Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The real reason we're in Iraq

I'm going way out on a limb here, for full disclosure. In other words, I'm pretty sure I don't believe what I'm about to suggest. But could we be in Iraq, not for oil, not for democracy and human rights, not to profit the military-industrial complex, and not to benefit the GOP, but rather to promote an intra-Muslim war to achieve our security goals. In some ways, this suggestion reflects less poorly on the adminstration, since it at least ascribes a motive rooted in US security. Of course, it would be more pernicious in a way too, insofar as it would constitute religious warfare, potentially on the order of the crusades or Hitler's extermination of Jews.

However, its at least an interesting lens through which to view the conflict. Through this lens, the policy is not clearly a failure. The strategy fits. In other words, if a Sunni-Shia war was the goal, Iraq would be the place to start it. The Sunni-Shia divide appears, based on what I know, to be most pronounced and focal in Iraq, with other middle eastern countries more clearly in one camp or the other. Going to war in Iraq had the effect, then, of the Lex Luthor missile into the San Andreas fault. Clearly Iraq is fully embroiled in all out Shia-Sunni war now. Iran, a shia state, is already in the game, and is projecting new Shia power. Syria may also be in the game, providing training, equipment, and probably foreign fighters for Shia militias and death squads. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, is funding the Sunni insurgents, and is likely exporting Sunni foreign fighters (also known as "Al Qaeda types") to the theater. Jordan and Egypt appear to be nervously on the sidelines.

Is what the adminstration wants to say, but can't, something more like "we want them to fight each other over there, so we don't have to fight them here?" It at least has the benefit of logic. It could possibly be true, whereas the platitude of "we're fighting them there so we don't have to fight them here" truly makes no logical sense, because nothing we're doing there pins "them" down or de-motivates "them" from coming here. However, if a Shia death squad killed your family, as a potential Sunni terrorist recruit, you might be more likely to fight them there, rather than heading to a camp to prepare for a terrorist attack against a western interest.

It should go without saying that I don't support this as a strategy, but simply wonder if it is an unsaid strategy. Part of what drives my theory is that it seems impossible that the adminstration is as incompetent as it seems to be. They can't possibly be capable of failing to reach their own goals so uniformly. I think they may be reaching some goals which they did not share with the rest of us.


Monday, May 28, 2007

Hand Slapping Forehead

Ok. We went in to Iraq because it had WMD's, and could have passed them off to terrorists, and Al Qaeda-related terrorists were in Iraq, and one even treated at a Baghdad hospital. Or maybe none of that was true, but that doesn't matter because we went into Iraq to establish democracy, which, beacon-like, would cause a message of hope and peace to spread through the Middle East. You see, it's democracy -- what the PEOPLE want -- that's important. That's why we're in Iraq. Except we're also mostly there because Al Qaeda is there, and if we don't stop them there, we'll have to fight them here. And if we pull out it will give Al Qaeda a huge victory. But if the Iraq government tells us to leave, we'll leave. But if 71% of its people, and a majority of its parliament tell us to get out, we won't leave. And if 70% of the people in the U.S., and a majority of its Congress want the U.S. to get out, we won't. Get it? Because it's about spreading DEMOCRACY. It's all about what the people want.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The War is Lost

Why anyone fails to understand the absolute correctness, the clarity, the truth, of Harry Reid's statement that "the war is lost," is beyond me. Everything this administration says and does fits precisely within the analogy of the gambling addict. The addict, after having racked up huge losses, always comes crawling around looking for more money, because losing would be "catastrophic" and because the only chance of "winning" can be had by continuing to play. Of course, the sober among us realize that the only winning strategy is to leave the table, because we know the house always wins. And the press and those who let out a collective gasp that Harry Reid said to the addict that he'd lost and it was time to go home are the worst enablers in history.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Abeer Qassim al-Janabi

One day, when my emotion for her recedes to a coping level where I can begin to even think about her life, let alone her death (and my emotion has not receded a whit in more than a year since I learned of her fate), I will write a song for Abeer, the girl from Mahmoudiya.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

My Hero, Stephen Hawking

From: http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070425/ap_on_sc/hawking_flight

"Astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who has been confined to a wheelchair for most of his adult life, expects weightlessness to feel like 'bliss' when he goes on a 'zero-gravity' flight Thursday aboard a refitted jet. . ."

This man has been living with ALS for over 40 years - many times over past the longest reasonable life expectancy he could have been given when diagnosed at age 21. He's now 65, and, oh yeah, during those intervening years he managed to compute many features of the space-time continuum and develop human understanding of our place in the universe. This guy is made of tougher stuff than the Iron Horse himself.

I think I'm going to re-read A Brief History of Time for my next book.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Bioethics Quiz

You are an expectant father in a frantic delivery room. Your baby is in breach position, and his little legs and part of his torso just past his belly button are out, but he's stuck and your wife is hemorraghing at an alarming rate. The OB informs you that, having been deprived of oxygen for so long, your baby will be severely brain-damaged, and will not survive more than a couple weeks on life support after birth, and will be essentially unresponsive and kept alive by machines for that short while anyway. Moreover, because the baby's head is compressing your wife's spinal cord, she will be rendered a parapalegic at the very least, and may also sustain severe brain damage from the hemorraghing, if they do not remove the baby immediately. If they do remove the baby immediately, she will likely be spared paralysis and certainly will suffer no brain damage. However, the only way to remove the baby is by a partial birth abortion. You have power of attorney and all applicable medical consent forms have been signed by your wife allowing you complete control over any health decisions she is unable to make.

Quiz question: who decides what to do? (hint: it's not really a bioethics quiz)
Answer (from the United States Supreme Court): A nearly all-male majority of Congress. And by the way, fuck you if you think stem-cell research might restore your paraplegic wife to full health.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

On Creationism

Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins both push an argument pointing out that creationists are making a scientific claim, and that the issue is not one of religion vs. science, but of which scientific claim is more accurate. Claims about how human beings originally came to be on Earth are scientific claims about the natural world.

Creationists accept the following theory, from Genesis 2:7-8, about how the first human, Adam, from whom we all descend, was created: "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul. 8: And the LORD God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. "

This is a scientific claim in that it is, at least in theory, empirically testable. Here's a thought experiment: let's set up video cameras to record the event. The creationist claims that if we could go back in time, set up video cameras and record at the precise place and time of the occurrence described in Genesis, we would see a man being formed from actual dust -- real matter in the natural world -- and springing to life after having wind blown up his nose. It is debatable whether the video would pick up God insofar as creationists, I think, would claim that he is supernatural and so would not be visible in the material world. But that's no matter because creationists accept (I think) that the dust, Adam, and the wind in his nose would be events involving actual matter in the natural world, and so should in theory be recordable on a video.

The "video" of evolution would involve much more footage, occurring over a much longer period of time, but you can imagine the prediction an evolutionist would make about what we'd see on the videos, the footage of which would go back at least as far as the lives of clearly non-human primate ancestors and forward through their step-by-step mutated offspring.

Thus, the creationist and the evolutionist both have predictions about what we'd see on the video tapes. They both make scientific claims that are testable, at least in theory. Based on other empirical evidence of which I am aware, including the fossil record, and the DNA links between our species and "lesser" primates and other related species, such as mammals generally.

Based on this evidence, my money is on a series of videos that trace man back through a mutation process that arose from a clearly separate species. I am still awaiting a presentation of evidence from creationists that is more impressive than the overwhelming evidence for evolution. I'd consider it if it were presented to me.

I have a similar belief about the virgin birth. We could, in theory, test Jesus's DNA and compare it to Mary's and determine if there was any other contributing human DNA. More crudely, we could do the video thought experiment with Mary too. I bet video would reveal sex, or perhaps rape. This would be the most shocking video ever, incidentally.

I think I'll end this post on that note before I go too much farther down this road just before Easter. . .