Friday, April 25, 2003
Okay. I'm Calm Again. Maybe.
I keep swapping identities over the matter of Santorum's remarks. The part of me that still identifies with the GOP is aghast, and saying, “that stupid idiot. He’s going to sink the whole ship--the rebuilding of Iraq, the shoring up of the economy, and, eventually, Bush’s re-election--over his inability to apoligize over some stunningly stupid remarks.”
But part of me already has her foot out the door. I’m so ready to be gone over this. It’s an utter outrage. And I’m not the only one: the Republicans are bleeding supporters over this sort of Christian-Taliban thinking.
Read the entire transcript of Santorum’s free-associating. There are certainly two valid principles hidden in there: 1) the fact that the original Constitution did not include a Right to Privacy, and that that particular concept, in practice, is becoming ever-more-elastic in its uses for People with Agendas of whatever type; and 2) the idea of limiting Federal power, and giving more rights back to the states. But a lot of it is transparently a diatribe against homosexuality. Maybe it’s silly, and maybe it’s dangerous. If you want to see Bush re-elected in ‘04 it’s probably the latter. The tent is shrinking by the day.
I can respect the position that sodomy laws should be repealed at the state level, rather than the Federal level. I can respect the position that the Supreme Court is not the correct instrument to change them. I cannot respect the argument that sodomy laws should exist. That’s like saying if some state or locality wants to require women to wear a burqa in public they should be allowed to, as a philosophical matter. After all, it’s up to the individual state to legislate morality as it sees fit. Right?
Santorum didn’t say that he regrets sodomy laws--but ain’t it a damned shame we’d have to violate state rights to get rid of them. He clearly supported them in principle.
I can certainly dissect Santorum’s whole “slippery slope” argument another time, but, briefly--homosexuality (or heterosexual sodomy, for that matter, if we’re not talking about Texas) being legal has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage. This is patently obvious: marriage is a different construct, and there are plenty of legal hurdles to go through in obtaining one. So his mention of bigamy and polygamy is silly. The mention of adult incest is the closest to having merit, because if “consenting adults” becomes the measure of what is sexually permissable, then theoretically a father and his adult daughter could live together, or a brother and sister. However, the state does have an interest in preventing such unions because they could result in physically damaged progeny, so the analogy doesn’t really hold. (As a good libertarian, I’d probably decriminalize these relationships provided a paper trail be established showing that the parties have been sterilized, and no children can result. But the point is that there is an obvious legal distinction to be drawn between incest and homosexuality--one *not* subjective, or “morally relative,” or changeable over time.)
And the specific way Santorum got into this idiotic line of reasoning is particularly egregious: he asserted that society’s permissiveness had created the crisis in the Catholic Church, and pointed out that a lot of the relationships these priests had were with adolescents and teenagers--not with young boys. That is a valid distinction--a teenager isn’t a little boy--but it doesn’t make the behavior okay: an underage kid is not “fair game.” The fact that Santorum refers to this phenomenon as a “normal homosexual relationship” makes my blood boil: If a middle-aged male friend of his began an affair with a 16-year-old girl would he call it a “normal heterosexual relationship”? I’m sorry: a priest’s conduct is his own responsibility, and neither “Will and Grace made me do it” nor “he was almost legal” are terribly impressive to me. If you’re going to violate the Church’s teachings in that way, be a man about it and get a boyfriend within reach of your own age.
I’m not going to invoke a “right to privacy,” which will forever be tainted by its association with Roe v. Wade--a genuine intrusion of Federal power. But we do, as Americans, have a simple right to be left alone. Let’s call it “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” This simply means the state--Federal, local, or state--should not be controlling our most private moments unless there is some sort of overriding interest in doing so. And keeping people’s mouths off of other people’s genitals isn’t one of them.
Jim Pinkerton theorizes that Santorum is a Democratic plant, a “sleeper” agent who is doing his duty now to undermine the GOP. He’s got a point. Another explanation: the man might just be stupid.
4/25/2003 01:19:00 PM
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Finally: Real Sexual McCarthyism
Rick Santorum has to go. He really does. After having read the full text of his remarks, I've decided he has no redeeming qualities. I want him out of my political party, and I think I want him off the planet. The idea that the state has some sort of vested interest in what consensual adults do in the bedroom is repulsive. (And, BTW, have you noticed that "anti-sodomy" laws are basically considered enforceable against gay men only, since straight and lesbian couples are presumed to be unacquainted with buggery? Isn't that a charming idea: you finally find the strap-on that reaches up to your man's prostate, and he's having the time of his life . . . until the door is busted in, and Guys Wearing Kevlar order you on the floor with your hands behind your back. Getting his prostate tickled somehow doesn't promote family life--so off you go to jail.)
The anti-sodomy laws are an idea whose time has gone. For good. I'm not sure that the Supremes are the ideal instrument for this, but it's something that has to be done. No one, no matter how many exotic combinations they try--flouting Santorum's sensibilities--should go to jail for getting it on with a consenting adult. This is not about declaring acceptance, as a society, for every exotic bedroom configuration--but simply decriminalizing sex. Encourage Good Behavior all you want, but stop at the bedroom door.
I'd like to see the "public health" campaign: "Don't hire that stripper to go home with you and your wife." "Don't go to see your friends, the swingers." "Ixnay on the butt plug!" They need some kind of tagline, though, across the bottom of the poster: "Your legislators think that's ucky."
Who elects these guys? Me?--I'll stop. Sheesh. I hired you guys to 1) kick terrorist/dictatorial butt, and 2) cut taxes to jump-start the economy. So get busy.
4/23/2003 03:21:00 AM
Sunday, April 20, 2003
Live and Let Live
The May issue of *The Atlantic* contains a beautiful essay by Jonathan Rauch on what he calls "apatheism." He describes it as "a disinclination to care all that much about one's own religion, and an even stronger disinclination to care about other people's." This is, he explains, the reason he has so many devout Christian friends who are unconcerned that he is "an unrepentantly athiestic Jewish homosexual."
It's an idea worth exploring. Money quote:
"I believe that the rise of apatheism is to be celebrated as nothing less than a major civilizational advance. Religion, as the events of September 11 and after have so brutally underscored, remains the most divisive and volatile of social forces. To be in the grip of religious zeal is the natural state of human beings, or at least a great many human beings; that is how much of the species seems to be wired. Apatheism, therefore, should not be assumed to represent a lazy recumbency, like my collapse into a soft chair after a long day. Just the opposite: it is the product of a determined cultural effort to discipline the religious mindset, and often of an equally determined personal effort to master the spiritual passions. It is not a lapse. It is an achievement.
"'A world of pragmatic athiests,' the philosopher Richard Rorty once wrote, 'would be a better, happier world than our present one.' Perhaps. But best of all would be a world generously leavened with apatheists: people who feel at ease with religion even if they are irreligious; people who may themselves be members of religious communities, but who are neither controlled by godly passions nor concerned about the (nonviolent, noncoercive) religious beliefs of others. In my lifetime America has taken great strides in this direction, and its example will be a source of strength, not weakness, in a world still beset by fanatical religiousity (al Qaeda) and tyrannical secularism (China)."
This is important. The fact that we, as a people, can set religion aside and yet still accept it in others is an amazing accomplishment, and something fundamental to the particular Western values that I, at least, would love to export to every corner of the globe (like the imperialist/colonialist I am). Rauch's analysis of our religious tolerance is significant because he understands that it goes--that it has to go--both ways: the athiest manages to tolerate the faithful, and the faithful manage to tolerate the athiest. Lather-rinse-repeat across the spiritual rainbow.
Keep in mind that just several centuries ago we were killing and torturing each over not over Buddhism vs. Christianity, but
*which brand of Christianity* people ought to subscribe to. It still amazes me. (And it wasn't just Catholicism vs. Protestantism, but Catholicism vs. the Church of England. The two are so doctrinally similar that I know a Catholic CCD [Sunday school] teacher who had to be told that C.S. Lewis was *not* Roman Catholic: she'd been using his essays in her classes.)
Day-to-day manifestation: the practice, among people I know, of wishing people a happy whatever-they-celebrate. I like it when Jews wish me a "Merry Christmas," and when I wish them a "Happy Chanukah." It's a recognition that the specifics are less important than the actual good wishes.
I can't link to Rauch's lovely little single-page essay, but I suggest you live it up and go get a paper copy of *The Atlantic.* You know: at a newsstand. Get some air, have a chai latte--outdoors, if weather permits. (I do understand that there is still weather in some parts of the country. I don't approve, but I know it.) Ease the strain to your back of hunching over the keyboard 12 hours a day. Just a thought.
And there are a lot of other goodies in the May issue, including what might be Michael Kelly's last offering, a cover story on The House of Saud, a fascinating article on Hitler's massive library, and a book review/essay on childraising by Sandra Tsing Loh.
Happy Easter. Or anything else you might happen to be celebrating this spring.
** Note to my usual sparring partners: Yes, I will be blogging soon about the looting at the National Museum and the evil plotters at Halliburton. And even John Ashcroft, who's been seen creeping along my street with a human-size butterfly net. (Should I be worried about that?)
4/20/2003 04:50:00 AM
Saturday, April 19, 2003
There is the persistent complaint that the footage of Saddam's statue being pulled down in Central Baghdad is a fake. Apparently, Indymedia originated it, though I got it here.
The best debunking comes via the stud/gods at Oxblog, who quoted an associate from a list one of them subscribes to. Published on Oxblog on Saturday, 4/12, the article goes into good detail on why it's clear that the famous photo showing only 150 people or so in the plaza was clearly taken *after* the statue came down. They use a video capture of a long-shot from CNN at the moment the statue was being pulled, and establish that the time frames are completely different: Indymedia (and Info Clearing House) is smoking us.
But here's more. Let's say their little photo really was taken when the statue actually toppled, and there was only a small crowd of 150-200 in the middle of the square. So what? Unless Method Acting has taken over in Baghdad, they certainly seemed sincere enough. These were bona fide Saddam-haters. The long shot has what it claims are American tanks on the periphery of the square, as if to suggest that the Americans are there to keep Iraqi "loyalists" out of the photo-op. Get real, folks: the tanks belong there. That's one of the things you do when you take over a country--you get your tanks in a prominent position in the opposition's capital. If the intent were really to keep out human beings who disagree, the perimeter of the square would be occupied by Marines or army ground forces.
The conspiracy theorists even show a picture of an opposition leader who has just arrived in Baghdad, and point out that he looked a bit like one of the participants in the "statue crowd." There is a resemblence, but--what if it is him? He arrived in the country and went where the action was. He got there in time for a historic moment. Lucky him.
And then there is the obvious problem: if the shot were staged, why invite the BBC and the Arab stations, all of whom are hostile to our presence there? Wouldn't they have figured out what was going on? Or did the evil Americans slip them the date-rape drug to make these normally hostile media outlets more malleable?
The oppositon is grasping at straws.
Let's try this, kids: "I was wrong." Can you say that?--I'll bet you can.
Here. I'll do it first: I was wrong about Reagan in the 80s. Wrong on the cold war, wrong on the economy. Plain old wrong. Wrong, even, on Reagan's intelligence. (Though it's so easy to fool intellectuals on that one. They tend to assume that if you aren't scholarly, you aren't bright. Handy world view, huh?)
This time, I wanted to be on the right side of history. And we'll see about that. But so far, so good.
4/19/2003 02:59:00 AM
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Connect the Dots
One of the things few people are talking about now is the continual argument by the left (before the war, and at every opportunity afterward) that there was “no connection” or “no proven connection” between Islamic fundamentalists and Iraq. After all, the line of reasoning went, Saddam was a secular leader, whereas Al Qaeda is a group of Islamic extremists. There’s no way any alliance could come about between them--no matter their common animosity toward the U.S.
This was always an extraordinary assertion in my mind, partly because there *were* a number of links between Saddam’s regime and Al Qaeda, including a terrorist training camp that included a Boeing 727 in southern Iraq, the better to practice hijacking with. (“But,” my friend the Linguistic Stud protests, “You can’t hold a government responsible for everything that occurs within its borders.” You can in Iraq, Buddy: nothing went on in Saddam’s Iraq that the government didn’t know about.) And the various meetings between senior Iraqi leaders and Al Qaeda operatives before 9/11. And the strange prescience with which the Iraqi media alluded to an impending catastrophic event in the States in the months before 9/11.
And there’s common sense: there is simply no reason to believe that a regime as hostile to the U.S. as Saddam’s Iraq wouldn’t make common cause with another organization that also hated us, and slip Al Qaeda a few forbidden weapons. After all, “my enemy’s enemy is my friend.” Hitler and Stalin made a pact. And *we* made a pact with Uncle Joey as well.
In addition to all that, we now see all kinds of terrorist groups in neighboring countries sending operatives to Iraq to “repel” us, in a fervor of misguided Arab nationalism or Islamic fundamentalism. If anything should establish that this is a natural alliance, the influx of suicide bombers and guerilla fighters would be it. But I fear that the argument now is that we *created* a link between anti-American terrorists and Saddam’s power base, with our dirty little original sin of imperialism.
Nothing seems to get through to these people. The link, and the danger of collaboration on a monstrous scale, have been there all along.
4/13/2003 11:04:00 PM
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Yearning to be Free
I'm still bummed about all the deaths of journalists in Gulf II. And not too happy with civilian deaths, either--or those of coalition soldiers. It's all hard to take. And Iraqi soldiers--hardest of all to get good estimates on. My military advisor is thinking between 10 and 20 thousand; it could be worse.
And yet, to stop the torture . . . to destroy those weapons . . . to set these people free . . . it will be worth it. If the UN doesn't come in and screw this up (I'm thinking, let them hand out food), if Iraqis are making policy decisions from the beginning--that will be the best thing. Some of the exiles, some who are there. Some from all the ethnic and religious groups. (And can the State Department take a vacation right about now? perhaps go fishing with the U.N. Security Council? Just a thought.)
We'll help 'em for a while, and then get out of Dodge. And they--the Iraqis--can decide whether the contracts made with the French/Russians are still good. And which oil wells to modernize first.
Everyone's learning the Baghdad Boogie, the quentessential newly freed with their now-legendary call for "democracy, whiskey, and sexy." Why not?
4/09/2003 01:21:00 AM
Friday, April 04, 2003
Death Sits in Us and Waits
It's a few days after the May issue of *The Atlantic* landed on my desk, and I woke up this morning to the news that Michael Kelly--its celebrated "Editor-at-Large"--died last night in a Humvee accident in Iraq. He was 46 years old. I feel like I can't bear it: he was one of the most brilliant writers out there. What a wicked wit.
This guy has two kids at home, and all I can think, selfishly, is "what am I going to do without his column to read?" There are other thoughts rattling through my head--all equally irrelevant and silly: better to lose someone who has lived a little and leaves behind a body of work, rather than beautiful young men and women who haven't had a chance to make their mark on the world. Better us middle-aged people than the kids who are dying out there every day. And: better for us individually to get out there and take risks, rather than living in little holes like gophers. But it's just awful, and nothing I tell myself makes it any better.
I just want it to stop. Every day I tell myself the war is necessary for the greater good. Every day I tell myself we're lucky, in a way: modern warfare allows us to minimize our own casulties *and* the deaths of civilians. But I just want it done soon so we can get the hell out of there. I want the killing to stop. Desperately.
And what a noble mission Kelly was on--attempting to chronicle this war on behalf of the military. Telling this story for the men and women who are out there fighting for us. "What a great thing to do," my husband tells me. "I'd love to do that."
I want to respond, "you're going nowhere, and doing nothing." But I can't keep him at home like a gopher either, and I smile weakly and come back upstairs instead.
What can I do?--rage against human mortality? I made a salad for lunch and got on with things.
4/04/2003 01:45:00 PM
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Just a note: Jessica Lynch is safe again. May all our POWs/MIAs be rescued. (I know it can't be so, as they recovered the bodies of American soldiers near where she lay. But I hope we can find all who are alive right now--and soon.)
Coalition forces just crossed the Tigris river, and it looks like the march is on to Baghdad. We are now inside that red circle around B'dad that we were told might "trigger" a chem/bio attack. And they will likely try it, out of desperation, if they can gain enough space from our forces to do so. Here are the problems, should Saddam's little friends go for this: 1) much as the region's Arab-controlled media like to exaggerate the civilian casualties we incur, and underreport those caused by the Iraqi regime, this cannot go unreported--and Iraqi civilians will certainly die by the thousands if they go for it; 2) it gets harder, the closer we get to Baghdad, to target coalition forces without also endangering the Special Republican Guard inside B'dad; 3) our chem/bio protective gear is superior to theirs. As I understand it, it will be hard for them to do this if we stay close to them. So let's stick like glue. Still--if I had to put money on it, I'd say they are going to try.
My personal military analyst--my husband, an American (former) Marine of Irish extraction--tells me he's glad the British are responsible for securing the towns in the south of Iraq. "They've had a lot of experience in urban combat," he tells me. "Especially in Ireland." Seeing the weird smirk on my face, he remarks, "hey. They're good. Credit where it's due."
The lastest tactic by the Royal Marines, as I understand it, is that when they first enter a neighborhood, they hit the Ba'athist party headquarters first. They grab all the intelligence they need, remove the materiel, and then leave the premises open so the locals can loot it. Critical part of their strategy. Why?--so that when ordinary citizens go in, they will see how grandly--how much better than they--the Party Officials lived.
Now *that's* PsyOps.
Speaking of which, we now know why women and children were killed at our checkpoint: the local Iraqi irregulars had taken their husbands hostage, and told them they were to be killed unless the women drove out there, and sped up as they hit the check point. One wonders whether the civilians realized it was suicide, that most likely they and their children would be killed. Did they read the signs posted outside the checkpoints? One assumes the Arab media are ignoring this detail--the fact that these women were forced to do this by those who kidnapped their husbands.
And the taxi bomber who made all these checkpoint-shootings necessary?--his family was held at gunpoint, and he was told they would be killed if he didn't perform this suicide bombing.
I want to go over there myself, find out if Saddam is dead. If he is, I want to piss on his grave. If he isn't, I want to fill him full of holes, working my way inward from his extremities, and taking my time in reloading. I might need two guns for this.
Then I'd start on his sons. I hope they're alive, too. Even if I'm unlikely to be let in to help, I'm sure some nice foot-soldier or marine will perform whatever public service it takes to save taxpayers the burden of a trial...
These guys need to be dead. If they die slowly, that can't be a bad thing.
(That's about three paragraphs of confessable sin, I suppose: my priest's heard worse than "I'm having homicidal feelings about Saddam." Or at least I hope so.)
But, really: those poor civilians in those Ba'athist-held towns. And in Baghdad, especially. God preserve them. I hope it goes quickly, and the civilians manage to stay low.
4/02/2003 12:52:00 AM
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
Are We There Yet?
We've been at war for 13 days, and there's a tremendous amount of complaining that we've "failed," in Peter Arnett's glorious phrasing. Have we?--we've got control of several cities, as well as huge segments of the countryside. We've "attrited" the Iraqi forces to a tremendous degree--so much so that Republican Guard members are being shifted around to the south, creating who-knows what kind of opportunities northward.
And yet the complaining continues. For so many it's simply impossible to accept that not only might we be doing well, but we might be successful in our attempts to minimize civilian casualties. Which we have been, notwithstanding the checkpoint shootings. (In fact, almost all civilian casualties--the checkpoint shootings being no exception--can be laid at the door of opposition tactics. Obviously, if it hadn't been for the checkpoint car bomb that killed four soldiers, we would be able to let those through who didn't appear to be a threat--as opposed to having to shoot at them if they don't stop their cars.)
Andrew Sullivan alluded to some of the commentary as being like a Simpsons episode, with a lot of back-seat questions: Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No. Are we there yet? No. And it certainly feels that way. In a sense, the negative journalists are like little kids, and the military is having to play the grownup here--acting patient with the incessant questions and silliness. (Katie Couric to Secretary Powell: "But our rear is exposed!")
I mentioned in my last post the theory that the Iraqi leadership--whatever that means these days, for who knows who is still alive--is using the "Mogadishu" strategy, and hoping that if they are able to capture and kill enough Americans, we'll simply go away. (I believe Rush Limbaugh may have originally voiced this notion.) What isn't appreciated is just how determined we can be as a people. And how angry we get when we're exposed to the kind of tactics being used by the Iraqi government and its little terrorist friends.
On to Baghdad, friends.
4/01/2003 11:09:00 AM