Debate != Dissent != Unpatriotic

Very good interview with Susan Sontag at alternet, giving her a chance to comment on the firestorm that arose from her controversial essay in the New Yorker just after 911. It is appalling to me how patriotic, non-pacifistic people can be labeled unpatriotic traitors just for expressing counter opinions.

The War on Dissent

Many thanks to (actually, a friend of his) for pointing out this great article at The Globe : The War on Dissent. If you’re afraid the media isn’t telling the whole story, and that censorship is alive and well in America right now, please forward this URL around.

Conflicted

What does one do when some of one’s beliefs happen to coincide with those of a person one considers to be the embodiment of evil? There is a dissenting faction in America that has long believed that U.S. support of the Israeli occupation of Palestine has deep moral problems. There are those of us who have long been troubled that U.S. sanctions on Iraq are responsible for the death of 5,000 innocent souls PER MONTH for the past 11 years. We have believed these U.S. involvements to be problematic long before we ever heard the name “bin Laden.”

So now bin Laden has made his speech, citing the hypocrisy of America, the hypocrisy which allows us to view some innocent lives as expendable and others as precious. How can an informed person read his words and not acknowledge that he is at least partially correct? Acknowledging that he is right on some points does not require one to agree with his methods. Let’s just leave that out of it and stick to the facts.

It’s like thinking Heidegger is a great philosopher while leaving his Nazism aside. Except that it’s current and real. At this point in the game, and for a long time to come, it will be impossible for America to acknowledge any wrong-doing in the world theater, because we have dug in our heels, and entrenched our righteousness, no matter how wrong some of our foreign policies may be. This is an extremely difficult time for the voice of dissent in America, at a time when to say anything against America is considered tantamount to a lack of patriotism. The fact that some of bin Laden’s points are correct will be utterly squelched in the media is frightening me. American Journalists are already being fired for saying “unpatriotic” things. We are in grave danger, and not just from Al Qaeda. We are in danger of undermining our own principles of free speech and self-criticism.

I predict that, over time, this issue will create deep rifts in the American political landscape.

Update: I’ve been asked what I meant about journalists being fired recently for speaking their minds. This article at the Washington Post describes the situation pretty well.

Underworld

A few years ago Amy gave me a copy of Don DeLilo’s “Underworld” for Christmas. I had forgotten about the image on the cover, but have just been reminded of it. Creepy and chilling in light of recent events. I never finished reading it for some reason. Should pick it up again.

Bomb ’em With Butter

I feel transformed after watching CNN’s “Behind the Veil” last night. I have spent words trying to point out that the U.S. is not blameless, and should re-evaluate its role. While that may still be true, it is also the case that nothing the U.S. has ever done can even remotely be compared to the incredible, seemingly bottomless evil of the Taliban. I’m surprised to hear myself say this, but the Taliban must be eliminated. That’s all there is to it. They simply cannot be allowed to continue their presence on the face of this earth. I can’t even put into words how profoundly disturbing that documentary was. Shot covertly by a female Afghani reporter working under cover, re-assembled into a documentary overseas from smuggled tapes. The world needs to see this documentary to understand. I complain about propaganda, but this documentary is not propaganda. It is the real thing, from the front lines of true and bottomless suffering.

So.

Carpet bombing is not going to work. Ground forces are going to be lost in droves, if history is any lesson. But there is this rising meme floating around: “Bomb ’em with butter.” In other words, fight this war culturally. Give strength to Afghanis to resist against the Taliban, and to align themselves with the Northern Alliance. Send in food, medicine, shelter. Build beautiful mosques for them to pray in. Restore their right to listen to music (that’s right, the Taliban made music illegal), to watch movies (ditto), to read newspapers (ditto again). Protect their 12 year old girls from rape by Taliban soldiers. Give them information, a full belly, a good night’s sleep. Give them a taste of what life could be. Fight this war with culture and solidarity. Create an uprising so large that the Taliban will be squished into irrelevance. Then gather up what’s left of them and throw them into a pit with hungry lions.

It sounds almost strange, but I actually think we’re going to end up doing something like this. It may be the only way.

Please, please watch this documentary. It’s airing again tonight on CNN.

Anthrax

Just watched a 20/20 piece on biological warfare and anthrax. They say it’s about as easy to make as moonshine. I almost couldn’t finish dinner. For years, bio warfare has been my greatest fear. Now the news media is legitimizing that fear. It’s not just me being paranoid. I’m really scared. They say gas masks are already sold out in all the stores. Cant’ believe I’m writing these words.

War Machine Gears Up

Just heard that congress is putting together a “down payment” of $20 billion to put U.S. armed services on highest readiness. The goal will probably be to eliminate entire states (countries) that have provided harbor to terrorists. This may mean total elimination of Afghanistan and/or other countries that stand in the way or show hints of harboring.

We are not going to seek out a few terrorists and kill them. We are going to destroy millions of innocent lives. We are not just going to sink below their level. We are going to sink far below it.

I am sick to my stomach about what lies ahead.