Archive for September, 2008

Do they care?

Do you truly believe the American people care about Afghan civilians who are killed in airstrikes? Are you in this anti-war effort because you think American people would truly care about international law, the Constitution, and brown skinned people if given the opportunity? Who are you fighting for?

These are searching questions. I do actually think the answers are yes, yes, and yes. The philosophical question aside, there is factual evidence to bear on the questions of the attitudes of the US population. The US public is not the same as what you see on television; its thoughts are not necessarily the same as those of media pundits and the major parties; the insanity of elect-o-tainment and “drill, baby, drill” is not the same as the everyday lives of everyday people.

At a time when polls of the US public regarding the election seem to be moving in the direction of McSame, it may actually be refreshing to see what Americans think about various important issues in the world. The US population has a notorious reputation for factual ignorance; but that does not necessarily mean that its moral sense is clouded. Polls on actual issues are very rarely reported on; quite apart from distractions, rhetoric, bluster, posturing, distortions and lies, when the MSM goes to polls they are usually horse-race polls of the candidates; when polls on issues are discussed, they are usually on whatever topic has been rabidly propagandized recently, and asked in the framing of elite media discussion. Of course, whatever polls say, our job is the same; if the polls showed a depraved population that would be just more reason to work harder.

So some data is below. A fairly random selection, but I think there is evidence there to support most of an answer of “yes, yes and yes” to these questions. A great website to see on these matters is http://www.americans-world.org/default.cfm, on American attitudes to the world. Most of the data below I got from there. One has to be careful with poll results but I think some general thrust can be discerned here. They are loosely organised, not very well organised.

It might be a bit much to say that this is enough to restore one’s faith in humanity, but they may be somewhat reassuring. Then imagine what the results would be if the media were actually informing the population of what’s going on. And also imagine how people feel, giving answers in some cases which go against everything the media and both parties tell them. I actually think there are some fantastic nuggets in there.

Who am I fighting for? I don’t consider it a fight. To me it is more a matter of being able to look in the mirror. If it is a fight for anything, it is a fight to save the future; that the world can operate according to the bulk of the poll results below. In a democratic society, that should be automatic. So why are we not there yet?

A. Foreign bases:

1. Is the US military presence in the middle east a “stabilizing force” or “provokes more conflict than it prevents”?
53% say it provokes more conflict (33% stabilizing).

2. Permanent bases in Iraq?
At least two-thirds say no consistently.

3. A “major military presence in the Arabian peninsula…even if such a presence near Islamic holy sites may been seen as provocative to Muslims”?
44% yes, 39% no.
But if “a majority of people in the Middle East want the US to remove its military presence there, do you think the US should or should not remove its military presence?”
59% yes (37% no).

4. “If most people in East Asia want the US to reduce its military presence there”, should the US do so?
55% thinks so (38% not).

B. US role in the world, unilateral vs multilateral

1.”Since the US is the most powerful nation in the world, we should go our own way in international matters not worrying too much about whether other countries agree with us or not.”
Two-thirds reject this statement, consistently, over recent years.

2. “The US is playing the role of world policeman more than it should be.”
At least two-thirds agree consistently; three-quarters in recent years.

3. “The US should be playing the role of world policeman”?
Consistently majorities say no (at least 57% since 1991).

4. Asked to choose between whether “the U.S. should continue to be the preeminent world leader in solving international problems”, or “The U.S. should do its share in efforts to solve international problems together with other countries”, or “The U.S. should withdraw from most efforts to solve international problems,”…
… an overwhelming majority (at least 70%) consistently choose the second option.

5. Should the US play “a shared leadership role” or “the single world leader”?
About three-quarters has consistently wanted the shared role.

6.”The United States has a responsibility to fight violations of international law and aggression around the world, even without the cooperation of its allies;” or “the United States should work only in a coordinated effort with its allies to fight violations of international law and aggression around the world”?
Consistently at least 60% want the cooperation of allies.

7. Is it important that US foreign policy take into “account the views and interests of other countries”?
90% say yes.
But, on the other hand, should we “what we think is best for our own interests even if other nations oppose us.”
79% say yes.

8. “When the United States acts alone against terrorism, it makes itself a bigger target than when it cooperates with other nations in a coordinated crackdown on terrorism”.
71% agree.

9. Is it important to US foreign policy “Cooperating with other countries on problems like the environment or control of diseases”?
95% say yes (70% very important, 25% somewhat).

C. International institutions

1. Working with international institutions? Will “it… be increasingly necessary for the US (United States) to work through international institutions”, or are “international institutions… slow and bureaucratic, and often used as places for other countries to criticize and block the US. It is better for the US to try and solve problems like terrorism and the environment on its own instead”?
Consistently in recent years at least two-thirds wants the multilateral approach.

2. Do these international institutions need to be strengthened?
The WTO – 63% yes (30% no).
The World Court – 56% yes (29% no).
The WHO – 80% yes (15% no).
NATO – 61% yes (29% no).
The IMF – 42% yes (38% no).
The World Bank – 49% yes (39% no).

3. Should the US “contribute troops to U.N. efforts to help defend U.N. members if they are attacked?”
69% say yes (23% no).

4.Support “working through the UN to strengthen international laws against terrorism and to make sure UN members enforce them”?
Consistently overwhelming majorities (>85%) agree.

5.”Trial of suspected terrorists in an International Criminal Court”?
Consistently over 80% agree.

6.”The use of military force is more legitimate when the United Nations (UN) approves it.”
Consistently at least two-thirds agree.

7.”If countries were to feel that they could attack each other whenever they thought it was best, the world would soon fall into chaos and conflict. It is very important for the US to set a good example to other countries by getting UN approval for taking military action.”
71% find this argument convincing.

8.”When vital interests of our country are involved, it is justified to bypass the UN.”
62% agree.

D. Giving up sovereignty (!!!)

1.”For certain problems, like environmental pollution, international bodies should have the right to enforce solutions.”
60% agree (17% disagree).

2. Should the US participate in the International Criminal Court?
Consistently at least two-thirds say yes.

3. Should the US “make the commitment to accept the decisions of the World Court?”
57% say yes.

4. “In the event that the UN has evidence that there is an international terrorist group operating in a country”, should the UN Security Council be able to “requiring the country to allow a UN-sponsored police force to enter the country and conduct investigations?”
70% say yes.
To “freeze the assets of the suspected terrorist group?”
85% say yes.
“Requiring the country to provide intelligence on the suspected terrorist group?”
88% say yes.
“Requiring the country to arrest the suspected terrorist group?”
87% say yes.
“Sending in an international military force to capture the suspected terrorist group, if the country refuses to do so?”
82% say yes.

E. Global warming

1.”Do you think the U.S. should or should not participate in the Kyoto agreement to reduce global warming”?
Consistently at least two thirds say yes. (When offered a “no opinion” option things are murkier however.)

2.”Do you think President Bush favors or opposes the U.S. participating in the Kyoto agreement to reduce global warming?”
The population is generally split evenly about 45%-45%.

3.”As you may know, George W. Bush has decided that the US (United States) should withdraw its support from the global warming agreement adopted in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. Do you approve or disapprove of this decision?”
32% approve, 51% disapprove.

F. Nuclear weapons

1.”Do you favor or oppose the goal of eventually eliminating all nuclear weapons”?
82% say yes.

2.Should the US sign “a treaty with other nations to reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons, including our own?”
70% say yes (24% no).

3.Should the US participate in the comprehensive test ban treaty?
86% say yes.

4.Should the US participate in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty?
78% say yes.
(The question included a brief description of the treaty. Then it asked: Did you know it existed? 51% say yes.)

G. Moral motivations for foreign policy

1. “How important is each of the following to you personally as a reason for the US (United States) to be active in world affairs?” (0 not important at all, 10 extremely important)
“I want to help people who have less than we do–no matter what country they live in.” – 6.85 mean (26% say 10).
“We have a moral obligation to help people in other countries who have less than we do.” – 6.41 mean (20% say 10).
“I have a religious belief that we should try to help the disadvantaged wherever they are” – 6.9 mean (33% say 10).
“We have a responsibility to leave a better world for future generations.” – 8.93 mean (62% say 10).

2. Should we “only send aid to parts of the world where the US has security interests” or “When hunger is a major problem in some part of the world we should send aid whether or not the US has a security interest in that region.”
63% choose the second option.

3. Should the US “use its power to make the world be the way that best serves US interests and values”, or “coordinate its power together with other countries according to shared ideas of what is best for the world as a whole”?
Consistently over three quarters choose the global option.

4.Should the US “sometimes… be willing to make some sacrifices if this will help the world as a whole”, or should the US “not make sacrifices in an effort to help the world as a whole”.
Consistently over three quarters choose the altruistic option.

5.”The United States should look beyond its own self-interest and do what’s best for the world as a whole, because in the long run this will probably help make the kind of world that is best for the US.”
71% agree.

6.Should the US “think in terms of being a good neighbor with other countries, because cooperative relationships are ultimately in the best interests of the United States”, or should it “Not worry about what others think, but just think in terms of what is best for the US, because the world is a rough place.”
79% choose the cooperative option.

7″It is nice to think that joining in international efforts makes a more stable world. But in fact, the world is so big and complex that such efforts only make a minimal difference with little benefit to the US. Therefore, it is not really in the US interest to participate in them.”
39% agree, 58% disagree.

8.”When thinking about things like UN peacekeeping, whenever it can, the US should look beyond its own self-interest and do what’s best for the world as a whole, because in the long run this will probably help make the kind of world that is best for the US.”
75% agree.

9.”If people in other countries are making products that we use, this creates a moral obligation for us to make efforts to ensure that they do not have to work in harsh or unsafe conditions”, or “it is not for us to judge what the working conditions should be in another country”.
74% agree on the moral obligation.

10.”As we become more involved economically with another country that we should be more concerned about the human rights in that country.”
73% agree.

H. Defense spending

1.Asked to choose between whether “the US [should] spend a larger percentage of its…GNP on defense than its allies” or whether “all of the industrialized countries should spend about the same percentage of
their national income or GNP on defense”…
80% choose the latter.

2.The US defense budget should be based on which of the following: spending enough for the US to “protect itself, but not to protect other countries”; to “protect itself and other countries all on its own”; or “itself and to join in efforts to protect countries together with allies or through the UN”.
69% choose the last option.

I. Afghanistan

1.(Asked on 19 September 2001.) Is it important to “get the support of the United Nations — including a vote of the Security Council — supporting our response to the attacks, even if this means exercising more restraint than we’d like”.
54% say very important, a further 30% say somewhat important.

2.(In November 2001.) Offered two positions: “In the current military action in Afghanistan, it would be better if more countries would join with us, because then it would be an international effort, not just an American one.” Or, “it would be better NOT to get more countries involved, because if we did the operation would get bogged down by having to make decisions together with these other countries.”
73% wanted more countries involved.

3. (Sept 5-10, 2008, after heavy propagandizing by both major party Presidential candidates for escalation) “Do you favor, oppose, or neither favor nor oppose increasing U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan?”
51% favour, 41% oppose

4. (July 2008) “Would you favor or oppose sending additional U.S. troops to Afghanistan to fight al Qaeda and Taliban terrorist operations in that country?” (Note wording to fight “terrorist operations”, declared enemies)
59% favour, 38% oppose

5. (July 2008) “Thinking now about Afghanistan, all in all, considering the costs to the United States versus the benefits to the United States, do you think the war in Afghanistan was worth fighting, or not?”
51% worth it, 45% not

6. General approval (“Do you approve or disapprove of the U.S. military action in Afghanistan?” “Do you favor or oppose the U.S. War in Afghanistan?”)
Dec 07: 56% approve, 41% not
Mar 07: 53% approve, 41% not
Jan 07: 44% favor, 52% oppose
Sep 06: 50% favor, 48% oppose
Aug 06: 56% approve, 41% not

7. “Do you think the U.S. should or should not be contributing troops to a UN peacekeeping force in Afghanistan?”
67% should, 25% should not

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Written by dan

September 19th, 2008 at 5:22 am

One of my prisoners

An extraordinary moment, or so I thought, on Democracy Now today (Tues Sep 9 2008), as they played “highlights” of the RNC. The speaker is Benjamin Thompson, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. I thought it was spectacular (unintentional!) prose poetry, actually including important information. DN juxtaposed it well, I think, if you watch their video. Text below, I have very lightly edited the text and inserted line breaks. “This” in the 6th line is a tattoo in arabic on his arm. Video at http://www.democracynow.org/ 56 minutes in. That whole segment (from about 40 minutes onwards) is well worth watching.

One of my prisoners at Abu Ghraib,
— you didn’t know the half of it.
Most of our people didn’t live in those cell blocks.
Most of the people lived outdoors.
They’re killed by enemy insurgents, in our camps.
This prisoner — this means God hopes for peace.

We had ten-year-old boys in my camps.
We had an eighty-year-old blind man in my camp.
They were killed by enemy fire, because we did not protect them
They were not worth protecting.
The generals that came to my base came with three helicopters apiece.
And when they left, they took ’em with ’em.

We were giving them food that made them sick.
We were giving them water that gave them kidney stones.
We weren’t supplying them with medical attention.
They were dying from lack of heart medication that they’d been on for twenty years.
You never heard about this – ever! – because of the fucking photographs.
The Department of Defense focused all of the attention upon those atrocious acts
committed by war criminals, my brother and sister military policemen.
And then everything else that happened at that prison
to the other 95 percent of those prisoners,
went unreported in the media.

This is not OK.

Written by dan

September 10th, 2008 at 5:05 am