Updated: 25/04/2003; 6:24:16 PM.
What does it mean under the surface

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

For those of you that do not know this is a British Great War memorial that was desecrated today in France

This time last year I went to France with my uncle to follow his father's war in France. He arrived in February 1915 in time to face the first gas attack of the war and we finished in a small cemetery which had been an aid post where he was gassed in September 1918. He survived and his gassing got him back to England which probably saved his life as the Canadian Corps lost 25% of its men in the next two months. As my uncle and I wandered around the front we were staggered at the loss. I am not exaggerating every mile or less there is another cemetery. I cannot explain to you the sheer physical impact and the full extent of the sacrifice made by the English, the Canadians, the Australians, the New Zealanders and South Africans on the English side of the front. Many were never found at all swallowed up in the mud. Many graves simply tell you that this was soldier of the Great War - not even a cap badge or buckle to tell us what regiment he came from. More than outright losses, a generation of leadership perished as well. More than 70% of those who went to my school in England between 1910 and 1918 were killed. More than 85% of those that went to my college at Oxford were killed. You can scoff today at their reasons but at the time they were motivated by the highest calling. In Canada every soldier was a volunteer.

I know that this act of vandalism is probably the act of the type of teen that causes trouble everywhere BUT I have never felt so angry as I do now looking at this desecration.  A nation that forgets the price for their freedom paid by others is not worthy to be called a nation.

11:13:16 PM    comment []

I got an email yesterday with the following story:
When in England at a fairly large conference, Colin Powell was asked by the Archbishop of Canterbury if our plans for Iraq were just an example of empire building by George Bush.

He answered by saying that, "Over the years, the United States has sent many of its fine young men and women into great peril to fight for freedom beyond our borders. The only amount of land we have ever asked for in return is enough to bury those that did not return."

It became very quiet in the room.

Great story. But whenever I get anything like this I always check, usually at The Urban Legands site. Sure enough, they have the scoop on this story. As so often turns out with a great story, reality is quite different. In this case, reality is actually much more interesting and displays why I have a tremendous amount of respect for Powell. The big conference was the World Economic Forum at Davos in January and you can read the entire transcript of his speech and the Q/A afterwards. It was a former Archbishop who asked a question and it was not whether we were empire building in Iraq. It was a somewhat convoluted question dealing with the proper use of soft or hard power, when to use each and how we should. He was worried that the US may be relying too much on hard power instead of soft power. Powell then gave an incredibly eloquent answer, expressing the views of most Americans. Simply, We do not like to use hard power. We prefer soft but if hard is the only way, we will not shirk from using it. Read his response. It is much better than this short synopsis. I do not disagree with this. I think many people worldwide would agree that hard, military power has to be used. The disagreement comes deciding what point must be reached before hard power needs to be used. My favorite quote from his repsonse is this:
I mean, it was not soft power that freed Europe. It was hard power. And what followed immediately after hard power? Did the United States ask for dominion over a single nation in Europe? No. Soft power came in the Marshall Plan. Soft power came with American GIs who put their weapons down once the war was over and helped all those nations rebuild. We did the same thing in Japan. So our record of living our values and letting our values be an inspiration to others I think is clear. And I don't think I have anything to be ashamed of or apologize for with respect to what America has done for the world.
After he finishes this, there is loud applause. Not a silent room. A lot of people agree with him. Then he next speaks the part that was quoted in the story, although there is substantial editting to make it more powerful and, in fact, more miltaristic and disrepectful of the audience. His real words are just as important and heartfelt but they do not have the hard edge that is present in the story.
We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we've done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace. But there comes a time when soft power or talking with evil will not work where, unfortunately, hard power is the only thing that works.

Not as pretty as the story. Powell's answer to this one question was interrupted twice by applause. His entire speech was interrupted 8 times. The audience treated him with respect, as he did the audience. The first question was put to him by the Secretary General of Amnesty International. The one following was by a businessman. Both asked very good questions in a respectful fashion. Powell answered both with the same measure of respect, never dismissive in his response. He showed a strong sense of humility and a sharp sense of history. The truth is SOOO much more complex and interesting than the skewed message in the email. If you want to get tears in your eyes, read the answer to the last question. The moderator asked Powell how 9/11 had affected him personally. This man is someone I would trust with my country. My major worry has been that his views have become more marginalized in the Administration over the past year, if not longer. There are strong neoconservative views opposing his moderate ones. When several advisors wanted to go after Saddam within days of 9/11, not because Iraq was involved but because it fit their strategic views, Powell more than anyone else forced the focus back to Osama. If Powell can avoid the long knives and forge a strong political career separate from Bush, he could have a huge effect on the future course of America. At least in my (not so humble) opinion. How his career will play out is not knowable but here is one person's opinion. [A Man with a Ph.D. - Richard Gayle's Weblog]

There is something essentially noble about Colin Powell. When I think of him I think of the finer points of the Roman character. In particular I think of Agrippa who was the man who enabled Octavian to become Augustus. If you don't know whom I am talking about check the link and see if you can see where I am going with this.

While history does not repeat itself, maybe it comes close in pattern. There is something about the man that tells us even today, before history has had its perspective, that he is special. An immigrant from Jamaica whose career is the examplar of the American dream - who shows us that in the American forces, the Field Marshall's baton is in any private's pack. Who belies the need for affrmative action by the excellence of his ability and of his character. Who is the ideal "Servant Leader".

Maybe I have had too much single malt this evening - but I feel that true tragedy is when a great man serves a lesser.

8:55:44 PM    comment []

Here is a chart that explains a lot at the UN - Thanks Command Post
12:58:46 PM    comment []

Need to keep this so that I can read it more thoroughly

Northern Light.

A "Canadian mother" with a U.S. background writes,

I think Joshua Micah Marshall is on the money...

It is hard to watch as America falls sway to an administration that appears to be headed in the direction that Josh indicates.

If you stepped out of the US for a period you would get out of the emotional carpet bombing that has been going on for months...the weekend terror alerts, plastic and duct tape and now the constant war images.

The so called Patriot Bill 2 is as scary a piece of legislation as I have seen in my half century of life.

I find myself angry and in mourning for a people that are being manipulated by a very clever propaganda campaign that would make the old Nazi masters proud. The scary thing is how well it works.

There is an image of Canada as a mouse living beside an elephant. Many of us are looking at the elephant as having gone rogue.

Check out The Anglo-American Military Axis by Michel Chossudovsky.

Check out the Dee Hock and Mark Twain quotes in David Isenberg's last Smart Letter.

They go well with the quotes below.

"Let me remind you what fascism is. It need not wear a brown shirt or a green shirt--it may even wear a dress shirt. Fascism begins the moment a ruling class, fearing the people may use their political democracy to gain economic democracy, begins to destroy political democracy in order to retain its power of exploitation and special privilege." Tommy Douglas (Link to source.)

Fascism should rightly be called Corporatism as it is a merge of state and corporate power. Benito Mussolini (Link to source.)

Benito Mussolini

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship."

"There is one difference," I pointed out. "In a democracy the people have some say in the matter through their elected representatives, and in the United States only Congress can declare wars."

"Oh, that is all well and good, but, voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

"Why, of course, the people don't want war," Goering shrugged. "Why would some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best that he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece. Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship." Hermann Goering, from Nuremberg Diary, by Gustave Gilbert. (Link to source.)

The links to sources are mine. Not only is it easier to copy and paste from a browser than from email (with all those returns to remove), but some of the longer source pieces are worth reading as well.

Bonus link: American hawks' plan sounds chilling today, by Vinay Menon in the Toronto Star.

[The Doc Searls Weblog]
10:40:28 AM    comment []

More from the Times this morning on Rumsfeld and the Generals. The best part of the article is on the second page where we find out more about the tense relationship between Rumsfeld and the Chief of the Army.
9:21:51 AM    comment []

© Copyright 2003 Robert Paterson.
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