What have we done?

It’s literally beyond belief. How can we ever recover from this catastrophe?

So eerie, how the wail of despair has become so deafening, we scarcely even notice, let alone express our concern, that we are right on the verge of an unprecedented regional war. It’s playing non-stop on the news, but there’s a surreal quality to it because we feel so impotent – Iraq has made us weak, and all we seem able to do is watch in a helpless stupor. And a mere three years ago, the chorus from the government, amplified by the likes of Instacracker and Belmont Club and the right-wing press, lulled millions into a fantasy: a promise of permanent democracy and peace in the Middle East, if only we could bring down Saddam Hussein. He’s not the only one who was taken down. Will America ever heal itself and rise to its heights of a few short years ago? Probably, because this is an amazingly resilient and powerful country, no matter how much Bush has crippled us. But the process will take years, and there’s going to be lots more pain along the way. I can’t wait until the November elections. Until then, it’s a wonderful time to be living overseas.

The Discussion: 45 Comments

I can’t wait until the November elections.

what do you think will happen in November?

July 14, 2006 @ 10:00 am | Comment

Meanwhile, Israel is bombing Lebanon, and our pResident stands by without a word of condemnation.

July 14, 2006 @ 10:19 am | Comment

In November, if the Dems win the house, we can at least start the healing process. The House can investigate what it chooses to; the Republican stranglehold on all branches of governments stifled investigations of all Bush’s malfeasances. A Dem house would bring some much-needed balance.

Lisa, what do you expect. Condi at least (to her credit) urged Israel to show more restraint, and was utterly ignored.

July 14, 2006 @ 10:31 am | Comment

As I commented elsewhere, given that the so-called “Bush Doctrine” is a page from the Israeli playbook, not a whole helluva lot.

July 14, 2006 @ 11:29 am | Comment

Shorter Jessica: “You are all stupid! You are all brainwashed! Only I, who have received the Divine Wisdom From The Glorious CCP, am among the Enlightened! Praise Ghod!”

July 14, 2006 @ 1:14 pm | Comment

Wow! Jessica has convinced me that the only realistic option any of us have is to join the Communist Party! Because, any flaw in any other system = “The Communist Party is Correct” = “shoot anyone who opposes the Communist Party”

July 14, 2006 @ 1:42 pm | Comment

I’m a frequent reader, first time poster.

I really enjoy your blog, even if I often do not agree with your politics. The following comment is distressing:

Until then, it’s a wonderful time to be living overseas.

While I understand political differences, I’ll never understand turning your back on your nation simply because you don’t approve of the way things are progressing (or not) in Iraq. That is neither admirable nor acceptable.

I’ll not echo Stephen Decatur but instead the words of Asadullah Abdul Rahman:

“Americans are polite and friendly when you speak to them. If I could be anywhere, I would be in America. I would like to be a doctor, an engineer _ or an American soldier.”

Considering where Rahman has been I think his comment should at least make you stop and think.

July 14, 2006 @ 6:02 pm | Comment

Thanks for commenting. I’m not turning my back on my country – if I wanted to do that, I wouldn;t be writing of my despair, I’d be indifferent. And I’m not indifferent, and I play an active role in US politics. But I do feel It’s an uncomfortable time to be living in America, a time of great frustration. If there’s ever been a good time to move away for a while, this is it, just for the sake of one’s mental health. Living away from the US doesn’t mean ignoring it. Read Sebastian Haffner to understand this viepoint better.

July 14, 2006 @ 7:07 pm | Comment

The above reminds me of a Monty Python sketch where John Cleese is sitting in his garden, raging like a moron about people who go abroad:

“Well! I say, if they go abroad, we shouldn’t let ’em back in! I mean, isn’t this country good enough for ’em?”

July 14, 2006 @ 7:34 pm | Comment

When Hezbollah fires rockets at Israel it is terrorism. When Israel fires shells back at Lebanon it is showing restraint. Is this asymmetrical verbal war?

July 14, 2006 @ 8:04 pm | Comment

Ali, that’s a good observation. I’d call it that.

July 14, 2006 @ 8:32 pm | Comment

I’m a Jew and often a supporter of Israel. But what they are doing is dangerous and it’s going to hurt America. Defending onesself is one thing; Israel’s going much further and forcing the region into an unncessary war.

July 14, 2006 @ 11:31 pm | Comment

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Bush is right, Isreal has a right to defend itself, but it must show restraint. Hezbollah has been attacking her territory. Hezbollah has kidnapped her citizens. No soverign nation can tolerate that, especially one living in the prison yard we call the Middle East. That said, Isreal’s response must be measured. It must be rational. It must be realistic. By attacking the infrastructure of the Lebanese government, Isreal is only doing the dirty work of Syria and bringing down the government that only a few months ago kicked them out of Lebanon. I can only hope that when a backdoor out of this conflict comes about, Isreal is smart enough to walk through it and not try to block it.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:10 am | Comment

Symptoms: The deafening wail of dispair. An insurmountable catastrophe. An unprecedented (?) regional war. Can America ever recover?

Diagnosis: Hysteria.

Treatment: Take one paper bag. Place over head. Breath deeply. Repeat as needed.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:23 am | Comment

Civil war in Iraq, the faltering effort in Afghanistan, Iran, now this – the sparks are spreading, combining, gaining strength.

Thanks again, Neocons, Republicans, and the “treasonous, liberal” press.

This is getting perilous. The fire is spreading, and heaven help us, our nation is guided by foolish, greedy business executives.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:31 am | Comment

Physician,heal thyself. If you don’t see America at a dangerous precipice you are foolisng yourself. There is a time to feel hysterical. Looking at what we have wrought in Baghdad coupled with the escalating crisis in the Middle East is such a time.

Slim, you are right, as always.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:36 am | Comment

This has the potential to escalate very quickly into total war between Israel and Iran, including Israel’s nuclear option.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:42 am | Comment

THE SKY IS FALLING!

WE’RE DOOMED, DOOMED I TELL YOU!

God help us one and all.

The horror. The horror.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:01 am | Comment

Robert, I’m one of the indifferent Americans Richard TPD mentioned. I did what I could to stop the madness, with my votes, my money (what little I could afford to donate to candidates/causes) and putting my feet in the street for demonstrations. To no avail.

After Nov. 2004, my wife and I came to the conclusion that staying in America made us tacit supporters of the killing machine. For the sake of our moral beliefs, we had to leave. I feel shame at what America is doing in the world, and sadness for the karma that the land of my birth will reap. Yet I also feel disconnected.

I don’t consider that a cop-out. Down here, I am able to contribute in some small way to the betterment of mankind, even if it’s wiping the bum of some old person who has soiled themself. I am active politically, in groups and on a personal level. I spend a lot of time advising Aussies “Don’t become like the United States.”

If I had any faith that the elections wouldn’t be stolen in November, I might get exercised about what happens in the U.S. But I believe fascism has taken control there, and the condition is terminal. So I’m doing triage with my body, and have moved to a patient/country that might survive.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:09 am | Comment

DO you think the situation in the Middle East is akin to a chicken little scenario, where there was nothing happening at all, nothing to worry about? You should be watching the news – I am not the one saying the sky is falling. The fears of the people involved is palpable. The effects on the US economy will be considerable. But I guess it’s easier to pretend none of it matters.

Did you see the linked story on Baghdad? Do you understand the extent of our failure there, and the anarchy we’ve caused?

And we haven’t seen anything yet; we are right on the brink of a prolonged and painful conflict (or, to be more accurate, another prolonged and painful conflict.

I just saw a report on CNN about the re-emergence of the Taliban, and how well armed they are. Most Americans have absolutely no idea just how badly we are losing our precious war on terror. If you are more comfortable not seeing any catastrophe, that’s fine. But you’re only fooling yourself. If you don’t see “the horror, the horror” it’s your choice. But it really is a horror for a lot of people over there on the ground, on all sides. But let’s just look the other way. It’s alot easier.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:11 am | Comment

Amazing. Condoleeza Rice DID run around like Chicken Little in the run-up to the Iraq War, raving about weapons which did not exist. SHE and the Bush administration were the ones who shouted “the sky is falling.”

And now when a real danger of nuclear war is approaching (involving Israel, which DOES have WMDs, including nuclear weapons), ah, NOW the Bushies say it’s nothing to worry about.

Amazing.

July 15, 2006 @ 2:12 am | Comment

Amazing. Condoleeza Rice DID run around like Chicken Little in the run-up to the Iraq War, raving about weapons which did not exist. SHE and the Bush administration were the ones who shouted “the sky is falling.”

And now when a real danger of nuclear war is approaching (involving Israel, which DOES have WMDs, including nuclear weapons), ah, NOW the Bushies say it’s nothing to worry about.

Amazing.

July 15, 2006 @ 2:14 am | Comment

Great link on Iraq’s descent into sanguinary chaos, Richard.

Here’s a detailed article from Salon.com that gives some excellent insights into the various factions guning it out on the streets and their various motives:

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/07/12/baghdad/

July 15, 2006 @ 2:51 am | Comment

Great link on Iraq’s descent into sanguinary chaos, Richard.

Here’s a detailed article from Salon.com that gives some excellent insights into the various factions guning it out on the streets and their various motives:

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2006/07/12/baghdad/

July 15, 2006 @ 2:55 am | Comment

Read this surreal account about a reconstruction expert who literally could not give money away ifast enough n Iraq.

That’s your $500 billion in tax dollars at work, folks.

Rebuilding

That lack of co-operation led to an almost comical culture clash, with Rory’s American bosses believing the solution was to throw money at the problem to placate locals and trigger growth.
In one month alone, he was told to spend $10million, with the cash arriving in $1million bricks. But money alone wasn’t the answer.
He said: “I just couldn’t spend more than about $8.5million a month.

July 15, 2006 @ 7:35 am | Comment

Let’s see, the US has seen a potential coup d’etat by its military officers, an armed taxpayers insurrection, invasion and the burning of its capital, a 4 year civil war that left more than 600,000 dead, a depression, the virtual destruction of its Pacific fleet, two world wars, armed conflict with China, cold war with the Soviets, near nuclear armageddon over Cuba and the assassination of 4 Presidents.

Not only did the county survive all of these events, it flourished in their aftermath.

So, no, I do not see Koran waving goat herders, a low grade insurgency and yet another flare up in the Middle East as signs of our impending doom.

As for the so-called unprecedented regional conflict, just counting regional conflicts involving the US, I recall a Philippine insurgency, a war in Korea, and a war in Vietnam, plus a series of all out wars involvirng Israel and its neighbors, any one of which makes what is happening now look like a college dorm food fight.

So, spare me your ‘wails of dispair’ and allusions to ‘precipices’ and predictions of ‘catastrophe’. I’ve got a ball game to watch and your making the cat nervous.

July 15, 2006 @ 7:42 am | Comment

Chicken, did you read my post carefully, where i wrote:

Will America ever heal itself and rise to its heights of a few short years ago? Probably, because this is an amazingly resilient and powerful country, no matter how much Bush has crippled us. But the process will take years, and there’s going to be lots more pain along the way.

It’s not the end of the world. We’ll survive and later we’ll prosper. But if you can honestly look at where we are in Iraq and Afghanistan and what’s going on in ther Middle East and not see a clear and present danger and hear a wail of despair, then you are willfully ignorant.

July 15, 2006 @ 9:11 am | Comment

I’m not turning my back on my country – if I wanted to do that, I wouldn;t be writing of my despair, I’d be indifferent.

I’m just wondering– if America has truly suffered a catastrophic blow, should writing of your despair truly be considered anything other than self-involved flagellation?

But I do feel It’s an uncomfortable time to be living in America, a time of great frustration.

And all for a disagreement over political machinations?

Richard, at one point or another we have all felt frustrated at the ineptitude of opposing political parties. There was a time when I felt that President Clinton was not only trampling on the very rights that make our nation great (Ruby Ridge) but that he abandoned our soldiers after sticking them into a problem that he had no intention of solving (Somalia).

What did I do about it? I joined the military. I put myself into a position where I was not only directly impacted by his decisions, but I was surrounded by people directly impacted by his decisions. We all had skin in the game, so to speak.

Even today I do not agree with everything, if not most things, my government is doing. More so on the domestic side of things, but nonetheless I am often frustrated its lack of sensibility.

However, the concept of being involved with my nation’s well-being has been, and always will be, more important than a petty political squabble. While I would not encourage you to join the military (I imagine it would not be the best place for you at the moment), there are other things you can do that would make a difference.

Maybe pointing to my own imagined nobility isn’t the best course to take here, but I can think of no other way to tell you, “Other people have been where you are and they somehow managed to get through it without leaving the country.”

It may sound harsh, but fairweather citizens are as expendable as fairweather friends. If things are as bad here as you believe they are your fellow citizens need you here, not judging from afar.

Living away from the US doesn’t mean ignoring it. Read Sebastian Haffner to understand this viepoint better.

Please. To compare your viewpoint to that of a man who stood against Nazi Germany is insincere to the extreme.

But if you can honestly look at where we are in Iraq and Afghanistan and what’s going on in ther Middle East and not see a clear and present danger and hear a wail of despair, then you are willfully ignorant.

That wail of despair has been heard by many for decades.

July 15, 2006 @ 9:38 am | Comment

Robert, I’m one of the indifferent Americans Richard TPD mentioned. I did what I could to stop the madness, with my votes, my money (what little I could afford to donate to candidates/causes) and putting my feet in the street for demonstrations. To no avail.

I’m sorry, but leaving the nation simply because your efforts did not bear the fruit you desired?

That’s neither logical nor is it consistent with any sort of mature outlook on life. Just because something does not turn out the way you wanted or expected it to turn out does not mean it is acceptable to move on to a place where you believe you’ll have an easier time making your wishes come about.

As someone who was part of “the killing machine”, as you put it, and who has served in a place that I’m sure you would not hesitate to disparage, I can say I am entirely offended by your characterization of my service and my country. I find it interesting that a youth who was incarcerated by this government in Guantanamo would not hesitate to become a citizen and yet you would gladly give it up simply because someone you do not like has won a popularity contest. I guess that just shows the difference between real and imagined injustice.

July 15, 2006 @ 9:51 am | Comment

All I have to say is that Lebanon is a fragile democracy recovering from years of civil war, that had finally managed to throw out the Syrians, that was rebuilding, that was trying to show that a multi-cultural society can work in the Middle East, and now “brave little Israel” is bombing its hopes into rubble.

Meanwhile the Bush Administration stands by, squawks that “Israel has a right to defend itself,” and does absolutely nothing to stop what could easily become a spiral into region-wide war.

You got a ball game to go to, Chicken Little? Hope you own a bicycle to get there.

I have felt like leaving the US myself – a lot – because it’s painful to live in a country where your president has decided that “pre-emptive” war is okay, that torture is a legitimate way to treat your prisoners and that the separation of powers is a joke. You want to talk “quaint”? Put up Clinton’s so-called crimes like Ruby Ridge against the wholesale trashing of the Constitution and American’s international image brought to us by the Bush Administration. Note that Iraqis’ nicknames for American soldiers are “the Jews” – because they can’t see a difference between the US and Israel.

SOMEONE in the Bush Administration needs to engage in some very active and effective diplomacy, right now. But I don’t see that occuring. And I have to wonder if region-wide chaos is actually what they’ve wanted all along.

July 15, 2006 @ 11:52 am | Comment

Put up Clinton’s so-called crimes like Ruby Ridge against the wholesale trashing of the Constitution and American’s international image brought to us by the Bush Administration.

Thrashing of the Constitution and America’s image…

Two ill-defined accusations based off of subjective reasoning against a specific instance of the US government overstepping its bounds which resulted in the death of a US citizen?

This tendency to hyperbolically attack anything and everything the Bush Administration has done must be rooted in some dark part of the soul that I’ll simply never see. Even though I never approved of Clinton as a President, I certainly never attacked him with such irrational hatred.

While I admire your passion and enjoy your blog (found through TPD) I cannot help but be put off by such an unbalanced view of events. I’m sorry.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:28 pm | Comment

Unbalanced? Robert, have you been following issues such as Bush’s signing statements? Basically, the reason Bush has not vetoed any legislation is that he has upon signing them indicated that he does not feel bound to follow them. The Boston Globe has done very detailed reporting on this. Check it out.

The Bush Administration operates under the theory of the unitary executive, meaning that in their view, Presidential power trumps everything else. If this isn’t a trashing of separation of powers, I’m not sure what would qualify.

Look at the legal theories put forth by John Yoo, Alberto Gonzalez and Bybee (sorry, I forget his first name).

Glenn Greenwald’s blog is a good source, with a number of prominent commenters/guest posters who are self-described libertarians – Glenn himself is a political moderate.

As for the institutionalizing of torture, there are so many sources I’m not sure where to start, but PBS’ FRONTLINE has done some very good documentaries on the subject that you can watch online if you prefer. Dana Priests’ Pulitzer-winning series on extraordinary rendition in the WaPo is good as well.

As to my hatred of Bush? Look, I’m not going to pretend. I’m in my 40s. I’ve followed politics closely since I was a pretty little kid. And I’ve never seen anything that comes remotely close to the level of greed, corruption and destructiveness of this crew. They are taking things that I care very much about – the American Constitution and our rule of law – and trampling on them.

Then there’s what they’ve done to the environment and a host of other issues, but let’s not go there right now.

Yes, I am a Bush “hater.” But there’s nothing irrational about it.

July 15, 2006 @ 12:40 pm | Comment

They’re calling American soldiers, “the Jews?” Wow, now that IS eerie: Because it’s reminiscent of how, during the Middle Ages, the Muslims called all Europeans “the Franks” (partly because the French were the ones who repelled the attempted Muslim invasion of Europe above the Pyrenees)

July 15, 2006 @ 1:11 pm | Comment

About Bush-hating: As I’ve said previously on this blog, I hate the Bush administration precisely because I’m a conservative. There is nothing “conservative” about trashing the Constitution and the environment. Nothing.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:17 pm | Comment

I can assure you that I follow, as closely as I can, all the political developments that come out of the White House. They impact my life directly, and I have been sent overseas for almost a year because of one of his policies. Dana Priest, James Bamford, FrontLine, etc….I vary my media input as much as the next informed person.

Look, I don’t think you would disagree that for each issue you have listed, there is at least a competent and logical response from the other “side”. Seeing as how I was personally involved with one of the issues you put forth I can confidently say that I know there is another side to the story that that the media either ignored or simply missed.

Then there’s what they’ve done to the environment and a host of other issues, but let’s not go there right now.

I’d probably be beside you in bringing attention to those issues, Lisa. As I said, I disagree with much if not most of the current Administration’s domestic policies.

Yes, I am a Bush “hater.” But there’s nothing irrational about it.

Again, I admire your passion but maybe it is time to consider whether that passion is preventing you from being impartial.

In any event, I don’t want to be a party to a long internet debate so I’ll bow out after this. I respect your views and hope you respect mine.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:22 pm | Comment

Robert, I hear you.

I’ll only say that I’ve looked at the arguments “from the other side,” and find them severly lacking and based on premises that I find distasteful, to say the least. There’s a certain point where the evidence piles up and paints a picture that can’t be explained away by honest differences of opinion.

And you’ll probably be amused to know that a bunch of my leftier friends think I’m too conservative!

July 15, 2006 @ 1:38 pm | Comment

For goodness sakes don’t let them post here…I’ll never get any rest! ๐Ÿ˜‰

July 15, 2006 @ 1:41 pm | Comment

Richard:

Better willfully ignorant than congenitally ignorant my friend.

July 15, 2006 @ 1:52 pm | Comment

Huh. I think a piece of that sky must have conked “Chicken Little” but good.

Yeah. I actually got into an argument with a friend last night about my decision to “adopt” a soldier. She saw it as supporting the war.

I am, while not exactly conservative, somewhat of a moderate I guess. Living in China right after the CR pretty much convinced me that extreme ideologies of any sort don’t tend to bring about good results when applied to real life. And that revolutions happen in very desperate situations, so it’s not something to be wished for lightly.

Also, as much as I might object to certain aspects of globalization and global capitalism, I’m not sure what a viable substitute might be. I can only hope that in the future these agreements are conducted with the well-being of the many in mind, not just large corporate stakeholders.

In the meantime, I’m just sitting back, wondering what the consequences of $100 plus barrels of oil will be on an already fragile economy.

July 15, 2006 @ 2:02 pm | Comment

Lisa, about those so-called “liberals” like your friend who said adopting a soldier is supporting the war:
Next time they say anything like that, you can take them to task for how much oil they continue to use.

Do any of them have “war is not the answer” bumper stickers on their cars, completely oblivious to the fact that their cars are what’s driving the war?

July 15, 2006 @ 2:16 pm | Comment

PS, and it’s not just SUVs. It’s the whole bloody infrastructure of Suburban America.

July 15, 2006 @ 2:17 pm | Comment

Ivan, I just bought a bike. Now if only there were some bike paths I could ride it on where I didn’t have to worry about getting smacked by some SUV with a cell-phone yakking driver.

I respect my friend’s opinion. She has a different framework from which she views things – a background in Latin American history, which as you know is replete with dubious American interventions. I just tend to be more of a middle-way kind of person in general. And I’d like for my country to live up to its “better angels,” which do exist.

July 15, 2006 @ 2:53 pm | Comment

And what you said there about the lack of bike paths, illustrates the problem perfectly. It’s not just about SUVs. The problem is the entire infrastructure based on automobiles. Suburbia is a cancer.

July 15, 2006 @ 3:01 pm | Comment

Yup. I’d have to agree with that, Ivan. There are certainly ways suburbia could be made to work better. But as things stand…what a mess.

July 15, 2006 @ 3:12 pm | Comment

Robert, even though you’ve bowed out, I want to point out that my decision to decamp from America was not just because my guy lost a popularity contest. (I didn’t like Kerry that much anyway — not liberal enough.) It’s not easy to leave a bourgeois middle-aged life behind — took more than a year’s worth of planning, and we’re a big step DOWN on the economic ladder now.

However, as others have pointed out here, the Cheney Administration is pushing the U.S. into scarier territory than ever before. I believe the U.S. is becoming a fascist nation, where the power of government is used for the betterment of corporations, not the people. That’s what I couldn’t stop, and I refuse to participate in it. Plus the killing thing, of course.

Down here, we drive a Prius instead of the V-8 Mustang and Fiero GT we had in the U.S. I take the electric tram system to work. One of the reasons we chose Melbourne was because it has an infrastructure that will continue to function in the event of an oil shutoff crisis.

July 15, 2006 @ 4:57 pm | Comment

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