A stirring speech

We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.

From Robin Cook's resignation speech in the UK House of Commons yesterday. Here's the full text. I recommend you watch the video (RealAudio). It's 11 1/2 minutes long and he makes some excellent points. It's hard to imagine an American politician taking such a stand, or possessing such eloquence.

On the war

I've been avoiding making a direct post about my opinion on the upcoming Iraq war because I've felt it's been so muddled and unclear. I've been spending a tremendous amount of time thinking about it, and reading as much as I can. Since megnut serves not only as a space for me to share my thoughts but also as a repository for them for my future reference, I'm going to attempt to organize everything I've been thinking into some sort of post for my own sake. (Hi Meg from the future, checking in to see what Meg of 2003 thought about the Iraq situation!)

Of this I am certain:

  • Saddam Hussein is a dictator.
  • He has invaded his neighbors twice in the past 20 years.
  • He has brutally repressed his people and executed those who oppose him.
  • He agreed to disarm as part of the terms of surrender of the Gulf War.
  • He kicked out UN arms inspectors who were ensuring his adherence to that agreement. I was wrong, The inspectors left of their own accord.
  • He has destroyed some of his weapons.

Of this I am also certain:

  • The United States not only faces enemy nations, as it did in 20th century, but also terrorists whose allegiance is to a religion or idea rather than a state.
  • A new approach is required in how we defend ourselves against this threat, and how we defeat them.

And so where do I stand? I am in support of enforcing the UN resolution to disarm Saddam Hussein, and I support a UN-authorized military action, if that is what is required, though I'd prefer a peaceful inspections process. I would like to see a regime change in Iraq. I would be very happy if some kind of representative government could develop after Hussein is removed from power. But I'm uncomfortable with the idea of America unilaterally removing someone from power. And I am very disturbed by the approach the American government has taken to achieve its goals.

Last night President Bush once again invoked the Al Queda/Iraq connection, for which we have seen no evidence. So either a) the evidence exists but the US refuses to share it even with the Security Council of the United Nations or b) President Bush went on television last night and lied to the American people.

I am disgusted by the flip-flop reasoning of the Bush administration, by their refusal to provide sufficient evidence for their actions, by their continued polarization of the situation, and their blatant disrespect for the intelligence of the American population, and the world.

I feel lucky to have lived in the brief time of incredible prosperity and relative peace prior to September 11, 2001. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and cease fires in global hot spots like Northern Ireland and Israel, I thought we might have moved into humanity's post-war period (sort of like Star Trek's Federation of Planets). Boy was I naïve. But I'd still like to believe that there are other ways of dealing with conflicts, and that we're slowly moving towards alternative methods of doing so (in this case diplomacy, international coalitions, and inspections), with war as the last resort.

But the American government is determined to forge another course. Their justifications for an imminent attack of Iraq are hypocritical and unsubstantiated, and only enforce the impression that America is a bullying hyperpower bent on running the world how it sees fit. This war is not the last resort, it is a failure of diplomacy. Mr. Bush, you could have convinced me to support you, but you didn't. Instead, you lied and smirked and condescended. Your actions make me ashamed to be American.

Also, I suppose now we should change the name of the Lafayette Project to the Freedom Project to demonstrate our support for the USA and our utter distain for all things French.

More on censoring and bombing

Lots of interesting email and links over the weekend regarding Thursday's post about targeting journalists in Iraq. Based on everything I've received, my opinion is that the US isn't specifically targeting journalists (writes a former member of the US Armed Forces, "By the Rules of Engagement, the U.S. could never legally fire upon journalists of any nation, if they knew they were journalists,") they are warning journalists that if they aren't embedded with US troops, they risk being fired upon because it's difficult to distinguish between a "friendly" satellite transmissions and one from the enemy. From the San Francisco Bay Guardian's Spoon-feeding the press article:

[T]he Pentagon recently issued a set of rules for war coverage in the looming campaign against Iraq that call for the "embedding" of approximately 500 reporters with U.S. troops. Immediately, the new regulations were hailed as a victory by mainstream media. But when you look at what the rules really say, the picture isn't so pretty.

"On paper it looks like a considerable improvement," Schanberg said. "For example, there's no auto review of copy by the military." On closer inspection, however, Schanberg found reasons for concern. All reporters "embedded" with U.S. troops must sign a contract agreeing to the Pentagon's rules governing coverage. Included in the document is a clause dictating what kinds of information reporters can and cannot detail. Journalists can be precluded from reporting certain "sensitive" information according to the military commander's discretion.

Via email from a US journalist in Kuwait:

I was at a briefing yesterday at which the U.S. military briefers made it very clear that any "unilaterals" (i.e. journalists who aren't embedded) who get ahead of the U.S. Army or mixed among it risk being shot or bombed or vaporized in one of the infinite fashions available to the U.S. Army, Air Force and Marines. Not because we are journalists, but because we would be unidentified operators in a warzone. Sounds like a joke, but the practice in a warzone is shoot-first-ask-questions-later.

So, reporters who will be embedded with the troops will be "safer" than those that venture off on their own. What they can report may also be restricted, and their credentials can be revoked by the Pentagon at any time, for any reason. Those who chose not to be embedded risk being "targeted down" simply because of the difficulty in distinguishing who they are, not because the US is trying to kill independent journalists. Kate Adie says she is, "enormously pessimistic of the chance of decent on-the-spot reporting, as the war occurs," and I agree. It sounds like the government wants to keep very tight control on the information coming out of Iraq. Sadly, with the Bush government, it's standard procedure.

Other links:

Thanks to everyone who wrote in, I appreciate the follow-up information.

Censoring and bombing?

Gavin's got a post with a partial transcript from an Irish radio show (also a link to download the entire show in Real Audio) in which Kate Adie (the BBC's chief news correspondent) makes some amazing statements regarding censorship of the American press in Iraq and Pentagon warning that reporters may be fired upon:

I was told by a senior officer in the Pentagon, that if uplinks – that is the television signals out of… Baghdad, for example – were detected by any planes …electronic media… mediums, of the military above Baghdad… they'd be fired down on. Even if they were journalists…

I haven't heard anything like this in the US media. Is this true they intend to fire upon the press? And are they prohibiting reporters who are disapproving of the war? I mean, I really find this hard to believe.

Alaska vote approaching

Also while we're worried about Iraq, the Senate is set to vote next week and it looks like Arctic Drilling Hinges On One Vote. The battle over drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) is very close and, "'Dick Cheney has been working madly to secure the 50th (vote),' said the e-mail sent to GOP offices." I am opposed to the drilling for several reasons, primarily because the refuge won't yield significant amounts of oil (surveys estimate it's worth pumping out 6 billion barrels, or enough to supply all US oil needs for about 11 months), it won't yield any oil for three to four years (doing nothing to address the current oil crises and gas prices), and it sets a dangerous precedent of exploring land that we've put aside to protect. Why not put the funds towards alternative energy research?

When I was in Anchorage last year, we discussed ANWR over lunch. The locals were in support of it, perhaps because oil revenues give Alaskans an annual refund (~$2,000 each in 2000) and allow the state to forgo a sales tax to generate revenue. The locals assured me that the area around ANWR isn't anything like it's been presented. It's a cold, barren tundra that no camper or tourist will ever visit. Of course, one also told me that the animals actually like the Alaska Pipeline because it radiates heat, so they all snuggle up against it for warmth. I remain unconvinced.

Don’t get distracted

While most of the media, and the world, is talking about Iraq, and Saddam Hussein, don't get distracted from some very real and pressing issues at home (and no I'm not talking about the preposterous re-naming of french fries to freedom fries). The US Senate is voting this week on a bill to ban "partial-birth" abortions. The House has already approved the measure and President Bush is also expected to sign it.

Two very scary problems exist with the legislation as it now stands: first, it offers no exceptions if the mother's life is in danger ("ignoring the Supreme Court's insistence that such an exception is a constitutional requirement for any abortion regulation,") and its muddled wording, "would criminalize the use of the safest and most common pre-viability abortion method used after the first trimester." The Senate rejected an amendment that would have required prescription drug coverage of contraceptives and provisions to increase awareness of emergency contraceptive measures (like the "morning-after" pill). Sadly, it looks like the bill's got the votes to pass.

Clarification: it wasn't clear in some earlier articles I read about the proposed amendments regarding the "life of the mother" exception. The bill does contain language allowing the procedure if the life of the mother is at risk. The Sentate continues to reject amendments to allow an exception if the health of the mother is in danger. From today's New York Times article, Senate G.O.P. Holds Firm As Vote on Abortion Nears:

In the final vote before the overall measure was to be considered, the Senate defeated an amendment by Senator Dianne Feinstein, Democrat of California, to allow an exception to the ban when the attending physician determines that the procedure is necessary to preserve the life or health of the woman. The proposed law already includes an exception to save the life of a pregnant woman. Advocates of the ban say that allowing for the health of the woman would badly weaken the measure since the health rationale could be broadly interpreted.

Related: The Village Voice on Bush's War on Women: Part I, Stealth Misogyny and Part II, The Myth of Progress.

The mystery is solved

Regarding the earlier anonymous email and "page not found" message: some URL hacking has led to this article, Foetuses 'may be conscious long before abortion limit'. Ah, it makes sense now, especially the anonymous email. Most correspondence I get from people who oppose legal abortion is anonymous. I don't expect us all to agree, but it would be nice if people had the courage to stand by their beliefs, and put a name alongside their convictions.

A response to a reader

Dear anonymous megnut reader,

First off, thanks so much for taking the time to write! I love getting mail from readers, it's one of the things I most enjoy about doing this site. Hearing others' thoughts and checking out the links they send is enlightening. So it was with relish that I opened your message.

You write,

how does this figure into your pro-death perspective? http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?

Since I hadn't realized I possessed a "pro-death perspective," I was keen to read the link you sent. Imagine my dismay when the URL returned the message, "Sorry, the page you have requested is not available." And then, consider my consternation when I realized the return address of your missive was "reader@megnut.com". Why, there was no way I could even respond to your kind note for any sort of clarification! We seem to be at an impasse.

Still trying to figure,


Today’s news, a poem

Composed entirely from this morning's My Yahoo! headlines

Dow Drops
Unemployment Rate Rises
Record Gas Prices in April

Stocks Slump
War Fears
Seize Chunk of Gaza Strip

Weak Jobs Data
Payrolls Plunged
Shares Fall
Inflation Pressures
Fourth-Quarter Loss

Iraq Must Be Dealt with Now
Prospect of Imminent War