succumbing to peer pressure

Friday, September 17, 2004

I was all ready to write a non-political post about how pleasantly surprised I am by just how much I'm enjoying teaching and how great camping was and all sorts of other mundane things. And then I read Bob Harris's postings at This Modern World. Bob's writing makes me cry on a fairly regular basis, so I really should stop reading him while at work. Today's post is about the death of Iraqi civilians. Rather, the murder of Iraqi civilians. There. I said it. Go ahead, jump straight to the American-hating peacenik comments. I know you want to. That's what happens when you use the word murder to describe something that we do in Iraq, right? Well, read for yourself:

I didn't actually see the report live -- Wolf had already moved on to his next story -- but I was struck by how casual this was: innocent civilians killed in a U.S. airstrike, and it wasn't even the news hook; the death of the reporter was. (CNN doesn't have a transcript up for the report I saw. They do, however, have one for a later, similar report. Scroll down, or just search for the words "I'm dying." The entire mention of the U.S. inflicting over 70 civilian casualties is exactly four sentences long. The Batman guy, meanwhile, got thirty.)

So, through the miracle of TiVo, I rewound. And there it was.
Being killed by a U.S. airstrike.
Non-combatants. Celebrating on a disabled U.S. vehicle, granted. But civilians nonetheless. Certainly not in combat against any U.S. troops.

In the foreground, a reporter just doing his job, frowning over some little technical glitch, maybe something he forgot to do...

Bang, boom. No warning. Just an incoming U.S. aerial attack. "To prevent looters from stripping the vehicle," the Pentagon later says, classifying everyone within thirty feet as "looters" and sentencing them to summary execution.

Blood splashes on the lens. The camera spins. Tiny glimpses of terrible carnage.
Without a beat, without reflection, without even a moment of minimal thought, Wolf Blitzer moves on. As do we, collectively.

And that's that. America kills innocent civilians. Lots of them. And it's no big deal now. Not controversial. No reason to ask questions or rationalize or even pretend to soul-search like the national media once did. America kills civilians. Lots of them. Just part of the fabric of things now.

Happens every day.
The military isn't pressed and can't be bothered for a detailed explanation about the incident, other than to blame the victims themselves. "Great care should be taken by all to avoid and keep a safe distance from any active military operation as unpredictable events can occur," the U.S. spokesman says.

"Unpredictable events," they say. Like an earthquake or a lightning strike. Like an unprovoked attack from an Apache helicopter, firing on unarmed civilians, on tape, recorded for all the world to see.

Nobody's responsible. These are "unpredictable events."


Last week, as you might know, I got lost in a dodgy section of Cairo. Soon, five bright and delightful boys decided to adopt me for a while and walk me to where I was going.

Unless things change, those same boys might want very much to kill me -- and you -- when they grow up.
Dear God. What's coming...

That's the game we're playing. I know it's all cliché these days to spout off about how this is the most important election of our lives, but damnit, that's true. We aren't talking about this one election, or potentially another four years of someone you don't particularly like. We're talking about the sort of damage that will take years and years and years to undo. We're talking about screwing things up for a generation or more. We're talking about losing friends and allies, creating situations that play into the hands of our enemies, trampling civil rights here and abroad. We're talking about the world we live in, we're talking about OUR LIVES. So start taking this seriously and start doing something about it. Shelby - if you still ever read this thing, for the love of God, man, VOTE! I know you're disenchanted and cynical and not a huge Kerry fan, but there is an immeasurable difference between someone who's administration disappears a prisoner from the Red Cross to avoid accusations of human rights violations and someone who just isn't your first choice as a leader. Mark, that goes for you too. I know you think voting doesn't work, and there's a lot wrong with our system, but we have to get to a point where the nature of democracy itself isn't threatened before we can start quibbling over the best way to get rid of the electoral college. If a paltry 500 more people had troubled themselves enough to go to the polls 4 years ago, we might not have needed the Supreme Court to choose our leader for us. That's not to say we wouldn't be in this mess if Gore had been selected four years ago or that Kerry will somehow have the magical solution to our problems. But at this point, things are so catastrophic, I'm more than willing to take my chances with the unknown that further risk them with this known insult to the position of President. To echo Sid's call to arms - Everyone - DO SOMETHING. At the absolute least, drag a friend to the voting booth with you. If all else fails, use guilt, and ask them to please vote as a favor to you. Sure, it's manipulative (typically my least favorite word in the English language), but desperate times call for desperate measures.

On a somewhat unrelated topic, here's a very interesting take on the current state of things and voters' responses to campaigns and whatnot. Haven't read anything else by this guy, got to this entry from a comment on Amelia's blog, but it's a good read and the guy seems to provide pretty thoughtful and strong rhetoric.

Also, here's a follow-up NYT article to the first-person account of getting arrested during the GOP convention. Hard to tell which way this things going to go, publicly and politically. The first thing I noticed though, was the author's inability to count. In the opening paragraph he says the city detained hundreds of protestors, then six graphs down he finally manages to mention that there were in fact 1,781 arrests during the convention. /sigh.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd seen information about the airstrike - incredibly heinous. I'm all kinds of angry about whats going on, my big three: Iraq in all its forms and deceptions, shady and hypocritical politicing by the right (esp. all the shit in florida) and the crap the cops pulled in NY during the RNC. grr!

Anyways, one big thing causing a stir are all these conflicting polls out there... as a stats person, any sense of what the real deal is?

10:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Especially with respect to missing out on cell phones, etc.


10:30 AM  
Blogger Megan said...

My general feeling about polls is that most (all) of them are total crap. Representative sampling is really tricky, and correctly analyzing complex sampling designs is even trickier. Given the quick turnover time between administering polls and publishing results, I'd say the chances that many (any) polls are doing both steps correctly are slim to none. Not to mention the sampling bias which you alluded to - if the polls are telephone based, they're missing everyone without a telephone, which becomes more significant each year as people like me skip a landline and just do the cell thing. (not to mention missing anyone who can't afford the down payment for a phone line, a group of people who are probably the majority democrats) Even before problems regarding the method of sampling kick in, there's the issue of who they choose to sample - registered voters or 'likely' voters or whatever - all are problematic as a sampling pool. Lastly, there's the problem that, as we've seen, winning the popular vote doesn't always translate into winning the electoral college vote. So the fact that 56% of Americans claim today that they would vote one way still doesn't necessarily predict the electoral vote turnout. (/end somewhat objective answer)
So, yeah, bottom line, I think just about the only thing poll results are good for is convincing people to stay home and not vote. i.e. polls show that the repubs are going to win GA in a landslide, so I might as well not vote since it won't make any difference. (/end politically motivated answer)

3:14 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home