May. 6th, 2008

pmb: (unfortunately)
Torture is not okay. Torture is, in fact, never okay. Which means that I read with ever-increasing disappointment the news that the current administration actively approved of and explicitly authorized acts which we have successfully prosecuted as war crimes in the past. This means that torture is not "a few bad apples", it is instead the explicit policy of the executive branch from the top down.

I worry that none of this would change under a President McCain. He had this big reputation as a straight-talker about 8 years ago, but he rolled over and advocated for the Military Commissions Act, which is a horrifically two-faced piece of legislation. It expressly prohibits torture by the executive branch and also vests the executive branch with total authority in determining what is and is not called torture. He also seems to have kissed and made up with the people who ran the awful race-baiting campaign against him in South Carolina in 2000.

This means that I read http://electoral-vote.com with great trepidation, because it's looking more and more like the Democratic party is tearing itself apart in an effort to lose the fall election by as much as possible. Bad domestic policy is yucky, and can take some investment and soul-searching to recover from. Bad foreign policy reverberates for decades and causes wounds which take generations to heal. And the past 7.5 years have been marked by some of the worst foreign policy I can imagine, and John McCain seems to be desirous of continuing the disaster. Kissingeresque realpolitik is one thing (it may be bad and morally reprehensible, but at least it has goals and examines outcomes), but this hasn't been that --- it's been divorced from reality. They've pretended that the world was the way they didn't want it, and then they took the steps that would be appropriate in this imaginary universe to fix the problem. Unfortunately, their mental map of the world has proven to be very different from the actual territory.

Anyhow, I was reminded of these fun facts by reading two things today. The first was from former Talking Heads frontman and all-around crazy genius David Byrne (BTW - David Byrne has both a blog and an Internet radio station and they are both good in that insane David Byrne way) and the second was Cory Doctorow's new novel Little Brother (available in full online at http://craphound.com/littlebrother/Cory_Doctorow_-_Little_Brother.htm ). When the zeitgeist is full of conspiracy theories and dystopias based on stupid responses to terror, this stuff just comes pouring out.


While I've opened the political can of worms, I thought I should plug my solution to ending the Iraq War in the most humane way possible:

First it was the threat of weapons of mass destruction, but the current raison de guerre is that we deposed Saddam Hussein to bring democracy to Iraq. Which succeeded — or, at least, a vote was held and people voted and got a purple thumb and then everyone went back to having a big ol' civil war. Let's hold another vote. I propose that this ballot will have a single question on it: Should the foreign troops leave within 1 year? 1 year is a nice round number, and it allows for an orderly goodbye. If they say yes, then we train people if they want the training, accept refugees if they want to come and be US citizens, and we leave in a year. We can even split hairs on whether it should be a year of the Islamic calendar or a year on the Gregorian calendar, but that ends up being a pretty small difference. That's democracy: people vote for something, and then the government does that thing (modulo various checks and balances).

By all accounts and all polls, this ballot measure would end up with more than 70% of the Iraqi population voting us out of their country. Why are we staying in a country that does not want us inside of it? We ``brought democracy'', and if they aren't free to vote us away on their own terms, it starts being colonialism and empire-building. (Sidenote: If we do stay, what is the end condition? Will we stay in Iraq until ``terror'' surrenders and we finally win the war?)

We may have broken it, but we do not own it. Iraqis own it. It is, after all, their country that we broke. Let's find out what they want us to do and then do that.

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