Rage against the machine

20 03 2013

*Update* Check out Conor Friedersdorf’s review of anti-anti-war commentary.

I don’t even remember why I was against the war.

It’s easy, now, after the lies and mess and blood and money and vengeance and torture and horror and exodus, to say What a monstrous disaster.

Did I see all of this coming? I don’t know. I was skeptical, fearful of the what-ifs, but did I foresee the monster we would become, the disaster we would inflict on ourselves and the people of Iraq?

I doubt it. I doubt it.

I don’t feel vindicated for having been right. I didn’t have to argue myself into skepticism, didn’t have to fight my way past the shiny objects dangled in front of the American people in order to arrive at the summit of wisdom.

There was no summit, and I claim no wisdom. Is it really that hard to be skeptical of unnecessary war?

This is why I rage and despair in equal measure at those pundits who say “I was wrong, but I could have been right, so. . . .” They couldn’t be bothered to perform the most basic act of citizenship: to think, to think beyond one’s desires and sorrows and glee—and you betcher ass there was glee at the prospect of war—about what we were, truly about to do. Could they not be bothered to wonder at their own anticipation?

I am ungenerous in my interpretation of the commentators who supported the war, ungenerous in my reception to their ex post facto “soul-searching”; I read their apologies as justifications.

This is unfair (at least to John Cole), but I don’t care. They lost nothing by being wrong, suffered no consequences for whooping it up as the Congress and the Bush administration led us into destruction. They are sorry only that the destruction was inglorious, rather than shockingly awesome.

Again, this is unfair, I know, I know.

And it puts too much on the sideliners, not enough on the Congress and the Bush administration. I vent my rage at the pundits because I despair of influencing the politicians.

Once a president decides to go to war, that’s it, we’re going to war.

Pundits make the pitch easier; protesters are, if not ignored, a useful foil. But, truly, nothing any of us says, matters. We don’t matter, except, perhaps, to ourselves.

If a president wants war, war is what we get.

Ten years after

19 03 2013

You know what this is about, right?


March 19, 2003-March 19, 2013.

Financial cost: $812,067, 323,000—and counting.

Cost to to US soldiers: 4487 killed, 32,223 seriously wounded, 30 percent of all who served developed serious mental problems shortly after returning home

Costs to Iraqi civilians: estimates of numbers killed range from over 100,000 to over 600,000

(And much more here)

Removal of murderous dictator: done

Democracy established: ???

Number of nuclear weapons found: 0

Evidence of links to Al Qaeda found: none

Former Vice President Dick Cheney thinks it was all worth it.


I marched against the first Gulf War in 1990, unsure whether it was necessary, worried about the fight I was sure the Iraqi army would give to the US. We’d win, I remember musing to my friends T & S, but it could be bad.

It was bad, but not in the way I thought it would be.

So endeth my venture into confident predictions about complex events.


I was in Montreal when the planes were hijacked, crashed. I got into an argument either that afternoon or the next morning with a colleague’s girlfriend over the innocence of the US, over ‘who started it’, how it would end.

At least, I think that’s what we argued about; I could be wrong. I do remember the director of my program murmuring that it was perhaps too soon to be voicing such opinions.

I don’t remember if I responded that it would be too late it if I waited, or if I just thought that.


The US wouldn’t attack Iraq, would it? Really? Isn’t it obvious this whole thing is ginned up? What the hell is in the water down there? Has everyone gone mad?


January is not the best month in Montreal in which to march around outdoors for hours, and then stand and listen to speeches for awhile longer.

But hundreds of thousands of us did, more than once. If you looked through the side streets from Ste. Catherine you could see the people streaming past in the other direction up boulevard René-Lévesque.

Some of us carried signs, some of us carried children, some, candles. We shouted and sang and chanted in French and English and Spanish and Arabic and Hebrew and we could all hear one another, but none of it mattered.

We froze our asses off for peace and none of it mattered.


Why didn’t more people listen to the skeptics, the peace-mongerers, the critics?

They didn’t like our puppets. We said mean things about Bush. We were leftists. We were anti-American. We were against all wars. We were nobodies. We were rude. And smelly. And played drums.

I mean, if the people against war play drums, that’s certainly a good reason to support war, isn’t it?


Those who were right about the war were dismissed for having been right.

Who was against the war? cry those who were for the war. How could we have known? We were too emotional, too caught up in war fever.

Why did no one speak?

What else did you expect?

So we were wrong, but we were right for having been wrong.

And those who were right? Well, they could have been wrong.



There are no lessons—no, wait, too many lessons, none of which will be learned.

The wrong have “moved on”. Those who admit they were wrong are cleansed by the admission; those who don’t, blame those who were right.

Lessons? There are no lessons.

There’s only next time.

“If I wanted the government in my womb. . .”

1 03 2012

“. . . I’d fuck a senator.”

Oklahoma state senator Judy McIntyre spotted this sign held up outside of her office in protest of a proposed personhood bill and decided she needed to pose for pictures with that sign.

Fellow Democratic senator Constance Johnson had her own take on the bill, proposing a “spilled semen” amendment declaring wasted seed an act against the unborn (which dovetails with alleged historian David Barton’s musings that “I have to consider that Biblically, life begins before conception because it says ‘before you were in your mother’s womb I knew you’,”. . .).

And, of course, Virginia senator Janet Howell offered her own rectal exam bill in response to her state’s stick-a-wand-in-a-woman bill.

Fine responses, all.

And the appropriate response to sex-is-dirty (-for-all-of-those-slutty, slutty-women) comments and the US bill to favor the rights of conscience of employers in matters of contraception by erasing the rights of conscience of employees?

Why, Miss Piggy singing Peaches!

(So, so, so NSFW)

Seems. . . right on so many levels.

Courtesy. Professionalism. Respect.

15 11 2011

Don Emmert/AFP/Getty Images

Rat bastard

6 01 2009

Brandon Darby is a coward.

Mr. Solidarity-Forever collaborated with the FBI, working as an informant during the Republican National Convention as well as, according to the New York Times, ‘cases not involving the convention. He defended his decision to work with the F.B.I. as “a good moral way to use my time,” saying he wanted to prevent violence during the convention at the Xcel Energy Center.’

Who is Brandon Darby? According to the Times, he’s an organizer from Texas ‘who gained prominence as a member of Common Ground Relief, a group that helped victims of Hurrican Katrina in New Orleans.’ According to those who commented in response to his letter on the Independent Media Center website (first link), he’s likely a long-time snitch, informing on ‘fellow’ activists and radicals for at least a couple of years.

According to Darby himself, ‘Though I’ve made and will no doubt continue to make many mistakes in efforts to better our world, I am satisfied with the efforts in which I have participated. Like many of you, I do my best to act in good conscience and to do what I believe to be most helpful to the world. Though my views on how to give of myself have changed substantially over the years, ultimately the motivations behind my choices remain the same. I strongly stand behind my choices in this matter.’

Darby apparently didn’t like the thought of a good protest, by those of ‘pure intentions’, being ruined by those who ‘used the group as cover for intentions that the rest of the group did not agree with or knew nothing about and are now, consequently, having parts of their lives and their peace of mind uprooted over.’

Translation? He didn’t like violence.

I don’t like violence. Once again, I’m with Arendt in standing for politics and positioning violence as the anti-politics. I’m not a pacifist, but I find it difficult to justify violence in an open society. Whatever the problems of the American polity—and there are many—we have the ability to address those problems politically, not criminally or violently. We (whoever the ‘we’ are at the moment) may not win, but rarely are we finally vanquished. We get to act, and to act some more.

Violence works against such action, works against a notion of a gathering together for public action. It seeks to alienate rather than engage, and to separate us from rather than ally ourselve with one another.

And no, I’m not a procedural or deliberative democratic theorist, either, who thinks if we all just talk to one another long enough we’ll all get along. I’m with the agonistes, who see conflict at the center of politics.

Which is precisely why I’m opposed to both to violence and the shitty, underhanded behavior of the so-called protector of the pure:

It is very dangerous when a few individuals engage in or act on a belief system in which they feel they know the real truth and that all others are ignorant and therefore have no right to meet and express their political views.

Additionally, when people act out of anger and hatred, and then claim that their actions were part of a movement or somehow tied into the struggle for social justice only after being caught, it’s damaging to the efforts of those who do give of themselves to better this world. Many people become activists as a result of discovering that others have distorted history and made heroes and assigned intentions to people who really didn’t act to better the world. The practice of placing noble intentions after the fact on actions which did not have noble motivations has no place in a movement for social justice.

This isn’t even coherent. Is he trying to keep intact the innocence of those who would otherwise defend the actions of violence aggressors? Or perhaps I could offer a psychological explanation, and repeat that last sentence Right back atcha, Brandon!

If politics has no place for violence, it has no place for innocence, either. You want to be a political actor? Stand by your actions. No hiding, no pretending, no I-didn’t-know-any-better. There is conflict, and you’re on one side of that conflict. Why on you on that side? In what do you believe? You want social justice? Then you stand up for it first and foremost on your own side.

There are always hangers-on and trouble-makers at any kind of political gathering. Most of the time they’re only annoying, and some of the time they’re dangerous. Confront them. Stand up for your principles and state that those who would use violence are not, in fact, on your side. Hell, go so far as to say that you’ll treat any and all who’d suggest violence as an agent provocateur, the suggestion itself as prima facie evidence of informant status.

Got that, Brandon? You confront these people publicly, you put yourself forward—you take the risk—with the idea that you will get others to join you. That is politics. It’s not easy, and you will be opposed, but you know what? The conflict will at least occur in the open, and by attempting to draw others in, you have a shot at deepening both politics in general and the commitment to social justice in particular. You take a risk, and you take responsibility, and you invite every other person at that gathering to take the same risks and responsibilities, and give each of them the chance to act.

But no. You had to play Big Daddy Protector, foreclosing the possibilities that your fellow activists could, in fact, take care of themselves and, perhaps, grow politically. You robbed them of their chance to act.

That’s the real shame of your informant activities—that’s what makes you a rat bastard.

As for the rest, well, is it ironic or unsurprising that a man who says it is ‘My sincere hope is that the entire matter results in better understanding for everyone’ ran to the F-fucking-BI! rather than engage in this ‘discussion’ when it mattered. That’s what makes you a coward.