Walter Rhett

War Fronts

In National Affairs on March 21, 2011 at 7:01 pm

(Click title above to view in separate web page; click to enlarge photos. If I’ve missed yr war/genocide/bombing/disaster/grudge/peave/relief/humanitarian/freedom effort; add it to the comments.)

The wars are on. The wars have grabbed the globe’s attention. We are fighting in the name of peace–even as we argue and fight about war and peace. Daily, we are opening new fronts, expanding the good fight around the globe.

We are fighting to save Japan from nuclear and natural disaster and we are fighting to bring freedom the Arab countries in Asia minor and North Africa. We are continuing efforts to help Haiti and New Zealand, also victims of devastating earthquakes.

Did you know the central US has recently been rocked by more than 1100 earthquakes in just the last six months, especially along the Mississippi (Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri. Arkansas) and in Oklahoma?

This year, 2011, is the anniversary of the New Madrid earthquakes, the largest series ever to hit the eastern US. Named for the territorial town in Missouri that was the epicenter, the quakes covered 9x more territory than the 1903 San Francisco earthquake.

The earthquake helped convict two of Thomas Jefferson’s nephews (who were also nephews of Merriwhether Lewis) of the axe murder of a slave named George. So powerful was the initial quake it woke sleepers up in Norfolk, VA and cracked sidewalks in DC.

The 1886 earthquake that struck Charleston (SC) at 9: 50 pm, August 31 was the second most powerful, felt as far south as Cuba. It left more than 30,000 homeless, sleeping outdoors in the public parks.

Stories say the day before the earthquake hit, in Magnolia Cemetery, the city’s largest and most prominent, all of the resting souls rose up, overturning memorials and tombstones, and singing a loud, robust anthem, gathered in ranks and marched down the road to entrance, returning to their city homes to shield their families from harm. In Summerville, my home, an elderly black man appeared to commuting workers arriving in the evening at the train depot to warn them of the impending harm. He was never seen again.

1989 California earthquake stories include dead car radios, dead traffic lights, the feeling of being rear ended, and condemned apartments, and non-working ATMs.

The biggest jolt of the week was Barack’s almost blasé announcement on the way to the airport that the US had joined a coalition of European countries that intended to defend Libyan civilians by imposing a military no-fly, no advance zone over the country’s northern half, the site of intense fighting between civilian forces and regime supporters. Minutes after the announcement, Barack left for Brasil.

Not to be outdone, SC governor Nikki Haley, the Indian rani (princess) who only appoints like-minded people to state positions at higher-than-previous salaries, with brainstorming sessions over a beer in local bars, has announced she is visiting India in the fall, continuing SC’s tradition of overseas trips to reconnect and seek new opportunities. In fact, states governors have led over 500 trade missions since 2009. The MA governor’s recent mission to Europe coincided with the loss of 1100 jobs in the state, and last fall, the WA governor sent a mission to Viet Nam, seeking sustainable peace and prosperity. TX governor Rick Perry’s June 2010 12-day Asian mission cost $130,000 and got the state “great exposure.”

Brasil is the only country in the Americas that has expanded its middle class. Adding 41 million people to its ranks since 2003; 91 million Brasilians, 49.2 percent of the country’s population, receive 46 percent of the country’s national income. Brasil now has the world’s eighth largest economy.

Barack’s greeting by the Brasilian president caused a jolt for me. President Dilma Rouseff, who is the first woman to head Brasil’s democracy, looks—well, black. Her father was a immigrant from Bulgaria, her mother a stunning Brasilian beauty who taught school.  Ms. Rouseff was a radical student, a socialist once imprisoned for her politics, a knowledgeable economist, and served in the previous government as the President’s chief of staff.

Brasil is home to the largest community of Japanese and descendants outside of Japan itself. Japanese immigration began in 1902 and continues. Rio, visited by the President, has an estimated 15,000 people in its Japanese community, the largest in Brasil who are called nipo-brasilerios in Portuguese. Approximately 260,000 Brasilians live in Japan, none reported dead. Brasil only generated 3 percent of its electricity from nuclear plants, although in Rio State, nuclear plants supply 50 percent of power; both the government and the power companies issued reports detailing why, despite evacuation being difficult, Brasil has little danger of tsunamis or power plant melt-downs.

Presidents Rousseff and Fernandez; Brasil & Argentina

Intellectual fights are taking place along many global fronts with reasons flying like bullets in support of many views. Britain is pro and con. Turkey is cautious, but there is citizen support for its participation and its government is now endorsing and supporting the NATO role. (Turkey is now in, and playing a leading role. /wr) Asian countries are worried but glad not to be directly involved. Africa wonders why the Ivory Coast and the Congo, countries with many civilians dying in political violence, are not a part of the discussion or actions to save civilian lives from political butchers. Africa feels the old inquity and is disturbed.

As the lists of contrasts grows–Gabon, Gaza, the American inner city–the philosophies of Ghandi and King, of Jesus and Lao Tze, of the great wisdom and religious traditions are being defaulted. The best way to bring to the world’s attention to the cause and needs of others for safety, prosperity, and dreams is to tell the story you want heard without attacking others. Yet social media is full of slams.

Americans are taking shortcuts in rushing to judge Obama’s actions, many calling the bombing and missile sorties a “war.”  Comparisons to the past are all over the place, from Viet Nam to Iran, even Korea and World War II. Obama is being lumped with Bush and there is fierce suspicion of his motives and his rationale is suspect. Some elected officials and commentariat are insisting that the Commander-in-Chief and the chain of command be forced to ask permission before engaging in limited strikes. Many are overlooking the difference between the fact that Congress declares war but does not have to approve all military actions ordered by the President. All America wonders how and when these strikes will end.

The titantic struggles over American policy really masks the class warfare in the US as the GOP proposes budget cuts that directly shrink the middle class and also cut their rights. Large and small, Republicans are using fears as a smoke screen to strike back at long held middle class gains, taking away women’s rights, labor and bargaining rights, healthcare, school lunch, as too expensive, sacrificing the future and kneecaping the grandchildren who will left behind.

But two things to note: whether Obama’s position is agreed with or not–and there are round condemnations–and whether the risks are great, in his own immutable fashion, he has a lot of courage to see it through. Second, what is the protection of freedom to some is simply selfishness and irresponsibility to others. And what is heroic to some to others is dumb.

The fronts expose our suscipions, frights of imagination, and fears. Are genocide, cartel maurders, and tanker highjackings in the same class of violence? How large does a threat have to be to trigger protection from outside nations? Is a hidden agenda at play? Are there differences in values and policies now and 40 years ago when Cambodia experienced its massacres?

In the US, the war goes on against the working and middle class.

The goals: cut income, benefits, safety net protections; increase social, economic and health risks, increase costs, profits, and rip offs. On multiple fronts, American politician are green lighting going after the loose change of extortionist fees on bank cards and are hard wired to grab the $2.6 trillion trust fund of social security, which won’t run out until another 27 years, claiming budget needs to pillage the American dream. The House has banned NPR programming from recieving federal funds, an abridgement of free speech.

It’s a good time to recall the famous stratagem: truth is the first causality of war, as we listen to the dead words of politicians elected by votes but purchased by money who are willing to kill the Dream while claiming its casualty is for a good cause.

The war is on. Unfortunately, it’s not only half way around the world. It’s at home. The working class is being routed from the field. And no one is coming to help. Barack is facing a barrage of criticism for not saying, “may I” to Congress, for once acting Presidential with Clinton pushing and Susan Rice’s writing skills, faces a frantic press and its fire storm of speculation, from Chile.

Danish F-16 fighter

In bleak times, laughter helps sometimes. One of the best civil war stories is of a Pennsylvanian women living near Gettysburg who was wounded by a minnie ball that had traveled through a Union soldier. Two years later, she wedded the soldier. She had given birth to a child, a year old when they married, that looked exactly like her husband.


That said, all wars are not sliding zones for mission creep. Mission creep is really the deployment and use of the military as a political strategy—the mission creep actually occurs before the war and is heavily implied and easily inferred, despite misleading promises. The US did so in Iran, continues to in Afghanistan. The US initiated similar action in Haiti and Somali under Bush41. The difficulty occurs in trying to achieve political objectives and stability through the use of force–which actually undercuts the stability it is trying to re-enforce.

Libya is different for two reasons. First, there is no grand design to bring democracy or engage in state-building on the part of US or any of the nations supporting the UN resolution.

Secondly, the UN resolution is a historic act of diplomacy. It authorizes the use of necessary military action to preserve civilian lives. For the first time, it authorizes military intervention to prevent internal genocide, something not done in many of the African civil wars, where civilian death tolls reached the hundreds of thousands. Earlier, the Muslim majority in Bosnia met the same fate.

The new resolution marks a new principle: that the sanctity of the state does not allow for state leaders to bring in mercenaries to wantonly slaughter civilian populations to maintain power or secure private wealth, while blaming others and pretending to maintain order. How rich is the irony that Quadifi announces he is being threatened by the same terrorist group that plagues the US and Europe; yet he never cites why he is the target of pursuit. The UN resolution is a “people first” policy of peace and dignity that tells the world nations will use force to protect innocent brothers and sisters, and leaders can not kill with impunity and hide behind lies.

Refugees, guest workers and citizens fleeing the Libyan fighting may become more of a long term problem than Islamic fronts. The UN reports more than 3,000 people a day crossing Libyan borders in search of safety.

The willingness of some to reduce geo-complexity to simple causes is surprising. The willingness of the West to assist has as much to do with Lockerbie, European political calculations, disdain for Quaddifi, the pull of democratic movements, the willingness to substitute Quaddifi as a proxy for Yemen and other Emirates as it does about “oil.”

Those who cite “oil” overlook the relationships. To preserve supply and cheap prices, countries prop up dictators, not topple them. Even if toppled, the supply is disrupted. Countries can’t colonialize the oil fields. Private multi-nationals will  demand higher prices.

But the critics, even as they over-simply and ignore the obvious difficulties, have the echo right: in the hot passions of war is often the cold hunger of greed.

To cite oil as a cause is to propose a one-note, blinders-on world view.

This is a war well worth fighting. I, for one, don’t see the mission creep, except in the American agenda, at home. One wishes the war mission would creep toward peace. For those who fight for peace, remember the best weapon is mercy. Mercy’s greatest power is to embrace virtue without bitterness or condemnation. But mercy can not endorse or be a part of the sin.

  1. I appreciate your efforts, to come to terms with US foreign policy, being a decent person. Nevertheless two objections to your text: You wrote: “…we are fighting to bring freedom to the Arab countries in Asia minor and North Africa. We are continuing efforts to help Haiti…”

    Did you mean Bahrein and Yemen?
    Did you mean the efforts to keep Aristide away?
    What about the predicted 800,000 cholera infections in Haiti and the still existing tent cities where people live in appalling conditions? More than 1 million people remain homeless.

  2. […] Southern Perlo Related Websites […]

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