Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Greetings, everyone. I've been so consumed with the Iraq war teach-in I've organized for this weekend that I've been neglecting these musings. That said, another couple of rejected shreveport times opinion pieces have piled up, so let's release them out into the world:

The chaos of the past few days, which has directly affected members of both my and my wife’s family, has delayed this response to Mike Johnson’s ill-conceived diatribe of Saturday, September 3 (“Opposing ideologies highlighted by Katrina”). However, the calm afforded by accounting for everyone in our families means that I can now respond, on behalf of all rational people overwhelmed by the hurricane and its aftermath, the first unavoidable, the second completely avoidable.
Johnson asserts that “What we are seeing is the natural by-product of a culture that increasingly denies God’s existence…” Even if one were to accept such a blanket absurdity in and of itself, does Johnson seriously believe that even a substantial minority of those in New Orleans when Katrina hit are atheists, agnostics or secular humanists? I saw a consistent stream of thousands upon thousands of poor African-Americans, and I would bet that that demographic represents the most devout segment of the New Orleans population.
Johnson claims that those whose mentality allows them to engage in and justify looting regard government as “our savior,” are taught as children “they have no accountability to any higher power,” and create problems “anytime the civil authorities break down.” Finally, he uses as an example of this mentality a looter who “screamed into a reporter’s microphone, ‘After years of oppression it’s time to take what’s ours!’” Now, if the government is considered by this individual to be his savior, shouldn’t the government then be the allegedly non-existent higher power? Of course, the breakdown of civil authorities is then like a death of God to this individual, if he had not already been taught a lack of accountability to a higher power. And who does that leave as the oppressor? Is it the government, proposed by Johnson as savior to one who does not feel accountability? Is the death of his allegedly non-existent savior a liberatory gesture? I have to admit, what seemed like pure right-wing hokum at first glance now takes on profound, Milton-like implications in Johnson’s hands, much more interesting than Pat Robertson’s Ugly American ravings.
Alas, Johnson cannot sustain his intellectual subtlety. First, Governor Kathleen Blanco is dismissed as “unfortunately a nurturer rather than a firm, decisive leader--…” No reason is given, no evidence proffered. Though now that I think about it, Great Britain was never hit by a catastrophically destructive hurricane during Margaret Thatcher’s tenure.
Finally, Johnson appears to believe that the American Civil Liberties Union’s state leadership may renounce their support for a strong separation of church and state, based on the appearance of a catastrophically destructive hurricane. I’m not sure where logic and rational thought processes are supposed to fit in to this process, but I don’t believe the violent deaths of thousands of people (the vast majority Christians, I will again speculate) will do much to change the minds of those who doubt the existence of a benevolent God.

This one goes back even further, before Katrina. Enjoy:

Executive editor Alan English’s myopia concerning the war against and occupation of Iraq is becoming increasingly frustrating as the weeks go by. I’ve met Mr. English and found him to be personable and passionate about his work, not at all an ideologically blinded neocon true believer. Nevertheless, the bland platitudes which populate his recent columns are, in my opinion, doing as much harm to this country and to the soldiers fighting our current war of imperialism as the shrill appeals of Bush, Rumsfeld and their traitorous ilk.
English says that in recent speeches, Bush “…legitimizes the war effort as a necessary component in a war on terror. Some agree and some don’t.” First of all, I think it would be proper to assert that Bush is attempting to legitimize the war effort, as I don’t think the majority of the American people are buying it. Second, an honest analysis of the loaded term “terrorism” would take into account the history of U.S. involvement in the Middle East region. Was the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of Iran’s President Mossadegh in 1953 a case of pragmatic Cold War realpolitik, or was it state-sponsored terrorism? Is ongoing support for dictators, such as the Shah of Iran (given exile by the too-often sainted President Jimmy Carter), the Saudi and Kuwaiti royal families, Egypt’s President Mubarek, and, of course, Saddam Hussein (even after he famously gassed his own people), the work of a nation with the moral authority to dictate the terms of democracy to another? Given the corruption inherent during the presidential elections of 2000 and 2004 in Florida and Ohio, respectively, can we safely say that our democratic processes are even working?
English says that, “If the reasons Bush gave for our war in Iraq are faulty, then he does deserve blame for misleading a nation. We still can’t end this fight with the future of Iraq hanging in the balance.” I would argue that one could replace “Bush” in that statement with William McKinley, Woodrow Wilson or Lyndon Johnson, and replace “Iraq” with Cuba, Europe or Vietnam. Of course, the faulty reasons of weapons of mass destruction would then be replace with the USS Maine, the Lusitania and the Gulf of Tonkin. The common threads are lies and distortions designed to emotionally manipulate Congress, the media and the American people into fighting wars they were otherwise very rationally opposing. We do a disservice to all those who have fought and sacrificed for the legitimate defense of this country and its Constitution when we continue to let presidents get away with this kind of criminal behavior. Arguing for continued involvement in Iraq is intellectually and morally defensible, in my opinion, only if it is coupled with a call for the impeachment of the morally vacuous Commander in Chief.
Those yearning for a serious discussion of the war in Iraq and other domestic and international implications of U.S. foreign policy should know there is teach-in scheduled for Sept. 16 and 17 for just that purpose. A number of topics will be discussed and debated by local military veterans, academics, clergy, journalists and others with expertise and passion, across the ideological spectrum. It will be hosted by All Souls Unitarian Church, at 9449 Ellerbe Road in Shreveport. I am one of the organizers of the event, and we are still looking for participants for panel discussions. I would welcome Alan English to participate, and anyone looking for more detailed information can contact me at I hope to see many of you there.


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