Wednesday, October 15, 2003

What price Glory? What price Honor?

The killing goes on and on. Is the price worth it, anywhere? Well, obviously from the point of view of some, it must be, particularly when it is others who are doing the dying, the paying of the price. Only when it is our turn does it become heroic and worth a tear and a memorial.

When a young animal is born, if it is to live, the first thing it does is stand up and wobble beside its mother's side: the colt, the zebra, the little giraffe, the calf. Who will ever forget Disney's Bambi on the ice?

Human infants are another thing: they are totally dependent on their mothers for months, and it takes weeks for a baby to progress from the on-all-fours crawl to his first independent steps. Nature is not enough, he needs encouragement as he falls again and again, before finally getting it right.

Ask any mother: it is very difficult to raise a child to maturity. It takes years. It takes sacrifice, and love.

Can anyone who has not experienced it imagine what it is to raise a child in abject poverty in a war-torn zone? Can anyone not imagine the extra anguish of a mother who has managed to raise her son to maturity through all those difficult times, when she gets his dead body back for burial, aged barely twenty, sometimes less, at the moment when she was about to rejoice in her achievement?

When you read your Readers Digest Atlas or your Rand McNally Atlas, or whatever, and see where the populations of some of the poorest countries in the world are 60%, 50%, under the age of 15, and you read in other places, almanacs, whatever, that the mean income for these same countries is, say, $1,200 to $2,000 a year--Can you help getting it that a lot of women are raising their families in dire straits?

When these countries have been at war for the greater part of the last forty years or so, is it surprising that after carpet bombing or smart bombing, the raking over of cities and rural areas, such countries are in a state of rubble and utter destitution, beyond order, redempton, or even hope?

Let's face it, America, England, Old Europe, New Europe, Russia, China, everyone, these peoples are not a threat to any one of us. Not a single one among them who truly deserves our mustering of the biggest armies, equipped with the most sophisticated weapons ever invented, trained to the utmost killing efficiency.

The threat of Iraq, for instance: how can anyone still believe in it? Their tanks were Soviet tanks from the 60's, for heavens' sakes--Against our Challengers? Their missiles, which could have "killed us all in our sleep", well, when our smart bombs hit civilian targets in Baghdad, we said it was "one of theirs, you know, up and pfutt! Down next door!", smirk, smirk. This is what we had the shakes about? It's victory over these we want to crow about?

The anthrax scare--Eventually, even we admitted it was our anthrax, escaped from our laboratories. And suddenly we all lost interest as to how it got out.

Time magazine this week has an article about the Iraqis who sold Iraq to the "coalition" armies. Because, you see, military superiority wasn't enough to overcome Saddam; traitors had to be bought to sell their country; they had to betray so we could justify what we did, we were right to do it because "they" wanted to be rid of Saddam even if it meant dishonor.

It was bought cheap. Some guys got $5,000, some $15,000, others as much as $65,000, $75,000. Time makes fun of them: "they feel let down!" They wanted more, they wanted to be a part of the new Iraq. Probably for the same patriotic reason that made them betray their country in the first place. Never mind that in the same breath it is stated that the normal annual income in Iraq is $2,000, which would indicate a motive of greed rather than patriotism.

Ah, but that was right, that was just, that was about "getting Saddam".

Notice how effective it was. Where is Saddam now? It doesn't look as if we are looking for him much any more. The urgency has abandoned us. We probably know exactly where he is, he is cozy somewhere with enough of his loot to last him several lifetimes. His name is useful, however, because we can blame all those attacks on our kids onto him, via the "Saddam supporters" labels.

When Father Bremmer dismissed the entire Iraqi army, that was some 500,000 men suddenly without income or work. We said it had to be done because it was filled with Saddam's goons... You mean to say, that's why they didn't fight? Just imagine firing 500,000 men in your country, in your economy, what misery that would bring throughout the population.

In a country like Iraq, if you scratch the demographic surface, the picture will be more like this: one man, his wife, let's be conservative, just three children, plus maybe only two grandparents (there might actually be more children, four grandparents, and there might also be a few orphaned cousins here and there, but let's just be conservative). So, for 500,000 unemployed soldiers, you have 3,000,000 people left stranded without money for necessities, like--food, and without much hope of another job anywhere else.

Ah, but the US is paying each one $50 a month... Well yes,. They don't get it in one lump sum, however: it's pro-rated as a daily allowance, they have to go stand in line every day for it... in 110F weather. Well, of course, I'm exaggerating, the weather is changing there too.

Can you be seriously surprised that when something goes wrong in those long daily lines, tempers get really, really short?

From a "winning hearts and minds" point of view, who is the psychological genius who devised this super-humiliation of such a large number of justifiably proud people?

On the White House site, a lot of fuss is made about the status of women in countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq (actually, in all Islamic countries where the US are doing so much good for wymyn).

In Afghanistan, nobody is looking for Osama very much any more, either: that urgency has abated too. Meanwhile, the warlords are "at it" again, only Kabul answers to Karzai, whose office admits "there is no money at all for reconstruction"! The women now go freely about their business in the desolate city, free to be raped, which is one freedom at least they did not have under the Taliban.

The highly educated women of Iraq (yes, yes, there are many) now have to stay home: they can't even go to market to shop for vegetables without male family members to protect them, from random violence, rape, kidnapping. School has started: the mothers fear and tremble for their kids, worried sick until they return home at night.

In the meanwhile, speeches are being made all over the place about the benefits of a post-Saddam, post-Taliban, regime: how good everything is now!

In the case of Iraq, Ahmed Chalabi has succeeded in being appointed America's point man in Iraq. His main supporter, I believe (I may have this wrong, there may be someone more important, less prominent) was Douglas Feith. He was Under Secretary of Defense for Policy at the time when personnel was being lined up, and he is now head of reconstruction matters in Iraq. Mission accomplished, Chalabi's group of merry men declared Iraq for sale. Coincidentally, some old buddies of the Bushes had set up their company in Washington, New Bridge Strategies, whose avowed purpose it is "to help investors evaluate and take advantage of the business opportunities available for private capital in Iraq" under the new administration. Coincidentally, Douglas Feith's old law firm, Feith and Zell, now renamed Zell, Goldberg & Co., "has recently established a task force dealing with issues and opportunities relating to the recently ended war with Iraq." (Notice, "war with Iraq", not "war in Iraq"--Oh, the subtlety of lawyers!). Coincidentally, their man in Baghdad is Salem Al Chalabi, Ahmed Chalabi's very own nephew. How tidy this all is! More bluntly put: one of Chalabi's inner circle said it this way: "This looks greedy, careless and stupid."

Not to worry: there is a Chinese Wall between all these old friends, as Ahmed Chalabi has protested: "We will be very strict in isolating business decisions from politics."

Not to worry: there is plenty for all to feed at the trough of liberty.

The French have an expression for this kind of thing: it is "Renvoyer l'ascenseur", to send back the elevator to the ground floor for the next person to ride up, in other words, to return the favor.

Chalabi, that great patriot, could hardly wait to start his own version of looting.

Do we always have to choose "our men" among the most corrupt? Is that what we find most attractive?

Chalabi was asked whether it would be OK with him if the Americans just up and left Iraq. Without hesitation, with his inimitable smug smile, he answered: "Of course". When pressed as to what he thought would happen next if they did, with the same smug smile, he answered: "Of course, there would be a blood bath, but we would survive."

This is the man who for years worked in the background over here influencing policy to get America to go into Iraq. And to reward him with the prize... This is the man who inspired us to launch this "freedom" fight?

Wotchout, America! He already has his very own goons, and by now his self-confidence is indestructible, because he's already suckered you plenty, he thinks you're really dumb, and let's face it, he does speak the language and he does know how to get things done his way and get away with it.

* * * * *

I read Wilfred Thesiger's book, the Arabian Sands, a few years ago. There was a most interesting passage in it about travelling through the Empty Quarters with the Bedu. A day's journey was usually set from one water hole to the next. One time, they had barely started out one morning when they came across some small green shrubs in the desert--for which they stopped, right away, to allow their camels to graze their fill. Whenever a camel had finished, that man proceeded on his journey. Thesiger followed. So half the group arrived at the waterhole ahead of the rest. Parched, Thesiger rushed forward for a drink of water, no man followed, and they all refused the drink he brought over to them. Only the camels were allowed to slake their thirst, the men sitting by, waiting. Finally, the rest of the group caught up. They also allowed their camels to drink first, and only then did all the men quench their own thirst.

That is the unwritten, unspoken law of the desert, the honor of the man of the desert.

During his travels with the Bedu, Thesiger also learnt about the law of hospitality. It would enrage him to the point of wanting to kill, when after travelling a long way without food, catching a scrawny little desert hare and cooking it over a small fire, just as it was almost ready to eat, strangers would appear out of nowhere, summoned probably by the delicious smell of dinner, and that same sense of honor of the men of the desert made them serve all of their meager meal to their uninvited guests, holding back nothing for themselves.

Krishnamurti, travelling by car in rough country in India, tells how his car needed a lot of water for the radiator because of the summer heat (it was also probably an old car). He tells how, throughout the countryside, the uneducated, impoverished peasants, those living most precariously, eking out a bare subsistence existence on parched soils, always gave freely and abundantly of the water from their wells; it was only when he reached some small towns or cities, that the civilized, educated inhabitants, charged money for the water they supplied from their convenient faucets.

I am not anti-anything. All I say is: What is our ideal? Who is our role model?

Israel, pursuing its landgrab policies, supported, aided and abetted by most of the "civilized" world, has always destroyed the orchards and olive groves of the Palestinians to encourage them to free their land for Israeli re-settlement. Now we, under the guise of debaathification, desaddamization, and general all-around pacification, are destroying Iraqi orchards and date palm farms--terrorist orchards and palm trees only, of course, those same that helped feed a poor people.

Yes, who is our role model now?

What price Glory? What price Honor?

There was a storm last night, wind and rain. All those little pink thingies (lobelia, maybe?) are down and out for the count: not a one left on the stem. Leaves of all sizes and color strew the pavement. The sky is grey and wet. All nature weeps for besotted humanity.

Two personal losses: a pair of prescription glasses, those for the computer, and one of my grinding teeth. It was one of those fancy jobs. I sort of remember paying something like $750 for it and the one next to it (which I lost already some time ago), back in 1980. Wow! How much would it cost now? I shall have to reconvert to baked potatoes! I'll be lucky if I can replace the glasses....
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