Through Thick and Thin, December 14th
Collecting the dead.
Senator Bill Nelson from Florida defied the Bush administration and flew to Syria to talk to Syrian President Assad. A curious development from a couple of perspectives. On the one hand, this is skirting the edges of treason here; but as long as all they did was talk then it’s OK. Secondly, Assad apparently indicated that he would be happy to help the US control the Syrian/Iraq border. I can’t find fault with that, I doubt any government in the regions wants the instability in Iraq to get worse. Lastly, the fact that Senator Nelson so blatantly defied the Bush administration is another demonstration of how Bush has backed himself into a corner where his influence and options are waning almost daily. I’d say that’s a good thing, but hundreds of thousands of people have died to getting him into that corner, and many more are going to die before all the fruits of his folly are harvested. I guess I can call it a silver lining though, it will be curious to see if there is any further fallout from this.
A US general says that the “war on terror” may last 100 years. I guess he doesn’t have to worry about being employed anytime soon. Aside from the usual silliness, one thing he said really stuck in my craw: “We really need to show the errors in Islamist extremist thinking.” Um, how about the errors in western foreign policy that led to the rise of Islamic extremism in the first place? How about the error in thinking that invading Iraq would spread democracy and freedom throughout the region? It frightens me that so many Americans think that their country can do no wrong, and that anyone who takes up arms against the US must be making an “error in thinking.” So the general is full of it, and as long as people like him are running the country, the war on terror will never end, because the war on terror is making the situation worse.
Unfortunately it’s looking more and more like Ethiopia and Somalia are going to go to war. Yes, just what Somalia needs, more bloodshed. Of course Ethiopia has no damn business in Somalia, the “provisional government” in Somalia that they are “supporting” is a joke. The colonial era is over, people outside of the US and Europe are no longer interested in having their governments appointed by white SOBs in Washington and London. There’s going to be a lot more bloodshed before that idea dies though, the west has been making up the rules for centuries, it’s a pretty ingrained (not to mention profitable for the rich) habit by now. I’m willing to bet that the typical Ethiopian soldier has about as much interest in going to Somalia and getting shot at as you or I, so I’m not really sure what the Ethiopian government hopes to accomplish. But hey, where is it written that Bush is the only one who can start a stupid war?
Speaking of stupid wars, thirty years after the Vietnam War ended, hundreds of Hmong tribesmen are finally surrendering to Laotian authorities. Word travels slowly in those parts I guess. It’s more complicated that that, in a nutshell the US armed the Hmong and basically used them as mercenaries in the Vietnam War. The Hmong are tribal groups that live in the hills, many of them continued fighting sporadically the last few decades. There’s reason to be cautiously optimistic about this development, so keeping my fingers crossed. And it does demonstrate a common folly, if a big power goes into an area and arms a whole bunch of people, it’s going to cause a problem for a long time no matter what. Win or lose, when you have a whole bunch of armed independent contractors running around, it can often take a generation or more for a region to settle down. Sadly this is a mistake the US has been making in spades since WW2, a lot of today’s problems can be directly traced back to the US and its allies injudiciously arming some group or another. I’ll blog more about this I am sure, for now I’ll just mention a certain Saddam Hussein who was armed to the teeth by the US in the 80s. Not to mention some guys in Afghanistan. I rest my case.
The picture at the top is Austrian Hussars collecting their dead in world war one. It was posted because it’s an image that spoke to me. It illustrates how war is a terrible combination of the mundane and the horrific. Looks like a nice sunny winter day, nice countryside. These fellows are obviously well fed and well dressed, and more likely than not they are decent folks with friends and families. What are they doing on this winter day? Making love to their wives? Playing with their children? Creating art or building something useful with their hands? Nope. They got to spend the day gathering up the bodies of their dead friends. Jesus wept.
(The above image predates 1923 and is claimed as public domain under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit and is central to the subject of the post.)