Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No More Mr. Nice Guy

It's today, so I suppose we have to say something about 9/11.

In 1983, while a civil war was raging in Lebanon, where guns and materials were being supplied by the American government (who were at the same time posing as peacekeepers) in the ever-present effort to gain control of another country's government (the endless procession of violence that we bear witness to now, proceeded from Tunisia to Egypt to Libya to Syria), a van carrying 2,000 pounds of explosives plowed into a U.S. Embassy in West Beirut, killing 63.

The Americans immediately screamed foul, claiming - of course - absolute innocence in the war, their desires for peace, their special status for giving people guns to fight with but demanding never to be held account for such action, etc., etc., parked the USS New Jersey offshore outside Beirut and - on December 14, 1983 - fired 11 projectiles from her 16-inch guns (22,000 pounds of explosives) at chosen hostile positions inland of Beirut.

Then on December 24th, Bob Hope did a Christmas Eve USO show on the deck of the New Jersey. Which was nice.

On February 8, 1984, the New Jersey fired almost 300 shells (600,000 pounds) into Druze and Shi'ite positions in the hills overlooking Beirut. Journalists at the time could not help pointing out how often these shells tended to 'miss' or did not seem to be particular specific in their targeting. This was not considered an act of war by the Americans. The Americans also stubbornly refused to acknowledge that they had, in any way, taken 'sides' in the action.

The number killed was never determined. Americans like to say it was a few hundred. Lebanese rather tilt towards several thousand. I don't know why, but in this particular case I tend to favor the people who were actually ashore.

I try to imagine what it must have been like to be in Beirut at the time, to have a view from the hills of the New Jersey sitting very far away, a dozen miles out at sea, completely out of reach. Most days, without a glass, probably wasn't possible to see it at all. Having no certainty whatsoever about what it was doing. Hearing word that there were fucking Christmas parties going on, the crew eating and drinking in comfort while their commanders considered whether or not to bomb the shit out of my city. Something about that just ... really pisses me off. There's something in the general, let's see, what's the word ... entitlement of that action, where the American government feels justified in acting as GOD and EXECUTIONER in situations whenever their so-called innocence is in the leastways challenged. Yeah. There's just something there that gets in the way of my feeling sorry for when something shitty the Americans have done turns around and smacks them in the face.

My favorite cartoon by the very brilliant Ted Rall.

And now it's Syria. A fucked up situation which the U.S. of course in no way produced.

Remember when America used to rendition their political enemies to Syria, because it was against the law to torture and indefinitely imprison innocent people? We in Canada do, you see, because America did that to one of our citizens, Maher Arar. For four years.


  1. Knowing full well that I'm taking the bait here I'm curious to know how responsible were the 3,000 people killed on Sept 11th for their deaths? How entitled do you think they felt as fire consumed them or they plunged hundreds of feet to their deaths?

  2. I don't know. How responsible is the average American for the actions of their governments, who routinely approve of the abuse of power in foreign and domestic policy, sending dick pics to one another while people unable to do anything about said policy are forced nevertheless to suffer from it?

    Perhaps it isn't the innocence of people that matters. Perhaps what's in question here is a policy that produces violence where, having produced that violence, then uses the violence as an excuse for more.

    I don't think we're short of dead, innocent people. Perhaps we could stop using that innocence as a justification for killing other innocent people.

  3. Perhaps exploring that would have made a more thoughtful and effective blog post, but I'm not here to tell you what to write about, just express my disappointment in your choosing today to make your point. That I did so will be forgotten in whatever shit-storm of comments is to follow, but at least I got it out there first. Enjoy the site traffic. I'm looking forward to the next D&D post.

  4. There comes a point in the shitstorm of lies, justification, war, etc. when I feel I have to point out that America isn't the innocent dove she claims to be. And in the long and the short of it, both angles on the story, the vilification, and the pandering for justice, will be ignored.

    I also wrote a D&D post for your edification.

  5. As an American I want to stand up and say that I'm shamed by my country's actions since 9/11; we traded essential liberties for a promise of temporary security. We didn't have to let the terrorists win by choosing fear, but we did. All Americans of voting age who haven't had those rights stripped share equal responsibility for what was done in our name.

  6. Who precisely is claiming that America is an innocent dove? Is it all 319 million of us or do we have a spokesperson somewhere? Do you really think WE're any happier with our political leaders than you seem to be? Do WE really seem as entitled to you today as in 1983? Are you aware how ambivalent and concerned WE are regaridng Syria?

    Is America single-highhandedly making the world a more dangerous and less stable place in your view, I wonder? Who exactly do you believe you are educating here?

    OK, if you want to pick today for something other than maudlin reflection why not make it more meaningful than wagging your finger like a school marm and rubbing noses into 30 year old shit?

    I did note today's D&D post and it was excellent and much appreciated.

  7. In the example I gave of Lebanon, the United States used the Embassy bombing as an excuse. I remember quite clearly at the time how they claimed that the bombing was from out of the blue, and that 'innocents' died, and that the only possible response was to step in and treat Lebanon as a criminal state.

    The Benghazi Embassy bombing was sold the exact same way, as though in no way did American activity in Libya over the last 40 years (including propping up the abusive dictator of that country) have anything to do with it.

    America ALWAYS claims innocence and the loss of 'innocent' lives as the justification for going out and murdering people. There is ALWAYS a measurement made of the innocence that an American can possess as opposed to the innocence that any other person in the world can possess. This measurement is very clear to Americans.

    Yes, absolutely, without question, the United States is SINGLEHANDEDLY making the world a more dangerous place. It has its finger in every pie, and every military buildup, notably in China and Russia, is in response to the refusal of the United States to reduce its arsenal by one plane, as well as the clear intention America has to go on making more and deadlier weapons, and then to invest the use of those weapons into any warzone it personally wishes to create.

    Look at the last forty years, and tell me the single conflict for which America was not responsible. And for the love of GOD, don't say Afghanistan and the Russians, because that too was an American-backed dictator in the 1970s whose sole purpose was to park ICBMs close enough to hit central Russia in minutes (where European weapons could not). Afghanistan was to Russia as Cuba is to America.

    America won the Cold War in 1989, but it had decided decades before that everyone else's resources are rightfully American property, and all wars since are built on that premise.

    Again, everyone knows this. But Americans refuse to consider that this idea may be, well, evil.

  8. As regards to 'why today?'

    I don't know if you realize this or not, but today is the day when everyone in the world has to hear from morning until night about how freaking innocent America is, for hours and hours, most of it a lot of total shit.

    This tends to get much more tiresome than my maudlin reflection.

  9. Wow. Just. Wow. Single-handedly? Really, you're going to go with that? So China and Russia wouldn't have bombs and planes if the US didn't? Alexis, you're smarter than that. All of the countries you have named, America included, act in the best interests of their ruling class. Are you seriously going to try to sell your readers on a point of view that holds American intentions to such scrutiny while giving Russia a free pass? What special state of delusion or naivete' produces such an argument?

  10. As regards to 'why today?'

    I don't know if you realize this or not, but today is the day when everyone in the world has to hear from morning until night about how freaking innocent America is, for hours and hours, most of it a lot of total shit.

    This tends to get much more tiresome than my maudlin reflection.

    You misunderstand me. The maudlin reflection is not yours, I'm granting you that it's there. But choosing the exact opposite emotion and tone is serviceable to rile up debate, but hardly sufficient for a serious discussion.

  11. Perhaps your readers can survey the below links and see for themselves how "...everyone in the world has to hear from morning until night about how freaking innocent America is, for hours and hours, most of it a lot of total shit..." I'm afraid I can only competently read in English so must limit my urls to those I myself follow and am aware of:

  12. The manner in which I am approaching the debate isn't relevant to whether this is serious or not. Classic derailing of the discussion.

    Wow. Just. Wow. Single-handedly? Really, you're going to go with that?

    I want you to imagine my folding my arms and frowning at you.

    Yes. Yes I'm going with that. And while you're praising me for being so damn smart, give me some credit.

    I've never, never known you to derail a debate, James. That is utterly out of character for you. It suggests a very personal stake in what is being discussed.

    I like you a great deal, I'd like to drop all the pretense and have you tell me what exactly is at issue.

  13. I'm not derailing anything, go back and read your own comments. I'm honestly struggling with the idea of there being some pretense here on my part, but OK... let me try to boil it down:

    The issue, precisely, is your use of "America" and "Americans"... suggesting a) Americans are somehow in lock-step and b) Americans somehow behave fundamentally differently than the rest of humanity. Do our politicians lie? Yes. Does our nation enter or create wars possessing a legitimate moral high ground? No. All politicians lie. All wars are immoral. You know this. Trust me, many of US know this too. And these are worthy topics for your mind and talents if you want my opinion.

    I'm not here to justify American foreign policy, I mostly agree with Eric above in principle if not in quite such, er... dramatic fashion. I'm calling you, to whom I reciprocate feelings of fondness and respect, to the carpet for making some very broad generalizations and for seeming to be out of touch on this one.

    9/11? Lebanon, for Christ's sake? This would have made a nice post 10 years ago... maybe even five. WE're past that. WE're tired. America, in what I presume to be your use of the word above, seems to me to want as little to do with Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and war-making as we can help. WE elected a president who swore to end the wars WE started. Twice. That the same president can't put together a coherent position on Syria is disappointing. This and the fact that he has to first beg Congress and then the nation to involve ourselves in yet another war should demonstrate precisely how AMERICA feels about them right about now. We seem to have precisely had enough.

  14. According to their own philosophy, all Americans are responsible for their government, and all that their government does. Claiming that all Americans do not think alike does not absolve anyone of the responsibility for what the country does. There are quite a number of Americans who have stood up and fought on that principle. As someone who respects Jefferson, Paine, Emerson and so on, I don't care that you don't agree with other Americans. You're still responsible for all that your country does.

    This is not in the past. America is gearing up right now to do to Syria what it did to Lebanon in 1983. Last year, it did it to Libya. It is unilaterally dropping a drone into anyone's lap it cares to. ENTITLEMENT goes on and on. America's foes, America's enemies, American interests, blah blah blah. The rhetoric justifying murder never changes. Ask the dead in Pakistan if America is 'past that.'

    Yes, your president lied, and then you - the whole country you - went and had a coke. Oh look, he lied. Oh well, there's nothing WE can do.

    What do you think you're looking at when you see people in the streets of other countries starving and dying under bullets trying to end the murdering regimes in their countries, propped up by the American dollar? People who were lied to by politicians. People who are sick as fuck at being lied to, and are now ready to DIE rather than take this shit any more.

    Can't expect that of Americans, oh no. You're not responsible for the evil your government does. Not you.

    America is the most powerful country in the world. It is the bully. It is the bullshit every other country has to suffer. But when the rest of the world says, "Stop it. Stop raping my country," America ignores them. And ignores them. And ignores them. Until the day they decide, we no longer have any avenue of dialogue.

    And THEN America gets really mad.

    America doesn't want peace. It wants obedience. And living in the most powerful country in the world makes Americans feel entitled.

    But it's not just foreign policy anymore, is it?

  15. So let me get this straight Alexis. America engages in violence in other countries to pursue its political agenda. When these countries lash out, we respond with more violence.

    As an American citizen, I am responsible for this violence, even though I didn't support the war in Iraq or involvement in Syria and didn't vote for those who did.

    So in order to avoid complicity in murder, I need to "step up" like the Syrians and engage in violence against my fellow citizens to pursue my political agenda?

  16. Matt. Read Thomas Paine. I'll go with his answer.

  17. After some examination on my objections I find that there's also this, precisely:

    "Yeah. There's just something there that gets in the way of my feeling sorry for when something shitty the Americans have done turns around and smacks them in the face."

    I find it a dispicable practice to diminish or downplay the loss and suffering of one group to highlight that of another. It speaks right to one's character and while I can accept that we disagree on much and still like and respect one another, I cannot accept this from one I would otherwise call a friend. It is a monstrous thing to feel and to say.

    Spin this however you want. The opinon expressed above in the original post before the rhetorical wrangling and preening was repugnant to me.

    There it is.

    I think we each think the other has their heads squarely up their asses on this. Fair enough. I'm ready to let it end there once you have the last word.

  18. It is obviously not the victims of the crime that I diminish or downplay; it is obviously not the families of the victims for whom I do not feel sympathy.

    When I say that my feeling sorry comes hard, I speak with regards to all the others in these past years who have used this one event to callously victimize tens of thousands - and I say callously, sir, for the very repugnance you feel for me is what motivates me when I think of the world that dangles on the string of a country that will wage war against millions of innocents in countries that themselves took no part in the crime.

  19. I usually avoid these kinds of internet arguments, because they rarely cause folk to re-examine their positions, and usually result in nothing but bad feelings. So I'm not going to argue why collective responsibility, while comfortable in theory, is monstrous in practice.

    However, you may find interesting Walzer, Just and Unjust Wars, particularly Part V.

  20. Homer, if the electorate doesn't bear ultimate responsibility for the actions of their democratic republic, then who does?

  21. It's funny how identical topics come up at the same time in different social circles. Then again, considering timing...I guess it's not that odd at all.

    I hate hypocrisy. I really do. It's why I've hated the government of my country for so very long (basically since I could really grasp it).

    Now, mind you, I wouldn't really care so much if the USA turned into the Empire from Star Wars...storm troopers, super-weapons, marching into alien places and taking what we want, etc etc. At least it'd be honest. At least I'd be able to say "Yup, we did that because we could. We're powerful, we feel we're superior, we feel your stuff should be ours. We're the greatest country in the world, fall in line or get crushed under heel".

    That I can understand. Hell, I can even relate to that. Is it evil? Yeah definitely. Of course it is. Would it be productive? Actually...if history tells us anything...yeah it probably would be really productive. Genghis Khan did it. Alexander did it. The colonists did it.

    That's not what we have though. What we have is a country whose media spins a constant tale of American altruism...a tale where America is victimized...where people "hate our freedom". Honestly think about that...people hate freedom? Seriously? Get off it. That is what we've been told though.

    "Oh we gotta kill Saddam! He's a madman!" Yeah I know! He's been butchering people! Who the heck put that guy in charge?! Oh..wait...

    "Oh we gotta help Syria! People are being slaughtered?" Uh...what's going on with Africa for the last...uh...forever? Oh...wait...

    The agenda is not altruism. The agenda is not humanitarianism. The agenda is nothing but AN AGENDA. One made despicable by wrapping it up in lies of altruism and humanitarianism. And why? So we can strike back twice as hard when it bites us and we get called out on it. "They captured our aid workers!" You mean the ones actually giving weaponry and military support? Uh...yeah that ain't "aid".

    Isolationism is where it's at. That's been my stance for a long time. Don't mess with my stuff, trade with me if we can work out a deal, and we'll stay out of each other's business. Unfortunately...that isn't good for business...and America is a corporation now. Run by, bought by, sold by corporations. So we dance to their strings and everything you see on CNN or any other news source is smoke & mirrors. Even the two party system is a smokescreen...because guess what? They ALWAYS agree on the stuff that's important to them and their agenda. Don't believe me? How's gitmo doing? Oh...yeah. And how's our encroachment on freedom under Obama? Oh...yeah. And how's our rights? Wait, didn't Obama order the execution of an American citizen AND A MINOR without due process? Oopsie. Guess he'll have to pay for that right? Nope.

    The harshest truth is that the system is broken and rotten at its core. Voting cannot and will not fix it because awareness of candidates is controlled by money...and who has the money? People pushing the agenda. Who has the power to reform this? The people already in power. Aaaand enter the loop from which there is no escape.

    What also doesn't help is that Americans, like human beings in general, are getting stupider, more reactionary and more easily controlled...especially as they get larger and larger in numbers. The voice of the ignorant drowns out the voices of reason actually interested in discussion. "Hey you can't talk bad about 'murica!" becomes the anthem of a generation of ostriches with their heads in the sand grateful to avoid any real, adult, productive discussion on a subject that might force them to, oh I dunno, THINK about stuff. Nope, instead 'Murica is a religion where we do not think...we believe. People change what they think all the time but people die for their beliefs. Need proof? Remember yesterday? Oh..yeah...

  22. Soooo, Canada's government is squeaky squeaky clean, eh? Hmmm, interesting. Canada would never get involved in heavy military activities in the Middle East. Canada has no involvement around the globe that could be construed as resource-grabbing, right?! Your politicians are totally responsible people and don't do anything without the consent of the public. You've got it all figured out. So peaceful!

    Oh, wait:

    Oh wait, The Somalia Affair?

    Hmmm, Canada's history is spotless, eh? Nothing like how Americans killed off the natives over the centuries. Oh wait:

    Just because you live in a country that has its own propaganda regarding how "peaceful" it is, doesn't mean it's true.

    Alexis, why don't YOU rise up against YOUR government, if you believe that's what any good citizen should do? If you pick up your gun, I'll do the same here in the US. Sound like a deal? Let’s get all Thomas Paine TOGETHER!

    OR, maybe, JUST MAYBE…you could get off your high horse and acknowledge, like I'm sure you know deep down, that the average American citizen is just trying to get by, just like the average Canadian, Syrian, Iraqi, Pakistani, etc. The leaders do as they please, and we the people resist when we can, vote when we can, speak out when we can, but live as best we can.

    It just seems like you're trying to be "controversial" or "edgy" or create controversy bombs. Your posts on, uh, I don’t know, gaming are so much more interesting.

  23. For a perspective common among U.S. Military officers (past and present), check this out: You may be startled.

  24. cbakerson,

    Push it sideways.

    Speaking first as someone who has hammered questions to politicians in politican forums over the very issues you name, you're in the wrong camp declaring that no one here isn't pisses as hell at the actions of the Canadian Government. You won't find any words suggesting as much in my post. You're just looking to direct this conversation in a direction that once more relieves you of responsibility for your country's action.

    People here went to PRISON over Somalia. No one here built a rhetoric making those men heroes.

    I love it when people start pulling shit out of every asscrack when they're looking to throw mud.

    Yeah, that sure is some bad shit about the Natives. Check out the abuse Natives are suffering in Northern Alberta, with increased cancer rates and disease due to tar sands excavation. Or near-poison water supplies in Ontario/Quebec. Or Native young people killing themselves sniffing gasoline out of garbage bags.

    You're a pretty big dumbfuck if you think any Canadian isn't pretty well informed about how many mistakes this country has made. Let's talk about systematically poisoning people in Asbestos Quebec, and the government there ignoring the fact that the workers are dying but no one will close the mines or change this country's policy on asbestos production. How about frankenfish issues in BC, or unemployment in the Maritimes, or the government fucking over Canadian manufacturing in favor of foreign invesment, or the military buildup in Quebec because the conservative government is trying to import right wing votes there, or how about the destruction of pension plans by investment coalitions?

    Buddy, every country is fucked up. You're not making any points.

  25. I know someone thrown out of his bunk by that bombing in Lebanon and how pissed he and his fellow marines were at not being able to follow proper procedures to secure an expanded perimiter which would actually serve to protect numbers of servicemen against repeat attempts. Like many servicemen and Americans he found playing at war distasteful and despised politicians for using lives as if they were disposable markers.
    Our elites are playing a game of war that we are not full participants in and it is reprehensible any day of the year. We are not informed of the actual risks or actual goals.

  26. Yesterday I found your blog and I was ecstatic. I play a lot of D&D, most of it from the DM chair. The wealth of ideas you've shared with the gaming community here is praiseworthy on the merit of sheer volume alone. But the quality is also very high, far above the line for this sort of blog. Your passion for the craft is evident. Your background, your personal toolset as a DM, and even your trajectory through a half a lifetime of gaming reminds me a lot of my own experiences.

    I don't know why I clicked on the Popular Posts link for this entry. I should have known better. But I did.

    I'm very disappointed in you Alexis. It hurts. I can hear in your voice that were angry and wanting to vent. Everyone needs to vent now and then.

    As a Canadian, as an ally, as a fellow gamer, and as a human being, you might have chosen to stand with your party members, here in times of trouble as in times of joy, and help us bear the burden. Instead, you have spitefully chosen to run to the sidelines and throw stones. You could have chosen to take this opportunity to bring people of like mind together and do some good. Instead you've chosen to divide us.

    I implore you to make a different choice next time. Do not underestimate the influence that you have. When you speak people listen. Given the quality of your blog I'm willing to bet you have a lot of readers. You may not have asked for this responsibility, or even care, but you can change things. Not this way, but by donning the mantle of responsibility and leading the way.

    Please, use your influence to lead.

  27. Hey, um, C-

    I'm not on the sidelines. I'm on the other fucking team.

    Who the hell told you what was the right way and the wrong way to change people's minds? Don't feed me a lot of horseshit about how you respect me and then toss that respect out the window when I do something that doesn't fit with your limited world view. If you are so respectful of me, consider changing YOUR mind about what and why I'm writing what I'm writing. Don't jump to the conclusion that because I disagree with you I'm on the "sidelines." I disagree with you because you're wrong. I'm not going to pretend you're not wrong so I can "lead you" to do the shit you want to do.

    "People of like mind" think this was a terrible crime perpetrated without Justification by people who are by nature evil and wrong. I'm saying that when you have a war perpetrated against you, by Americans selling weapons and indiscriminately bombing your people, you have a right to WAGE WAR in kind. If the U.S. doesn't want other people to wage war against them, then they should STOP waging war. They should wage peace, they should stop instigating violence in other countries, they should stop selling arms, they should stop manipulating other governments to support American industry and so on. War begets war. The Americans are deluded in thinking they're entitled to wage war against everyone without retribution.

    Save your condescending shit. I am not on the sidelines. And I am leading a group of people with "like minds."

    They just don't have minds like yours.


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