Doves Take Wing in Washington
Journal of a Futurist - 4 November 2002
Balaclavas, shock-jocks & Lean Cuisine for the Conscience
Congratulations America on the nation wide protests against the war without end. While such massive turn outs may not stay the hand White House bullies, they have at least forced major media organizations to re-think their reportage. On October 27, the New York Times claimed the "thousands" of demonstrators in Washington were "fewer people... than organizers had said they hoped for, sweet music, no doubt, to the hawks. However, following a barrage of complaints from eye witnesses, the Times revised its account three days later, conceding the event "drew 100,000 by police estimates and 200,000 by organizers', forming a two-mile wall of marchers around the White House. The turnout startled even organizers, who had taken out permits for 20,000 marchers." On matters of justice and principle, everyday citizens are often ahead of politicians, whose own principles have been squandered in the pursuit of office. The peoples peace initiative is a flash of sunlight in a world darkening by the minute.
Its never pleasant to watch police break down suburban doors with sledgehammers, especially in ones homeland. Even worse is to witness the palpable joy of politicians as they cheer the goon squads. After a spurt of decency in the smoky ruins of Kuta, John Howard has reverted to type, thrilling to the bludgeoning of civil liberties, the guns-to-heads at midnight. Whats wrong with a sharp rap at the door? ASIO isnt raiding bomb factories. The targeted Muslims are accused of having attended a talk by Abu Bakar, a nasty piece of work, perhaps, but it is not yet a crime to listen to the rantings of fanatics. Millions of Australians do this every day. Last week I heard a Sydney shock jock blast away at the snivelling civil libertarians for daring to question the tactics of our wonderful secret police.
This jock has never met a cop he didnt like. Commentators who rail against libertarians are rich and powerful. They will never need to dread the bovver boys kicking down their bedroom doors, even when they do break the law (speeding, insider trading, cash for comments). Mind you, I dont take seriously the lamentations of the Indonesian authorities over the raids. At least these suspects have not been kidnapped, tortured or disappeared, as happens to protesters in Jakarta.
A time for the piercing cries of tolerance & reason to resonate from mosques
Where is the voice of moderate Islam? No, not the pious assurances that the Koran preaches brotherly love and the, er, exaltation of women. Im waiting to hear Islamic libertarians condemn the hate raves of Islamofascists, now that the views of clerics have been sub-titled for our delectation. Arent they creepy? And creeping some schools in Europe can no longer let pupils participate in co-educational sports, owing to the objections of uptight Muslims. Come on, guys, this is the 21st century. Meanwhile, the fundamentalist Christians reckon this oxymoronic war against terror is actually a war against the AntiChrist. A Time/CNN poll found 59% of Americans say they believe the events in the Book of Revelation are about to come true, (some of this group have desks at the White House). Nearly one quarter of Americans are convinced that the Bible predicted the Sept 11 attack. Maybe its time for a war of reason against all types of religious fundamentalism, including Hindu nutters, land grabbing Jewish settlers and other murderous bigots.
Stupid spats on the fringes
What is to be done? Some people think they have all the answers. Their certainties emanate from the worlds most powerful bastions, from Whitehall to the White house, applauded by the lesser players in Canberra. As these rulers dress for dinner, I can imagine each of them preening in the mirror, comparing themselves to Winston Churchill, firm, decisive, relentless. Some fine minds endorse their blood lust, it must be said. Minds I admire, even envy.
Many of these minds have turned on the anti war brigade, myself included, to which I do not object. As the world inches towards catastrophe, it is vital that our convictions are tested between hammer and anvil. Some seasoned socialists are swarming to superhawkdom, the biggest armouries, the fattest larders, exuding contempt for former fellow travellers, the bankrupt left. But its not really a matter of left versus right anymore, so much as right versus wrong. And as if thats not enough to disagree about, we need to include the dimensions of ecology, global justice and a spirituality beyond religion.
A surprising number of people regard the bombing of Afghanistan as a triumph, and they await with relish the obliteration of Baghdad. The ousting of the Taliban has improved the prospects of many Afghanis not crushed in the hard rain of cluster bombs, we are assured, but the alternatives to waging that one-sided war were never pursued, despite the Talibans offer to hand bin Laden over to a third party. By some counts, the deaths of Afghani civilians exceeded the numbers killed in the World Trade Centre. Uncle Sams beefed up license to topple unco-operative governments bodes ill. And its arbitrary. As far as I can judge, the government of Kyrgistan is mad, cruel and tyrannical, yet because it is part of the axis of goodness, the US uses it as a base, not a bombing range.
Terror without end?
All that aside, however, the strategy of pulverising terrorists & their hapless neighbours into oblivion has backfired, as is obvious even to the New York Times, which reported on June 16, 2002, based on conversations with senior US government officials: Classified investigations of the al Qaeda threat now under way at the FBI and CIA have concluded that the war in Afghanistan failed to diminish the threat to the United States, the officials said. Instead, the war may have complicated counter terrorism efforts by dispersing potential attackers across a wider geographic area. As Z Mag notes, where careful police work can be effective against al Qaeda-type threats, as it has been in Germany, Spain, Pakistan, Singapore and elsewhere, bombing has had negligible positive benefit, as might be expected given that the terrorists did most of their planning not in Kabul or Kandahar but in Hamburg, Germany, and Paterson, New Jersey. (See links page for details on Z Mags handling of 45 tough questions for war critics).
Now that Israel has achieved the impossible, and lurched further to the right, a collective depression is descending on people of goodwill, thats beyond the reach of prozac. Global problems seem intractable. The solutions, such as they are, require a patience that is out of fashion, a vision that will never be implemented. Even the most basic reforms, such as providing a secular, taboo busting education for millions of disenfranchised Muslims, cannot be achieved without revolution.
Knowing this, and fearing this, we retreat into a world of entertainment, absorbing its values like a weird religion, worshipping the gods of transience, glamour, adrenalin, so that even this terror-war becomes a spectacle, a show that draws us to the breaking news, exciting us, even as it makes us weep and bellow. And yet even these emotions are suspect, second hand, manipulated by unseen editors. We sympathise, but do we suffer? We empathise, but do we experience?
Three days later it is all a blur. Maybe we remember the bits that shore up our point of view, forgetting the rest, as we struggle to make sense of events beyond our control, beyond our comprehension. There is no leadership, only vengeance, no vision, only propaganda, no global Gandhian strategy, only sports, porn, booze and Global Warming. It news time, bring on the Lean Cuisine, open the wine, look, theyre bulldozing the homes of the Palestinians, again
Chainsaw diplomacy, invisible censorship
A state of war is a Godsend for scoundrels and liars. If only the elimination al Qaeda could be achieved with a gladiatorial combat, say by locking up Dick Cheney and bin Laden in a cupboard with a single chain saw. Here is an assessment of Dick from whatreallyhappened.com: Remember, this man voted against a resolution to free Nelson Mandela from prison; earned $36 million in 2000 as head of Halliburton and led that company to be one of the largest corporate welfare hogs in the nation even while it experienced a minimum of $100 million in "accounting irregularities" under his leadership; hand-crafted the Bush Administration's disastrous Energy Policy after months of secret meetings with oil, gas, coal and nuclear industries that contributed heavily to the Bush campaign; and is instrumental in pushing the US toward war with Iraq.
As the terror wars escalate, freedom declines and truth evaporates. The recent Senate enquiry into the children overboard scandal revealed that John Howard was warned by officials on 13 occasions that his allegations against boat people were false. Mr Howard believes himself an honourable man, noted the Sydney Morning Herald, in which case he should feel a sense of shame. Dream on - the caravan has moved into war mode. The media should also feel a sense of shame, as its organs parade their pride at our gallant navy enforcing unjust sanctions against the people of Iraq. The media keeps referring to the no fly zone over that country as though it was a UN authorised device of containment, rather than the vengeful, illegal whim of Britain and the US. The is the same media that keeps claiming the first batch of weapons inspectors was kicked out by Saddam Hussein, rather than, as was the case, withdrawn by Richard Butler. The is the same media that declines to publish, either here or in the US, an extensive essay by Gore Vidal on the fishy nature of the White house response to 9/11 (see links page). Does holding such opinions imply approval of the balmy butcher of Baghdad, or that Im soft on terror? Of course not, but theres a horde of binary commentators our there who brook no nuances: us/them, good/evil, pro war/pro terror. If only it was that simple. Goodnight.