dense jungles. That picture. Of the kids.

2. Torture? Not a rumor and I've already been on about that one. It doesn't work--although it does seem to unite the torturers' enemies. Would McVeigh have talked under torture? Who knows? I'm certain that anyone who remotely agreed with his nutty principals would have only grown more sympathetic to the cause if he'd been tortured.

3. Gulags? Yes, the authorities say they exist, ironically in those ex-iron curtain countries (hey they already have the facilities). The facilities have nicknames like "the Salt Pit."

And the response? Outrage! Frist and Hastert demand to find out who illegally leaked the existence of the prisons to the mainstream media!

* * * *

I give up. If I'm such a patriot, I really can't shut up, right?

I thought war was bad enough****. Over the last six years working with refugees, I've heard about war from the civilians' point of view. More than once I've been shown a treasured but rumpled photo of a smiling baby. I look at the blurry photo while the still-grieving relative explains in broken English that a soldier swung that sweet baby by the legs and smashed its skull against the wall or that the baby died of hunger in a camp.

The stuff I'm reading now is worse--sanctioned by the authorities is worse. Less personal, institutional dehumanization is even more horrible than brutality.

The worst villains of the last century were the architects of camps and policies that regard their enemy as less than human. Chemical warfare, torture and gulags are all signs that, as a country, we're too close to that edge.


** from the Italian report: "I heard the order being issued to be careful because white phosphorous was being used on Fallujah. In military slang this is known as Willy Pete. Phosphorous burns bodies, melting the flesh right down to the bone," says one former US solider, interviewed by the documentary's director, Sigfrido Ranucci. "I saw the burned bodies of women and children. The phosophorous explodes and forms a plume. Who ever is within a 150 metre radius has no hope," the former soldier adds.

"A rain of fire came down on the city, and people targeted by the different coloured substances began to burn. We found people dead, with strange injuries, with their clothes intact," a biologist from Fallujah, Mohamad Tareq al-Deraji tells Ranucci.

The evidence in 'Fallujah - the hidden massacre' claims to show the US forces did not use phosphorous in the legitimate way - to highlight enemy positions - but dropped the substance indiscriminately on the city, and on a massive scale. The documentary also shows the terrible damage wrought by the US bombardment of Fallujah, and the carnage to civilians, some of whom lay sleeping.

Equally disturbingly, a document in the report claims to prove that the U.S. forces have used the MK77 form of Napalm - the chemical used with devastating effect on civilians during the Vietnam war - on civilians in Iraq.

****Yes, war is hell. But the argument that the enemy is forcing us to use these methods? Okay, talk about simplistic thinking on my part: it reminds me of the "you forced me to hit you back" justification of wife beaters or gangs.

We have a choice. We're a smart, wealthy (well, formerly rich) country. We must be able to figure out responses that won't turn us into something as loathesome, feared and stomach-turning as the terrorists we're allegedly fighting and instead are likely producing. [see mcveigh note above]


  1. I'm having a problem viewing this as left wing ranting when a respected man like Jimmy Carter has just written a book about the downhill slide our country is on, citing this sort of thing as immoral and reprehensible.

  2. While you're feeling outraged anyway, spare some indignation for the $50 billion budget cuts that target healthcare for the poor, food stamps, subsidized school lunches, child support enforcement and student loan assistance that the current administration is attempting to push through the House this week -- to be followed up in the near future by another $70 billion tax cut for the very wealthiest Americans. No billionaire left behind, folks.

    The budget vote was scheduled to happen today, but enough congressmen and senators are running scared from this reverse-Robin Hood bullshit that they couldn't get the votes they needed to pass it. The Republican leadership promises to spend the next few days twisting arms, and bring it back next week, though.

    Uh oh. I feel a rant coming on. And I've been so good lately...

    Stop me, before I blog again...

  3. Anonymous9:56 AM

    I looked up "Willy Pete" on google and wandered around a bit. Very, very, troubling.

  4. We are losing our country to a certain element.

    Americans are complacent, used to having it easy, doing what they're told and assuming the best of their leadership.

    Awareness and thinking is not our strong suit.

  5. You know, it absolutely stuns me that Clinton could get impeached for a damn blowjob and no one's trying to impeach Bush for his crimes against humanity. He's acting just like Hitler--a charismatic leader (to some, I still think he looks like an ape, although that does insult apes) who cloaks a hidden agenda behind talk of patriotism and uses a war against a nebulous enemy to distract the population.

    And yes, I know I've just invoked Godwin's Law (whenever Hitler/Nazis are mentioned, the mentioner automatically loses the argument) but honestly, look at it. People should be terrified, and they're flying flags and putting those stupid-ass magnets on their cars and mooing right along like complacent cows.

  6. Clinton was impeached for lying. The blowjob was a freebie.

    Clinton reduced the government by over half. Miami Air went from 120 pilots to 30 pilots and the war on drugs, our ability to patrol the borders and simple things like security, rescue and law enforcement were shot completely to ... .

    Clinton demoralized the nation.

    Nice guy. Complete and utter scumbag of a human being. And I'd say that, even if he were a Republican.

    Most people will never know, or understand just how much damage Clinton did to our Federal Law Enforcement and Military ... unless they figured it out on 9-11.

    This assumption that Republicans are sheep and have no concept of international affairs baffles me every time I see it. I do not assume that Democrats can't make a valid case for their beliefs. I do, however, find it difficult to understand their point when every other sentence is insulting me.

    A little courteous discourse without the denigrating comments would be much appreciated and smooth the discussion.

    And Hitler? It hurts when people throw that name casually around. Over six million Jews died because of Hitler and some of them were part of my family. The rest of my relatives made it to Venezuela after the US refused them entry -- I was told -- but no one knows where they are now.

    Which is why I don't discuss politics with anyone who feels the need to dredge Hitler up as a boogeyman to make their case. It's ludicrous. In the Hitler pool of evil Bush would barely make the shallow end of the pool.

  7. I didn't see that Amy said he was as bad as Hitler, just that he shares similarities in method.

    Frankly I'm tired of Clinton and even more sick of Clinton bashing. The "he was worse than Bush" or "he was better than Bush" is also kind of beside the fact . . . Doesn't really matter because only one of them is President now. He's the only one who wields any kind of power.

  8. "He's acting just like Hitler"

    "it absolutely stuns me that Clinton could get impeached for a damn blowjob and no one's trying to impeach Bush for his crimes against humanity."

    I did not start the Clinton / Bush comparison and I did not imagine the direct comparison of Bush to Hitler.

    But I sense that this is just a mindless bashing of Bush, Republicans and conservatives in general with no constructive outcome desired, so have at. I appologize for impeding the hate fest.

  9. I appologize for impeding the hate fest.

    Snort. as long as you don't apologize for getting snarky. Ferfe snark is worth the price of admission.

    I just have to interrupt my own gloomy thinking to make this important announcement. Bill Clinton's hair is not as good as W's. Okay? W's got better hair. Clinton's hair? Gives me the creeps.

    Okay! Back to the mindless bashing and hatefest.

  10. and ferfe, back to being serious a minute....

    minus the clinton/w/hitler stuff, do you really think this is a conservative bashing issue? Wouldn't any american, conservative or liberal think the issues of torture, chemical warfare and secret prisons go beyond partisan politics?

  11. The issues are very serious. War and the four horsemen that ride with her are, and have always been, the worst part of humanity.

    Humanity ... not just Americans.

    Unfortunately, war is not run by the AYSO. We do not gather all the participants, rank them and divide them up so all the teams are even and have a fair chance of winning. I don't disagree with your facts or your feelings about how horrific the things we and others have done are while fighting it.

    Renee Bernard and I (Renee is classic California liberal and the brutally honest when it comes to telling me I'm dead wrong and why while being equally able to take the reciprocal in stride) have gone back and forth on this one for hours. It's not a five minute post discussion.

    I was late coming into the discussion here and by the time I arrived this blanket statement: "People should be terrified, and they're flying flags and putting those stupid-ass magnets on their cars and mooing right along like complacent cows." implying that Republicans and conservatives are are a herd of cows, basically ends any desire on my part to exchange views or ideas.

    This issue is bigger than "stupid-assed magnets" and "cows".

    We are discussing what we are ordering our countrymen to do during war on our behalf.

    Sometimes, we are the bad guy. But ... not all of the time and not everyone.

  12. Why conservatives feel the need to sling their red slime at people criticizing the Bush administration's atrocities baffles me. Is there nothing moral over which Bush's proponents and opponents can agree on?
    Keep the faith, girls. Don't let this Limbaugh-slime-slinger get you down.

  13. "We are discussing what we are ordering our countrymen to do during war on our behalf."


    The point is I'm not talking about individual crimes. Let me use a non-US example to avoid provoking a defensive response.

    Rape is one of the horrendous things that happen during war and won't show up on the front pages. BUT when it's state-sponsored rape, a weapon used against civilians (as happened in Serbia and in several African conflicts)then it's horrendous--most of the world can agree on that.

    Anything that's condoned by the generals and politicians running a war will be considered a reflection on a whole country. Torture, chemical warfare, and secret prisons are NOT a reflection of the America that I love. It might be the reality of evil empires but I'll be damned if it's going to be a reality of MY country. Really, damned is the word, too.

    BTW, I tried to link to the www.operationtruth.com essay "one bullet away" by Flick. Doesn't work. But check it out. There's a line there about "Americans don't shoot kids and let them bleed to death."

    Americans don't let their government get away with evil.

  14. PS. Bill= Ferfe might sling (as do we all when we care deeply) and her slinging is deep red** but I doubt she's a ditto-head. If she is, Limbaugh ought to hire her to write his material. She's smarter than he is.


    ** remember when red meant communist? amazing how times have changed. a couple of long weeks during the 2000 election all of us staring at a red and blue map, and the language is transformed

  15. PPS I thought about that "Americans don't. . ." line. See Monday post above. Heh.

  16. Bill pretty much ends this one for me. I am not a "cow" and I am not a "red slime slinger".

    Kate, you are welcome to post on my blog without fear of insult or name calling, but I won't be posting here on yours any more.

  17. Hmmmmmmm... The discussion starts out on how horrible it is that our country now runs secret torture camps, and it winds up that we owe conservatives an apology because Hitler was so much worse than Bush and we're all just too "mindless" to notice.
    Well then, for my part (the red slime, not the cow) let me apologize. Forgive me. But then turn this discussion over to its original topic, the official U.S. use of secret torture camps in "The New Europe" and how we wound up being the bad guy in all of this.

  18. Actually, I think sheep is the animal in question as in flocking sheep. Or maybe it was cows. I've noticed that animals always enter into arguments when feelings get strong. I've been called a bitch more than once. (I suppose I'd rather be a dog than a cow.)

    Anyway, I've considered making rules about posting but don't like the idea. The hyperbole and insults of political boards don't bother me because I'm used to reading it and I figure people see the glue and rubber thing clearly for themselves. Shrill voices drown out their messages.

    I'm sorry you're upset, ferfe and I'll miss you a lot.

  19. maybe you could still weigh in with the writing/book stuff? Very few insults in those posts...Even the RWA political stuff.

  20. Oh fine I can't stay mad for more than a few hours anyway. Not that I was mad, just annoyed that it seems to be impossible to post a different opinion without getting hit by pointless name calling.

    Comparing Bush to Hitler ... there's just no comparison.

    I don't listen to Rush, just for the record, because he's a hypocrit, drug adict and a liar. He does not represent the majority of conservatives any more than Bush does. If you read the conservative blogs and papers, you will see that they question these issues and are demanding action just as loudly as the liberal blogs and papers.


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