Saturday, March 22, 2008

A couple useful letters to the NYT editor

Image caption: 'Cellular' by Martha Rosler, from the article House Beautiful Iraq.

Two items in New Pravda (the article Bush Defends Iraq War in Speech and op-ed piece Mission Still Not Accomplished) led to some letters, a couple of which are worth mentioning:
Re “Marking 5 Years, Bush Insists U.S. Must Win in Iraq” (front page, March 20) and “Mission Still Not Accomplished” (editorial, March 20):
Five years of war with Iraq blown to bits and shards cannot be sugarcoated by the false rhetoric of a waning administration that remains bent for war at any cost.
The United States has waged this war unleashing cluster bombs, inflicting torture, institutionalizing violence against civilians in its military operations and thumbing its nose at international law. There is no nobility that can be claimed in this, there are no gains, and the destruction of one country while imperiling our own cannot be called progress.
It is possible that when President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney refer to gains, they are referring to their stealth advances toward control of Iraqi oil. Those gains dangle just off the horizon, a lure the United States is willing to follow at the price of an obliterated Iraq, a bankrupt United States and a future of occupation.
We, the people, are calling for no more; we are calling for peace.
Nancy Dickeman
Seattle, March 20, 2008
[snip]
Re “Mission Still Not Accomplished”:
In my conversations with a number of people outside the United States, what seemed most appalling to them was not the killings, torture or illegal detentions nor was it the complete callousness of the current administration.
Indeed, what appalled them most was the fact the country re-elected this president in 2004 and that neither the press nor the electorate is willing to hold anyone culpable for what has to be the most egregious human rights violations by any democratic government in history.
What has tarnished our image more is not what we did in Iraq but that we appear to care so little about it. I am sorry to say that editorials and letters to the editor won’t help in changing that perception.
Sukumar Vijayaraghavan
Denver, March 20, 2008
Indeed if one reads the editorials appearing in New Pravda and elsewhere in what passes for our mainstream media, it becomes clear in a hurry that the perception that Americans generally appear to care little about what has been inflicted on the Iraqis in their names is not likely to be changed any time too soon.

I'd like to think that beneath the surface that perception is deceiving - driven largely by the banality of the war (and the larger "Global War on Terra" that includes the Iraq occupation) in the minds of our ruling elites and those whose lives are largely sheltered within the confines of suburban and exurban gated communities. For those most likely to profit directly or indirectly from the carnage, life is good. As long as the Hummers, liposuctions, hair extensions, and salad shooters are affordable to them, there is indeed nothing to worry about. Even for those who do seem interested in understanding the situation in Iraq, so much is hidden from view that the carnage there becomes little more than the very ominous background noise that is barely audible.

Vijayaraghavan's reflections on the perceptions of the 2004 election are also worth pondering, as unfortunately perception may not entirely reflect reality. If you look at that election - or any other held in the US - you must soon realize that American voters are offered woefully limited "choices" and that even then there is just enough corruption in the voting process (e.g., Florida 2000, Ohio 2004) to even negate the activity of "choosing" a lesser of evils. If one gets down to it, John Kerry wasn't really going to change much of anything with regard to Iraq, other than to begin a "surge" a lot earlier than Bush. It is indeed distinctly possible that if we were currently talking about the ending of a first term of a Kerry regime, much of our conversation would be strikingly similar to what we are having now. To the extent that the 2006 mid-terms signaled a more successful voter effort to change course in Iraq, that effort was largely frustrated by the very Democrat majorities that were supposed to end the occupation. Those same Congressional majorities weren't too keen on actually holding accountable anyone actually responsible for perpetrating the atrocities against Iraqis (impeachment of Bush and Cheney, for instance, was immediately declared "off the table"). As it stands now, 2008 isn't looking so great either.

I'd suggest that a substantial portion of what may seem like apathy could in fact be a manifestation of a great deal of frustration at not being listened to by those who supposedly "represent" us, and by the apparent failure of traditional means of dissent. That's not to let the American people completely off the hook, nor is it to suggest that there isn't a lot of genuine apathy, but rather to suggest that onus will continue to fall on those of us who do give a damn (for all I know, we could well be the "silenced majority" - there may be something to those opinion polls that find Americans consistently against continued occupation of Iraq) to find other means of demanding meaningful change. We've got our work cut out for us.

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