On the Toll of War

“It is not among the least of the calamities of a long continued war, that it unhinges the mind from those nice sensations which at other times appear so amiable. The continued spectacle of woe, blunts the finer feelings, and the necessity of bearing with the sight, moral obligations of society weakened, till the custom of acting by necessity, becomes an apology where it is truly a crime.”

Leaving the battlefield is sometimes the only way to stop losing the war.

Another day, another month, another year, and soon the cost of the continued war takes a toll greater than the sum of any body count, itself a morbid measure of the tragedy.

Thomas Paine’s fear in The Crisis – as it should be ours now – was that the full consequences of a war protracted is fully realized when unrelenting violence slowly kills the spirit of a nation. And then, yet again, war becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy; a murky, deadly fog through which few can penetrate. All is lost when the purpose of the war becomes the war itself.

On Patriotism and its Disguise

“Apostasy stalked through the land in the garb of patriotism, and the torch of treason blinded for a while the flame of liberty.”

True devotion to liberty will, in times of crisis, run counter to blind loyalty to any particular leader or ideology.

Ultimately, it is not to the president that we are to remain steadfast, but the presidency; not the symbols and hubris that derives from unthinking devotion to tribal dogma, but faithful pursuit to the founding principals upon which a nation was given form.

A nation of laws makes no man supreme.

It is allegiance to an ideal and not ideology, and constant striving toward that ideal, that is the true mark of patriotism.

All else is but an imposter wrapped in a flag.

On Four Years of War in Iraq

“O ye partial ministers of your own acknowledged principals. If the bearing arms be sinful, the first going to war must be more so, by all the difference between wilful attack and unavoidable defence. Wherefore, if ye really preach from conscience, and mean not to make a political hobbyhorse of your religion, convince the world thereof, by proclaiming your doctrine to our enemies, for they likewise bear ARMS.”

War is not a moral act, even if justified by defensive necessity. When not of necessity but ideology that war is engaged, it instantly becomes harder to win; and even harder to justify when the ideology is based on falsehood, executed with an incompetent disregard for nothing but the best possible outcome, and expressed to the world through hubris and arrogance.

Justifications thus wear thin, and enemies are provided justifications of their own.

And then becomes the reality of an intractable war that nobody wins.

Paine & Loathing for March – by Cobb

The Republican All-Star Game

March Madness is here kids, and with it a general fascination with any and all things whose greater meaning can be divined from a competition-style bracket. With that in mind, I offer some of the latter-day All Stars from the Right; a menagerie of goons so hopelessly bent they could only find company with each other, like maximum-security murderers and pedophiles whispering to each other through cracks between cells.

Ah, Spring!

All hail Domo Arigato Mr. Alberto Gonzales, looking his most What, Me Worry? outside his office yesterday. His non-apology for removing generally liked Bush-era appointed federal prosecutors across the country deserves applause for its apathetic attitude as well as its cold Mafia-like execution. The greater message is for all you right-leaners out there: Sure you’re Republican…but are you Republican enough?

An honorable mention is surely due to the Justice that never was–White House council Harriet Miers–who, in a fit of Cesarian dedication, has thrown her name under a bus to ensure Gonzales needn’t remove himself out of such motives as, say, honor or propriety or responsibility for your actions.

Hey, let’s not forget to raise the roof for Gen. Peter Pace, chairman for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, for FINALLY addressing the pink elephant in the room. Addressing the editing board for the Chicago Tribune earlier this week, he equated being gay with adultery.

“I believe that military members who sleep with other military members’ wives are immoral in their conduct, and we should not tolerate that,” Pace said, showing everyone how not-gay he was, “I believe that homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts.”

Hear that, adulterers? Next time you’re banging someone else’s wife, know that Gen. Peter Pace thinks it totally makes you a gay.

What I love most about this is the fact that it reinforces the official Bush policy on gayness. For those so terrified by gays they became Bush supporters, they can look at this and say, “Good. We can’t officially keep them out of the military, but at least it means we don’t have to stop hating them for what they are. And then they can die for our cause. Everyone wins!”

Okay so Scooter Libby was found guilty last week and I had to mention it because I’d been tossing around the following sentence…If you don’t like the outcome of your case, trial, trial again!

He’s only got to appeal a couple of times. The presidential pardon is only 21 months away.

I think the real winner in all of this is prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who succeeded in taking four years to bust a man who didn’t lie smart enough, as opposed to going after the architects of the entire ordeal. He’s proven to everyone how hopelessly bureaucratic the Justice Department has become. He comes off as a bigger shemp than Libby himself, who will at least be taken care of in time. Fitzgerald’s a man who went after wrong-doing because of a dedication to law and order and ends up aiding the Bush Administration by slapping them lightly on the wrist for one of the greatest violations in Executive history. I hope he is eternally haunted by this, posing his guppy and always ruing the ones that got away.

Keep an eye on Republican Presidential hopefuls John McCain and Rudy Giuliani. The two Right-boys that terrify me most for their crossover appeal will slowly but surely move center on most of their truly defining positions, like their acceptance for gay-mos and their idea that guns that shoot lots of bullets real fast shouldn’t really have a place in your double-wide. McCain has already made nice with America’s Sweethearts, The Christian Right, as he slouches his way across the country, and Giuliani at one point will have to break his (up until now) brilliant vow of silence on any and all positions. Mass. ex-Gov. Mitt Romney who had to tolerate “alternative lifestyles” is painting himself wisely as someone who did it because the people wanted it, not because he did. Now he can run around the country and gay-hate a lot more effectively.

Cobb is a freelance writer and regular sonuvabitch based in Los Angeles.

On Concern for the Present State of the Military and Its Missions

“The weaker any cord is the less will it bear to be stretched, and the worse is the policy to stretch it, unless it is intended to break it.”

Is there cause for concern when regular troops, reservists, and National Guard are asked to return for a second and third tour of duty; When there is talk of “lowered standards” and “moral waivers” in regard to acceptance into the military; When military commanders speak of their forces being “stretched to the breaking point”; When wounded veterans are subjected to poor conditions and substandard treatment.

Are we stretching the cord to the breaking point? And when it breaks, what then? What happens to a foreign policy that depends so heavily on military solutions?

On Keeping an Open Mind

“I have always strenuously supported the right of every man to his opinion, however different that opinion might be to mine. He who denies to another this right, makes a slave of himself to his present opinion, because he precludes himself the right of changing it.”

Perhaps it is not unusual for every generation to, in one way or another, have a crisis of conscious, of opposing idealogies, that is polarizing and divisive, the one side sure that the other is inspired by the devil.

It is the truly virtuous man that can set aside all prejudice and suspicion when considering another’s belief in direct opposition to his own. It is not easily done.

Paine lived to see the intrigue and vitriol rampant in the newly United States’ first administration. oversaw open political warfare and attempted character assassination between his Secretaries of Finance and State, Alexander and Thomas respectively. At odds were the ideas of Federalism (a strong central government) versus Republicanism (less centralized government, power to the states); exactly how it was thought best the new country should be run. But it went further than that. Between Hamilton and Jefferson, it got personal and ugly.

It was as if they believed in two different Gods.

And it didn’t get resolved. It is a debate that exists even now, and shows little sign of abating.

Religion and politics are not discussed in polite company, lest it get personal and ugly. For it follows that if one does, one will eventually come upon another that believes just the opposite, and never the twain shall meet.

It seems as if humanity is both inspired and cursed by religion and politics, it brings together a few against the many, invites dogma, fear, and violence; and is apparently essential, in some fundamental way, for human civilization to exist.

Perhaps within religion and politics lie the essential elements of humanity that haltingly propels civilization; ever stumbling forward.

On Darfur

“For that which is a disgrace to human nature, throws something of a shade over all the human character, and each individual feels his share of the wound that is given to the whole.”

No matter how far removed we may feel, either through distance or time, from the raging and rampant genocidal lunacy that haunts human history, we all suffer. The killing and violence in Darfur is but one more example of the ravages of fear and hate on the human soul, and inflicts one more wound into our shared character as a species on this earth.

On Patience and Understanding Among Reasonable People

“There never yet was any truth or any principle so irresistibly obvious that all men believed it at once. Time and reason must cooperate with each other to the final establishment of any principle; and therefore those who may happen to be first convinced have not a right to persecute others, on whom conviction operates more slowly. The moral principle of revolutions is to instruct, not to destroy.”

In Thomas Paine’s time, people did not all agree in one moment that a war of independence from Great Britain was prudent or wise. After the war was won, bitterness ensued between the Federalists and Republicans on what exact form our new government should take.

Throughout history, principles, ideas, ways of life that today we take for granted or that seem natural did not appear in the aggregate human psyche in one flash of inspired change. Some “saw the light” and many others weren’t so sure that the light wasn’t blinding to what was right.

Today has its issues which divide people on one side of belief or another. As Thomas Paine said long ago, time and reason will establish these issues as valid or not. Is modern society exacerbating a warming climate, is preemptive warfare sound foreign policy, what is the right balance between personal liberty and government intrusion on that liberty to protect the whole?

These are just some of the questions we face today that engenders bitter debate. Nobody wins when people engage in a contest of personal destruction. A right principle, put forth by a sound and respectful argument, will carry the day. All too often from the lowest echelon of society straight up to the pinnacle of power, we see the exact opposite, and then nothing is served but division, suspicion, and bitterness.