October 29, 2006

Religious belief

Many philosophies, doctrines, religions and political groups are antithetical to human development and fulfillment - but, paradoxically, the search into and through them may be essential for that development and fulfillment... so long as you can journey through and out the other side.

As was said by the prophet Muhammad - long dead, but much revered- "Seek knowledge, though it be in China." At that time China was not only the furthest known place of human habitation (from his point of view), but also the furthest from the mono- and polytheistic understandings of the Universe that were familiar to Muslims.

I have been, at one time or another, an Anglican Christian, an atheist, a Hatha Yogi, an Anthroposophist, and a Sunni Muslim. Now I suspect that gods are the product of your own Unconscious; but I still think it healthy and useful to worship them, because that is how your conscious mind respects and communicates with the mysterious but essential Unconscious part of your being.

As for a Creator of the Universe, trailing its unfathomable question of where the Creator Itself came from, the issue is not of practical importance. Perhaps the entirety of creation, including us, is the Creator. But unless we create indefinite lifespans for ourselves, the matter is irrelevant. Of more practical value is trying to figure out how to have the world governed by Law, not War - and the value of religious belief in this area is ambiguous, to say the least.

October 27, 2006

Iraq and Kurdistan

Many reasonable Americans feel they should not pull out of Iraq, because they are responsible for the mess, and shouldn't walk away and leave the country to sectarian violence. "What would you do?" they ask.

"Leave immediately, because the invasion was illegal and unwarranted. Apologise for the deaths of 650,000 Iraqis. And, given that the US is spending $300 bn a year on the war, give $300 bn a year to the UN instead, and ask the Blue Helmets to restore order and repair the infrastructure." But the US won't, because they still hope they can keep military bases in Iraq, somehow.

Then the reasonable Americans ask, "But what about the conflict between Iraq's component pieces?"

The reply is the same as for Kashmir, Turkey, Chechnya, Canada, Macedonia, the Basque regions, Sudan, Nigeria... hold a referendum. Ask the people if they want to be part of the country they are currently part of, or not. If there is a geographic concentration of people numbering in excess of a million who don't wish to be part of their existing state, let them form their own instead.

In the case of the Kurds, they are an ethnically, linguistically, culturally concentrated people, 40 million of them, who happen to live in an area that has been artificially divided up among the countries of Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran. If any government on this planet was genuinely and disinterestedly in favor of democracy and human rights, it would be advocating the creation of Kurdistan.

That would leave the other two components of Iraq, the Sunnis and the Shias, with their different histories and cultures and geographic concentrations. Split them into two nations - Iraq as a nation was never more than an artificial creation of the British, patched together in the aftermath of the break-up of the Ottoman Empire. So the Shias would have a lot of oil, and the Sunnis wouldn't? So what? They're both good Muslim peoples, surely they can accept that Allah put the oil with some people and not with others for His own good reasons!

But unless you start with a referendum, all you have is a festering wound that will persist for centuries; the other options are to kill all the Kurds, or to drive them all out - and even driving them all out is only going to give you 40 million pissed-off Kurds some place else.

Law, not war; and begin the process of law with a referendum on national identity.

October 26, 2006


If there is a war on terrorism; and if President Bush acknowledges that being in Iraq creates new terrorists; and if he keeps the US in Iraq anyway; then he is guilty of supporting terrorism, of giving aid and comfort to the enemy, of treason.

(This is in addition to being guilty of an illegal war of aggression, of lying to Congress, of violating the Geneva Convention, of the deaths of hundreds of thousands of non-combattant men, women and children, etc.)

The only consolation (for those of us who prefer international law to might-makes-right anarchy, but who fear the US Supreme Court is made up weak-minded conservative hacks and spineless political appointees) is that Messrs. Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld will spend the rest of their lives in fear of the International Criminal Court bringing them to trial and to jail, when the ICC is properly strengthened in the next few years.

Let's have more Law, Not War!

October 25, 2006

The Good News

The good news is that overt imperialism hasn't worked well for the past 50 years.
50 years ago the British, French and Israelis tried to grab the Suez Canal from Egypt. It didn't work.
49 years ago the Gold Coast gained independence from the UK as Ghana, and the whole of Africa began its decolonization.
In the 1960s the US tried to take over Vietnam; they were driven out in the 1970s.
In 1979 the USSR tried to take over Afghanistan, hoping to drive further south and have a port on the Indian Ocean; they were driven out by the end of 1989.
Partly because of the Afghanistan Adventure, the Soviet Empire lost first its satellites, and then most of its non-Russian components.

Maybe Francis Fukuyama hoped, when he wrote "The End of History", that with the end of the Cold War all the rules had changed. Unfortunately for the NeoConservatives, imperialism still doesn't work well. The world is too aware, with mass travel, mass media, mass communication; we know (even if only in a partial way, and with our own biases) what is going on in other countries, and why.

At the end of Bush Senior's presidency, Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby produced the "Defense Planning Guidance" for Dick Cheney, the Secretary of Defense. It called for the United States to maintain a monopoly on global power, so that it would be unchallengeable by enemies or allies. With regard to the Middle East, it called for an improved position in terms of its permanent military bases and its control of oil. When the report was leaked and much of the world protested, Dick Cheney disowned responsibility for the report.

However, PNAC (the Project for the New American Century, whose name clarifies its intent to dominate the world for the next hundred years) provided a vehicle for the continued advocacy of those ideas. In PNAC's 1997 Statement of Principles we find the same demand for US military domination, the signatories including Cheney, Wolfowitz and Libby, as well as Fukuyama, Donald Rumsfeld, William Bennett, Steve Forbes, Jeb Bush... even Dan Quayle. In 1998 PNAC wrote to President Clinton about Iraq; to preserve US interests "means removing Sadam Hussein and his regime from power. That now needs to become the aim of American foreign policy." They urged taking "the necessary steps, including military steps, to protect our vital interests in the Gulf. In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council."

So the Bad News is that PNAC came to power, took the opportunity provided on September 11, 2001 (when a handful of dissident Saudis based in Afghanistan attacked symbols of American commercial and military hegemony) to stir up the American people, lie to them, and lead them to invade Iraq in conjunction with whichever foreign politicians they could buy. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children have been killed; a trillion dollars has been diverted from improving life in the United States to destroying the infrastructure of an already poor country; the outpouring of sympathy and support for the United States from all countries in the wake of September 11 has been squandered and turned into fear and loathing; the development of the UN, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Treaty on Global Warming and similar useful agencies has been set back 20 years; and it was done by an ignorant frat-boy of a President with a yee-haw attitude, who stole Florida to get elected in 2000 and stole Ohio to get elected in 2004.

But the Good News is that the US, having tried to take over Iraq, is proving again that imperialism really doesn't work very well any longer.