05 February 2008

Open Letter to Barack Obama

I have supported you from the beginning, or very close to it. I want to support you. Really, I do. But something came up. It may seem minor, but I fear it represents what may turn into a major problem when you win.

I am concerned that allegations of you being Muslim have been labeled “smears” and “attacks.”

We get that you're a committed Christian, and have been all your life. We're not disputing that.

But why is belonging to the Islamic faith considered something so negative, and something that needs to be refuted so vehemently?

A column by Leonard Pitts Jr. of the Miami Herald echoes my sentiments exactly, and I am interested in what you have to say about this:
“NBC News anchor Brian Williams has apparently been getting the same e-mails. In moderating a recent Democratic debate, he asked Obama about rumors ``that you are trying to hide the fact that you're a Muslim . . . ''
The senator laughed a heard-that-a-few-times-before laugh. Then he replied that he is a Christian, that he is a victim of Internet rumor, and that he trusts the American people to ``sort out the lies from the truth.''
What bothered me is that, by its phrasing, Williams' question presupposed there is something wrong with being a Muslim. And Obama's answer left the presupposition unaddressed.

Will you address that presupposition? Plenty of Muslims support you, canvass for you, donate to your campaign. Are they voting in a president who will turn his back on them, and disavow any connection to them as being an "attack"?

The full text of the column can be found here.

24 December 2007

It's been said but I'll say it again

Waterboarding is against international law.

It violates the Third Geneva Convention, Article 3:
In the case of armed conflict not of an international character occurring in the territory of one of the High Contracting Parties, each Party to the conflict shall be bound to apply, as a minimum, the following provisions:

(1) Persons taking no active part in the hostilities, including members of armed forces who have laid down their arms and those placed hors de combat by sickness, wounds, detention, or any other cause, shall in all circumstances be treated humanely, without any adverse distinction founded on race, colour, religion or faith, sex, birth or wealth, or any other similar criteria. To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
(b) taking of hostages;
(c) outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;
(d) the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

And just why do I think waterboarding constitutes cruel treatment, torture, or an outrage on personal dignity?
(Keep in mind it’s only required to be one of these things to be illegal, yet it seems to be all three)

Maybe these first-hand accounts of what waterboarding is like will help:
He directed the full flow of the now-gushing pipe onto my nostrils and mouth.… Water poured down my windpipe and throat and filled my lungs and stomach. The torrent was unimaginably choking. This is the sensation of drowning, on dry land, on a hot dry afternoon. Your humanity bursts from within you as you gag and choke. I tried very hard to will unconsciousness but no relief came.


They shouted around me, “So he’s going to talk! He’s going to talk!” So they let me breathe. And as soon as I got a little breath again, I denounced it, and I still refused. So they started again. They said, “He’s making a joke out of us.” So they gave me very heavy blows on my chest and on my belly to make the—get out the water of my lungs and of my body. And they started again afterwards.
And suddenly, as I have explained it—I think it was the third time—I just fainted. And I heard them after a while saying, “Oh, he’s coming back. He’s coming back.” They didn’t want me to die at once, and I knew afterwards, a long time afterwards, that many of the people who went under that waterboarding, as you call it, after having had some moments of fainting, some of them would die, drowned, “asphyxier,” as we say in French. It’s completely—it’s impossible to breathe, so they die, as if they were drowned, and this kind of “accident,” as they call, was very frequent.
Well, You feel that you’re going to die. Of course, you don’t want to die, and in the same time you don’t want to accept the conditions that they make around you to let you live. So, finally, at this third time, before I fainted, I was really decided to die and not to answer at any cost.
Democracy Now

The water fills the hole in the saran wrap so that there is either water or vaccum in your mouth. The water pours into your sinuses and throat. You struggle to expel water periodically by building enough pressure in your lungs. With the saran wrap though each time I expelled water, I was able to draw in less air. Finally the lungs can no longer expel water and you begin to draw it up into your respiratory tract.
It seems that there is a point that is hardwired in us. When we draw water into our respiratory tract to this point we are no longer in control. All hell breaks loose. Instinct tells us we are dying.
I have never been more panicked in my whole life. Once your lungs are empty and collapsed and they start to draw fluid it is simply all over. You know you are dead and it's too late. Involuntary and total panic.
There is absolutely nothing you can do about it. It would be like telling you not to blink while I stuck a hot needle in your eye.
At the time my lungs emptied and I began to draw water, I would have sold my children to escape. There was no choice, or chance, and willpower was not involved.
I never felt anything like it, and this was self-inflicted with a watering can, where I was in total control and never in any danger.
And I understood.
Waterboarding gets you to the point where you draw water up your respiratory tract triggering the drowning reflex. Once that happens, it's all over. No question.
Some may go easy without a rag, some may need a rag, some may need saran wrap.
Once you are there it's all over.
The Atlantic

Which is why I think waterboarding fits at least one of the following categories:
cruel treatment, torture, or outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment
And it is therefore against the Geneva Conventions, and is therefore against international law.

02 December 2007

Police Force? No Way.

I wasn’t even going to mention this, but then I discovered there are still people who think like this.

“I still believe we need to fight for our liberty and the liberty of others, because its in everyone’s self interest.” - http://docweasel.wordpress.com/

“I DO believe we need a strong military presence in that part of the world and I'd much rather fight on their soil rather than our own.” - http://www.myopenforum.com/forum

“I believe America should remain a dominant force in the world, and that we are number one and we need to stay number one. I do believe in government intervention when it comes to protecting its citizens. I support the war in Iraq and anywhere else that we need to be for our own good.” - http://bargainprofessor.wordpress.com

The United States should not be the world's police force. The United States is a country that esteems democracy as the only plausible, the only successful, the only acceptable form of government for the world. We believe all nations should be democracies, and any other form of government would be unjust. Other types of governments are labeled as tyrannical, dictating, and oppressive. So, it would be completely hypocritical for the United States to appoint itself the world’s police force. Who are we to shove ourselves down the throats of unwilling people everywhere? What gives us this authority? We are not a parent with the rest of the world as our children. As an independent nation with our own goals and desires, we are not capable of acting in the world’s best interest.

We do not always know what the best thing to do is. We do not always know the best way to mediate a conflict. This can be seen in our history of wars, all of which involved multitudes of deaths, military and civilian, on both sides. Also, our attempts at peace have often been similarly unsuccessful and show our incapability to act as an international police force. For example, our idea that all nations should be democracies is only accepted when it goes our way. We wanted democracy for Palestine, but not when the Palestinians democratically elected a party we disagree with.

We have made misjudgments in the past and will continue to do so, and we have no right to gamble with the stakes of another country. Unless the world unanimously chooses the United States to be its police force, which it hasn’t, we must not appoint ourselves as such.

Ties to terrorism

Nowadays I can't even visit a good old conservative blog without hearing about some civil rights group's or public figure's or international charity's ties to terrorism.
It seems that every Muslim or Arab group these days is somehow connected to terrorism.
If you support such a group, watch out, because you're suddenly connected to terrorist groups as well.

These ties are flawed on a number of levels.
Most of them involve long chains of connection between various contacts and groups. If one of them decides to become a bad apple, there goes the whole chain.

A lot of these organizations are accused of ties to Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by only six nations and the European Union. Not to mention Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian elections (which were supported by the United States and its mission of “spreading democracy in the Middle East,” I might add). Israeli scholar Reuven Paz said that about 90% of Hamas’ work is in cultural, educational, and social services. If one’s main objective is helping as many Palestinians as efficiently as possible, Hamas’ position as one of the only Palestinian organizations that actually does social and welfare-related service makes it an ideal candidate for donations.

With the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations changing constantly, it’s impossible to keep track of who’s still a “good guy.”

Furthermore, some people just don’t seem to watch the news. The federal case against Holy Land Foundation was declared a mistrial based on the inadequate evidence. Yet some continue to cite the foundation as an example of a terrorist organization, and anyone connected to it “has ties to Hamas.” (Jihad Watch, anyone?)

So what was the overwhelming evidence offered by the prosecution?
Holy Land Foundation was accused with supporting Hamas not by supporting acts of terror, but because its dollars went to hospitals and the poor through committees that were influenced by Hamas, and thus HLF assisted in spreading Hamas’ ideology. Right.

03 May 2007

Equality? What's that?

Why Israel is after me
By Azmi Bishara, AZMI BISHARA was a member of the Knesset until his resignation in April.
May 3, 2007

Amman, Jordan — I AM A PALESTINIAN from Nazareth, a citizen of Israel and was, until last month, a member of the Israeli parliament.
When Israel was established in 1948, more than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled in fear.
For the first 18 years of Israeli statehood, we, as Israeli citizens, lived under military rule with pass laws that controlled our every movement. We watched Jewish Israeli towns spring up over destroyed Palestinian villages.
The Law of Return grants automatic citizenship to Jews from anywhere in the world. Yet Palestinian refugees are denied the right to return to the country they were forced to leave in 1948.
I have certainly ruffled feathers in Israel. In addition to speaking out on the subjects above, I have also asserted the right of the Lebanese people, and of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, to resist Israel's illegal military occupation. I do not see those who fight for freedom as my enemies.
It is not we, but Israeli Jews who immigrated to this land. Immigrants might be asked to give up their former identity in exchange for equal citizenship, but we are not immigrants.
Last year, Cabinet member Avigdor Lieberman — an immigrant from Moldova — declared that Palestinian citizens of Israel "have no place here," that we should "take our bundles and get lost."
The Israeli authorities are trying to intimidate not just me but all
Palestinian citizens of Israel. But we will not be intimidated. We will not bow to permanent servitude in the land of our ancestors...

Full text: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-bishara3may03,0,2351340.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

21 February 2007


"...refusing to communicate with leaders with whom we disagreed was counterproductive." - Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid

Amen, Mr. Carter. The stubborness expressed towards disagreeing leaders (in this case, Syrian President Assad) gets America nowhere.

"Some [Palestinians] showed us the wreckage of their former homes, which had been demolished by Israeli bulldozers and dynamite, with claims by Israel that they had been built too near Israeli settlements, on property needed by the Israeli government, or that some member of the family was a security threat.
In assessing these claims, the Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem explained that, on average, twelve innocent families lost their homes for every person accused of participation in attacks against Israelis, with almost half of the demolished homes never occupied by anyone suspected of involvement in any violent act against Israel, even throwing stones." - Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid

But they're just collateral, right? Lives don't matter unless they belong to people on your side of the fence. Then, (and only then,) it's injust and inhumane.

This makes me smile:
"I want it to be said that the Bush administration was a results-oriented administration, because I believe the results of focusing our attention and energy on teaching children to read and having an education system that's responsive to the child and to the parents, as oppposed to mired in a system that refuses to change, will make America what we want it to be - a literate country and a hopefuller country." - President George W. Bush; Washington, D.C.; January 11, 2001.

All those big words like oriented, responsive, and mired.. and then he ruins it all with hopefuller. *sigh*

"It is clear our nation is reliant upon foreign oil. More and more of our imports come from overseas." - President George W. Bush; Beaverton, Oregon; September 25, 2000

You think?

"I cannot honestly say, however, that the voice in this book is not mine-that I would tell the story much differently today than I did ten years ago, even if certain passages have proven to be inconvenient politically, the grist for pundit commentary and opposition research." - Barack Obama, Preface to the 2004 version of Dreams from My Father

The sad but true reality of politics. Once you're big enough to be a threat to your opponents, all the dirty little secrets from your past will be dug out and get exaggerated, exploited, and obsessed over. That's the price that comes with being honest and open.

19 January 2007

Operation ______ (fill in the blank)

What exactly is our purpose in Iraq? It started off as being about WMD's (unsuccessful), then toppling Saddam (successful), and now it's a combination of stabilizing the country, spreading democracy, and preventing civil war.

Somewhere along the ever-changing objectives, they lost me.

How do we know we have "won"? When sectarian violence ceases? Considering the opposition to our invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well meaning as it is, I would think a troop surge breeds more insurgency and opposition. At the same time, I don't advocate cutting and running. We have to clean up the mess we made.

As for the goal of making Iraq a shining example of democracy in the Middle East (or whatever the current catchphrase is), we must consider, do we really want democracy for Iraq? I thought that's what we wanted in Palestine. That is, until the Palestinians democratically elected a party we disagree with.

19 December 2006

My Inspiration

(from SDA_Matt)

That was the day I thought to myself, "I should make a blog."