The most disturbing aspect of the sorry spectacle of President Bush’s last State Of The Union Address —his airbrushed rendering of his Mideast misadventure. Where it concerned the situation in Iraq the president’s address wasn’t any realistic accounting of the state of affairs. It was a delusional display of false premises and distorted fantasy. Continue reading
If you want to see the Cold War as chapter behind us (and that is arguable), the Soviet conflict in Afghanistan was the last proxy war in the contest. As the new film “Charlie Wilson’s War” points out, the support for “freedom fighters” in that conflict was ultimately bipartisan in nature. Bipartisan and, in the end, never truly interested in freedom for the Afghan people. With the help of Pakistani intelligence forces and funding from Sunni extremists in the Arab world, we helped the mujahadeen bleed the Soviets pale in their own little version of Vietnam.
In some stark terms we won —the mission was accomplished. The Soviet tanks pulled out and limped home in time for the collapse of “the evil empire.” And the power vacuum left behind in Afghanistan —it would be filled by a strange mutation of those mujahadeen freedom fighters, the Taliban.
It was October 2004. I had come to this beautiful rural retreat in the Berkshires to hear Robert Bly and Coleman Barks conduct a seminar on “the poetry of the ecstatic.” Barks had become famous over the years for his translations of the Sufi mystic poet, Rumi and Robert Bly …well, he was Robert Bly. He had become just a bit more famous with his best seller “Iron John” back in the nineties, but that was only to augment an already distinguished career, as a poet and translator, as a cultural and literary critic, as an activist voice. I’d been reading him devotedly for more than twenty years. His gorgeous “A Third Body” was read at my wedding (by an … Continue reading
One of the things Benazir Bhutto was arguing for, as she campaigned for the upcoming elections, was a rejection of that false choice between security and freedom. She wanted to see beyond the spectacle of political violence and terrorism. She wanted that for her own people, but just as importantly she wanted the world to see this. She had pledged to confront the violent extremists, not to abide by them and she planned to do this with something much more effective than helicopter gunships or police state repression. She campaigned on the idea that the most effective weapon in the face of terrorism was the clear mandate of legitimate democracy. There are those who argue that her murder is evidence of her mistaken outlook. To my mind, they only take the crime one step further. Continue reading
In actuality Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Iran pose no threat to America or her interests with any form of arms capacity. What does stand as a challenge, and what is suddenly showing in rather stark light, is the frail logic of our policies. With regard to arms, with regard to the exercise of power, in the Mideast and around the world, what is being called into question in our confrontation with Iran is the generalized doctrine American exceptionalsim, “The Because We Said So” Doctrine.
Why is nuclear power a sovereign domestic concern for American politicians to discuss freely, yet something Iran must seek permission for? What empowers the U.S. to arbitrate the standing of nuclear nations, blessing for India what it would bomb in Iraq? Would America’s ally Israel submit to the same monitoring conditions for its power plants now being demanded of Iran? These questions, this is the war of ideas Iran is waging right now. And that’s one place where I worry about our own “weapons capacity.” Continue reading
It might be that this country has finally lost its capacity for outrage, has long since surrendered the idea of reproach or redress when lied to. We have become the Orwellian farm animals who find it too troubling to remember the promises once posted on the stable wall. Continue reading
I’ve been trying to make sense out of the immigration debate, as it’s currently framed, for quite a while now. And, to borrow a phrase, “it’s hard work.” I’ve been on hand a couple of times when people I know have taken up the subject and suddenly taken on an extreme and angry demeanor. People who I just know cheat on their taxes (a little), who disregard highway speed limits (almost always), and who most certainly “inhaled” in college (maybe even more recently) suddenly become law and order fundamentalists. “We are a nation of laws!” they proclaim. I’ve heard this coming out of some of the most unlikely mouths. Then there comes the righteous tax dollar argument: “Why should we … Continue reading
It’s going to be Halloween soon. And in the spirit of the season, The Republican National Committee has introduced a fun little interactive page on their website called “Scariest Democrat”. On the opening page, a picture of each of the Democratic candidates for president is shown. Each is captured with a menacing (or goofy) expression on their face. Along side each such image, they display the results of some sort of polling activity where they’ve actually been trying to gauge who is, in GOP terms, the scariest. Also there next to each candidate’s “scary” visage is an interactive link where you can “click here to read why” Biden, or Clinton, or Obama is “the scariest Democrat.” When you do proceed … Continue reading