.journal 2003.03.18

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My birthday has been pre-empted by war coverage

Now listening to: Music Through the Night
Now reading: Sylvia Plath, The Collected Poems
Now playing: Final Fantasy X (Playstation 2)

You know, my birthday is usually a time for contemplation. I don’t go for big looks back around New Year’s, but I can’t help but look back on how things have been going in my life the past year around this time every year. And with everything that’s been going on in my personal life recently, you’d think I’d have plenty to think about.

And I do. I just can’t think about it right now.

Maria once brought up the possibility of me being conscripted, since there’s been all this talk about the draft coming back. I figure I don’t have anything to worry about; I’m past the age of conscription, I’d have student deferments, I’ve got documentary evidence on here to support a Conscientous Objector hearing, and oh yeah, they wouldn’t have to ask because I wouldn’t have to tell. I don’t know if the draft will come back, but you have to wonder just how many bodies, in total, are amassing around Iraq right now. And how many of them won’t be coming back.

There’s only one word I can think of to describe what is going on right now: madness. This whole scenario is just plain mad.

I’ve been really conflicted over the current scene. On the one hand, being on a college campus, I get to see the anti-war movement in action on a semi-regular basis, and it gives me some cause for optimism. (Bridgette’s also doing more than her part in the cause.) Never before has world opposition against a war been so vocal, and looking at pictures of protests around the world, and reading the news stories about the numbers turning out at the protests, makes me feel a bit better.

But do you know how hard it is to get to those news stories? You’re not going to find them on a Big Three newscast, that’s for sure. They may do a quick minute or two on them, but then it’s right back to all the current preparations for war, unspinned from the mouths of Dubya’s propaganda regime. Tonight ABC News did let slip one interesting fact: the only two countries in the world where a majority of the citizens favour an attack on Iraq, are the United States and Israel. How’s that for public backing and support?

What scares me the most is that it feels like it’s not just Saddam Hussein and his minions in the warmongers’ crosshairs right now: it’s those of us opposing the war as well. I wound up watching a lot of late night television over spring break last week (remind me to give you all my thoughts about T.A.T.U. later), and all the paragons of American male pig-ignorance — Jimmy Kimmel, Craig Kilborn and their ilk — were ripping the anti-war movement a new asshole. Celebrities who dare to speak out against the war are portrayed as overemotional simpletons who can’t understand the simple logic of why we need to go into Iraq and kill them — kill them all.

Logic, huh?

Logic like, Israel being the 100th most populous country in the world — not even in the top 40% — but being, by far, the biggest recipient of foreign aid from the United States? Israel receiving that money in a lump sum yearly so they can deposit it early and reap huge interest, unlike other countries whose aid comes in monthly installments? And stipulations that for all the money the US earmarks for “defence” spending — much more than the GDPs of many smaller countries — 75% of it must be spent in contracts with American defence companies? It’s the world’s largest circle jerk.

Logic like, the United States being beholden to oil, and needing a whole lot more than its own scarce resources to fuel all those SUVs that get zero miles to the gallon and never drive on terrain more dangerous than the occasional suburban pothole? Occupation of Iraq providing a quick and easy fix for those high gas prices? Do I even have to bring up Haliburton here?

Logic like Dubya, who should at least be trying to act the role he’s current playing in Washington, saying of Saddam Hussein, “He tried to kill my daddy?” DADDY?!?

But no, we who would dare speak out against the war of aggression become the enemy. We’re accused of being anti-American, of “supporting the terrorists.” Let’s just go to a National Review editorial by Daniel J. Flynn — just skip to the end if you need to — and we have a fucking red scare redux, tying members of an anti-war organization to a socialist group. They’re trying to dredge up the old “commie bastard” fears again, playing to irrational fears of generations past to fuel the irrational fears of this generation.

There’s a computer-age acronym called FUD, short for Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt. You most often see it used to describe tactics Microsoft uses to keep people hooked on Windows and Office. But it’s also an accurate description of the way Dubya and company have tried to sell people on this war. The fear was already there from 09.11, and all Dubya needed to do was infer ties between Iraq and Osama bin Laden, and everyone started fearing Iraqis committing acts of terrorism on the homeland.

Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN about Iraq’s supposed weapons of mass destruction infrastructure was pretty much the very definition of uncertainty. “You see, this looks like an ordinary railcar, but it’s actually a den of weapons of mass destruction-creating iniquity.” And now Dubya’s saying Hussein has “some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Oh, oh, I know, it’s that weapon from Alias, right, the one that shoots out that microwave-like ray that burns people alive, right? (So sue me, I needed something to watch before Dragnet came on.) There is only one country in the Middle East that has nukes — Israel. Care to guess how they got those nukes?

And of course the doubt comes in the form of denying that Iraq has destroyed all its outlawed weapons. Even after every weapons inspection has turned up negative. I’m not saying the United States has no reason to doubt Iraq still possesses banned weapons — if I gambled, I’d bet solid money that Iraq’s harbouring something bad — but instead of allowing the inspectors more time to make conclusive findings, Dubya went on TV and issued his big ultimatum. The UN had no choice but to pull the weapons inspectors out of fear of them getting caught in the crossfire, along with the food-for-oil workers that 60 million Iraqis depend on for their meals.

I don’t think there is any more telling tale of just how fucked up things have become than the way this country has managed to outdo the British in terms of vilifying France, a Herculean feat if ever there was one. It’s a good thing I don’t eat fast food anymore, because I swear the moment I heard someone try to order “Freedom Fries”, I would do things to that person that would probably warrant jail time, and maybe even a trip to the funny farm. And all I hear back is, “Well, we renamed German foods during the war, how is this any different?” For one thing, we aren’t at war here, at least not yet. Secondly, if there is a war, it is against Iraq, not France, at least last I heard. Most importantly, though, France is voicing its legitimate concerns about the United States launching a war of aggression without conclusive evidence. Adolf Hitler systematically exterminated tens of millions of Jews. Is anyone actually insane enough to equate these two things with each other? And yet somehow I get accused of anti-Semitism because of my views on the Israeli-Palestine conflict.

Hey, no one here is trying to make Saddam Hussein out as anything but an epitome of evil. His incursion into Kuwait was uncalled for to say the least, and his programme of genocide against the Kurds is barbaric. No one wants him in power, not even his own people. But it is not the United States’ business to launch this war without conclusive evidence of wrongdoing, and without the support of the United Nations. But no, the United States is the one remaining superpower, and so it gets its own way no matter what it wants. Europe has issues with importing genetically modified foods from the US? Take ’em to the WTO and slap punitive tariffs on their ass. Why let honest scientific concern get in the way of the US agricultural industry? You couldn’t get a better definition of the word “bully” from a dictionary than by surveying how the US treats other nations.

And no one here wants US troops to fail. Hell, we don’t even want them over there in the first place. We don’t want them to die, and when the war breaks out (there’s no “if” anymore), some will die. So will a lot of innocent Iraqi citizens, but people won’t care; some general will come out and say that they’re working to “minimize” civilian casualties, and the panic-stricken American populace will eat it like so much baby food. How many World Trade Centres do you think you could fill with all the Iraqi civilians who will perish by the time this is all done? We don’t want anyone to die, and the United States is about to instigate a war in which many lives — far too many to be worth anything in the world — will be lost. Even assuming Saddam Hussein is captured and/or killed (unlikely given the fact that Osama bin Laden’s evaded capture now for over eighteen months), how many American troops — how many Iraqi troops — how many Iraqi civilians — will perish? How many children will lose their mothers and fathers? How much innocent blood must be spilled in the name of oil?

Dennis Miller once said of America being the greatest country on earth, “Isn’t that like being valedictorian of summer school?” For all that the 2000 elections sucked my political willpower out of me, for all that the spinning of the 09.11 attacks made me want to retch, in the end I still did think that America was the best country in the world. When Dubya launches his offencive on Iraq without the consent of the rest of the world, without the backing of the peoples of the world, then America will cease to be the greatest country in the world. And I will turn to each and every one of you, and say in all sincerity, that I am ashamed to be an American.

I’m going to bed here. Later today I’ll actually be having a birthday party with some of my friends and professors, and then I’ll be attending a meeting of UT’s Student Senate — more on that later. I don’t feel like celebrating right now, though. At least Dubya said he’d give Hussein forty-eight hours, so I don’t have to worry about the attacks starting on my birthday — unless Dubya goes back on his words. What was that his father said about “no new taxes”, again?

Somehow I have the feeling that I’ll be protesting beside Bridgette this weekend. Either that, or hosting a Jerry Lewis film festival at my house.

Everyone take care and be well. I’ll see you around.

— Sean

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