Tuesday Reindeer Game

It's the AF&O Reindeer Game, and everybody is welcome to play! Time for today’s round of the game. Check out the Dictionary.com Word of the Day at right and share your own sentence using the word. It’s educational and it’s fun, so play along with us. And feel free to comment on other sentences.

OK, today’s word:


As usual, I’ll go first:

Why are so many Americans of all political stripes so damned tractable? Have they considered thinking?

Show us what you can do. Take a turn!

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6 thoughts on “Tuesday Reindeer Game

  1. Tokyo Lets Loose Lapdogs of War
    by Chalmers Johnson

    Japan may have regained its sovereignty in 1952, but the decision to dispatch Japanese troops to Iraq earlier this month has reminded many of its citizens just how little independence the country really has – and just how much control the United States retains.

    If British Prime Minister Tony Blair is President Bush’s poodle, then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi is his cocker spaniel.

    “We are still occupied by the American military,” said an acquaintance of mine who is a former official of Japan’s Ministry of Education and now a university president. “We are a satellite. Our foreign policy revolves entirely around the wishes of Washington.”

    Like many other Japanese, he believes that Koizumi ordered Japan’s first military sortie into an active combat zone since World War II because he was too weak to stand up to President Bush.

    According to a recent Japan Broadcasting Corp. poll, 51% of the country opposes getting involved in Washington’s war against Iraq, while only 42% supports Koizumi’s decision. What’s more, 82% of those polled said they did not trust the prime minister’s explanations for marching into the Iraqi quagmire. Most believe that Koizumi had to go along with Bush or risk damaging the alliance with the U.S.

    by Brendan O’Neill

    Who’s behind the suicide bombings, roadside attacks and prison breakouts in postwar Iraq? Whoever you want it to be, by the look of things. No Iraqi or Islamic group has claimed responsibility for the sporadic attacks, but there is no shortage of Western commentators, coalition officials and anti-war activists claiming responsibility on behalf of various groups and interests and reading their own interpretations into the bloody assaults. Many in the West are effectively marshalling the nameless, nihilistic terrorists/resisters like a phantom army, to back up their own views of the war, the occupation and what should happen next.

    Last week was Iraq’s bloodiest since the war officially ended in April 2003. On 10 February, a suicide bomber detonated a truck outside a police station in Iskandariyah, south of Baghdad, killing 53 Iraqis. On 11 February, an Oldsmobile packed with 500 pounds of explosives blew up outside an Iraqi army recruitment centre in Baghdad, killing 47. On 14 February, a group of 50 armed men wearing masks stormed a police station in Fallujah, freeing up to 100 prisoners and killing over 20 newly recruited Iraqi policemen. This morning, a suicide attack at a Polish Army base in Hilla, south of Baghdad, killed at least 11 Iraqis and wounded eight coalition soldiers.

    Coalition officials have little idea who is carrying out these attacks, or why. According to Paul Bremer, America’s administrator in Iraq, the prison attack on 14 February was executed by ‘foreign fighters’ or al-Qaeda elements, who have ‘infiltrated Iraq’ (1). But a senior US military official in Baghdad says the attack ‘was something put together by people with knowledge of small-unit tactics. It was a complex, well coordinated attack. This would not be the same tactics that al-Qaeda would employ – these are military tactics’ (2). Ahmed Ibrahim, deputy minister of the interior in postwar Iraq, said the raid was the work of ‘a bunch of criminals who tried to free prisoners. They were gangsters, not terrorists’ (3).

    Coalition officials also blame foreigners for the suicide bombings of recent months – Bremer claims that they ‘exactly fit the strategy that has been outlined by–al-Qaeda’ (4). On 8 February, US officials released a letter reportedly written by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian Islamic fundamentalist suspected to be in Iraq, appealing to Osama bin Laden for assistance in destabilising Iraq. Yet there is little evidence that al-Zarqawi wrote the letter (it is unsigned) or when it was written (it is undated) or whether it ever reached bin Laden (it was found on a CD in a suspected al-Qaeda safe house near Baghdad). One report points out that of the dozens of insurgents arrested to date, only a ‘handful’ have been non-Iraqis (5). The coalition’s focus on al-Zarqawi’s alleged letter looks like a desperate attempt to give the enemy in Iraq some kind of definition, by falling back on the familiar spectre of bin Laden and co.

    As one report says: ‘USA has a murky picture of Iraqi resistance’. With little sense of who the attackers are – and little indication from the attackers themselves about what they are hoping to achieve by planting bombs and shooting soldiers – officials are reduced to speculating about the enemy. Now the coalition is latching on to the rise in violent attacks as a justification of both its mission in Iraq and the ongoing ‘war against terror’. Following the WMD debacle (the coalition said Saddam had lots, but in fact he had none), coalition officials today talk up their role in Iraq as one of ‘keeping the peace’ and ‘protecting Iraqis’ from insurgents – or, as one headline put it, ‘US Iraq administrator says recent violence underscores need for coalition forces’ (6). Others claim that al-Zarqawi’s alleged letter and the ongoing suicide bombings show that you cannot separate the ‘War in Iraq’ from the ‘War Against Terrorism’ (7).

    What kind of national liberation movement does not declare its aims?

    The bombers in Iraq may not speak their name – but for uncertain coalition leaders scratching about for a mission post-WMD, they have become the latest symbol of Evil that the coalition has a duty to combat in its never-ending, ever-shifting war against terror. Coalition officials may disagree over whether their enemies are Iraqis or foreigners, al-Qaeda types or ‘military units’, gangsters or terrorists – and may not know where they are based, who leads them or what they’re planning to do next – but still officials round them up as an advert for the coalition’s mission. In the attacks in postwar Iraq, an uncertain coalition sees another reason for its existence.

    On the other side, anti-war activists in the West hail the nameless attackers in Iraq as a national liberation movement seeking to defeat America’s mighty empire. Veteran anti-war writer John Pilger describes the bombers as a ‘resistance’ and one which is ‘incredibly important for all of us. I think that we depend on the resistance to win so that other countries might not be attacked’ (8). Tariq Ali compares those carrying out attacks on coalition forces in Iraq to resistance movements in Vichy France during the Second World War and later in Vietnam. ‘The immediate tasks that face an anti-imperialist movement are support for the Iraqi resistance’, declares Ali (9).

    What kind of national liberation movement does not declare its aims? Or take responsibility for its actions? Or posit an alternative to the powers-that-be? The ‘resistance’ in Iraq is a destructive, nihilistic force that only kicks against the coalition and runs away again, a case of terrorism for terrorism’s sake. Indeed, it is the empty, vacuous nature of the violence in postwar Iraq that allows so many interpretations of what is behind it – whether it’s an Islamic infiltration from beyond Iraq’s borders, the first stirrings of a civil war between Sunnis in the north and Shias in the south, or, in the wishful thinking of some in the anti-war lobby, a blow for liberation against American arrogance.

    The rise in pointless violence in postwar Iraq is better understood as a result of the coalition’s war. The coalition chased a weakened regime out of a weakened state, with little sense of what might take its place – leaving a vacuum that various armed and opportunistic groups have moved in to. Now, it seems, opportunistic elements in the West are following them, seeing great battles of purpose and meaning in postwar Iraq where none exists.

    Read on:

    spiked-issue: War on Iraq

    (1) Bremer: Foreign Fighters in Iraq Attack, Observer, 15 February 2003

    (2) US blames ‘foreign fighters’ for raid, Scotsman, 16 February 2004

    (3) Raid causes experts to question readiness of Iraqi security forces, Neela Banerjee, New York Times, 15 February 2004

    (4) As US draws down, doubt over Iraqis, Nicholas Blanford, Christian Science Monitor, 17 February 2004

    (5) Bush keeps trying to make Iraq invasion look justified, Gwynne Dyer, Salt Lake Tribune, 16 February 2004

    (6) US Iraq administrator says recent violence underscores need for coalition forces, Michael Bowman, Voice of America, 15 February 2004

    (7) Is it just for oil?, Ray Thomas, Sierra Times, 16 February 2004

    (8) Soft spot for Iraqi thugs, David McKnight, Weekend Austrialian, 9 February 2004

    (9) Soft spot for Iraqi thugs, David McKnight, Weekend Austrialian, 9 February 2004

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    What is spiked?
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    There’s no question that the U.S. takes Japan for granted. The Bush administration likes to boast about how successful the U.S. Army was in democratizing Japan after World War II, and it likes to suggest that it will accomplish the same feat in Iraq. But it fails to note that the U.S. military kept the Japanese prefecture of Okinawa as a Pentagon colony for more than 25 years – until 1972 – and that the U.S. still has 38 military bases on that small island.

    Okinawa is home to 1.3 million Japanese citizens who since 1945 have repeatedly had to bear the burdens of violent crimes by American soldiers, continuous environmental and noise pollution, hit-and-run accidents, bar brawls and behavior that would never be tolerated in the U.S. or the mainland of Japan.

    The Washington official charged with keeping Japan in the U.S. orbit is Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage. His name probably appears in the Japanese press more frequently than any other U.S. government figure. Armitage has been hammering Koizumi for more than a year “not to miss the boat” this time, referring to Japan’s failure to support the United States militarily in the 1991 war against Iraq. (He has apparently forgotten that Tokyo bankrolled operations to the tune of $13 billion.)

    After his reelection as prime minister in September, Koizumi railroaded a vote through the Japanese Parliament endorsing the dispatch of Self-Defense Forces troops to Iraq, even though he acknowledged that this was probably a violation of Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution.

    Article 9, a key part of Japan’s post-World War II constitution, prohibits Japan from using force in the conduct of its foreign relations. Koizumi tried to get around this by endorsing future efforts to amend the constitution and by claiming that the Japanese army would undertake “only humanitarian and reconstruction work” in Iraq.

    But this is hardly a risk-free operation – militarily or politically. Domestic critics charge that sending the troops before amending the constitution suggests that Japan does not believe in the rule of law. Two former secretaries-general of Koizumi’s Liberal Democratic Party, Koichi Kato and Makoto Koga, and the party’s former policy chief, Shizuka Kamei, declined to vote for the troop deployment.

    The first of about 1,000 Japanese troops arrived Feb. 8 in Samawah, 168 miles south of Baghdad. Four days later, they came under mortar attack. They’ve also been threatened by Al Qaeda for joining the U.S.-led coalition – and given that Al Qaeda delivered painful blows to the Turks in Istanbul after issuing similar warnings, Japan should be braced for military and civilian casualties.

    Perhaps even more serious for the Japanese, Samawah was hit by U.S. depleted-uranium ammunition in both 1991 and 2003. A Japanese journalist, Mamoru Toyoda, equipped with a Geiger counter found radiation levels in the town 300 times greater than normal. The Dutch troops also based there have refused to remove or go near any of the radioactive debris in the area. Death and disability because of radiation sickness is a particular horror for all Japanese after Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

    The British and Australian governments ignored their populations to join Bush’s might-makes-right adventure, when they could have stood aside like France and Germany. It is too bad that Japan has now done the same thing, permanently destroying the idealism behind its antiwar constitution.

    Chalmers Johnson is president of the Japan Policy Research Institute and author of “The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy, and the End of the Republic” (Metropolitan Books, 2004).

    Copyright 2004 Los Angeles Times


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  2. Dear Friends,

    You are against the war and have strong negative angry feelings about the president.

    I understand this as I was –anti-war’ for most of my life. I protested at Westover Air Force Base on a cold February night at the start of the first Gulf War. I was always against the Vietnam War. And as for the conflicts during Clinton’s presidency that resulted from the fall of the Soviet Union, genocide and all, well, I knew they were –messy’ civil war situations so mostly I tried not to think about it.

    Now I support the current war and, though I also had strong negative feelings for the president after he was first elected, I have, post 9/11, come to see his leadership as strong and his –war on terror’, which includes the war in Iraq, as a real and sincere effort to defend this country from bona-fide aggressors.

    So why is it that you see this so differently? I have been thinking, and writing, about this phenomenon, the obvious split of the left between pro and anti-war camps, since 9/11. I really think it comes down to certain assumptions we hold that we are or are not aware of, general assumptions about the world and human nature, assumptions that were once considered loose guidelines but I believe have rigidified into dogma, as well as specific assumptions about current issues.

    First, I’d like to expand on what Johann Hari wrote recently about this split. He put this in a very concise way. He said that each camp comes from legitimate leftist traditions. He said the current anti-war camp comes from the anti-colonialist tradition:

    –This sees America as the world’s leading colonial power, and attacks upon it as part of a just anti-colonial struggle (although specific tactics like targeting civilians are usually identified as questionable). September 11th was created by US colonialism; the remedy is to dismantle US colonialism. The Left’s place, in this conception, is clearly on the side of the victims of the imperial power. This is the tradition that the Stop the War Coalition has clearly drawn on, and it is best articulated today by John Pilger, Tariq Ali, Noam Chomsky, and Gore Vidal.
    The second is the anti-fascist tradition, stretching to the Spanish Civil War and beyond– The antifascist left sees fascism as the prime evil in human affairs, and prioritizes alliances against fascism even if that necessitates siding with, say, Donald Rumsfeld–People of the left like Christopher Hitchens, David Aaranovitch, and Nick Cohen see al-Quadea as a fascist movement which opposes all the Left’s goals: equality, feminism, human rights, freedom–That is why I use the term –Islamofascism’: it conceptualizes al-Quadea as a threat to the Left, as well as to American civilians, and condenses all these arguments into one neat term. It reminds everyone that al-Quadea are not protestors against Vietnam or in favour of Kyoto; they are fascists and therefore embody the ultimate evil.–

    To me, it comes down to which of these things, US colonialism or blatant fascism, you see as more dangerous to the world.

    To me, blatant fascism, whether theocratic or secular in nature, is always the bigger danger to the world because blatant fascism, by definition, is always the most extreme, racist and brutal form of unfettered colonialism going. Colonialists can engage in outright brutality, and have in the past, but these days, the kind of US colonialism that folks complain about has more to do with anger at McDonalds, Hollywood and Coke taking over culturally, and economically, than with anything else. US colonialism does not stone to death or behead female adulterers and homosexuals, Islamofascism does. US colonialism never offered rape rooms and tree shredders as officially sanctioned punishments for those who voice disagreement with the government, Baathist fascism did.

    Colonialism is not necessarily fascist but fascism is always imperialist. True fascists always try to take over as much territory as they can and have no qualms about who or how many they need to outright kill or torture in order to get there.

    Now, onto those assumptions.

    The first big assumption I’ll start off with is a bit more specific than the others and is the one I consider to be the gate-keeper assumption. If you can’t get past this one, there’s not much point in going on.

    On the news one day a Dean supporter was asked about the anger that was behind so much support for anti-war Howard Dean. I was struck by what this guy said topped his list. He said that the anger started with the fact that Bush stole the last election and he did not consider him to be the legitimate president. Then he went on to talk about the war. People are still under the mistaken impression that Bush literally stole the election and this myth serves to continually fuel irrational anger, skew and filter certain information almost out of existence. There were several independent election investigations done after the election and all, including the very leftist Nation magazine, concluded that there were in fact not enough uncounted ballots to elect Gore. Please friends, unless you can prove it, unless you can enlighten us all with real concrete evidence, then, however difficult, you must face this fact or be relegated to the fringe who think the moon landing was faked.

    For me, September 11th tested the real world mettle of many assumptions I held; it caused me to re-evaluate ideas that I really didn’t even know I held until faced with this situation. It also made me realize that a lot of these ideas were in fact just assumptions, or hopes, and were not proven scientific truths.

    One such assumption is the Tabula Rasa, or the idea that we are all born a blank slate. It is this idea that is generally, in the everyday world, interpreted as –human nature is basically good’. This seems to me to be the basis of leftist thought in general and the idea that helps to justify the Socialist ideal that there’s always a rational explanation for bad behavior, and their explanation is essentially that oppression and economic hardship are responsible for violence and criminality. The overall message is this: –the system’, colonial capitalism with all its inequities, is more responsible for violence and criminality than the criminals themselves, and if everyone had all they needed and were treated well, there’d be no real problems left. I never realized how much naïve credence I’d, unconsciously, given to this truly utopian idea until 9/11 brought it into my consciousness, and forced me to look at it head on. This is the grand daddy assumption that justifies and lays the foundation for so many others. This is the idea that leads to this line of thought: –Why do they hate us? We (the US system) must’ve done something terrible for them to have killed 3,000 of us. The root causes of this are obviously the past foreign policy sins of the US so we’d better change and behave ourselves from now on in the world; then and only then will there be peace in the world.’ And this line of thought also has several hidden implied assumptions. One is that the US, as the worlds only –superpower’, completely controls the whole world all the time so therefore whatever goes wrong is always the fault of the US. The US is granted almost omnipotent status here and this leads to ideas that state the US knows everything and can do anything when it wants to and therefore the capture of Sadaam was well planned and orchestrated to benefit Bush the most, etc. How could it possibly be our fault if we didn’t control everything, right? One assumption justifies another.

    Another hidden assumption stemming from ––the system’ is to blame’ is the idea of moral equivalence, which, ironically, really means applying completely different standards of judgement to analogous situations only because one situation involves people who are viewed as being more victimized by –the system’. This is why the left is eerily silent when it comes to, say, Islamist Honor killings of women, but would be marching in justified outrage if white American men started bludgeoning their –promiscuous’ daughters to death in order to save the family honor as their –religion’ dictates. After 9/11, I came to recognize this not as tolerance, but as hypocrisy and amorality dressed up as tolerance; and sympathy for the terrorists as desperate victims of –the system’ begins to over-ride sympathy for those actually murdered. I believe this ultimately leads to an attitude that ignores or even dehumanizes the victims of terror in favor of sympathy for the terrorists. Ian Buruma calls this moral racism:

    –When Indians kill Muslims, or Africans kill Africans, or Arabs kill Arabs, western pundits pretend not to notice, or find historical explanations, or blame the scars of colonialism. But if white men, whether they are Americans, Europeans, South Africans or Israelis harm people of colour, hell is raised.–
    Way back when, the prevailing traditional idea was that individuals are born into original sin, meaning people are born bad and have to learn, through religion, to be good. The revolutionary idea that people are born good and must learn to be bad was a definite improvement over the oppression of original sin. But this revolutionary idea, this unproven idea, has itself rigidified into a worldview that has become like a literal mirror image of the rigid black and white world it sought to free us from. And all of these assumptions, in one way or another, to me, serve to hinder the internal free flow of information so important to objectivity and truth, assumptions that prevented me, I’m embarassed to say, from really facing the genocidal facts concerning those ‘messy’ civil wars under Clinton’s watch. I just never realized how many roadblocks these assumptions had left in my head. September 11th pretty much blew my roadblocks away. September 12th left me with concrete facts of rubble and human dust. It was then that I understood the importance of facts over utopian assumptions; facts lead to the truth, utopia leads nowhere, and when you assume–


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