On Iraq, Whitestock, And Other Things.

This weekend I’m meeting up with an old army buddy, who is a very big fan of politics, and whom, on meeting, I could not understand what possessed him to pursue a career in the military, much less in the infantry in particular, though it seems he’s spending more time in school than anything else, and I don’t know if he has a job in an infantry battalion yet or is just a full time student.  I guess I’ll find that out.  He’s hosting a fundraising beer tasting and keg party for a couple of different military charities, and being just up the road in Fredericton, NB, I saw the pitch and decided I might take a ride down.  I’m looking forward to seeing him and he’s looking forward to talking politics, because while we were at the Infantry School we did have some very interesting and very heated conversations.  Although many people might think I lean left or am a liberal, that’s of course not actually the case – but it is for him – a left leaning centrist anyhow, well, no, maybe not even a centrist.

I’m sure we’ll have plenty to talk about, from the nonsense in DC last weekend (Beckstock, Beckoning, Beckpocalypse, Whitestock, whatever you want to call it, even the rather nonsensical title “Restoring Honor”), to Obama’s speech and the pseudo-pullout of Iraq that’s just happened, with the official end, without victory, of “Operation Iraqi Freedom”.  Your definition of freedom may vary.  And more interestingly perhaps, Canadian politics – he’s no fan of the current man in charge, and well, I’m not really either, but I don’t know if we’ll share a lot of views, it will be good to see.

So shall I weigh in on some of these things?  Of course, otherwise you’ll have nothing to read, and that simply won’t do.

First, and the subject on which I have the most to say for now, let’s talk about the ridiculous and bizarre event that was “Restoring Honor” on August 28, 2010 (or 8/28 as nutty rightwingers call it, for simplicity).  This event was hyped by bizarre talk show acolyte Biff “Glenn” Beck for quite a while.  I once in a while on my ridiculous commute home tune my XM radio to the Fox audio feed just to see what ridiculous and insane shit this man is going to say next.  Now, if you’re reading this I don’t need to give you the backstory on Beck, except that he’s a documented liar, and curiously, a Mormon…  Mormons are one religious group I really don’t understand, because it is the obvious product of a scam artist, and has a rather checkered and disturbing history of racism and violence that modern Mormons seem blissfully unaware of.  It’s interesting that a Mormon is pulling together and influencing other dangerous Christian fundamentalists though, since there’s some sort of mutual heretic tendency there.

Anyhow, back to Biff’s Bash At The Lincoln Memorial.  It was set on the 47th anniversary of the “I have a dream speech”, and Biff’s made a number of references to Dr. King, all while trying to claim he’s not interested in comparisons, and the date was a coincidence, and whatever.  Not that I’ve listened to him enough to get the full story (and realistically, even if I did torture myself that way, I probably still would be pretty confused about it anyhow, since he’s not exactly coherent most of the time), I couldn’t really understand what the whole thing was about.  He pitched it as an event to “Restore America’s Honor”, and that to me is cryptic.   To restore something is to put it back in previous condition, to bring it back into existence, etc.  Honor has various definitions, and is a little hard to pin down.  They tend to include things like honesty, integrity, esteem, respect, fairness.  So, here are the problems I have.  Neither of the key people at this event, Glenn Beck nor Sarah Palin, strike me as people to whom I would assign “honour” as a trait.  They are both liars, fearmongers, manipulators, etc.  How can individuals who are so apparently divorced from the concept of honour really “restore” it?  Second, what needs restoring?  I’ll grant that America’s reputation globally has been severely impacted by a number of poor decisions and terrible leadership, especially under the last adminstration, but if that’s the concession I made, it’s going to take a lot for a couple of conservative hacks (the “side” that made the mess, as it were) to put things right.

However, the whole thing seemed more cryptic when it then sort of morphed into a weird sort of “support the troops” event, when Beck claimed it would be promoting and soliciting donations for the Special Operations Warriors Families Fund (I think that’s what it’s called).  It always annoys me the way the right sort of hijacks soldiers as political tools, as though all soldiers were right wing extremists, which they are not.  It gets more unintelligible when you look at the “content”, which seemed to be some sort of strange, creepy religious thing… and then when you see the interviews with participants and the kind of shit they had on their shirts (since they were told to leave their signs, a constant source of embarrassment for teabaggers, at home).  I’ve only read and seen so many clips of these people, but it seems, not surprisingly, that the “audience” was mainly white aging folks, mainly religious zealots, with a level of ignorance that makes my brain hurt.  These are the birthers, the – what’s the term, is there one? – people who think Obama’s a Muslim or something else (which is irrelevant anyhow, but still…), the teabaggers who are so well described by Keith Olbermann as the “something for nothing crowd”, people who seem to think they should have the benefits of a modern, decent society, but someone else should pay for it – their kids and grandkids and so on, it would seem.

So what was the purpose of this supposedly “non-political” mess?  It has generated plenty of fodder for media, including nonsense about how many people were there – I quite liked that CBS stood up for the service that provided their estimate of 87,000 including explaining the methodology of the count, which they stand by, despite Biff’s lofty claims that 650,000 people were there.  Was any “honour” restored?  Not in my view, it just was a sort of fringe circus that probably was mostly ignored by people.  It’s very interesting too to see the fracturing in the American Taliban set because they are catching on to the Mormon thing.

The Mormon thing – I always think the second M should be silent.  Their story is so ridiculous that I don’t get why anyone falls for it – it is the handiwork of a fraudster, with a racist and violent past that would embarrass any Mormon that learns it – which is why it seems they are not too keen on people learning about it.  I’m not going to write some big post on the history, but it’s out there and easy to find.

Enough about Beckapalooza, though.  It will go down in history, I suspect, as unintelligible nonsense from a bunch of nutjobs.  At least, I hope it will!

There’s also Iraq to talk about – apparently the USA has withdrawn its “combat troops” from Iraq.  Wait, aren’t all troops combat troops?  Well, yes.  The idea is more that any operations beyond training and development of the Iraqi military and police services will cease, that America’s 50,000 (56,000 actually I think is the current count) still in country are only there to mentor, advise, and defend America’s interests there.  I think that while it’s being a little overhyped this is a crowning achievement for President Obama, and a milestone.  I didn’t see the speech last night, only transcripts, and it seems like it was well presented.  There is no victory to claim in Iraq, and people are largely finally realizing that it was not only a tremendous mistake, but it was sold to the world on lies, even though we mostly knew that I think.  I know I did, I was looking back over posts on my main personal blog from 2002 when the winds started swirling and all I could think then was how stupid it was.  And it turned out to be even worse than I expected.

The key was the words he had for America’s troops – many of whom by now I’d wager have  atour over there, acknowledging their commitment and sacrifice.  Remember, these men and women did not make the decision to go to war, they simply carried on with the job they were given, and while there were transgressions as in all scenarios, they did the job to the best of their ability, at often a grave cost.  They deserve to be honoured for their service, regardless of the opinion one has of the job they were sent to do.  Obama set up a nice transition that by closing the book on Iraq to the best of his ability he can try to focus America on the next one – the economy being key.  It’s what Obama’s presidency will live and die on, after all – dragging the US out of what seems to be like a a fundamental realignment of the economy.  I don’t know how much he can do, the world is not the same as it was before 2007, the shifts in what’s produced where etc are going to have an impact.  There’s going to be a lot of fundamental upheaval still, and I think a lot of people will lose out on the standard of living they once enjoyed.

What will make it worse is that the masses don’t seem to understand anything about economics and still subscribe to such ridiculous ideas as tax cuts creating jobs or stimulating the economy, which doesn’t seem to be born out by recent history.  What will matter is incentives to create jobs domestically, and Americans buying things they produce instead of cheap shit from China.  How to go about that, however, is fodder for another posting, I think I’ve run this one into the ground.

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