Robert McNamara dies at age 93

7 07 2009

Yesterday, Robert McNamara died at the age of 93 at his home in Washington.  McNamara is known best for his role as the architect of the Vietnam War.  From 1961 to 1968 he was responsible for engineering the escalation of American troops in Vietnam.  Because of him, the US went from only having a few hundred soldiers in Vietnam to having 17,000 soldiers by 1964.  His actions resulted in the casualties of over 58,000 American soldiers, more than 3 million Vietnamese soldiers and civilians, and approximately 1.5 million Laotians and Cambodians.

He knew that he played a key role in America’s involvement in Vietnam.  In 1964 he said, “I don’t object to its being called McNamara’s war.  I think it is a very important war and I am pleased to be identified with it and do whatever I can to win it.”

But perhaps what distinguishes him is his honest and open reflections on his role in Vietnam, which he soon came to regret.  Years later he described the Vietnam War as “terribly wrong”.  In 1995 he published a memoir, In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam in which he wrote:

[Top US officials] who participated in the decisions on Vietnam acted according to what we thought were the principles and traditions of this nation.  We made our decisions in light of those values. Yet we were wrong, terribly wrong. We owe it to future generations to explain why.

In The Fog Of War: Eleven Lessons From The Life of Robert McNamara, an award winning documentary produced in 2003 by Errol Morris, he said:

We are the strongest nation in the world today.  I do not believe that we should ever apply that economic, political, and military power unilaterally. If we had followed that rule in Vietnam, we wouldn’t have been there. None of our allies supported us. Not Japan, not Germany, not Britain or France. If we can’t persuade nations with comparable values of the merit of our cause, we’d better re-examine our reasoning.

AngryBlackBitch says:

And examination of McNamara offers a look at how certainty, ego and secrecy can result in policy that is fubar from the start…

…it also offers an opportunity to reflect on the limits of apology, the wages of war and the sad lack of accountability that eats at those who benefit from it even as it eats at those who object to it.

When I walked along The Wall and the cold stone grew taller and taller with name after name, person after person, friend after friend, son after son, father after father a shudder passed through me and I wondered how one could atone for such death and destruction…and I looked away as a woman wept softly while touching, barely making contact and oh so lightly caressing one name listed among the thousands.

And it is that moment that I think of now…those names and the millions of nameless Vietnamese that I think of now.

May they rest in peace.

And may we work to learn from the lesson of Robert McNamara…





What we missed this weekend

15 06 2009

Violence against the trans community remains largely prevalent but ignored – Group of Teenagers Attack Trans Woman in Seattle

Up in Canada, Sharon McIvor celebrates her victory over sex discrimination in the Indian Act – Justice for Sharon McIvor and all First Nations women – at last!

The Great Wall of Mainstream Feminism

A sick family business: a father and a son collaboratively ran a rape trade business, WTF?! – Police Arrest Rape Traffickers, Then Book Trafficked Women on Drug Charges

How does the US measure up when it comes to Paid Parental Leave?

And how does the US compare to other countries when it comes to military spending?

Meet D.C.’s Anti-Gay Marriage Crusaders

GLBT Peeps, If You Want Your Rights, Fly This Flag!

Spain – convicted trans woman transferred to women’s prison after 11 years

The Chrysler/Fiat Merger will emasculate the dudes?! Just for clarification – A Car is Not a Penis

Another great post from Renee – Privilege and Ignorance Speak Volumes

Check out Food, Inc.‘s blog, Hungry for Change. See the movie if you haven’t already.





Happy Memorial Day weekend!

23 05 2009

It’s unofficially the start of summer.  Here are some good weekend reads for you to peruse as you enjoy the nice, sunny, warm weather (hopefully it won’t get too hot or humid).

The High Cost of Poverty: Why the Poor Pay More – This may not come as a surprise to many of us, but this is an excellent “primer on the economics of poverty”.

You have to be rich to be poor.

That’s what some people who have never lived below the poverty line don’t understand.

Put it another way: The poorer you are, the more things cost. More in money, time, hassle, exhaustion, menace. This is a fact of life that reality television and magazines don’t often explain.

Finish reading.

What has recognizing your male privilege done for you lately? – Twisty has a great post up about male privilege, which is infused with her usual wit, charm and general badass-ness.

It really clogs the Twisty lobes to consider that there are maybe six guys on the whole internet who don’t need need to be told, among about 894 other obvious things, that

a) the entirety of feminism is not invalidated by the fact of that they personally love their mom, and
b) freely expressing their fancy-free male privilege on heartwarming nature crap blogs is experienced by the heartwarming nature crappists as aggression.

Read the rest.

Why We Must Investigate Torture – Torture is not a debatable issue.  It is just plain wrong and should never happen.  PortlyDyke invites us to join her in a letter writing campaign to congressional reps, President Obama, and the UN.

So, this post is my first step. It presents the reasons I believe that we absolutely must investigate, and an invitation — because I want you to join me (action item at the bottom of the post).

As a citizen of the United States, I consider myself a “cell” in the body of this nation – a nation that I believe is very ill at this point. If I am to help my nation heal, I have to become an active agent in its healing. So, here are (some of) the reasons I believe that we must investigate Torture:

Reason #1 – Because There is a Festering Wound in My Nation’s Heart
Reason #2 – Because There Is an Enormous Log In My Nation’s Eye

Reason #3: Because We Said We Would, and then We Said We Would Again

Read the full piece.

What the Guantanamo Speech Means for Civil Liberties – an interview with Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, on his thoughts on the implications of Obama’s recent speech on Guantanamo.

Since Obama’s inauguration, the American Civil Liberties Union has been one of his most consistent critics. At every turn, the ACLU has challenged policies that it see as circumventing Constitutional protections. Anthony Romero, the organization’s executive director, shares his thoughts regarding the Barack Obama’s speech on Guantanamo yesterday. He also discusses the president’s proposed changes to national security policy, the difference between the current and prior administration, and the ACLU’s plan to challenge some of Obama’s stated policies through the court system.

Read the interview here.

$1 Trillion and Counting… – $1 Trillion is the monetary cost that we’ve spent on fighting wars since September 11th 2001.  This in itself is staggering, but factor in the human costs as well which are more difficult to measure.  Our national budget is a reflection of our nation’s morals and values.  What does it mean that we spend so much money on war?

On September 12, 2001, could we have predicted spending $1 trillion for wars allegedly fought in response to the tragedy gripping our nation? Could we have imagined the human as well as economic costs?

Today, US forces are profoundly engaged in both Iraq and Afghanistan, with approximately 200,000 troops in the two countries and more than 21,000 additional troops requested for Afghanistan by the Obama administration. US military and Afghan and Iraqi civilian casualties increase daily as the economic cost-of-war counters roll on.

Continue reading.

MRA, Feministing, and Racism – Feminism is still not fully as intersectional as it can/should be, and therefore angers and alienates many women of color.  Renee’s gotten a lot of shit thrown at her for calling out white privilege (very un-ally behavior) which is incredibly incensing, but I do applaud her for handling it gracefully and responding with such eloquence.

I’ll bet the above is a bit of a shocking title.  Here’s the background knowledge that you need to be aware of.  May 19th was Malcolm X’s birthday.   He is a man that I have a great deal of respect for.  I had intended to write a post regarding his work with the women of the Nation of Islam, however time got the better of me and I simply posted his eulogy which was written by Ossie Davis.  That day I roamed around the blogsphere and noted that he was not mentioned on either Feministing, Feministe, or Shakesville.   In my opinion this is not a small oversight.

The next day Samhita put up a post a feministing wishing Malcolm a happy belated birthday and as I read it, I became angry.  My issue is not that the post was poorly written but that it fell once again to Samhita to cover an issue that is important to POC and that the post was a day late.  The following is the initial comment I left on the thread.

Get the rest of the story here.

Damn Denny’s And “Errbody” Else, Let My People Pee – Monica writes about Denny’s and a racist policy they had in the 80s where managers were ordered to not permit “too many Blacks to congregate in their restaurants”.  This was so entrenched that in 1993, a federal court ordered Denny’s to end their discrimination against black customers.  She links this to the recent case involving Brianna Freeman:

I’m taking this trip down Moni Memory Lane again because those images of past discrimination were on my mind when I heard about the Maine Human Rights Commission case involving Brianna Freeman.

The commission ruled on Monday that an Augusta, ME Denny’s franchisee store was guilty of discrimination when it barred Ms. Freeman, a regular customer of the restaurant, from using the women’s restroom until she had surgery.

Okay, I and the rest of the transgender community are beyond sick and tired of this bull feces ‘bathroom predator’ meme the Forces of Intolerance and other ignorant folks who hate on transpeople are pimping these days because they have no logic based argument they can us to deny transgender people their civil rights.

Finish reading.

Missing the Point Awards, Manchester Poster Edition – An advertising poster (completely PG) featuring a little girl pretending to breastfeed a doll is criticized as “disgusting”, “highly offensive”, “the sort of picture that a paedophile would show a kid”, “wrong”, “depraved”, “inappropriate and  unnecessary”… WTF?!

Councillor Jean Ashworth, who is a healthcare assistant at Rochdale Infirmary, says she is offended by the image.

She said: “Promoting breastfeeding is fine, but this is just offensive. “I wonder where it will stop, if these are the lengths the Trust will go to. I am in no way against mums who want to breast feed at all, but I think to see such a disturbing image of a child like that is inappropriate and unnecessary.”

What are the other idiotic comments people have made?

Once Again: Rape is NOT Your Personal Metaphor – I’ve blogged about this time after time after time, but there are those out there who still don’t get it and constantly misuse the word “rape” and throw it around all the time.  Here’s Cara’s take on why it’s not an acceptable or appropriate analogy to compare rape to developing a television show:

So remember how we were having a conversation fairly recently about assholes who throw around the word “rape” to mean anything but? Well I’m sure you’ll all be shocked to know that not every person on the internet read that discussion about how horrifying, triggering, pointless, blatantly misogynistic and fucking stupid such a use of the word is.

Including, even more shockingly, the fine folks at that upstanding blog known as Gawker (which, I believe I was recently reading, doesn’t currently have a single regular female writer on staff?). Because this is how CajunBoy decided to describe the awful, no good, very bad experience of . . . wait for it . . . developing a TV show! (Below the fold, and again, Huge Trigger Warning)

Happy reading!





Steven Green gets lifetime imprisonment

21 05 2009

Steven Green (for the background story, see here and here), former US soldier guilty of gang raping 14 year old Iraqi girl Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi and then massacring her family in March 2006, was spared the death penalty but was given a life sentence after jurors couldn’t reach a consensus on a proper punishment.  Via The New York Times (on a side note, I love how the article title makes no mention of rape; it just mentions murder):

Former Pfc. Steven Dale Green of Midland, Texas, will be formally sentenced Sept. 4 by U.S. District Judge Thomas B. Russell. Jurors who convicted Green on May 7 told Russell they couldn’t agree on the appropriate sentence after deliberating more than 10 hours over two days.

Green’s attorneys did not deny that Green was guilty, but argued that Green did not deserve the death penalty because of emotional/mental problems that he suffered with.  Meanwhile, the other guilty soldiers who were involved in the brutal attack have received long sentences in military prison.

I am glad that Green was not given the death penalty because I am opposed to the death penalty and do not find it an appropriate form of punishment (for reasons, see here).  Life imprisonment is acceptable because not only does it cost less than capital punishment does, but it also guarantees that the criminal will be in jail and therefore unable to commit further harm to civilians.

Other appropriate action, in addition to life imprisonment, would include restitution (meaning that Green would be put to work, with the money made going to the victims’ family/relatives) or rehabilitation (not merely punishment, but also having some compassion – clearly Green was and is not in a proper state of mind or heart and needs guidance).





Repealing DADT is really not that hard, can’t we just do it already?

18 05 2009

Andrew Sullivan has a great piece on The Atlantic about how Obama, just like the presidents who have preceded him, has failed to take more proactive steps in furthering civil rights for the LGBTQ community.  Not only is there inaction, but there is also a lot of silence.  Writing a note to Lt. Sandy Tsao, discharged for being openly gay, saying that he is “committed to changing our current policy” is insufficient.  (She was still discharged and where are we with repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?)

Sullivan writes (Bold emphasis mine):

And it’s tedious to whine and jump up and down and complain when a wand isn’t waved and everything is made right by the first candidate who really seemed to get it, who was even able to address black church congregations about homophobia. And obviously patience is necessary; and legislative work takes time; and there are real challenges on so many fronts, especially the economy and the legacy of war crimes and the permanently restive Iraqi and Afghan regions we are constantly in the process of liberating from themselves. No one expects a president to be grappling with all this early on, or, God help us, actually leading on civil rights. That’s our job, not his.

But I have a sickeningly familiar feeling in my stomach, and the feeling deepens with every interaction with the Obama team on these issues. They want them to go away. They want us to go away.

Here we are, in the summer of 2009, with gay servicemembers still being fired for the fact of their orientation. Here we are, with marriage rights spreading through the country and world and a president who cannot bring himself even to acknowledge these breakthroughs in civil rights, and having no plan in any distant future to do anything about it at a federal level. Here I am, facing a looming deadline to be forced to leave my American husband for good, and relocate abroad because the HIV travel and immigration ban remains in force and I have slowly run out of options (unlike most non-Americans with HIV who have no options at all).

And what is Obama doing about any of these things? What is he even intending at some point to do about these things? So far as I can read the administration, the answer is: nada. We’re firing Arab linguists? So sorry. We won’t recognize in any way a tiny minority of legally married couples in several states because they’re, ugh, gay? We had no idea. There’s a ban on HIV-positive tourists and immigrants? Really? Thanks for letting us know. Would you like to join Joe Solmonese and John Berry for cocktails? The inside of the White House is fabulous these days.

The Obama Administration is certainly a welcome and much needed relief and improvement from the Bush Administration.  Yet the Obama Administration has made it clear that we need to “be patient” and we cannot expect any immediate support, action or committal answers from the White House with regard to DADT and LGBTQ rights.  Contrary to what’s been said, repealing DADT would not be that difficult.

How to end dadt

The Palm Center at the University of California, Santa Barbara released a report last week, “How to End ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell': A Roadmap of Political, Legal, Regulatory, and Organizational Steps to Equal Treatment”, that presents a blueprint on how President Obama can end the unjust and discriminatory discharge of LGBTQ service members in the military without Congress enacting a law first.  Read the full report, or read a good summary and analysis here.





No one should have to beg for a job they shouldn’t have lost in the first place

12 05 2009

During his election campaign, Obama said, “We’re spending large sums of money to kick highly qualified gays or lesbians out of our military, some of whom possess specialties like Arab-language capabilities that we desperately need.  And then just last week, the US Army discharged National Guard Lieutenant Daniel Choi, an Arabic linguist who also served in Iraq, because he came out as a gay man.  Choi is fighting his dismissal and has written a letter to Congress and to Obama imploring them not to fire him:

As an infantry officer, I am not accustomed to begging. But I beg you today: Do not fire me. Do not fire me because my soldiers are more than a unit or a fighting force – we are a family and we support each other. We should not learn that honesty and courage leads to punishment and insult. Their professionalism should not be rewarded with losing their leader. I understand if you must fire me, but please do not discredit and insult my soldiers for their professionalism.

When I was commissioned I was told that I serve at the pleasure of the President. I hope I have not displeased anyone by my honesty. I love my job. I want to deploy and continue to serve with the unit I respect and admire. I want to continue to serve our country because of everything it stands for.

Please do not wait to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Please do not fire me.

This is a heartbreaking letter that really demonstrates the human consequences of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.  Imagine Choi’s position… He was and still is committed to his (former) job and wants to continue serving with his unit, which he calls “a family” that supports each other.  The only reason he was discharged is because he openly came out about being gay.  That is not sufficient grounds to fire a qualified, dedicated, good worker.

Meanwhile, back in January Army officer Sandy Tsao also came out to her superiors as a lesbian and wrote to Obama saying, “I do hope, Mr. President, that you will help us to win the war against prejudice.”  In May, she received a handwritten response from him:

Obama

Obama wrote, “I am committed to changing our current policy.  Although it will take some time to complete (partly because it is under Congressional action.)  I intend to fulfill my commitment!”  While I have a great deal of respect and admiration for Obama, the “it will take some time to complete” stuff is frustrating.  Repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell should be a top priority that should be taken care of sooner rather than later.





Steven Green Trial Update

11 05 2009

So the spotlight is on former soldier Steven Green who was convicted last Thursday of planning and leading the gang rape of 14-year-old Iraqi girl Abeer al-Janabi and later murdering her along with her family. The four other soldiers involved in this heinous crime, Pvt. James Barker, Sgt. Paul Cortez, Pvt. Jesse Spielman and Pvt. Bryan Howard, have been convicted as well and have been given long sentences. Pvt. Jesse Speilman was sentenced to 110 years, Sgt. Paul Cortez was sentenced to 100 years and Pvt. James Barker was sentenced to 90 years. In his closing arguments, Green’s defense attorney mentioned that the prosecutor offered the four other soldiers involved help getting out on parole in seven years if they testified against Green. As Gail McGowan Mellor writes in the Huffington Post:

In prosecuting the hate-crime slaughter by U.S. soldiers of the al-Janabi family in Iraq, and the gang rape of the teenage daughter, the five men are in federal custody; by the evidence, there is no question that the crimes occurred nor that it was these men who perpetrated them. Should any of the four men already sentenced be so quickly freed in order to nail the fifth, Green — especially if he has already confessed?

Something is clearly not right here… Yes, Green is the ringleader of the gang but the other men involved should be held accountable as well, not let off the hook for simply testifying against Green.  Green being the ringleader does not negate their involvement and participation in the violence that occurred, and since they conspired with him they were active enablers who are just as guilty.  Soldiers should get more than just a slap on the wrist for participating in heinous, violent war crimes.   Gang rape and murder should not be more acceptable and less punishable just because men in uniforms commit them.  They are still despicable crimes and should be treated as such.

The military is a boys’ club and it does much to legitimize and normalize violence and violent masculinity. Green bragged about the violent crimes immediately afterwards to his cohorts, including Sgt. Anthony Yribe who helped the five men cover up their crimes. Yribe not only conspired with these men in helping them hide the evidence of their crimes, but he also chose not to turn Green in or making any official note or report of Green’s confession to gang raping al-Janabi and murdering her family. Instead he simply gave Green an honorable discharge sending him back into civilian life in the US , noting that Green had an “antisocial personality disorder.” When Yribe’s role in this was revealed, Yribe was just dishonorably discharged.  Utterly disgusting.

It is important to constantly examine and re-examine the military and militarization.  When doing so, we need to focus more on just the military-industrial complex – we also need to factor in the politics of femininity and masculinity, dominant American ideology and the myth of rugged individualism, and the scripts of patriotism and citizenship that militarism inscribes in all of us.








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