stirring up the pot

downwitchyobadself

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Hi all. I'm a frequent visitor to other forums here, and sometimes cruise through the random discussion to see you ranting, raving, and chatting, usually in that order.

A few days back, someone sent me the following text, written by a friend who is also a reporter for the AP, stationed in Quetta. I was struck by it, and sent out a big e-mail to friends and strangers (and I'm not the forwarding type) with the text attached. It stirred up some interesting reactions, and most of the people to whom it was sent are a little more, er, calm than this forum's regular posters. So, I thought I'd put it here and see what you all thought.

I will repeat what I said in my e-mail at the time: I think this is something every American should read. If you agree with me, please help see that they do.

---------------------------------------

To whomever happens across these reflections:

This is a letter from a gray-beard American foreign correspondent sitting near the Afghan border waiting for Islamic zealots to grant him permission to go see damage wrought by U.S. zealots on destitute people caught between the two.

It is for family and friends and, more specifically, to be put aside for my young grandnephews and nieces, a growing crop of amazing personhood. I know that none of the intended recipients would mind sharing the contents, which are thoughts on what I've learned in 30 years of watching us get into this mess. But I emphasize: this is my view and does not engage my employer in any way.

We are deep in the poo, and we dug the pit ourselves. Unless we very carefully extract ourselves, the world you kids find will be vastly different, and a great deal less pleasant than the one your parents knew. With wisdom and patience, we can end up making things better for everyone.

Because too many of us were selfish and dumb, we Americans squandered the gift of being able to walk freely and proudly through a great, wide world. For all our good qualities, we ignored the one requisite for survival on a disparate planet: the ability to see things from someone else's perspective. So now a small number of disturbed but cunning people can use this against us, just as a 97-pound weakling who knows his martial arts can, in the right circumstances, flip a 900-pound gorilla onto its tush.

Let's say our weakling meets his gorilla after it has, for decades, pissed off most other animals in the jungle. The poor ape meant well; he even thought he was loved for his generosity. Strong animals supported him for their own reasons. But weaker and far more numerous animals resented what they saw as spotty, self-directed token help, the occasional toss of a banana in the face of great hunger.

The gorilla’s only hope is to go against its nature. Rather than pound its chest and bellow and fling its arms, it has to reflect on why the 97-pound weakling has so much backing from so many poor souls in so many places.

Now, let's make our gorilla into a guerrilla, a holy warrior such as Osama bin Laden. Never mind what we think he is. Let's, for a change, look at things from someone else's perspective. If we kill him without convincing public evidence of guilt, we make him a martyr, adding infinitely to his symbolic power. If we make lots of noise in going after him, and then fail, we add to his real power and humiliate ourselves to impotence in the process.

Our problem, in any case, is not crushing bin Laden and his network. In a world of six billion, there are going to be dangerous loonies. Fact of life, like earthquakes and oil spills. And let's get real here. Even if we had had the most stringent controls of Stalinist Russia, updated with modern technology, we couldn’t have prevented the WTC assault--at least not the first one. Hijackers used box cutters, for God's sake. Next it'll be origami knives torn from a holy text. Their target was 90 seconds off a flight corridor. Fighters can't scramble that fast.

Our real challenge is finding a way to channel the pitifully small amount necessary into other countries--schools, child health clinics, water catchment areas, farm roads...all that boring stuff that went out of fashion decades ago. We boast about our generosity. Foreign aid totals about 7 billion dollars a year. If you subtract what goes back to American contractors, what is stolen because of lousy controls, what goes into military crap and perks to win political friends, what is left for real foreign aid probably amounts to the cost of spoiled unsold hotdogs tossed out after a baseball season.

It's painful to watch Tomahawk missiles slamming into harmless mud buildings when you think that the cost of each one could educate a South Asian village for decades. Beyond that 7 billion, there is all the emergency aid we pour into disaster relief. But that’s another story. It would cost a lot less to avoid the disasters, thus sparing unbelievable amounts of misery no amount of aid can undo.

The bombing goes on, as much a product of our helpless frustration as a means of pursuing strategic goals. We have killed uncounted infants, children, women in shapeless sacks who are not, in any case, permitted to have political/religious views. What little of Kabul and Kandahar was left after decades of mayhem is now even farther beyond repair. When you figure the cost, counting all those steak dinners and video movies sent to pilots on Diego Garcia and ships at sea, that's a lot of books and school lunches.

However complicated the Washington lifers try to make it, it is dead simple. Nationality does not define people. We're all human. Educate a kid, and he’ll be a lot less likely to listen to lunatics like bin Laden. Of course, we missed a generation, so put this down to long term. Now we have a short-term calamity to confront. Easy enough. What’s terrorism? The sowing of fear among fearful people. We used to have wise presidents, not slick ones, guys who said things like, The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Exactly. September 11 was a horrible black day. But the world has seen others and survived. When something like that happens, and it may again, it is absolutely crucial to understand it for exactly what it was--a single, criminal act--and not make it worse by giving up our freedoms, our way of life, our concept of humanity, our basic dignity.

Take this anthrax thing. Very scary. But mailings to selected victims should not send a brave nation of a quarter billion people screaming to their drug stores for Cipro. For whoever does this, the point is not
to give some unlucky people anthrax. It is to empty the Capitol, to stop, to make sane people afraid of their own mailboxes. So far, they're winning.

Did someone suggest you get a gas mask? I mean, really. . .

Try this. Borrow someone else's mask, put it on, and look in the mirror. Then, with all that rubber covering your face, try to sing: "The home of the brave, and the land of the free."

We must learn perspective. We have no lock on love and grief. A mother in Papua or Palestine does not love her kids less than a mother in our American heartland. We mourn 6,000, suddenly lost at once in an act of senseless, cruel murder. Elsewhere, that many die by the hour of preventable causes because rich people who could spare the necessary nickel
don't take the trouble to notice. Out in the real world, you'll see how dangerous it is for us to believe ourselves to be better, to be more precious, than any other nationality. We face great risk when others see us as swaggering bullies. Among the scary reports I've seen is one from Lombok, a lovely island near Bali in Indonesia. Bali is Hindu, and overrun by tourists. Lombok is Muslim and pristine. Two German tourists were beaten by Muslims who thought they were Americans. Had the attackers known they were Germans, they'd have been fine. What has Germany ever done to harm humankind? Had they been Jews, even lapsed anti-Zionist Reform Jews from Arizona with a deep respect for real Islam, the story might have been longer.

Remember this:

Love your country, sure, but keep in mind it is only a geographic entity based on ideals and concepts. More important, love your species. Understand who else shares your planet, and respect their ideas. For some, religion is not an off-and-on identity but rather a code of life that outweighs everything else. Find a way to help poor people in other cultures raise their children with dignity, enough food to live on, clean water, basic health. Do not overestimate your own worth, or your nation's power.

Just picture a few rich families living behind walls in a poor neighborhood in a society where the gap between the two widens by the year. If the rich help the poor ones for the right human reasons, that's best. If they help purely for their own self-interest, that at least achieves the same result. If they don't help, for either reason, they will not survive. And the longer they wait to help, the greater the calamity when it comes.

Finally, remember that however proud one might feel about being American,
that does not translate to any special privilege. We don't each, in the eyes of others, automatically get a bigger piece of cake. I always cringe at those songs that call the United States the only free country on earth. There are lots of others, and some--in a real, practical sense--are freer. And all countries are peopled by human beings made exactly the way we are. We might be freer than some, and richer than most, but we're not better than any.

Stripped to the basics, we're like everyone else. We want an honorable, healthy life for our children. We want to close our doors at night with an expectation of peace until the morning. Above all, we want human dignity. If we do not do all we can to make these goals possible for other peoples --whatever their spiritual makeup--we cannot expect to achieve them for ourselves. September 11, I fear, was an introductory statement. More will follow.

Be wise, be strong, be compassionate. With wisdom, strength and compassion--and a litte luck--we'll all end up with a better world.

With love,


Uncle Mort

-----------------------------------

Also, the following image is on my desktop, thought I'd share it with you. It's a cover from a NY Times Magazine right after Sept. 11, a proposal by a New York artist for a memorial at Ground Zero.

<img src="http://forums.techguy.org/attachment.php?s=&postid=269111">
 

Attachments

Joined
Mar 18, 2001
Messages
1,741
Hmmm....

So I guess we wouldn't be having these problems
if we'd never "tossed them a banana"? Or should
we have given them all the bananas?

Hey let's divide everything equally like the
communists, then we can all have the same
degree of happiness (or is that misery?)...
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2001
Messages
1,230
Downwitchyobadself,
Thank you for sharing the letter , it was a breath of fresh air.
I know sometimes when the merde(or what feels like)is hitting the fan ,I forget how lucky I am to be born in this time and in this place. I have learned that no matter what labels that people like to call themselves , we are all human beings trying to live with dignity,integrity and courage to do what is right.It is that which unites us rather than divides.
I believe in the ideals of loyal opposition and that if everyone had the experience of going to a third world country and participating in their lives and cultures that that compassion for others would come through ,not to mention the generosity of spirit..It is because our own points of view come from a different mindset and outside influences that we don't see with an objective view and need a honest account of anothers perspective to make us think..
Uncle Mort has shared his experiences and hopefully, it will prompt others to do the same...Thanks again.
Cadaver Queen
 
Joined
Feb 20, 1999
Messages
51,023
All this "nice-nice" is nice and gives us all a warm fuzzy feeling, which is exactly what the Taliban and bin Laden are banking on. This guy (Uncle Mort) talks like he's discovered some new pearls of wisdom that no one else has yet figured out--make everyone happy and they'll be no more suffering or war in the world--what enlightenment!!! I pray for the day that naive stupid people like Uncle Mort stop saying and thinking that the solution is so easy--just feed and educate the rest of the world. Hell, we can't even do that here in this country and it certainly isn't for a lack of trying.

The bottom line is we are not going to stop bin Laden and other terrorists like him by sending them care packages nor can we ever "consider their point of view" until its brought to the table in a peaceful manner. These terrorists understand only one law and that's the law of the jungle. The best thing we could possibly be doing for Afghanistan is exactly what we are doing--removing the animals that are in power there now. Once that's done, we can all have a nice big peace rally complete with canned good donations for the people of Afghanistan as well as figuring out how to fight world poverty--we'll all feel warm and fuzzy inside. But right now we have to get rid of the Rats in Afghanistan so the people of the country will have food to eat. That's is where our focus should be--not on Uncle Mort's pearls of wisdom.
 

eddie5659

Moderator
Malware Specialist
Joined
Mar 19, 2001
Messages
37,484
Hiya

That took me a while to read. Yes, I agree with the letter in some degree but this type of thing has been going on for years.

Look at Ireland. The IRA and other factions have been fighting for over 30 years. We have had attacks on the mainland, including MI5. There have been countless deaths, of men, women and children.

Our goverment once had some of the bombers in jail, and then, due to some agreement, let them go on the condition that they cease killing. Well, surprise surprise, the bombers went back to bombing. These were some of the worst killers in the war that is over there.

Now, although why not earlier, the goverment has finally frozen their funds. Lets hope that they suffer and stop fighting. I know this is off track from Bin Laden, but its still terrorism.

Over here in England, Wales and Scotland we just pretend everythings going okay over there. But its not. Its time that ALL terrorism is stopped. Period. Okay, its not international, but still.

eddie
 

downwitchyobadself

Thread Starter
Joined
Oct 13, 2000
Messages
941
Originally posted by Mulder
All this "nice-nice" is nice and gives us all a warm fuzzy feeling, which is exactly what the Taliban and bin Laden are banking on.
Hmm... interesting. I thought they were actually banking on killing and destruction. I don't think even Uncle Mort is arguing with that.
This guy (Uncle Mort) talks like he's discovered some new pearls of wisdom that no one else has yet figured out--make everyone happy and they'll be no more suffering or war in the world--what enlightenment!!! I pray for the day that naive stupid people like Uncle Mort stop saying and thinking that the solution is so easy--just feed and educate the rest of the world.
Not as easy as trying to hit the Taliban from 40,000 feet, and whoops ... I'm sure the people who hang out on this site can appreciate the ease with which technology "makes mistakes." I wouldn't mind making a few more in the direction of naive stupidity myself. Beats the hell out of violent stupidity.
Hell, we can't even do that here in this country and it certainly isn't for a lack of trying.
Hmm... maybe it's not so easy after all. Maybe that means we should, oh, I don't know, work at it prior to been-there-done-that dismissal?
The bottom line is we are not going to stop bin Laden and other terrorists like him by sending them care packages nor can we ever "consider their point of view" until its brought to the table in a peaceful manner. These terrorists understand only one law and that's the law of the jungle.
Oh, I think it takes a lot more than the "law of the jungle" to blow up a couple skyscrapers and the defense headquarters of the free world with a few box cutters and airplanes.
The best thing we could possibly be doing for Afghanistan is exactly what we are doing--removing the animals that are in power there now.
I'm not sure you're not slipping something akin into Islamic-extremist rhetoric here... What, exactly, is the difference between basing attacks on the idea that the enemy is an "animal" (I think they're actually "people." Oppressive, narrow-minded ones, but people still. Which I would call the subtler side of Uncle Mort's "stupid, naive" argument. Of course, you have to dehumanize an enemy before blowing it away.) and the idea that the enemy is an "infidel" on crusade?
Once that's done,
...We'll call your grandkids, and then...
we can all have a nice big peace rally complete with canned good donations for the people of Afghanistan as well as figuring out how to fight world poverty--we'll all feel warm and fuzzy inside.
That will be nice. Almost as nice as dropping humanitarian aid that sets off mines or gets the people looking for it to set them off, and looks like unexploded cluster bombs (oh, whoops, it's blue now, my mistake) for about 37,000 out of the 8 million people who can't eat (in that country, that is) and didn't use any box cutters on anyone.
But right now we have to get rid of the Rats in Afghanistan so the people of the country will have food to eat. That's is where our focus should be--not on Uncle Mort's pearls of wisdom.
The rats, the animals. Fear not, sarge: our focus is obviously, clearly there. Even when it's obviously, clearly not working. Which, moreover, is why Uncle Mort is there, I suppose, reporting for the AP. Of course, I'm sure his point of view is mostly based on just sitting back in America and being naive and stupid. That's why the Associated Press chose him as their representative, trying to keep up with CNN. In any case, don't worry about the food: we're dropping it from time to time. Not as often as the bombs, but at least with equal precision.

We could go on like this for years, you know. In both senses of "we"; I post, you post, I post, you post. The US bombs, the terrorists bomb, the US bombs, the terrorists bomb. In the year or so that I've been watching this particular forum, I don't think I've seen your point of view budge by so much as a nanometer. Which is why I won't be bombing you back again. The whole point of education, in its purest sense, is to change one's point of view, and more importantly, to change one's capacity to change one's point of view. It wouldn't be learning if you knew it already. You, apparently, know it already. Just like bin Laden, just like the Taliban, and just like, sadly enough, the American military, which must, thanks to decisions made, now shoulder the responsibility for "what happens next", insofar as the responsibility belongs to the US. In times of crisis, we turn to knowing. And yet so many people, me included, talk about the absolute incomprehensibility of what happened September 11. If I posted what I posted here, or sent it out for people to read, it was because despite weeks of scouring newspapers and websites of varying points of view and varying nationalities, I felt like this was a point of view I hadn't heard yet. You don't like it; I didn't think you would. Nor was the journalist concerned about your point of view; he addressed it to minds he expected would be open, i.e. his family. They must be stupider and more naive than you, I suppose. But isn't that one of the greatest things about America: the ability for a whole range of people, from the stupid and naive to the stupid and close-minded, to put their feet in their mouths at every single step of the way, with zero penalty. Now that's the warmest, fuzziest feeling I can think of.

As you can see, I'm not actually nice-nice about much of anything. True, I personally tend to think of "people" as "people", so I guess if that's your definition, then sure. I'm nice-nice. But mostly what I try to do, in a pre-September-11th world just like in its aftermath, is to avoid bombarding people with what I think. Especially when I'm not sure the technology is good enough to hit the target. Or whether the target really is one.
 
Joined
Mar 18, 2001
Messages
1,741
Well, I sincerely believe we're trying to minimize
civilian deaths. If we weren't, there would be a
lot more of them than the inflated figures the
Taliban is giving out.

Do you think the Taliban or Bin Laden would
take any thought for civilian casualities when
trying to retaliate for an attack on their country?

Oh, wait a minute... we already know the answer
to that don't we? :rolleyes:

What is the US supposed to do at this point, if
not retaliate?
 

wen

Joined
Jun 17, 2001
Messages
601
there's talk going round that the bomning may stop for the holy period of ramadam, does this mean that bin laden will respect thanksgiving and xmas?
or will it be another excuse to terrorise the christian/western world?
who says "uncle mort" isn't just some taliban with a computer sending out e-mails to western folk to sway the thoughts?

i watched "beneath the veil" as mentioned in another thread, a lot of afghanistan was already bombed to the ground when the programme was made 4 years ago, who says the the filming al jazera is showing now is not of that, saddam hussein used actors whats stopping bin laden?

wen
 
Joined
Feb 17, 2001
Messages
3,245
Right well...If these so called innocents, peacefuls, and whatever else you want to call them in afgan are so wanting an equal to our americas...then why the bloody hell don't they give us the demons who have brought more destruction on an already poor country. They dug their own graves by allowing such extremists like the taliban and binladin, to rule over them. They are millions over how many taliban and ONE binladin. OH and yes...what about if they are so innocent, why run? Just hand them over innocents will speak for it's self. What I see is cowardess. It's letters like that, in a time like this, that should be put towards encouraging the people who are giving up their lives to help keep our counrties free not in putting pity on those that have allowed and caused all this evil. As you said these are not animals they are HUMAN, but what you left out is, as a human they have choice only animals do not. They chose to protect that which is bringing death to their country.
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2000
Messages
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downwitchyobadself, I know exactly what you mean.

Both of us are Americans living abroad, and as such, have a different view of the world than our country-locked countrymen. Trying to open their eyes with how the rest of the world IS seems to be a waste of time for the Mulders of the world.

They are, indeed, as fanatical in their desire to punish bin Laden, as bin Laden is wanting to punish America. I think both viewpoints, as well as any other fanatical viewpoint,is wrong. I believe that Uncle Mort is describing a world that is not going to happen, because we have fanatics on every side of every issue. It's not even a case of right or wrong in some situations, but who is more right!


But, the situation stands at this . . . Uncle Mort is absolutely right in one regard at the least, and I don't even think that Mulder can disagree . . .
. . . If we kill him without convincing public evidence of guilt, we make him a martyr, adding infinitely to his symbolic power. If we make lots of noise in going after him, and then fail, we add to his real power and humiliate ourselves to impotence in the process. . .
We can not sit idly by, as a nation, right now. I disagree with how America has decided to proceed with this mission against Afghanis . . . sorry . . . the Taliban and bin Laden! That is my right, by the simple virtue of my being an American. But, I have a RESPONSIBILITY to my country as well. To stand by it in times like this. If we have chosen this course of action, then we MUST see it to it's completion.


I want what Uncle Mort wrote, but now is not the time to be indecisive and contrary. Now, a unified front needs to have firm support and backing to achieve favorable results, and I do not want bin Laden getting away with becoming a martyr or by making the US and it's allies look the fools. I especially do not want this to happen because America was split in it's purpose. Having another Vietnam or Korea would be disastorous to us.

Russia was made to look the fool in Afghanistan already, and you know they are waiting for it to happen to Uncle Sugar as well!
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2000
Messages
7,762
Originally posted by wen
there's talk going round that the bomning may stop for the holy period of ramadam, does this mean that bin laden will respect thanksgiving and xmas?
or will it be another excuse to terrorise the christian/western world? . . .

I believe that we should finish the job as quickly as possible, even if that means that we bomb through Ramadan, and Thanksgiving and X-mas.

If we bomb during Ramadan, and take Thanksgiving and X-Mas off, then we will lose a lot of Public opinion. Regardless what Mulder might say, this "War on Terrorism" will flop if the US try to go it alone. George "dubya" knows this, which is why he enlisted many other countries to help fight this "War on Terrorism".

george "dubya" knows, unlike Mulder, that this CAN'T be just about revenge. It needs world support.


and to any of you who don't understand why I keep on using Mulder as my example, it is due to the long and unproductive debates he and I have had on other posts, on the same topic. When he stops coming across as a "rabid patriot", then he does provide very useful insights. However, when he puts on his "anti bin Laden" face, he is the mirror image of his nemesis. One side of the same coin, which, IMHO, does not need to exist. It's not Mulder, as a person, that I have a problem with, it's fanaticsm I have problems with!
 
Joined
Jun 26, 2000
Messages
7,762
Originally posted by GreenIs
They dug their own graves by allowing such extremists like the taliban and binladin, to rule over them. They are millions over how many taliban and ONE binladin.

WOW!!! Last time I checked, it is a VERY American fallacy to believe that anyone has a choice over who rules them. I know you are in Canada, so maybe I need to revise that statement to "North American fallacy . . .".

and
Originally posted by GreenIs
OH and yes...what about if they are so innocent, why run? Just hand them over innocents will speak for it's self. . . . They chose to protect that which is bringing death to their country.
Mulder talks about us, and Uncle Mort, being naive, but do you really believe that bin Laden was ever going to receive a truly fair trial?

I remember telling my Mom, on Sept 11, that George "dubya" would have to, within 1 month, have found who was responsible for this, and if he didn't, then he would have to "find" who was responsible. get my drift?? My mom, during that conversation, said that everyone was talking bin Laden. My response to this was, then I guess they already "found" him!

I have not seen, nor heard what "evidence" was put together to "convict" bin Laden, but I didn't really care very much. That murdered deserves death, regardless of whether he actually had anything to do with Sept 11. The difference to what I believe, is that I can accept that there is no "hard", "verifiable" evidence against him. he would not have survived this long, and done as much damage as he has done by being that sloppy.


Stop reacting emotionally, and start using your head, coldly and logically! terrorist instill terror, and people let them get away with it because they react emotionally. It is also how Governments rule! get the people behind you, and you can't lose.

I wonder if any "proof" turned up that proved, conclusively, that someone else was responsible? I think that if that ever happened, no one would ever hear about it, because everyone already knows that bin Laden is guilty!
 

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