Friday, February 22, 2008

Make It 11

The results of the voting of
Democrats Abroad went 2-1
for Obama. He won in every
country. What's that have to
do with this photo? Well, nothing.
I think it's from Wisconsin--but it
could be Switzerland. (Hi, Carol!)
And it's a great photo. For Thurs.
debate summary and other politics:
American Dash.
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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Happy Birthday

Today is the 50th birthday of the peace symbol.
It was first used for an anti-nuclear demonstration
in London, designed by Gerald Holtom on February
21, 1958.
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One of its most dramatic uses: a living peace
symbol, in a demonstration against Iraq in
Budapest 2006.Posted by Picasa

another living peace symbol, this
time in Antarctica.
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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hawaii 10-0

This was early at a caucus in Hawaii. According
to this blogger, there were 81 registered Dems in
this district, until now. This caucus recorded
145 votes, 125 for Obama. Across Hawaii some
30,000 voted; 4,000 voted last time. With all
of the votes counted, Obama has won Hawaii
(where he grew up) by 52 points, for his
10th win in a row.Posted by Picasa

EauBama in Wisconsin

This was Eau Claire, Wisconsin last week. That
line is for an Obama speech. The temperature was
15F. Elsewhere in Wisconsin, people stood in line
for six hours. Some 3500 got into this event, and
there was an overflow. Click on the photo to get
a better look of the line, which stretches for 3/4
mile. Posted by Picasa

Obama the Phenomena

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Obama the Phenomena

They braved icy roads, blowing snow and temperatures of 5 degrees in Wisconsin to vote in that historically important primary. They gathered in warm Hawaii in caucuses that for probably the first time would mean something for a nomination.

They voted in unprecedented numbers, as they had previously in other states all over the United States. And with each primary and caucus, more Americans of every demographic group in all parts of the country are voting for Barack Obama. The results in Wisconsin and Hawaii indicate that America has turned a page, and the question is no longer whether Barack Obama will be the 2008 Democratic Party candidate for President, but when.

In the midst of all this, there is the fact that we cannot quite grasp: that this is not a campaign, but a phenomenon. It's not just the history that's being made. Obama has just won nearly 60% of the primary votes cast in a state in which all non-white minorities don't add up to 10% of the population put together.

And though I feel echoes of the JFK campaign in 1960 and RFK in 1968, the reality is that in my lifetime there has never been anything remotely like this.

I cannot quite believe our luck. Not only am I convinced that in Barack Obama we have the perfect President for our time. But he is running an astonishingly coherent campaign that states and embodies a premise for governing. So Americans are not just voting for him, they are voting for how we will proceed. If he is elected, he will enter office with the most explicit mandate in my lifetime. And with that mandate comes the political power to pursue the change he advocates. Not only the programs he advocates, but how he will pursue those objectives. He is forging a bond with voters that, together with his power to communicate with those voters, can provide him with the political power to make changes and bring America with him, as he maps out ways to meet the terrible challenges of the present, to save the future.

He inspires with rhetoric and rhythm, but also with precisely articulated logic and intelligence. He wears leadership lightly, without a hint of demagoguery I can detect. He doesn't just evoke hope--he makes an ardent argument for its necessity.

Yet even more amazing than this is how people are responding to his call. I am so used to the American electorate missing the point. The response to Obama, in its depth and width and breadth, already proves one of his central contentions: that the time is now. This is the election for change.

It's more than a "throw the bums out" revulsion for the past 8 years, though that is a mighty part of it. It's something about Obama that clears the mind and clearly touches the hearts of so many people. That connection, especially with specific groups within the population, like young people, is also a potential source of power for change.

Things will get complicated--and tested-- soon enough. For now, this is a wonderful ride, with a potential that could be equal to the challenges, that might yet save the future. Three months ago, I couldn't even have imagined this.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

On, Wisconsin!

Barack Obama won the Wisconsin primary by
17 points, 58% to 41%. Photo is from the huge
rally in Eau Claire, Wisconsin last week. Details
on the depth and extent of this victory at
American Dash.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Face of War

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The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"It's a game where the only way for Democrats to look tough on national security is by talking, and acting and voting like Bush-McCain Republicans, while our troops are sent to fight tour after tour of duty in a war that should've never been authorized and should've never been waged. That's what happens when we use 9/11 to scare up votes, and that's why we need to do more than end a war – we need to end the mindset that got us into war."

Senator Barack Obama
Feb. 12, 2008: Madison, Wisconsin

The Nightmare Reality

Those who opposed the Vietnam War in the mid to late 1960s were a reviled minority, derided as radical and unpatriotic, and risking life (from armed soldiers and angry fellow citizens) and more often lungs (from the nearly ubiquitous tear gas) to protest in public. But whatever convictions motivated them, they--we-- were also armed with information.

Some of that information was analytical, historical, geopolitical-- but much of it concerned what was actually happening in the Vietnam war, and later in Laos and Cambodia when the war widened. At first it was reported only in "underground" newspapers and magazines, or clearly radical periodicals like Ramparts. But there was one seemingly unlikely publication that was not really underground, yet not really an organ of journalism: it was the New York Review of Books.

Sometimes in essays which contained original reporting, and then as time went on, in long, descriptive reviews of books on the subject, the realities of the war were revealed. These realities were otherwise unknown, ignored and especially denied by government officials and much of the press. I still remember how I felt reading the review of Air War-Vietnam by Frank Harvey, a book I suspect is long out of print. (There are other, bloodless books of that title by other authors still around.) There was on the scene reporting, and simple if devastating facts. The review featured long quotations. I also remember standing in our college coffee shop during one of our periodic "teach-ins" and reading some of these quotations, at one point not able to control the emotion in my voice.

We are in the midst of another war now. With far less censorship or as censorious a public, we are just as in the dark as then. The mystery of what really is happening in Iraq is the result of the dangers there, certainly, but also the result of timid and inadequate reporting by lazy, cowardly, greedy corporate media, and by a particular yet perennial wish to be spared those realities here in America. And I don't want to see those photos or read those accounts any more than anyone else does.

So it takes courage to get in our faces with it, and we again must rely on the New York Review of Books to tell us the truth. Michael Massing did so in a review of two new books and consideration of four others in a December issue. A major part of the mystery, as Massing knows and shows, is mystification. Some of it, as in Vietnam, is official misinformation, disinformation, secrecy and lying. But much of it, as in Vietnam, is in language. Including most particularly the abstractions that mask the realities of what warfare is doing to the Iraqi people and civilization, to Iraq itself, and to the Americans sent there with terrible weapons in their hands, ordered to do terrible deeds.

We have our particular abstractions now, bloodless yet aggressive, the language of Pentagon briefings, television reporting, and video games. That language is used in some of the books Massing mentions. For example: McElhiney realized he would have to fight in close quarters and destroy the Iraqi air defenses one at a time. Using 30mm guns and rockets, he took out the mosque...Covered by Cobras, the Marines headed north to the town from the western side of the Gharraf River, paralleling Highway 7. Craparotta's 3/1 moved up and...cleared the town.

But what "took out the mosque" and "cleared the town" means in human terms is left to some of the other on the ground accounts in other books:

We pass a bus, smashed and burned, with charred human remains sitting upright in some windows. There's a man in the road with no head and a dead little girl, too, about three or four, lying on her back. She's wearing a dress and has no legs.

Heading north, the Marines find themselves amid the palm trees and canals of the Fertile Crescent, but all around are signs of death. Along the highway are torched vehicles with "charred corpses nearby, occupants who crawled out and made it a few meters before expiring, with their grasping hands still smoldering." Lying beside one car is the mangled body of a small child, face down, whose clothes are too ripped to determine the gender.."

This brutality inevitably affects those who find themselves committing it, but new innocents are sent to do the same, because no one can face these realities, no one wants to be accused of being 'against the troops':

"After leaving the corps, Fick drifted. Combat, he realized, "had nearly unhinged me." Worst of all, he writes, were the "blanket accolades and thanks from people 'for what you guys did over there.' Thanks for what, I wanted to ask—shooting kids, cowering in terror behind a berm, dropping artillery on people's homes?"

Some of these books consider the effects of the machinery of war. For example, the "smart bombs" get all the publicity, but most of the damage in the initial invasion and more traditional battles is done by imprecise but highly destructive artillery fire. In the terrorist phase, the slaughter of innocent civilians by Americans with immense firepower is common. One Marine says of the civilians:

"They're worse off than the guys that are shooting at us. They don't even have a chance. Do you think people at home are going to see this—all these women and children we're killing? Fuck no. Back home they're glorifying this motherfucker, I guarantee you. Saying our president is a fucking hero for getting us into this bitch. He ain't even a real Texan."

This is all part of modern warfare, though it gets more terrible and obscene with each increase in the technology of rending human bodies and blowing lives and landscapes apart. And so is the civilian squeamishness. There were exhibits in the capitals of both sides in World War I, in both London and Berlin, that purported to show how comfortable the trenches were for the soldiers. In that war (as attested by books like All Quiet on the Western Front) the lies and denial at home were part of what bound soldiers together, more strongly than national identity, in the knowledge and the experience of war that only they had.

The utter horror of war should be its greatest deterrent, but it cannot be, if warfare is nothing but abstraction and romance, sport and patriotic expression. When we soaked ourselves in the awful truths of Vietnam, we risked despair, and I suspect that it dogged us all our lives since. But the alternative is this abstract opposition, without the hard urgency to end the automatic madness, and to see that such an infantile response to the manipulations of leaders without conscience has led us again into such thoughtless, unfeeling consent to make war without extreme cause.

If you had read those reviews in the Vietnam era, you would have known before this war started what horrors were ahead. It's time to face what's happening now, end it, and remember, for the proposed next time. And forget the sentimentalities of the Greatest Generation, or the war hero, or thanking soldiers for their service. We can't ignore our responsibilities to returning soldiers--to do so is the other side of denial and sentimentality. But to simply engender another generation of sacrificial killers is not going to put the end to war.