Friday, September 14, 2007

Intellectual Honesty and Iran

For some time now, members of the Bush administration, from the President and Vice-President to the Secretaries of State and Defense, to the head of the CIA have been saying that Iran is arming the Iraqi insurgents, specifically with "shape-charge IEDs." For those of you who don't know, these are improvised explosive devices fashioned with a conical copper disc which are able to penetrate the armor on American military vehicles, as well as the body armor our servicemen wear. I have seen firsthand the damage these can do, and they are absolutely devastating.

Iran's actions have been characterized by our current administration, Presidential candidates, and conservative pundits like Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Sean Hannity as both state-sponsorship of terrorism and an aggressive act against the United States, bordering on an informal declaration of war. Many Americans' initial reaction is to agree that Iran is a threat which must be neutralized. But is there something else to consider here? Are we seeing the whole picture?

Remember that in 1979, Islamic fundamentalists--including a young Usama bin Laden--started gathering in Afghanistan. This group called itself the "mujahideen," (literally strugglers, though "those who wage jihad" may be more accurate) and were gathered together to drive the Soviets out of Afghanistan. It was the American CIA, working with the Pakistani ISI, who recruited, trained, armed and financed the mujahideen, which would eventually become al Qaeda (in fact, UBL refers to his group as "mujahideen" in his latest video). Seeing that the USSR was making a push toward the oil-rich Arabian peninsula, the CIA used the mujahideen as a proxy to enforce our doctrine of "containment" of the Soviet Union. This action was regarded as necessary and proper in defending our broadly-defined national security interests.

Once again, Iran is castigated and called a state sponsor of terrorism for using proxies and guerrilla tactics against the United States. Yet, when the United States used proxies and guerrilla tactics against the Soviet Union, we were acting in a strategic, defensive capacity. Only blatant intellectual dishonesty could possibly allow such a contradiction. If we are to be honest, then either both the United States and Iran are "state sponsors of terrorism," or we are both acting for our national security interest. Remember, too, that Iraq is Iran's neighbor. It could be argued that we were defending our regional allies by helping Afghanistan resist the Soviets, but there is no real sense in which the United States was acting in national self-defense when we created the mujahideen. Iran, on the other hand, actually has a US presence on it's western border.

Rather than talking to the Iranians and trying to allay their fears that they are our next target in the Global War on Terror, or even condemning their human rights abuses and encouraging democratic change in Iran, we are parking battleships off the Iranian coast, planning three-day strikes against Iranian infrastructure, and even threatening to unleash the incomparable evil of a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran.

This sort of behavior endangers our troops in Iraq, as the Iranians are given more reason to keep us bogged down there, so we are unable to invade them. We are effectively silencing internal voices of dissent as the Iranian people fall under the all-too-familiar spell of unity in the face of a common enemy. Finally, it damages our standing in the eyes of the world, including our friends and allies; no country would countenance a preemptive nuclear strike, and we have to wonder how China, Russia, Europe and the rest of the Middle East will react if they think that the United States is seeking strategic control over the oil fields of Iraq and Iran.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Non-Conformist or Just a Jackass?

As human beings, we must use our minds in order to survive; we don’t have instincts like animals. The use of our mind is volitional; we must choose whether to actively engage in thought, or coast through life on a perpetual acid-trip. Unfortunately, far too many people are content to suspend their rational capacity and rely on others to do their thinking for them. Non-conformists frequently ridicule uncritical conformity; however, many of these self-styled “radicals” are just as guilty of conformity as those whom they mock. These people are neither radical nor non-conformists; they are just plain old jackasses.

The field of politics is an excellent place to find potential jackasses. I will concentrate on three overlapping groups of people who, in attempting to rebel against the status-quo, manage to become dangerously conformist: socialists, environmentalists and the ubiquitous protestors. These people have one thing in common: they reject traditional values, then accept their perceived opposite without bothering to actually think about what is right, wrong, true or false.

Most people perceive capitalism to be the foundation of America’s economy. While this hasn’t been strictly true since FDR’s New Deal, it is still a common misperception; as such, young people looking for a way to be unique will often turn to socialism because it seems radical and shocking. They blindly follow anything Noam Chomsky and other leftist intellectuals spew out of their mouths, burn the American flag, declare corporations to be evil and disparage the American way of life with thousands of their “fellow travelers,” all while depending on the basic freedoms that no socialist country has ever allowed. Survey says: you are jackasses!

Environmentalists, or “greens,” are another good example of mindless rebels. Often aligned with socialists, these geniuses whine about things like global warming, overlooking the fact that their spokesmen, such as Paul Erlich, were screaming about global cooling in the 1960’s, and predicting world-wide famines in the 1970’s. These people are completely impervious to facts, logic and reality. Greens lobby for forced recycling, ignoring the fact that it takes more fossil fuels to recycle plastic than it does to create new plastic. Greens’ favorite pastime is rallying around one pet catastrophe after another. News flash for Henny-Penny environmentalists: the sky isn’t falling, you’re just jackasses.

The third example from the political realm is the protest movement. This movement started in the 1960’s with the masses of unwashed hippies who protested the Vietnam War. Unsurprisingly, many of the members of this group are also socialists and/or greens. Critical thought isn’t important for a protester. As long as you’ve got a catchy slogan, pissed-off demeanor and plenty of cardboard signs, you can be one of them. Do you enjoy protesting things like: the G8 summit, the latest war, fur coats and rich people? Do your hobbies include: breaking windows, throwing Molotov cocktails at cops and tipping SUVs? If so, congratulations! You’re a jackass.

This general jackassery bleeds over into pop culture as well, particularly the so-called “Generation X” phenomenon. You know the type: unshaven, bleary-eyed teenagers who bathe less often than a Frenchman, wear ill-fitting clothes and prefer “slacking off” to getting a job and doing something productive. These are the same people that “X-treme” marketing caters to, and can generally be described as X-treme jackasses.

A good example of the conformity-in-disguise of Gen-X is the number of so-called subcultures that are based purely on aesthetics. Specifically, I’m thinking of the “emo” kids and the punks. Emo “culture” is identified by the wearing of all black, as if to symbolize that life is dreary and pointless which, for most of these kids, is true. Self-mutilation is also essential to the emo kid. Punks also have their own style—too much gunk in their hair, spiked bracelets, worn-out clothing, tattoos and body piercings—which they enforce as strictly as any military uniform. Depending on how “hardcore” a given punk is, he or she may refuse to listen to any music that’s put out by a major record label, not because the music is bad or because the artists club baby seals in their off-time, but because anyone who is successful is automatically a sellout. Both of these groups are trying so hard to be different and unique, just like all their friends. Here’s a tip for all you emos and punks: cutting yourself and spiking your hair doesn’t make you cool. It just might, however, make you a jackass.

What, you might ask, is responsible for turning an entire generation into conformist jackasses? It all goes back to many people’s decision to let other people do their thinking for them. Why bother coming up with your own style when you can turn on MTV, the cultural Mecca of Cool, to find out exactly what you should be wearing, listening to and thinking? MTV claims to be racy, edgy and different, but in reality they’ve just taken the lowest common denominator of cultural phenomena and turned them into a new standard of conformity. Anyone who produces, stars in, or religiously watches anything on MTV is a grade-A, prime example of a jackass. Small coincidence that “Jackass” is the name of one of their more popular, and more mind-numbing, programs.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Just for fun

I was going through my hard drive and came across some old papers I wrote for my Writing 102 class. These got a great reaction from my professor and fellow students, so I thought I'd post them here for everyone to enjoy. Keep in mind that these are all very ascerbic, and could be quite offensive. Before you flame me, keep in mind that, while these are all semi-serious, they were written for humorous effect. I'll be posting one essay per day for the next few days. Without further ado, here is the first of my essays:

Get Away From Me, You Dirty Hippy

On August 15, 1969, the unfortunate residents of upstate New York found their peaceful, quiet community had been invaded. The intruders were not a conquering army bent on pillage and plunder; they were creatures much more vile: hippies. A scant month after NASA had put men on the moon, thereby achieving mankind’s greatest technological triumph, the single largest gathering ever of subhuman bipeds took place. Woodstock, a three-day long “music” festival, was a critical mass of the worst elements of humanity.

Hippies have plagued civilization since the mid-1960s, when experimentation with drugs—especially hallucinogens like lysergic acid diethylamide-25 (LSD), psilocybin, and mescaline—became popular among American youth. Drugs are life’s blood and mother’s milk to the hippy. Places with a large hippy population, like California, are awash with marijuana, LSD, cocaine and various other drugs. Psychedelic drugs have inspired many of the defining characteristics of the hippy. Tie-dyed shirts, folk music and black-light posters are but a few of the common hippy’s psychedelically-inspired accoutrements.

Hippies can generally be found en masse in places like the University of California Berkeley campus, Earth Day rallies, Burning Man festivals and Grateful Dead or Phish concerts. In order to get a better understanding of hippies, it is necessary to observe them in their natural habitat, however unpleasant this may be. While the reasons for UC Berkeley’s great percentage of hippies is not fully known, it is suspected that some Californians who have enough money to send their hippy kids to college are often former hippies themselves, and consider sending their kids to UC Berkeley to be a sort of apprenticeship. Thus, an otherwise prestigious college becomes a kind of guild for the spoiled progeny of hippies who either grew up or got lucky. After a few semesters at UC Berkeley, a budding young drug addict is able to achieve the status of full-fledged hippy, just like his or her parents, thereby completing the cycle.

One of the hippy’s favorite pastimes is whining about the environment. In 1970, Earth Day was created as a way for hippies everywhere to whine together about the importance of pristine nature and the evils of industry and western civilization. While bitching about the environment is important to hippies, it is secondary to the consumption of mind-altering substances. Burning Man festivals and concerts for bands like the Grateful Dead and Phish are gathering places for masses of hippies who come with the intent of destroying the remnants of their brains with drugs and rambling, incoherent folk music.

The common hippy is not hard to detect. From afar, one can observe several common characteristics of a hippy. Volkswagen vans seem to be the hippy’s vehicle of choice, despite the automobile’s inefficiency and pollution output. Hippies tend to wear dirty, ill-fitting clothes, usually emblazoned with peace signs and often tie-dyed. Whether male or female, the hippy will have long, matted hair that looks as if it hasn’t been washed in months, and hippies of neither gender will be clean-shaven, perhaps because it is impossible to shave when you’re stoned out of your mind.

If one is unfortunate enough to come into close contact with a hippy, their distinct odor will be readily apparent. Hippies almost always smell like a combination of dirty clothes, body odor, pot smoke and incense. Female hippies will sometimes perfume themselves with patchouli oil, as though they don’t smell enough like moist dirt naturally. For those ill-fated souls who actually come into physical contact with a hippy, the hippy’s distinct texture will be noticed. Hippies very rarely exercise or shower, since both require effort, so they feel like slimy, gritty bean bags.

Under the laws of evolution, it is reasonable to expect that hippies would be an endangered species. Yet somehow, they have managed to survive and even thrive, like cockroaches in a nuclear winter. In a perfect world, hippies would either not exist at all, or they would be awkward teenagers going through a particularly stupid phase. In the real world, however, there are no easy answers to the hippy problem. Short of carpet-bombing Phish concerts and Earth Day rallies, we may have no choice but to wait until California breaks off of the North American continent and floats out to sea, never to return.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Michael Sheuer: Everyone Except Kucinich and Paul Are Lying!

No doubt by now, you've heard that Usama bin Laden has released a new videotape today. At this time, I am unable to get a copy of the transcript, but it has been reported that UBL says that if we want to know why we're losing the war on terrorism, we need to read Michael Sheuer's book, Imperial Hubris.

Update: Thanks to Danny for sending me a link to the transcript. They were still working on this when I originally posted.

For those who don't know, Michael Sheuer was the head of the CIA's bin Laden unit, and has spent many years studying bin Laden and al Qaeda. His book, Imperial Hubris, argues that al Qaeda attacked America, not because of the 1st and 19th Amendments or Baywatch, but because of American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Just a few minutes ago, Neil Cavuto interviewed Michael Sheuer, asking him about being mentioned in the new UBL tape. Mr. Sheuer told Mr. Cavuto that the CIA has been telling politicians for 12 years that our foreign policy was causing these problems, and that he wasn't saying the policies were good or evil, but simply trying to understand the motivation of our enemies.

Sheuer then said that, "The nineteen men running for President, with the exception of Mr. Kucinich and Mr. Paul, are lying to the American people about this."

When former CIA analysts are telling us (on Fox News, no less) that our presidential candidates are lying to us, we have a serious problem. The question now is whether the American people, and specifically Fox News viewers, will take this message to heart, or whether they'll continue to stick their collective heads in the sand and chant the catechism, "They hate us for our freedoms."