Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The only way to get Bush out of office before the next election

The propaganda remix project

Sounds as if I must know a lot. I have been mulling over this article that I read which greatly and deeply disturbed me. I probably will not have time until the weekend (when dh takes over the kiddies) to fully go into it. Still, this article was written in February of this year and appeared in the New Yorker. Not a magazine I read (I could read all day if only if only..) and I cannot remember hearing about this, but that could have very well been my own fault of being disconnected from a lot of news. The article was about the memo written by Alberto J. Mora, the by now former general counsel of the United States Navy. It was a long article, printed out 13 pages to be exact. I don't mind browsing online, but I prefer to read sitting down comfortably with something in my hand instead of looking at the screen.

Thirteen pages to simmer and stew over and synthesize all the thoughts running through my brain. So for now, the only thought that is able to escape is this;

the only way to get Bush out of office before the next election is if the military revolt. Not by way of a military coup, but by way of saying that they will not go along with the illegal, debasing orders that has come from the White House. I am truly appalled, and shocked and if I thought that Alex Jones was exaggerating his feelings just a (teeny) bit (well, not purposely but I felt they were a bit, just a bit)..I am a 100% (not 99.9) behind him. This is a police state and to be in one, you don't need to have to hear boots marching down the street. Policing is insidious and comes in oh so many ways. The police state has nothing to do as such with the article I referred to earlier, but it refers to the mentality that is present in the upper echelons of the Bush administration, that deems itself to be above the law, and excuses themselves in their behaviour and motives, to encourage horrible things.

I am thoroughly disgusted.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

When a little bit of soul slips through your fingers

The whole point of Guantanamo Bay was to provide a place in which the U.S. could discount any legal challenge to their manner of treatment of their prisoners. If people were encouraged by the McCain anti-torture amendment, they would have been naive to think that the Bush administration would actually abide not only by the letter of the amendment, but the spirit of it.

And the spirit is what needs to be discussed as well. There are plenty of reasons to be opposed to torture. One reason is not often discussed but it is very powerful. Torture destroys a person receiving it,… and inflicting it.

Speaking last November at a Middle East Institute conference, Frank Anderson, former chief of the CIA's Near East and South Asia division in the agency's Operations Directorate, made this insightful (!) comment;

"We ought to declare we don't do this. We ought to declare the intelligence isn't worth it,"
(speaking about torture)


“There's also the question of what brutality does to those who carry it out”

"I will rebel against anyone who wants my son to torture, because it won't ever heal,"

Rushworth M. Kidder wrote an interesting article called “What torture does to torturers”. As the president of of a non profit called ‘Institute for Global Ethics’ he poses the question; In taking advantage of undefended victims, are we degrading our own personal integrity? He talks about how a government (such as the Bush administrations’) expects and instills integrity, depends on it when ‘defending a nation through espionage and military action’ yet at the same time requiring “unethical actions” (such as torture I would add) by creating “sanctions of authority”. He notes how these unethical actions create an amoral numbness or anguished guilt.

It brings us back to the famous Stanley Milgram obedience experiment that was carried out at Yale in the 1960s. He recruited individuals who were told that they were to test the role of punishment to promote learning. They were told to follow orders from the experimenters and to administer increasingly powerful electric shocks whenever a “learner” (so they were told) gave an incorrect answer.

As some of you might know or remember, the whole experiment was a fake. The experimenter and the “learner” were both plants and shocks were never administered, the learner merely pretended to be hurt. The true experiment was to see how long the recruits would continue following the orders to administer the shock treatment. In other words, how obedient to the authority were they?
They were very obedient and kept it up for very long times.

Kidder gives the example of one of Milgrams’ recruits, William Menold. He had just been discharged from combat duty and as he became more and more upset for the learner that he was administering shocks to, he would complain to the experimenter. The experimenter told him to continue and that “he would accept full responsibility”! Afterwards, Menold remembers that he completely lost his reasoning power and during the whole experiment, he felt like a “basket case” and an “emotional wreck” which continued afterward when he realized “that somebody could get me to do that stuff”.

There seems to be an inner moral compass that we all share. We really do know right from wrong. We do get effected when we see another person in pain. On a very basic level, we want people to like us. We want to be loved. We know that we cannot be lovable when we do things to hurt others. Somehow, most people know, that they are deserving or undeserving of that basic emotion we all need, which is love. It is tied into our self esteem, our self worth. No, I did not study psychology. I have been around for a while and even when you haven’t, I think it’s safe to say that this is a basic understanding amongst most people, regardless of race, religion whatever else might differentiate ourselves from someone else. This we know. Intuitively. What makes a person accept instructions that goes against that basic understanding of inner morality? Probably the very same thing that makes pedophiles so successful; seduction. Pushing the envelope little by little.

Quoting Milgram Kidder says
“When an individual merges unthinkingly “into an organizational structure, a new creature replaces autonomous man, unhindered by the limitations of individual morality, freed of humane inhibition, mindful only of the sanctions of authority.”

Egil Krogh, convicted for his part in the Watergate scandal said this when remembering how he ‘sacrificed his conscience’ for President Nixon’s ‘unquestionable authority’ “when you do something like that, a little bit of your soul slips through your fingers”.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

And now for something completely different; An Onion!

Well, it's THE ONION to be exact. For those non-American readers who could not know otherwise, it's a politically satirical 'newspaper', that well, makes fun of politics. Not just in the States, but everyone and everywhere is fair game.

So since torture is going to be highlighted for the weeks to come (I will post on other topics though), I figured we could do with a wee bit of satire (the only seemingly acceptable comic relief). Without further are some Onion-classics.

66 Percent Of U.S. Citizens Object To Torture In Nonetheless Frightening Poll
June 16, 2004 | Issue 40•24

CAMBRIDGE, MA—The results of a USA Today-CNN-Gallup poll released Monday show that 66 percent of Americans object to the use of torture during times of war. "We can be proud that the majority of citizens stand against our military personnel's use of torture," Harvard statistician William Stover said. "And it's somewhat comforting that, of the 34 percent of Americans who advocate torture, 72 percent said it should be used only when other methods of discipline have failed." Reassuringly, 97 percent of Americans were against the torture of U.S. soldiers or citizens by non-Americans.

CIA Chief Admits To Torture After Six-Hour Beating, Electrocution
December 21, 2005 | Issue 41•51

LANGLEY, VA—An internal CIA investigation into the possible use of illegal and inhumane interrogation techniques produced a confession from CIA director Porter Goss Monday, with the aid of waterboarding, food and light deprivation, and the application of wire hangers hooked to a car battery to the testicles. "I did it. We did it. We all did it. The president knew. The president did it. Please, God, please stop," said a voice identified as Goss' on recordings produced by CIA auditors. "Stop, please stop. I'm sorry. I won't do it again. The president won't do it again. Please let me die." Critics of the methods used to obtain the information continue to claim that torture is an ineffective means of obtaining intelligence, pointing out that Goss did not sound sorry.

American Torturing Jobs Increasingly Outsourced
March 30, 2005 | Issue 41•13

WASHINGTON, DC—AFL-CIO vice president Linda Chavez-Thompson, representing the American Federation of Interrogation Torturers, released a statement Monday deriding the CIA's "extraordinary rendition" program, under which American torturing jobs are outsourced to foreign markets. "Outsourcing the task of interrogating terror suspects to countries like Egypt, Syria, and Saudi Arabia is having a crippling effect on the Americans who make a living by stripping detainees nude, shackling them to the floor, and beating the living shit out of them," Chavez-Thompson said. "And specialists within the field—corrosive-material chemists, ocular surgeons, and testicular electricians—are lucky to find any jobs at all. How are they supposed to feed their families?" Attorney General Alberto Gonzales defended extraordinary rendition, saying the program will create jobs in the long run by fostering a global climate of torture tolerance.

Did you notice the dates on that? No public outcry, no campaigning on any newsmagazine or newspaper calling for an end to all of this. Hence, this one satirical 'rag' (term of endearment for sure) noting how nice and quiet it has been amidst the sounds of terror. Torture that is.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bloggers, Denounce Torture!

For those readers, 'sans blog', who browse and lurk through sites and leave no trail of comments; this is also directed to you..denounce torture!
A little less than a week away June Torture Awareness month is set to begin but participating bloggers have already written plenty of highlighting and critical posts.

Here below is a fact sheet of some of the terms you have read in any of these posts. Italics and bold and questions added by yours truly. Thank you Matt Cowel from Roadside Attractions for sending it to me.

Who are the Guantanamo detainees?
Over 750 men from more than 40 countries have been held at Guantanamo since the first transfer of detainees in January, 2002. Some were detained by US forces engaged in battle in Afghanistan, but the majority were picked up elsewhere. Many were sold to the United States by Northern Alliance warlords and Pakistani authorities for $5,000 a head. Others were transferred to Guantanamo after being detained in countries such as Thailand, Bosnia and Gambia. There are currently approximately 490 detainees in Guantanamo according to the Department of Defense, and approximately a third of the population is scheduled to be transferred to the custody of their home counties with a much smaller number scheduled for release. When the US government first transferred detainees to Guantanamo, they asserted that Guantanamo was beyond the reach of US and international law, creating a law free zone. There have been numerous allegations of torture and inhuman treatment in Guantanamo including beatings, prolonged isolation and religious persecution.

(QUESTION: If the Northern Alliance got paid $5000 per person, I am suspicious of the fact that that was easy money for them. Knowing of their brutalities, what would you bet that there are plenty of innocents that have been sold?)
(QUESTION: Does it not make your hair stand up straight to see how purposely the US Government has circumvented being held accountable for anything? What about that pledge of allegiance that sounds so honourable? Does it only apply to good little American citizens?

What are Combatant Status Review Tribunals and Administrative Review Boards?
In June, 2004, the Supreme Court ruled in “Rasul v. Bush” that detainees in Guantanamo did have access to federal court. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the administration set up “Combatant Status Review Tribunals.” The purpose of the tribunals was to determine whether or not an individual was an “Enemy Combatant.” “Enemy Combatant” is not a term that previously existed in US or international law with a set definition that carries certain rights and restrictions. It is a term that the US government began using in reference to detained persons alleged to have ties to terrorism to distinguish them from prisoners of war, who do have a defined status under the Geneva Conventions. Detainees had no legal representation and a federal court ruled that the process did not give adequate due process to detainees. That ruling is awaiting a decision from the appeals court.

(COMMENT: Shafiq Rasul was one of the "Tipton Three", chronicled in the upcoming film "The Road to Guantanamo")
(QUESTION: enemy combatant, another legality to get away with checks and balances?)

Administrative Review Boards (ARBs) are similar to a parole hearing except that the detainees facing ARBs have not been convicted of anything. The panel considers three factors: 1) Whether the person is charged with a crime (those facing trial by military commission are not eligible for an ARB); 2) Whether the detainee still poses a threat; and 3) Whether the detainee was found to have “continued intelligence value.” If the answer to all three questions is no, then the detainee may be transferred off of Guantanamo. Detainees currently slated for release or transfer were approved through the ARB process.

What are Military Commissions?
Pursuant to the President’s Military Order of November 2001, foreign detainees can be tried for alleged war crimes by military commission. The process is a system that is created and run exclusively by Executive branch of government who writes the laws, charges the detainees, chooses the panel that hears the case and has ultimate review of the panel’s decision. For these and other reasons, Amnesty International has found the proceedings do not meet the most minimal fair trials standards. Currently, only 10 out of the approximately 490 detainees have been charged and face trial by military commission. None have gone to trial and the Supreme Court is currently considering the fairness of the proceedings.

(QUESTION: these particular military commissions are not even meeting the most minimal fair trial standards? That is strong language. And that is also very disturbing.)
(QUESTION: how long will the Supreme Court be 'considering' this? While it is being 'considered', pondered, mulled over, people are still being tortured..tick tock tick tock people!)

What is extraordinary rendition?
Some of the detainees were not brought to Guantanamo directly but instead rendered to a third country for detention and interrogation. Extraordinary rendition is the forcible extralegal transfer of a person to a country with dubious human rights record for the purpose of detention and interrogation. Detainees in Guantanamo have been rendered to places like Egypt, Morocco and Jordan before being taken back into US custody and sent to Guantanamo. They have reported beatings, electric shocks, and being cut with a razor.

(QUESTION: where does it end? Outsourcing torture because they do it so much better? What is the rationale for that? So the next time the US supposedly commends Egypt for their strides towards democracy, are you going to scoff like me? What about the bloggers that were arrested a while ago? How can 'a' government that participates, condones torture, critize another while they are using of their services in the meantime?)

Amnesty International believes that the US government should close the detention facilities at Guantanamo Bay immediately. Those currently in custody should either be charged with a recognizable crime and tried in an established court or released unconditionally.
YOUR HELP IS NEEDED! Learn more and take action at

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The road to Guantanamo

June 23, the documentary 'The Road to Guantanamo' will premier. Already the producers faced an issue with the MPAA.
In a Washington Post article from May 17th, you can read about the controversy of the documentary's original movie poster, seen here.

However, the really offensive part is in the substance of what goes on at Guantanamo. Please read a first hand account of a current detainee, Benyam Mohammed al-Habashi. Picked up in Britain shortly after 9/11, he still awaits his fate 5 yrs later.

If you are like me, you might not like reading the whole thing in one shot. I have posted this before so if you stopped reading, this is your change to pick it up again.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

From page 10 to page 1

I have been looking in the Wall Street Journal about anything editorial or what have you regarding the report released by Amnesty International regarding Guantanamo. Nothing, until today. On page 10 and just the AP press release at that. No editorial. Yet.

Hopefully, if enough people will read personal accounts such as these, from
Benyam Mohammed al-Habashi , their hearts will be stirred and their eyes can no longer look away and pretend that the 'state of the union' is just hunky dory.

Thanks to Kel for his bit on spreading the info and to 'Donkeyphant' for being his source.
Let's get a veritable domino effect started so we can get more mainstream exposure, hopefully, on page 1.

Monday, May 22, 2006

June is Torture Awareness Month

For the next couple of days, I will highlight June's upcoming Torture Awareness Campaign.

This is one of those moments in time, when one HAS to jump on a bandwagon. I strongly believe that this is going to make waves where the mainstream media, here in the US and the UK will take note and actually follow up on the goings on in the blogosphere as opposed to the other way around. It pays to read some good blogs, even as a novice blogger trying to find a footing in this vast info world of gazillion blogs. Credit where credit is due;
I found this info by way of Mash's 'Or How I learned to Stop Worrying'. Please check out his post on a Pakistani Brit who's scheduled to be hanged early June. As a frontrunner joining the campaign, he ranked 5th in the blogroll as one highlighting and promoting the campaign.

There are numerous countries where people get tortured without any redress or any acknowledgement from the outside world it is happening. The Torture Awareness Organization is focussing this upcoming month on the abuses and torture that have been happening at Guantanamo.

I will be calling and emailing around this week to see if I can round up some people to join in any of the community action opportunities. Cross your fingers and let's hope I can round up some people.

Check out all this information and travel around some of these blogs. Let's make waves...and fast!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Holy Toledo Batman

It has been too long since I had an opportunity to post. Last moment school activities, fundraisers, kid doctor's appointments (note plural) and having a very bored mother visiting who's counting down the days she can go back home to her routine have all contributed to my attention being elsewhere.
Next week I am counting on being able to think for myself (it's a luxury), do research and post. I am also in the process of re-designing my sites, and most likely consolidating the two in the name of "plan B"!
Thank goodness for blogs, you can do whatever you like.

So for those who have stumbled upon this blog and for those who returned to sneak a peek whether I would be getting my act together...I appreciate it. Next week, I will put my nose back to the grindstone..but...loving it!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Mark Souder is back

Imagine my surprise that one of the letters to the editor in the Wall Street Journal was written by Mark Souder. After a very comprehensive, 10 pointer by a reader that spelled out why the war on drugs is bogus and giving pragmatic reasons as to why legalizing drugs should work, Indiana's House of Representative Mark Souder's response to Mary O'Grady's article in which she states that drug use will never be eradicated says: "One wonders what other vices Ms. O'Grady proposed to surrender to. Child abuse? Spousal abuse? Rape?.."
Yes Mr. Souder, those are totally in line with the decision to do drugs. (not)

He does go on to say that the above frequently is connected to drug and alcohol use. Well, as a person who's the chairman of the House Drug Policy Subcommittee and co-chairman of the Speaker's Drug Task Force, I'd expect numbers. Statistics. Not just some general counter argument against legalizing drugs. Period. Whatever kind of drugs.

Now I will say that regardless of the pragmatic reasons for legalizing, I myself feel somewhat uncomfortable at the thought of really hard stuff being available. Even with all the safety precautions in place re. controlling the where and how much people could buy and alcohol and caffeine and other, still mind altering substances, there will always be abuse and addiction. Some people are genetically predisposed and people in general are fallable. I guess that is why religious conservatives tend to be predisposed to the need for control: unlike let's say a Unity outlook, they consider people 'fallen' and in need of salvation and all sinners. There are those, who believe that even though some people might be 'weak', that it is none of anyone's business and are responsible only to themselves, and not to anyone's God.

Hmmm, how did I end up there? I know. It's close to bedtime and I am a wee kid weary. It's been one of them days. More on the Egyptian embassy calling tomorrow.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Bloggers standing up for other bloggers, Free Alaa from Egypt

I spent most of my day caring for my three year old who was crying and moaning for the most part. With a diagnosis of an ear infection from the doctor this afternoon, and a happy release that rivalled the barferama scene of Stand by Me in our car on the way home (when else, where else), I did not think I had it in me to even check someone else's blog. Well, I couldn't help myself. And I am glad I did. This is how my particular trail went;
First, I visited the Religious Policeman. From there I jumped off to visit Mahmoud's Den. Normally I continue on to visit my good (blogger)friend Ahmed from Saudi Jeans, but Mahmoud's post stopped me dead on my track.

It is not that I hadn't heard about bloggers getting arrested before. But, I guess I am getting too used to seeing Arab bloggers coming out in political activism taking it totally for granted that, even though Egypt might still be considered a great vacation spot for many, it is still a police state with the main Kahuna afraid that any dissenting voice will lead to some sort of dethroning. Heaven forbid.

So, check out these stories on Alaa from Egypt, and the many others detained by Egyptian police on May 7th.

Carsten Agger from Modspill decided to spread the word and ask people to write letters of protest and added a little somethin' somethin'..the Egyptian Embassy's address. So without further ado, let's make it a worldwide effort here;

The Egyptian Embassy
3521 International Ct. N.W
Washington, DC 20008
tel: 202)895-5400
fax: (202)244-5131 / (202)244-4319
web: Egyptian Embassy

Egyptian Embassy in London, UK
26 South Street London W1Y 6DD
fax: 020 7491 1542
tel: 020 7499 3304 (why not call?)
web: Egyptian Embassy

For all the Egyptian Embassies in Europe,South America, Asia and Africa, check this out and follow your nose (and make the call, or fax, or write)

Tomorrow, I will try to place a call and email. And I will let you know how that went.

Now if you want a good laugh,(because you don't want to stay depressed) check out Saudi Jeans' report on the Saudi night life. I know, it's an oxymoron, but then, so are many things in the Middle East.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Marijuana and the paranoid American

It's official. Even the Economist has indicated that marijuana is medically useful, and that will not change inspite of politicians and religious people fighting it.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) apparently made a statement last month announcing that marijuana had "no accepted medical use in treatment in the United States". Even though science says it does. It is just too politically controversial apparently to even consider it medically acceptable. We are not talking about making it widely available or legalizing it, we're talking about using it as a known and scientifically accepted treatment for pain and nausea.

The paranoid American in question is House of Representative Mark Souder (R-In), who suspects that accepting marijuana medically would be the first step towards legalizing it for recreational use. He also states

I am strongly opposed to efforts to legalize marijuana. Marijuana is addictive, it adversely affects the immune system, and leads to the use of other drugs, such as cocaine. Marijuana also causes cancer, including cancer of the lungs, mouth, throat, lips, and tongue; respiratory diseases and mental disorders, such as schizophrenia and other psychoses, depression, panic attacks, hallucinations, paranoia, hostility, depersonalization, flashbacks, decreased cognitive performance, disconnected thought, delusions and impaired memory. Since marijuana impairs coordination and judgment, it is a major cause of accidents. Babies born to women who smoke marijuana during pregnancy have an increased incidence of leukemia, low birth weight, and other abnormalities.

Despite these effects, legalization advocates often promote medical use as a legitimate reason for the legalization of marijuana. This argument, however, is simply a red herring for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. Studies have continually rejected the notion that marijuana is suitable for medical use because it adversely impacts concentration and memory, the lungs, motor coordination and the immune system.

Now I do not argue that this is not true. I do argue that for people who are severely sick with pain, or with nausea, that this would not apply. I believe that if you are a healthy person smoking and or abusing the use of marijuana, that it will effect your body the way he describes it.

Mr. Souder is on the Narcotics Subcommittee and hence has a vested interest in seeing to it that illegal drug use is combatted. However, it is pretty known by now that this war on drugs is and has not worked.

There are those who are considering alternatives to the war on drugs. Read up on the Drug Policy Alliance and their approach.

I do not intend to dismiss the concern for addiction. In fact, people's addiction abound, whether physiologically or emotionally. Nicotine, caffeine (ME) in coffee mostly but also chocolate, sugar, unhealthy relationships. As in, unhealthy relationships, not 'unhealthy relationships with all those other substances mentioned'. In fact, when I lived in Saudi Arabia I found out that nutmeg was illegal (said my girlfriend who smuggled a whole nutmeg into the country with her little grater) as it is said to have hallucinatory compounds. Wow, I'll have to put some more on my brussel sprouts next time.

I believe there are wiser ways of dealing with addictions, period. To me,a punitive system that doesn't address sociological and economical factors is just handing out punishments without treating the addiction or the addict. There is a time and place for punishments. Aside from the fact that everyone is free to make choices, not everyone is dealt the same hand in life. Not to be an apologetic. But this law and order system in the US that always seeks out to punish,is just plain not working.

This country has the highest prison rate. I wonder how much of it would go down if this war on drugs were to change course and change tactics. It is worthwhile pursuing, saving billions of dollars and most importantly, saving lives.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Newly released Gallup poll:

Yesterday, tucked away in a little 'box', the Wall Street Journal reported on a Gallup poll that was released recently. It was a preliminary result of a two year poll set in the Middle East intendend to gauge views of moderate and extreme Muslims.

One of the findings showed that support for extremism was on the rise in countries such as Morocco, Iran and Turkey, but was declining in places such as Pakistan and Lebanon.

An interesting point was that for the minority of Muslims who felt that the September 11, 2001 were 'mostly or completely' justified, their opinions weren't fueled by Islamic views or poverty, but came from a feeling of being controlled by the U.S. The Gallup poll question "what is your greatest fear",was answered to by poltical radicals as "occupation/U.S. domination" and by moderates as lack of security and concerns about crime.

Another interesting note was that the political radicals were actually more affluent, and more educated than the moderates. The conclusion in the WSJ article was that the "root cause of extremism wasn't religious rhetoric".

While moderates felt that the West did not respect Islam, the political radicals felt that the religion was also threatened.

This brings up a couple of questions to me;

First, why is extremism on the rise in Morocco and Turkey? Iran is to be expected. What is the current domestic political and economic situation in those countries?

Secondly, how exactly do the political radicals exactly feel that they are going to be dominated or controlled by the U.S.? Most people in the Middle East are already controlled by their own governments so what is the connection?

Thirdly, how do the political radicals feel that Islam is being threatened?

Lastly, what defines a political radical?

I wanted to check out the survey myself but the gallup international link was 'not found' so it might be temporarily out of commission. I will try again later and continue this post.

Poll and survey findings are always interesting, but often they give me more questions than answers. I hope to answer these ones.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

And now for something completely different...(that parrot is looking at me funny)

The main difference for the history of the world if I had been shot rather than Kennedy is that Onassis probably wouldn't have married Mrs Khrushchev."
Nikita Khrushchev

"Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied."
Otto Von Bismark.

"Traditionally most of Australia's imports come from overseas."
Former Australian cabinet minister Keppel Enderbery

"It is true that liberty is precious; so precious that it must be carefully rationed."

"It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it."
George W. Bush

"We'd all like to vote for the best man but he's never a candidate."
Kin Hubbard

"A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."
George Bernard Shaw

When I am abroad I always make it a rule never to criticise or attack the Government of my country. I make up for lost time when I am at home.
Winston Churchill

"Americans have different ways of saying things. They say "elevator", we say "lift" ... they say "President", we say "stupid psychopathic git."
Alexai Sayle.

"Politics is supposed be the second oldest profession. I have come to realise that it bears a very close resemblance to the first."
Ronald Reagan

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Culture of Fear and Persecution

No, I am not going to talk about WW2 Germany. I am going to talk about the current state of the US. When I emigrated to this country in 1997, I noticed very quickly how in the mainstream culture, there always seems to be something to be afraid of, someone is 'out to get you'. It is one thing to read it about how American television evolves around and depicts so much violence. It is another to come into the country and notice the different styles of tv programming when you come from another culture. And I even came into this from Canada where most of the Canadians live near the Canadian-American border and who already watch American television. I just never noticed it so much until I got here.

I was reminded of that part of my culture shock when last week I saw the latest bird flu film trailer on tv. It flashed that we did not need to fear terrorists (word fade out) or whatever it was (fade out, sorry,for the life of me I don't remember) or 'this' but...(drumroll tadaaa) BIRD FLU! It flashed all the things we are supposed to be afraid of in quick succession until the latest scare, bird flu.

Here in the US it seems that fear and violence sells. Not just like that. Of course, there is always the moral of the story. The good guy has to go after the bad guy. Good guy usually has a good and loyal friend trailing with him. He withstand stooping to the bad guys' level until...yep, you got it, the poor and loyal friend dies a horrible death and THEN ,well, then this bad guy has it coming. The excuse for the violent act always precedes; the bad guy or company or animal has done something so horrendous, the only way to fight it and get JUSTICE (big word in this country) is to fight the bad what or whomever it is in equal if not worse measure. After all, they got it coming.

It is a worldwide used theme for sure but it is very prevalent here. And I see connections with how people respond to controversy and disagreements of sorts. The Dutch culture for example functions on the basis of agree to disagree. The American one in my experience is one of having to one up one and other, or the zero sum game of competition. People get defensive very easily when talking politics rather than thinking, well, it's my opinion, I don't care whether you agree or not. The things that get people up on arms here leaves some outsiders, i.e. immigrants shaking their heads. It's a shame. I suspect that with all this cultural conditioning of someone's after the Americans (too bad the Cold war ended, because then they needed another 'common' enemy to feel united against), I think it psychologically plays out in real life. It's an affirmation of sorts to react, rather than to look into the history of situations and respond wisely or proactively.

For the sake of bringing across what I have been noticing since moving here, I do realize I talk in absolutes. Naturally, there always are people who exercise wisdom or behave and think pro-actively. On the whole, I just see a connection between a popculture that accepts violence above nudity on tv to attitudes I read about and see in politics. Does anyone remember how easy it was to get people riled up after 9/11 into a patriotic frenzy? Or to divide people into two camps of being unamerican and patriotic depending on your stance re. the Iraq war?

Television shows a lot of one upping. I would say the worst offenders are Fox. And the talking heads with their talk shows aimed at getting people riled up. No, one "House" does not make up for that.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Organized rape as a tactic of war

As I was thinking about what to post, I figured there were plenty of hot topics. The immigrant demonstrations, Iraq, and of course, Dafur. The latter one got me thinking about when I went to university (only in the US do they call going to university 'college' and going to a community college 'college', too confusing..outside of that I think everyone calls it university, anyhow) and we were talking in one poli sci class about the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia. The subject came to raping women. The professor (otherwise a very smart men)basically said that well, you know, it is understandable that these things happen because the men are off to war and they have urges. !! Even some of the young guys (I was early 30s at the time) in class raised their eyebrows. Naturally I had to raise my hand and inform him that rape is an act of aggression in any case, and not merely a sexual act for the sake of relief.

So back to Darfur. When I hear the tv talk about it or read it in the newspaper, it seems so casual to mention the rape. As in, this happens, that happens and women are getting raped. Naturally as a woman who's been lucky to have never experienced rape, I read that and wonder, how does that really happen? How can someone turn into a killing machine and rape women and children? (remember, under 18, they're still children) It is so unimaginable to me, I can't wrap my brain around it.

But it happens. Here are some accounts from Medicins Sans Frontieres;

It happened last August when we were in our farms outside the village. We saw five Arab men who came to us and asked where our husbands were. Then they told us that we should have sex with them. We said no. So they beat and raped us. After they abused us, they told us that now we would have Arab babies; and if they would find any Fur woman, they would rape them again to change the colour of their children.”
Three women, 25, 30 & 40, October 2004, West Darfur

Three women, 25, 30 & 40, October 2004, West Darfur
[Five women, 2 young girls (13 and 14 years old) and 3 older women, went to collect grass for their donkeys. The group got ambushed by three armed men (one was on a camel, one on a horse and the third one on foot)]
“I was taken to the near-by river bed away from the other women. One man took me in one direction. The other man took the other girl. And the third man stayed to guard the camel and the horse. The man who took me told me to sit on the ground. But I refused. He hit me twice on my back with a stick. Then he took out a knife and threatened me by pointing the knife at me. I sat down. And then he told me to take off my underwear. I refused, but he threatened me again with his knife. He pulled his trousers down and raped me. He left without saying anything or even looking at me.”
Young girl, 13, February 2005, South Darfur
“One of the three man took me away from the other women. He threatened me with his knife by pinching my chest with it. He pushed me on the ground and took off my underwear. He raped me and was repeating “I will kill you” all the times to intimidate me.”
Young girl, 14, February 2005, South Darfur

For a full account please read this briefing paper by Medicins Sans Frontieres
from March 8th, 2005.

To see a world as far removed as most of us see it, here it is upclose.

Are men in combat the same as chimpanzees at war?