Category Archives: Social

Crime and Punishment, Military-Style: Robert Bales and Nidal Malik Hasan : The New Yorker

No disparity here:
– One dark-skinned Muslim with an Arab name kills two American soldiers. He is put to death.
– A second dark-skinned Muslim with an Arab name kills thirteen American soldiers. He, too, is put to death.
– A white Christian-American soldier kills sixteen Muslim civilians—three men, four women, nine children. His life is spared.


Crime and Punishment, Military-Style: Robert Bales and Nidal Malik Hasan : The New Yorker.


Hearts and Minds and Souls of A People

The knack of turning a phrase was explained by Theodore Roosevelt to his young aide, Lieutenant Douglas MacArthur, in 1906. MacArthur had asked the President to what he attributed his popularity, and Roosevelt replied, “To put into words what is in their hearts and minds but not in their mouths.” (“Hearts and minds” later became a slogan of sorts, as what had to be won in Vietnam.

And if the U.S. wants to win hearts and minds, “You have to pursue Gen. McChrystal’s strategy. If you say that’s not acceptable and costs too much, it takes too long, we don’t have our allies — then you come up with a counterterrorist strategy, which means you’re going to start killing people and thereby risk killing a lot of innocent civilians, thereby creating more insurgents.” – Former Secretary of Defense William Cohen

“The Revolution was effected before the War commenced. The Revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people; a change in their religious sentiments of their duties and obligations…. This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments, and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.” – John Adams February 13, 1818

“Evidence from this trial will only show one side. I was on the wrong side but I switched sides,” Hasan, an American-born Muslim, said in a roughly two minute-long opening statement.

Not a new concept nor a new phrase, eh?  This whole “hearts and minds” thing.  We are very good at talking about it, and some of us really do get it.  Sadly, some of us really get it at a level that is only manipulative.  That is the propaganda level.  And, sadly, we are failing in some very important ways.

I have been thinking about this a lot this week in a lot of contexts.  It was that final quote that started the thought process really.  No matter how much lip service our politicians and “leaders” give, many Muslims at home and around the world feel that the so-called “war on terror” is, in fact, a war on Islam.  We are completely failing to “win the hearts and minds” of Muslims.

I have a friend who in many ways is an intelligent, reasonable, educated man, and yet, he totally discounts Al Jazeera as a legitimate news source, simply because he believes that they are Muslim biased.  That’s it.  Yet, he will cite Alex Jones, one of the most popular conspiracy theorists on the right wing circuit, as though he is a reliable and credible news source, and then, my friend will consider himself to be non-biased.  I eventually had to tell him that I will not even look at any link that comes from an address.  If he wants me to look at it, find it in another source.  If it has any legitimacy, it will be somewhere else.   Let’s be clear about this.  Alex Jones has as much actual credibility as David Icke, which is to say none.  Zip. Zero. Zilch.

That is, unless, of course, you believe that the British royals are actually shape shifting lizards.

We build bridges and roads.  We build schools, and reach out to children and their parents in these countries that we are occupying.  And, then, we bomb them, and kill those same children.  Why then, do we wonder that we create enemies?

What have you done for me lately?”  When the answer is buzzing my towns, blow up my bridge, destroy my schools and homes, and kill my daughters and sons, then I am going to forget that you built those bridges and schools.  I am going to forget that you said, “We are not at war with Islam”, when all I see is you killing other Muslims.  I am going to forget you said that when I see a disproportionate support of a state that is repeatedly violating the mandates of the same organization that you said was one of the reasons you were invading Iraq, while that same state carries out murders around the world and imposes apartheid conditions on those who are like me.

Our words and our actions have to be in line if we are going to “win the hearts and minds”.  Until then, we are simply continuing the same hypocrisy that we have exhibited for years in our support of dictators around the world, and in countless other ways.  Worse yet, until then, we will continue to fail.

We show that we don’t even believe these words ourselves, at home.  Despite our recent “revelations” we are still a reasonably open society.  Our internal words and thoughts are posted openly for not only our own citizens to see, but also for pretty much the whole world to see.  So, when our warts are exposed, they are really exposed.  That is really as it should be.  That gives us the opportunity to treat them.

Are You A Crab?

People are so easily confused.  Mathematically if a = b and b = c, then a = c, and we can say that a and c are the same.  In the real world though, being equal and being the same are not synonyms.  They are related, but that is all.

We should have settled that particular concept as a nation a long time ago, and yet, we still haven’t gotten it through our collective thick skull.  We got it wrong – very wrong – at first.  We had to have drawn out court battles in order to reach the Supreme Court and have it ruled, specifically, that “separate but equal” is not.

We see many people who want to refer to the Constitution as the authority of the land, and in many ways, that is good and true.  It should never be forgotten though that it is a horribly flawed document and subject to revision and improvement.  Even the “founding fathers” knew this and that is why they had a built in mechanism for that change.  The very first thing they did after ratifying the Constitution was to change it.  Not only was that necessary to satisfy treaty commitments (because remember that, at the time, that is precisely what the document was), but it also demonstrated clearly that the document could, and should be changed as and when necessary.

We started with a clearly defined right to own people as property and no suffrage right for women (not until August 18, 1920) or non-land owning men.  In fact, a careful reading of the US Constitution shows that we have no constitutional right to vote at all.  It is inferred, much like the right to privacy, but it is not explicitly stated.  What we do find are a series of requirements that must be met if one is to be allowed to vote, and another set of requirements on which it is impermissible to base disenfranchisement of a citizen.  No, really.  Check it for yourself.  Here is the entire constitution right here.  You will find that you are required to own land (a constitutional requirement that has never been revoked), that you must be at least 18, that you may not be prohibited from voting “on account of sex,” nor “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”, but no where will you find that it specifically grants that you have the right to vote in the first place.

Understand that it is this very important distinction which allows states to do things like revoke the rights of felons to vote, and establish voting requirements such as length of residency.  In some states, the voting rights of convicted felons are automatically restored, and in some states they require an act of the governor, which requires a petition on the behalf of the convicted felon.  It is this which allowed the states to institute the Jim Crow laws that included ridiculous and impossible “literacy tests” like this one.  (Go ahead.  Try it.  You’ve got 10 minutes.  Remember, as it says in the article, if you miss 1 question then you don’t get to vote.)

-> As an aside, understand also that the lack of a right to privacy will also be used, in court, and may already have been used in the FISA court, to justify programs like PRISM as the security apparatus violates the 4th amendment to track your metadata.  It has already been encroached on to say that there is “no legitimate expectation of privacy” in a public place (thus allowing the wide spread use of surveillance cameras “for your safety”), nor even when owning a cell phone. <-

Which brings us back to where we started today.  The notion of equivalency versus sameness.  We absolutely should strive for equality in society and under the law.  However, that does not mean that we are all the same.  Nor does it mean that we are all experiencing the same things.

Men and women are not the same.  Biologically we are different.  Society drives us into different directions and cross purposes all too often.  It does not mean that individuals may not cross these gender boundaries, or that they shouldn’t feel completely free to do so, but we are different.  Regardless of those differences though, we are still equal.  Right?  We ought to be able to agree on that.  Yet, we still find many sexists, and we still have major inequalities in our society in terms of pay, for example, not to mention in protections of the law for violence.

The Zimmerman verdict last weekend has sparked much outrage this week, and rightfully so.  It was a situation and trial that has been mishandled from the very beginning and ended with a verdict which was tragic.  As I wrote last week though, we have to accept it, because that is the foundation of our justice system.  If we have an issue with the verdict, then we have to address the system, not this specific case.  We have to, as I have seen some do, call for changes to the laws, and then we have to act on those calls.


%d bloggers like this: