Sister Novena's PortaPulpit
freedom, liberalism, movies, and truth

Saturday, April 10, 2004
The Price of Hubris

Anybody who watched American news roughly a year ago -- around the time of the fall of Baghdad -- probably remembers this guy:



The name of our old cigar-chomping Marine buddy, who was one of the American celebrants at the heavily-staged toppling of Saddam's statue, is Sgt. Nick Popaditch. Guess where Sgt. Popaditch is today?

In an army hospital. His tank was hit was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade, and he suffered "major head injuries" including the loss of his right eye.

Obviously nobody deserves such an injury; I sincerely hope he recovers well, and that his injuries don't interfere with his having a full and rewarding life once he gets back home. This isn't so much about one soldier as it is about the microcosm of the war that he represents. Those who were waxing triumphant a year ago are licking their wounds now... and who can truthfully say they never saw it coming?
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Friday, April 09, 2004
Rant Round-up #4

I'm tired.

I'm tired of seeing this. I'm tired of being lied to. I'm tired of excuses. I'm tired of living in a nation where everyone is continually at everyone else's throats. I'm tired of not being able to have a civil conversation with the opposition party. I'm tired of not being able to find a job. I'm tired of being afraid that if we lose the next election, we'll lose everything. I'm tired of being afraid of my own government's motivations. I'm tired of being right when my anxieties about our bad situation prove to be completely warranted. I'm tired of struggling against something that is so obviously wrong that even having to argue the point makes me despair for my society, and still never seeming to make any progress.

I'm guessing I'm not the only tired person in the United States right now.

One thing is becoming increasingly clear: there's no good way out of this war now. We can't stay and fight -- the longer we hang around, trying to force ur definition of peace on people who only want us to leave, the more lives will be needlessly lost. We can't leave -- we broke the country, and we're morally obligated to help put it back together. We can't hand over power -- who would we hand it to? Who could possibly take over and make this situation right? Every possible solution inevitably involves civil war, huge amounts of bloodshed, the spread of militant Islamic fundamentalism, more anti-American sentiment around the world, the triumph of corruption, and the humiliating failure of the American people. There are no good guys now, there is no happy outcome, there is no peaceful, prosperous, free democracy for Iraq... we're fucked, every way you look at it.

I want this to be over; I want to be done with it. And yet, I suspect, it'll be some years before we see the back of this miserable episode. I see very little hope for the United States within this decade -- and god, I want to be wrong about that. But this has been set in motion, and I can't see anything that can turn it around... if Kerry wins, then what? Does he get stuck with Bush's war, Bush's economy, Bush's deficit, Bush's divided society, Bush's strained diplomatic relationships, Bush's environmental policy, educational system, social services system, and tax code? Can we possibly anticipate anything more than a slow, painful recovery from a Kerry administration? Could anyone do any better?
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By the Way...

I'm trying to sort out the problem with the archives... I go in and fiddle with the settings, get 'em working, they function normally for a day or so, and then I start getting 403 errors again. I really have no clue what the problem is. (And why is it that the index links work but the regular archive links don't?)

I am trying though; bear with me.
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shudder

I have never been a big fan of tinfoil as a fashion accessory. And yet, I can't deny it... this is pretty much every liberal's worst nightmare.

Will the 2004 Election Be Called Off?

I have a few reasons to believe that while this fear is understandable, it's also unfounded. Hardcore conspiracy theorists assumed that WMD would be found in Iraq, even if the Marines had to truck them in themselves. So far this hasn't happened. They seemed certain that Osama B. was already in custody, ready to be trotted out in October... and okay, this could theoretically still be true, but there's substantial evidence that the guy's just holed up in Pakistan. And at the end of the day -- call me naive, call me gullible (both are often true) -- life just has a funny way of continuing more-or-less normally despite everyone's worst fears.

But if you want to freak out your liberal friends and loved ones, show 'em that article and watch 'em blanch.
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Thursday, April 08, 2004
Nobody Likes a Smartass

Wow... Iraq's turning to shit really fast, isn't it?

It's kinda frustrating over here right now... the US news outlets appear to be sitting on whatever information they have, so while there seems to be a general sense that there's some Heavy Shit going down in Iraq, there's no good way of finding out about it. Many folks are trying to glean what they can from scattered reports from foreign news sources.

However, so far this seems to be reliable: 1) the US has lost two, possibly three cities to insurgents; 2) hostages have been taken and at least half-a-dozen or so GIs have been killed today; 3) in fact, the Sunnis and the Shiites are at least working together, if not fighting together; 4) it's going to get worse before it gets better.

And how is President George W. Bush spending the day?

At his ranch. Fucking typical.


Meanwhile, back here at home, apparently some Republicans have finally decided that maybe this war wasn't such a good idea after all.

C'mon, you fucking unpatriotic pussies... you wanted a war, you got one! We've only had 40 or so American men and women killed this week; during Vietnam we'd lose that many before breakfast. If you don't mind losing one or two a day, why not lose 6? Why not 12? Why not 50, or 500? What's the fucking difference? If you don't value one human life, why does multiplying the number suddenly register on your moral radar? As for the GOP's newly-discovered capacity to question the Bush administration, those of us who were anti-war from the beginning asked all of these questions a year ago, and we were branded cowards, spineless, terrorist-cuddling America-haters and traitors for doing so. The right said that our doubts and anxieties gave aid and comfort to the enemy, demoralized the troops, and made the United States look weak in front the international community. Now, me, I think getting our asses kicked out of two cities in spite of vastly superior firepower looks pretty bad, too... but then again, I was arguing that superior firepower alone might not be enough to do the job back before we even had a job to do. And if you fuckers had listened to us weak-willed, cowardly, unpatriotic, dictator-coddling, president-bashing, anti-war protesting surrender monkeys a year ago, we wouldn't have lost a single GI.

They say nobody likes a smartass... but fuck that. We told you so. Now quit whinging and figure out a way to get us the fuck out of this war we never should have started in the first place.

Addendum: A number of bloggers are suggesting that the confusing silence in the press amounts to a concerted news blackout. (Read the accompanying comments for the full picture.) Stories turn up, and then disappear. Photographs depict things that haven't been reported. Foreign sources mention events that never seem to be mentioned in American news. Some events are reported, and then there's never any follow up.

Rather unsettling, no?

(addendum to the addendum: apparently there is a semi-blackout going on. )
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Wednesday, April 07, 2004
Furry Sado-Masochistic Easter Fun

Fucked-up beyond words.

Easter Bunny whipped at church show; some families upset

A church trying to teach about the crucifixion of Jesus performed an Easter show with actors whipping the Easter bunny and breaking eggs, upsetting several parents and young children.

People who attended Saturday's performance at Glassport's memorial stadium quoted performers as saying, "There is no Easter bunny," and described the show as being a demonstration of how Jesus was crucified.

Melissa Salzmann, who took her 4-year-old son J.T., said the program was inappropriate for young children. "He was crying and asking me why the bunny was being whipped," Salzmann said.

Patty Bickerton, the youth minister at Glassport Assembly of God, said the performance wasn't meant to be offensive. Bickerton portrayed the Easter rabbit and said she tried to act with a tone of irreverence.

"The program was for all ages, not just the kids. We wanted to convey that Easter is not just about the Easter Bunny, it is about Jesus Christ," Bickerton said.

Performers broke eggs meant for an Easter egg hunt and also portrayed a drunken man and a self-mutilating woman, said Jennifer Norelli-Burke, another parent who saw the show in Glassport, southeast of Pittsburgh.

"It was very disturbing," Norelli-Burke said. "I could not believe what I saw. It wasn't anything I was expecting."

I'm laughing my ass off; I'm sobbing my eyes out; I'm wishing I'd been there to see for myself. I particularly like the bit about the "self-mutiliating woman"... what do you think that was about?
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Pfc. Christopher Cobb

I'm starting to wonder how many days of this I can take before I start to shut it all out in self-defense.

Anyway, the bad news of the day:

U.S. Hits Mosque Compound; 40 Said Killed
U.S. Marines in the third day of a battle to pacify this Sunni Muslim city fired a rocket and dropped a 500-pound, laser-guided bomb on a mosque compound Wednesday, and witnesses said as many as 40 people were killed. Shiite-inspired violence spread to key cities in Iraq.

(...)

Witnesses said the strike came as worshippers had gathered for afternoon prayers.

An Associated Press reporter saw cars ferrying out dead and wounded. Witnesses said part of a wall surrounding the mosque compound was destroyed but the main building was not damaged.

Call me crazy, but I'm gonna guess that bombing a mosque full of worshippers -- even if there were insurgents inside causing problems -- was not exactly a great idea. I don't blame the marines... when somebody's trying to kill your ass, you probably don't spend a whole lot of time considering the social and political import of the structure they're inside when deciding how to respond. But this is still a bad thing, and is going to look really bad to Muslims not only in Iraq, but across the Middle East.

And if that proves to be the case, there'll likely be a lot more families like this one around:


The soldier in the picture, Christopher Cobb, was only 19. He'd been in Iraq for all of two months.
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Modern Iconography

I don't have enough space on this blog to post the actual image, but go visit Michael Moore's website and have a look at this mosiac image of Dubya made of photographs of many of the soldiers who have died in Iraq to date.

(While you're at it, also check out this image of Bush made of assholes.)
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And Down the Hole We Go

A dozen or so US soliders were killed in heavy fighting today... God knows how many Iraqis were killed. Reports suggest that the fighting was organized and appeared to involve a distinct military strategy. The spread of fighting to Ramadi means that American soldiers are now facing violent uprisings in at least seven Iraqi cities: Falluja, Najaf, Karbala, Nasiriyah, Kut, Baghdad, and now Ramadi. The country's exploding.

I don't know what else to say. Perhaps those who could not have peace in life will be able to find peace in death.

PS: We are not the only ones suffering.
Sixteen Iraqis died in battles with US Marines in Fallujah, and at least 26 more -- many of them women and children -- were killed in a late-night rocket strike by the US military, hospital officials said.


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Tuesday, April 06, 2004
Bad News Coming Every Day

I think we can all safely assume that the war has escalated.

Sources: Al-Sadr supporters take over Najaf

Supporters of maverick Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr controlled government, religious and security buildings in the holy city of Najaf early Tuesday evening, according to a coalition source in southern Iraq.

The source said al-Sadr's followers controlled the governor's office, police stations and the Imam Ali mosque, one of Shia Muslim's holiest shrines.

Iraqi police were negotiating to regain their stations, the source said.

Is anyone else as shocked as I am that the US Military managed to lose an entire city? I mean, I'm sure they'll make every attempt to re-capture it, and they'll probably succeed... but seriously, they lost a city? To this guy?



"I know if you just report on those few places, it does look chaotic," Bremer said on CNN's "American Morning." "But if you travel around the country, what you find is a bustling economy, people opening businesses right and left, unemployment has dropped.

Just saving that one for posterity... it's too good to let slip away.


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Monday, April 05, 2004
Memento Mori

In honor of the 10th anniversary of Kurt Cobain's suicide, I offer this topical joke from back in the day:

Q: What color were Kurt Cobain's eyes?

A: Blue. One blew this way, and one blew that way.

I didn't actually catch the grunge train until the year or so after "Smells Like Teen Spirit" hit the big time, but -- at risk of sounding old and out-of-it, because let's face it, at 28 I'm sure I look middle-aged to the average Limp Bizkit fan (why isn't there any good music anymore? what's wrong with these kids?) -- when I finally got into it, I did so with a vengeance. I still think a guy in a flannel shirt, ragged blue jeans and big ol' clod stompers is the sexiest fucking thing in the universe. And yes, to this day hearing any of the old songs -- especially "Drain You" which always reminds me of my first love -- makes me feel 16. One can't help but wonder what might have come to pass had Kurt not splattered his talent and intelligence against that wall that day.

On the other hand, while we like to think we might've eventually had another John Lennon in Kurt, the possibility remains: we might've had another Jim Morrison instead.

Anyway, hope you're happier wherever you are, Kurt.




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Sunday, April 04, 2004
I suppose it would be considered lacking in nuance to nuke the Sunni Triangle.

But so goes the unanimous vote around my household - and I'm betting millions of others - in the aftermath of what forevermore will be remembered simply as "Fallujah."

Wouldn't it be lovely were justice so available and so simple? If we were but creatures like those zoo animals we witnessed gleefully jumping up and down after stomping, dragging, dismembering and hanging the charred remains of American civilians whose only crime was to try to help them
Kathleen Parker

Four people were killed in Fallujah. Four. As Atrios points out, nuking the Sunni Triangle would kill hundreds of thousands.

Four... vs. hundreds of thousands. As Noam Chomsky once said -- and I'm paraphrasing -- even to ask the question strips us of our humanity.

The article, of course, is about the wrongness of pursuing such a course of action; I don't mean to imply that Ms. Parker is actually suggesting we do this. But I do get awfully tired of being called "unpatriotic" and "cowardly," being condemned for every criticism and resistant statement I make, by people who write about mass slaughter as retribution for four unfortunate, but not at all unforseeable deaths. Ms. Parker and her kind go on and on about revenge and the taming of "zoo animals," never pausing to consider the echoes from other times, when other people -- Jews, blacks, Asians, women -- were considered less than human and treated accordingly. And they certainly never reflect on where those attitudes, and the impulses that accompanied them -- the exact same attitudes and impulses that the American right so often proudly, vociferously espouse now -- took their proclaimers in history: holocaust, slavery, brutal colonization, and institutionalized injustice.

The American right needs to stop looking at the people of Iraq as animals, savages, wild children in need of a strong, patriarchal influence, and starting speaking and listening to them as our equals. Only then will we even begin to make the human connections that can lead us out of this pit of despair.

PS: How many of those "zoo animals" do you think have gotten to see their own loved ones maimed and killed during this whole bloody conflict? How many charred Iraqi corpses do you think the average Sunni Triangle resident has had to see during a year of war? D'ya think Ms. Parker has even considered that question?
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Cakewalk

They'll throw flowers... peace and democracy... liberators.

Remember when people still thought this war would be easy?

Iraq was wracked today by its most violent civil disturbances since the occupation started, with a coordinated Shiite uprising spreading across the country, from the slums of Baghdad to several cities in the south. An American soldier and a Salvadoran soldier were killed in the unrest, news agencies reported.

By day's end, witnesses said Shiite militiamen controlled the city of Kufa, south of Baghdad, with armed men loyal to a radical cleric occupying the town's police stations and checkpoints.

(...)

"There is no use for demonstrations, as your enemy loves to terrify and suppress opinions, and despises peoples," Mr. Sadr said in a statement distributed by his office in Kufa today.

"I ask you not to resort to demonstrations because they have become a losing card and we should seek other ways," he told his followers. "Terrorize your enemy, as we cannot remain silent over its violations."
NY Times

The death toll for American forces is still unclear... various reports peg it anywhere from 8 to 10. Approximately 25 GIs are reported as wounded... pointing out that most often in this context, "wounded" can be interpreted to mean lost limbs and head trauma.

This is doubly bad news because, while the coalition has never enjoyed a good relationship with Sunni groups, the Shias were supposed to be "on our side" to an extent. Furthermore, rather than the sporadic roadside bombs and other small attacks that have caused most of the 474 deaths since "major combat" ended, this was a direct attack on coalition troops, accompanied by violent protests across the country. Perhaps it was simply a one-time thing, although given Mr. Sadr's words above, I'm thinking probably not. More ominously, perhaps it signals the beginning of a new phase of the war, one which will involve far more bloodshed on all sides than we have been accustomed to thus far.

It's very unlikely that the Sunnis and Shias are fighting together; more likely the US could now face what amounts to a two-front war in Iraq, having to cope with both groups simultaneously as they also fight each other for position once the occupying forces finally do leave. In other words, we're stuck in the middle of a embryonic civil war.
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Crazy Fundie Presidents

Somebody over on the MMTF made a hell of a good point this morning...

If Deanna Lacey was declared insane because she thinks God told her to stone her children to death... what are we to infer about George W. Bush, who thinks God told him to invade Iraq, killing more than 10,000 people?

God told me to strike at al Qaida and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam, which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them.

George W. Bush, 27 June 03

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