Tina K. Russell

December 20, 2008

Footwear and its trajectory

Letters – When a President Is Treated With Disrespect – NYTimes.com
I’m appalled that Arabs are celebrating the act of a disrespectful Iraqi journalist directed at a president of the United States. If an Arab leader were treated with such disdain in the United States, the Arab world would react violently against all Americans.

That’s an amazingly dumb statement! Let me unpack it.

  1. Wait a second, we’re required to look at all leaders the same? The difference with President Bush is that they hate him. I don’t condone throwing footwear at world leaders, but you have to admit he’s a man after many people’s own hearts. (This journalist—and yes, journalists should not be inserting themselves, or their shoes, into their stories this way—reminds me of the old woman who took a hammer to a Comcast call center. I don’t condone what she did, but man, she did something many of us wish we could have done ourselves. They’re both proxies for our very real frustrations.)
  2. Um, you do realize that Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, was an outright jerk to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad when he visited in 2007? There wasn’t a violent uprising, then (of course, part of that might have to do with the fact that Moodly-Bob isn’t very popular back home, either).  Ahmadinejad is a nutcase and a horrible man, to be sure, but Bollinger was both being a jerk to a visiting head of state and possessed none of the underdog status or the truth-to-power element of the shoe-tossing journalist. (He also endangered any future opportunities for students to get to see visiting heads of state, a valuable opportunity even—or perhaps especially—when these leaders are reprehensible.) You should really check these things, sometimes.

I think this argument boils down to “if things were different, wouldn’t they be different?”, which is not an argument I’m fond of. It’s like saying, why are you cheering that your home football team won? You’d be angry if the other team won. Stupid, stupid.

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July 17, 2008

“They were killing me. I had to tell them something.”

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 10:44 pm

Op-Ed Columnist – The Real-Life ‘24’ of Summer 2008 – Op-Ed – NYTimes.com
After 9/11, our government emphasized “interrogation over due process,” Ms. Mayer writes, “to pre-empt future attacks before they materialized.” But in reality torture may well be enabling future attacks. This is not just because Abu Ghraib snapshots have been used as recruitment tools by jihadists. No less destructive are the false confessions inevitably elicited from tortured detainees. The avalanche of misinformation since 9/11 has compromised prosecutions, allowed other culprits to escape and sent the American military on wild-goose chases. The coerced “confession” to the murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to take one horrific example, may have been invented to protect the real murderer.

The biggest torture-fueled wild-goose chase, of course, is the war in Iraq. Exhibit A, revisited in “The Dark Side,” is Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, an accused Qaeda commander whose torture was outsourced by the C.I.A. to Egypt. His fabricated tales of Saddam’s biological and chemical W.M.D. — and of nonexistent links between Iraq and Al Qaeda — were cited by President Bush in his fateful Oct. 7, 2002, Cincinnati speech ginning up the war and by Mr. Powell in his subsequent United Nations presentation on Iraqi weaponry. Two F.B.I. officials told Ms. Mayer that Mr. al-Libi later explained his lies by saying: “They were killing me. I had to tell them something.”

Oh my God, that makes me want to cry. Torture is unspeakably bad; that’s established. It’s just amazing exactly how counterproductive it’s been for us, resulting in justice delayed, justice denied, terrorists running free, and the slaughter of tens of thousands of innocents.

Even when you put the paramount humanitarian concerns, of who we are as a nation (and if there’s anything left to defend) aside, torture is a staggeringly unwise military move that prevents us from prosecuting crimes against humanity, silences victims, protects perpetrators, and leads us astray right when we are at our most vulnerable. Torture delivers bad intelligence, torture ruins our credibility, torture turns public sentiment (vital in a war like Iraq) against us, torture ferments lingering resentment that makes it difficult to secure victory, torture radicalizes the wavering, torture makes it harder for us to fight terrorism, and torture puts our own soldiers, and those of our allies, in terrible danger. With all that, torture is unquestionably atrocious and worthless as military strategy. Once you reintroduce the humanitarian concern, of our basic beliefs as American citizens, it becomes an unqualified abomination.

I look forward to the day when we can say once again, as Americans, we do not torture, none of us, anywhere, for any reason. For now, I remain wholly dissatisfied with our leadership as a country.

June 10, 2008

Human rights, for everyone

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — Tina Russell @ 1:42 pm

Alive In Baghdad
Maybe one of the of most difficult situations that an Iraqi could be in is to be gay, the Iraqi society in general discriminate against the gay and transsexual people, normally they consider them as people who left their gender and changed for sexual want.

Even though most gay people of Iraq have managed to live their lives, being born gay is almost the same as being born with an assurance of death. Most Iraqis don’t accept that homosexuality is something you’re born with, or which is assigned by your genes. Due to the Iraqi cultural and religious beliefs, homosexuality is forbidden and considered a mortal sin, and in many cases the penalty of death is assigned as the solution for it.

Some of the Iraqi homosexuals used to live in the Karrada neighborhood, practicing there life normally but still in secret. Although before the war as well they could not show that they are gay, due to the risk of being attacked verbally by the neighbors or the people they live with.

The article includes a video. I highly recommend watching it.

Of course, you can be gay and in the closet, but it’s very difficult to be transsexual in secret. The very visible period of transition, mandated for at least one year in the West, is when a transsexual’s life is usually at its most dangerous. So, some of the people discussed and interviewed here fall somewhere on the gender spectrum–a question of gender identity rather than sexual orientation, a separate quandary for a young person to be going through–rather than being simply gay, but it’s tough to be an out-and-about transsexual (or experiment and find out what you truly are) when your life is constantly in danger.

This makes me the whole war–both our war, and the Iraqi civil war–much more personal to me, gives me a connection to it… my sisters out there are in danger, and they’re dying. By the way, that website has a tip jar. I gave $10 to support independent media in Iraq since I was so grateful that these people I could relate to were getting attention in war-torn Iraq. What will you give?

Gay, transsexual, and gender-variant individuals deserve the same rights we all do, the same right to human dignity. It’s a global and a human-rights issue, plain as that. One reason you should watch the video is that the young people interviewed give suggestions to people in the international community. Let’s tear down the old modes of hate and fear and build something new on love and understanding.

That may sound soppy, but a very vague mistrust and discomfort with people who are different is what underlies all the widescale violence. Help people overcome their fears of what they don’t understand and to respect human diversity and expression, and you help end hate and the violence.

May 18, 2008

The Splurge is Working

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — Tina Russell @ 8:36 pm

Gates Says New Arms Must Play Role Now – New York Times

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned the military and its contractors on Tuesday that expensive new conventional weapons must prove their value to current conflicts, marked by insurgency and terrorism, if they are to be included in further Pentagon budgets.

Those comments are certain to alarm advocates of the newest generations of high-tech and high-cost weapons programs, in particular the Future Combat Systems program and the F-22, the Air Force’s advanced warplane. Both have come under scrutiny of Pentagon budget officers questioning whether either will be required for missions similar to the current operations in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Future Combat Systems, an Army initiative entailing a vast combat-gear overhaul whose total cost could exceed $200 billion, “must continue to demonstrate its value for the types of irregular challenges we will face,” as well as for the full-blown land warfare for which it was designed, Mr. Gates said.

About freaking time. I’ve been really sick of us spending bajillions of dollars to get the most advanced warplanes and destroyers to fight imaginary Soviet squadrons. We’ve had the firepower advantage for a long time, and we’re still losing. A smart war policy stops blowing the taxpayer money on high-tech toys.

…Okay, I should be clear that I’m not dismissing military technology projects in general as “high-tech toys.” I’m talking about advanced warplanes being developed to fight people who use shoulder-mounted grenades. We develop weapons of war as though we were still in an arms race with the Soviet Union, when the people we’re fighting today are using improvised weapons in an assymetrical fight. The kind of tech that seems to be helping in Iraq is the kind of tech that allows troops to communicate and coordinate effectively, given the many hats an Army captain must wear, of commander, confidant, spokesman, diplomat, and all-around crisis manager, in order to hold and secure an area. We have a technology advantage, but the enemy has found ways to leverage our brute force against us. When our resources are stretched to the limit, and political will at home to continue this fight is fading fast, we need to work hard to make every last dollar count. That means not sending the fanciest new bombers into a fight for the ideological soul of the Arab world.

Oh, yes, I’m a pacifist, I don’t like war. But, anyone can appreciate a well-fought war from afar. I’ll be facing its very real consequences soon enough.

May 13, 2008

The Obvious

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 7:41 pm

Iraq Contractor in Shooting Case Makes Comeback – New York Times

Last fall, Blackwater Worldwide was in deep peril.

Guards for the security company were involved in a shooting in September that left at least 17 Iraqis dead at a Baghdad intersection. Outrage over the killings prompted the Iraqi government to demand Blackwater’s ouster from the country, and led to a criminal investigation by the F.B.I., a series of internal investigations by the State Department and the Pentagon, and high-profile Congressional hearings.

But after an intense public and private lobbying campaign, Blackwater appears to be back to business as usual.

The chief reason for the company’s survival? State Department officials said Friday that they did not believe they had any alternative to Blackwater, which supplies about 800 guards to the department to provide security for diplomats in Baghdad. Officials say only three companies in the world meet their requirements for protective services in Iraq, and the other two do not have the capability to take on Blackwater’s role in Baghdad. After the shooting in September, the State Department did not even open talks with the other two companies, DynCorp International and Triple Canopy, to see if they could take over from Blackwater, which is based in North Carolina.

“We cannot operate without private security firms in Iraq,” said Patrick F. Kennedy, the under secretary of state for management. “If the contractors were removed, we would have to leave Iraq.”

And wouldn’t that be a shame?

April 15, 2008

Magical government money

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — Tina Russell @ 4:39 pm

Views on Money for Iraq War, and What Else Could Be Done With It – New York Times

The issue occasionally crops up on the campaign trail and in public debate. Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois, told voters in West Virginia last month that the war was costing each American household $100 a month. “Just think about what battles we could be fighting instead of fighting this misguided war,” Mr. Obama said.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Indiana recently that the war was costing $12 billion a month and was crowding out urgent national needs. “We’ve got to begin not only to withdraw our troops,” said Mrs. Clinton, Democrat of New York, “but bring that money back home.”

The problem is that we’re already borrowing hundreds of billions of dollars to pay for this war. As soon as we get our soldiers back home–which could be some time–we will immediately have to start thinking about how we’re going to pay back that absurd amount of cash. It won’t be the time for drooling exuberance over an imaginary windfall.

But hey, look at these guys. What planet are they from?

On the other hand, Senator John McCain of Arizona, the likely Republican nominee, says repeatedly that success in Iraq justifies any cost and that overspending in other areas is causing the strain on the federal budget. He says the government can afford whatever the war costs as well as a big corporate tax cut if it reins in wasteful federal spending.

President Bush addressed the cost more directly than before in remarks on Thursday at the White House. Mr. Bush acknowledged that the human and material costs had been high and would demand continued sacrifices from all Americans. But he said that relative to the cold war, the war in Iraq had consumed a “modest fraction” of the country’s wealth.

February 28, 2008

In Veto Veritas

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — Tina Russell @ 9:37 pm

Heralded New Law Is Vetoed by Iraq’s Presidency Council – New York Times

Damn.

Well, I can say that the strength of Iraq’s democracy is showcased in the fact that they are mired in the one hallmark of competitive democracies all around the globe: partisan gridlock.

Maybe another surge will produce Iraq’s first filibuster. Now that would be a benchmark.

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