“Let’s not forget that for all the president’s soaring
rhetoric about spreading freedom and democracy, free
elections were the administration’s fallback position.
More Plan D than guiding principle. We were initially
going to install Ahmed Chalabi as our man in Baghdad,
remember? Then that shifted to the abruptly
foreshortened reign of ‘Bremer of Arabia.’ The White
House only consented to holding open elections after
Grand Ayatollah Sistani sent his followers into the
streets to demand them — and even then Bush refused
to allow the elections until after our presidential
campaign was done, just in case more suicide bombers
than voters turned up at Iraqi polling places.”
Iraqi elections. Big freakin’ deal. Sure, it’s great that Saddam is gone and it’s great that Iraqis finally have a say (or at least so it seems) in who governs them. But at what price? If one more flipflopping talking head mutters, “maybe Bush was right,” I’m going to slap someone hard. Let me break it down for you: if tomorrow US rangers start handing out bricks of gold and all the goats start shitting hummus and pissing vodka, none of it would be worth what this war has cost: 100,000 corpses. Nothing short of the dead rising from their graves can possibly make Bush “right.” (Ironically, as a believer in the rapture, that’s exactly what he expects to happen.)
This past week I was lucky to attend the 2nd regional meeting of the Canada-USA Clinical Epidemiology Network in Montebello, Quebec. I somehow managed to squeeze in regular gym workouts, swims, hikes, cross-country skiing, broomball and –best of all– dogsledding! This is a photo of the the pooches’ asses, taken on my trusty Treo 600:
Here’s some interesting news. I was recently contacted by Thomson-Gale Publishing regarding one of my very old wrestling columns. It seems they want to republish the article in a textbook on “alternative views.” The question that I, ever the mercenary, must ask myself: what do I charge them?
Thanks to Mischa for drawing my attention to the following. From the New York Times archives:
U.S. Encouraged by Vietnam Vote:
Officials Cite 83% Turnout Despite Vietcong Terror
by Peter Grose, Special to the New York Times — Sept. 4, 1967
WASHINGTON, Sept. 3– United States officials were surprised and heartened today at the size of turnout in South Vietnam’s presidential election despite a Vietcong terrorist campaign to disrupt the voting.
According to reports from Saigon, 83 per cent of the 5.85 million registered voters cast their ballots yesterday. Many of them risked reprisals threatened by the Vietcong.
The size of the popular vote and the inability of the Vietcong to destroy the election machinery were the two salient facts in a preliminary assessment of the nation election based on the incomplete returns reaching here.
A successful election has long been seen as the keystone in President Johnson’s policy of encouraging the growth of constitutional processes in South Vietnam.
The purpose of the voting was to give legitimacy to the Saigon Government.
The unavoidable tsunami relief backlash has arrived. Commentators, such as this guy, are echoing the Rand Institute’s position that government money should not be spent on aid; and at many social gatherings I’m hearing frustrated mutterings complaining about tsunami aid overkill and overexposure. I myself no longer watch images of devastation on the news, and indeed my latest column explores assertions that tsunami aid is taking attention away from equally needy causes, such as HIV/AIDS and malaria control.
But let’s put things back into perspective, shall we? While it is true that the Asian tsunami has “only” killed 160,000 people (small compared to annual death tolls from war, hunger, malaria and AIDS), loss of life is not the only issue here. At least 5 million people remain homeless and suffering in refugee camps on the beaches of stricken countries. And yes, there are homeless in our own country, too, but our homeless problem can’t be solved with a few million dollars investment in reconstructed infratructure; ours is a much more economically and medically complicated phenomenon. The Asian case, however, is one than can be dramatically improved with sufficient initial investment in this brief window of time. These are peoples with skills and jobs, but no longer any industry infrastructure, such as a pier from which to fish. And unlike our situation, there is no social safety net large enough to absorb so many people for a prolonged period.
Additionally, it’s not just about loss of life and homelessness. The stricken nations are among the fastest recovering of Southern economies. The Indian economy was projected to grow by 8% this year, Thailand’s by 6% and Indonesia’s by 4%. (No figure for Sri Lanka, sorry, though the country was on its way to recovering from 20 years of civil war.) These nations are ripe markets for our exports and thriving environments for Northern/Western manufacturing —for better or worse. My point is that devastation in SE Asia means potential economic shrinkage in other parts of the world. And unlike malaria or HIV/AIDS, which at this point require sustained global efforts, sufficient and focused tsunami reconstruction/relief investment now might just head off calamnity later. Just imagine if we’d had the wherewithal to address the AIDS epidemic in the early days, well before it became a pandemic.
To be clear, I’m not advocating for the movement of HIV/AIDS funds to tsunami relief. Heck no– I consider myself a rabid AIDS fighter! Rather, I want you to understand that the tsunami affair is not overblown by the media. It’s a gosh darned honest to goodness catastrophe and a potential global nightmare.
Here is a touching story. The people of the Russian town of Beslan, where terrorists killed a bunch of kids, is giving US$36000 to tsunami relief, out of the funds the world sent them after their ordeal. That’s the kind of thing that gives me a little hope.
In fact, everyone’s response to the tsunami crisis –with the exception of George Bush and the Ayn Rand Institute– has been so passionate and genuine that I, ever the grey cynic, am actually moved. The response in Toronto and Ottawa to our call for help has been grand, with, for example, entertainers organizing themselves into fundraising events. There’s nothing wrong with feeling good about yourselves, people; you’ve earned it.
Meanwhile, the US military is looking for a way to legalize the lifetime incarceration of terror suspects without trial. An official policy of torture -in some cases to death- and now of lifetime imprisonment without due process: welcome to Orwell’s 1984 two decades too late.
On a completely unrelated note, a new movie called Guiana 1838 finally tells the tale of the arrival of Indian indentured servants to Guyana. Those people were my direct ancestors, and I’m happy their story is finally being told.
And this Guyanese fellow has some personal good news. For a while now, my work has been studied at Cornell and Columbia Universities in New York. Last year both, Ryerson University (in Toronto) and the University of New Brunswick (in Fredericton) added my bibliography to their English classes. And today I learned that my short story “Motherland” is being included as material for a new undergraduate course called “India, Life, Culture, and the Arts.” Whoohoo!
Don’t forget, if you live in Toronto, try to attend our fundraising event at Andy Pool Hall tonight!