'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Appeal for Redress

Last Wednesday, I posted about the Appeal for Redress, active duty soldiers petitioning for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Aaron Glantz describes one of the reasons for the emergence of this movement:

One reason for the rise in discontent is the high percentage of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan who return from the war with serious injuries. According to documents obtained by the National Security Archive at George Washington University, 25 percent of veterans of the "global war on terror" have filed disability compensation and pension benefit claims with the Veterans Benefits Administration.

One is a July 20, 2006, document titled "Compensation and Pension Benefit Activity Among Veterans of the Global War on Terrorism," which shows that 152,669 veterans filed disability claims after fighting in Iraq or Afghanistan. Of the more than 100,000 claims granted, Veterans Administration records show at least 1,502 veterans have been compensated as 100 percent disabled.

The numbers hardly surprise Adele Kubein, a graduate student in a teaching position at Oregon State University and a member of the group Military Families Speak Out. Her daughter Makesha, a member of the Oregon National Guard, was blown out of her helicopter in Iraq.

"Her leg was shattered and she was kept in combat two more months after that with a shattered leg," Kubein told IPS. "She was eventually medically evacuated out, and she was held on a base in Colorado interminably. They were not going to release her because there was no plan in place for medical assistance for National Guard members. They were threatening to release her from the military without further medical care."

Pamuk, Snow and the Nobel Peace Prize

On Thursday, October 12th, I posted a review of Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow in response to his selection for the 2006 Nobel Prize for Literature. In that review, I quoted the insightful perspective of the iconoclastic Spengler as a major feature of my review. Yesterday, Spengler elaborated upon Pamuk's current predicament:

Whatever the political motivations of the Swedish Academy might have been, Snow is an indispensable tale of civilizational tragedy. The pity is that Pamuk's own case would have made an even better novel; in the best self-referential fashion, he has become the protagonist of his own fiction in the theater of the real. Jorge Luis Borges would have been amused.

When Pamuk told a Swiss interviewer in February 2005 that Turkey had massacred "a million Armenians" during World War I (the actual number was more than twice that), he joined a number of Turkish academics who broached the great taboo of Turkish history. But he underestimated his country's swing toward political Islam under Prime Minister Recep Erdogan. The following June, Turkey enacted the notorious Article 301 making it a crime to "insult Turkishness", and Pamuk was charged retroactively. A storm of international protest persuaded the Turkish government to drop the charges, but Pamuk now lives in effective exile in New York, where Columbia University shelters him with a visiting professorship.

During a June 2004 visit to Turkey, US President George W Bush offered:

The Turkish writer Orhan Pamuk has said that the finest view of Istanbul is not from the shores of Europe, or from the shores of Asia, but from a bridge that unites them, and lets you see both. His work has been a bridge between cultures, and so is the Republic of Turkey. The people of this land understand, as that great writer has observed, that "what is important is not [a] clash of parties, civilizations, cultures, East and West". What is important, he says, is to realize "that other people in other continents and civilizations" are "exactly like you".

The bridge has fallen, leaving Pamuk gasping for breath on the Western shore. Turkey's Western loyalties were founded upon a secular nationalism that sought to bury Islam under modernizing reforms. Pamuk's theme in Snow is the horrible emptiness of secular Turkey, with its poverty, inertia, bureaucratic sclerosis and official brutality. Thoroughly secular in upbringing and outlook, Pamuk nonetheless evinces profound sympathy for the Islamic loyalties of the Turkish poor, as well as the terrible attraction that political Islam holds for Turkey's disappointed elite.

Did Israel Use Uranium Weapons in Lebanon?

Lastly, I posted extensive coverage of the Israeli assault upon Lebanon during July and August. Now, Robert Fisk ponders whether Israel utilized a new uranium weapon during the conflict:

We know that the Israelis used American "bunker-buster" bombs on Hizbollah's Beirut headquarters. We know that they drenched southern Lebanon with cluster bombs in the last 72 hours of the war, leaving tens of thousands of bomblets which are still killing Lebanese civilians every week. And we now know - after it first categorically denied using such munitions - that the Israeli army also used phosphorous bombs, weapons which are supposed to be restricted under the third protocol of the Geneva Conventions, which neither Israel nor the United States have signed.

But scientific evidence gathered from at least two bomb craters in Khiam and At-Tiri, the scene of fierce fighting between Hizbollah guerrillas and Israeli troops last July and August, suggests that uranium-based munitions may now also be included in Israel's weapons inventory - and were used against targets in Lebanon. According to Dr Chris Busby, the British Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk, two soil samples thrown up by Israeli heavy or guided bombs showed "elevated radiation signatures". Both have been forwarded for further examination to the Harwell laboratory in Oxfordshire for mass spectrometry - used by the Ministry of Defence - which has confirmed the concentration of uranium isotopes in the samples.

Dr Busby's initial report states that there are two possible reasons for the contamination. "The first is that the weapon was some novel small experimental nuclear fission device or other experimental weapon (eg, a thermobaric weapon) based on the high temperature of a uranium oxidation flash ... The second is that the weapon was a bunker-busting conventional uranium penetrator weapon employing enriched uranium rather than depleted uranium." A photograph of the explosion of the first bomb shows large clouds of black smoke that might result from burning uranium.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?