September 21, 2004

Are You Serious

From Bush's address to the U.N.:

"Members of the United Nations, the Russian children did nothing to deserve such awful suffering and fright and death. The people of Madrid and Jerusalem and Istanbul and Baghdad have done nothing to deserve sudden and random murder," Bush said. "These acts violate the standards of justice in all cultures and the principles of all religions. All civilized nations are in this struggle together, and all must fight the murderers." ...

No, Mr. Bush, those people didn't do anything to deserve getting slaughtered in the world's steady descent towards lawless chaos. The last sixty years have been anything but peaceful, yet still there was the hope that the people in charge would really have preferred to have it another way. How could anyone believe today that the Leader Of The Free World (TM) is really serious about the universal application of his fine-sounding sentiments.

Via Annatopia, a firsthand account of the targeting of Iraqi civilians outside a bombed tank. Dead American soldiers in the tank, dead Iraqis outside it, neither for any good reason that I can see. I sure don't think I'm any safer, or that the country is safer, or that Americans setting foot outside the country are any safer. What have these people died for?

We 'got' Saddam. It's cost $200 billion, a thousand soldiers, thousands of civilian lives that go deliberately uncounted. Was it worth it when even the Iraqis don't seem to be safer?

Just questions today. It's hard for me to read graphic accounts of people dying, I've got no stomach for it. My father was barely older than I am now when he died of organ failure brought on by a dormant childhood illness. My mother has never stopped crying for him, though I was so young at the time that I only know him by his absence. The things he didn't teach me. The time we didn't spend together. The milestones he never saw.

But our family was lucky, if you can call it that. He had good medical care, and he hung on for two years as his body slowly quit. Two years to get his affairs in order, say goodbye to his wife and family, make his peace with the world. The last thing my father's eyes were open to see was his family, in a quiet room where trained professionals worked to ease his pain. And it was still hard, it seemed so senseless and random.

We were lucky because we got to prepare. My father didn't go out for groceries and come home in a box, mangled beyond recognition. He didn't step on a landmine and come home a vegetable, a living death for the whole family. He didn't die shocked in the middle of a bullet-ridden street, looking his last on mangled bodies, smelling blood and smoke, hearing screams. So I can only imagine how hard it must be for the families of the people dying on both sides of this war, though I can be sure that it's awful, and there won't be any getting over it.

Everyone who dies needlessly is a loss to us all. Their potential contributions to the world and their loved ones, all their knowledge, all their skill buried with them. And in the face of this loss, there are people who have the gall to glorify war, to laugh at death, to brush aside anguished survivors. They want to sound tough and strong so people will take them 'seriously.'

Well what could be more serious than being truthful about matters of life and death? What could be more serious than preventing needless death, with all that it takes from people? What could be more serious than being restrained and judicious in the use of the biggest arsenal on earth? What could be more serious than taking the time to credibly plan for peace, or to de-escalate conflict? What could be more serious than figuring out what to do about being less popular than Osama Bin Laden?

If these things don't qualify as serious, somebody doesn't know the meaning of the word, and I don't think it's me.

In the continuation of the article on Bush's speech above, Kofi Annan gives some indication that he understands what it means to be serious:

..."Again and again, we see fundamental laws shamelessly disregarded -- those that ordain respect for innocent life, for civilians, for the vulnerable -- especially children," Annan said.

He listed as examples the killing of civilians in Iraq and the abduction of relief workers, journalists and other noncombatants who are "put to death in the most barbarous fashion" as well as the killings of thousands of people in Sudan's Darfur region.

"We see whole populations displaced and their homes destroyed, while rape is used as a deliberate strategy," the secretary-general said.

Annan also mentioned the horrific hostage-taking and massacre of schoolchildren in Russia.

He spoke about the targeting of Israeli citizens -- including children -- by Palestinian suicide bombers and "needless civilian casualties caused by Israel's excessive use of force."

"No cause, no grievance, however legitimate in itself, can begin to justify such acts," he said. "They put all of us to shame. Their prevalence reflects our collective failure to uphold the law and to instill respect for it in our fellow men and women. We all have a duty to do whatever we can to restore that respect."

To do that, Annan said, "we must start from the principle that no one is above the law, and no one should be denied its protection.

"Every nation that proclaims the rule of law at home must respect it abroad; every nation that insists on it abroad must enforce it at home."

But the secretary-general said that the rule of law remains elusive in too many places.

"The vulnerable lack effective recourse, and the powerful manipulate laws to retain power and accumulate wealth," he said. ...

Good words that I hope people in power listen to, but probably won't. I can't do anything to oust the unserious leaders of other countries, the unserious leaders of terrorist groups, or the unserious people in the media. But I'll do everything I can to vote out the unserious people sitting in the White House.

Posted by natasha at September 21, 2004 11:57 AM | International | Technorati links |