17 August 2006

Short questions (even shorter answers)

What did the other guy say? Has anyone noticed a tendency in the mainstream media to report only or mainly what George W. Bush says, when covering a conference or conversation where he speaks, and not go into what the other participants said? Here's a recent blatant example: "President Bush had an 8-minute phone call Saturday with Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Saniora to discuss the truce." We find out what George Bush wanted to tell Fuad Saniora but not what Fuad Saniora wanted Bush to know. Do you really think they each got four minutes? In any case, why don't the reporters want to find out what both sides said? If the White House only wants to divulge Bush's side, then ask the Lebanese government. If the information is altogether unavailable, that's news, too. We get entirely too much of the imperial voice these days.

Are Lebanese deaths equal to Israeli deaths? Not in terms of moral weight, according to John Bolton, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. That's what I read in an AFP dispatch on Yahoo, but clicking on the same link now gets me nowhere. (Cache still works, however, yielding this opening sentence: "UNITED NATIONS (AFP) - US Ambassador John Bolton said there was no moral equivalence between the civilian casualties from the Israeli raids in Lebanon and those killed in Israel from 'malicious terrorist acts'."

More comment here on this theme in the TPM Cafe. However, I cannot pretend to be surprised. There is nothing that some politicians won't stoop to in order to oversimplify complex situations and shift all accountability to the politically convenient "enemy." Actually, I am desperately eager for American leaders to confront the so-called Party of God (Hezbollah) on the sheer blasphemy represented by any group with that name shooting missiles at population centers. But our country cannot do that confrontation with any credibility whatever; we have made our cause with those who prefer to bomb civilians (and U.N. observers) first, and ask questions later.

Although "there is a democracy in death," as Billy Graham said at Richard Nixon's funeral, some deaths can strike us as particularly poignant. One example: Uri Grossman, son of the Israeli writer and peace activist David Grossman, was among the Israeli soldiers killed in the recent Lebanese ground campaign. (Haaretz story here.) Although David did not oppose the fight against Hezbollah, he is one of Israel's steadfast supporters of justice for Palestinians.

What is the definition of political insanity? Judge for yourself, based on this quotation from Seymour Hersh's New Yorker article on the Israel/Hezbollah war:
“Strategic bombing has been a failed military concept for ninety years, and yet air forces all over the world keep on doing it,” John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, told me. Arquilla has been campaigning for more than a decade, with growing success, to change the way America fights terrorism. “The warfare of today is not mass on mass,” he said. “You have to hunt like a network to defeat a network. Israel focussed on bombing against Hezbollah, and, when that did not work, it became more aggressive on the ground. The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”
To risk an extension of the argument, one that Arquilla himself would probably not endorse: Violent military solutions to political dilemmas has been a failed concept for millennia and yet governments all over the world keep on doing it. Arquilla's recommendation for the "war" on terrorism, "hunt like a network to defeat a network," sounds to me like good police work ... the kind of work that might have prevented 9/11 and might also have been its most effective response.

Political sanity and insanity, part two: Why do people insist on spending lives and treasure on war, after millennia of evidence that it doesn't work? One ancient tradition points out the masculine bias in reaching for warlike solutions, and the relative feminine disinclination to try violence first. I was fascinated by a new expression of old insights in yesterday's post on Sean's Russia Blog, and the Haaretz article to which he links, about an Arab/Russian partnership for peace, represented by two Israeli women, Jana Kanapova, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, and Khulud Badawi, an Israeli Arab living in Haifa.

"The significance of Kanapova’s and Badawi’s gender is not the only unique aspect of resistance to this poorly planned and ill fated Israeli offensive," observes Sean Guillory. "Their respective ethnicities is what makes them attractive to the news. If they were two Ashkenazim, their presence and efforts on the Israeli Left would have perhaps been overlooked. Their presence allows for the peace movement to be conducted in three languages—Arabic, Hebrew and Russian—and according to Kanapova, this has allowed her to engage, and even convince some in her community to oppose the war."

Righteous links: Andy Stanley explains "Why I decided to cheat the church" and stop overworking in his church ministry. ~~ Archbishop of York John Sentamu decided to camp out in his church, maintaining a vigil in solidarity with war victims in the Middle East. Why isn't this more common behavior among religious celebrities? Yahoo News story here; Ekklesia's story here. ~~ I've been remiss in my Tangaroa coverage: the raft has reached its final destination! Congratulations to everyone involved in this wonderful expedition! See the English-language blog here. ~~ In the "thankful for good company" department, I was grateful for Bob Ramsey's commentary on the shameful political exploitation of the apparent liquid-bomb conspiracy uncovered by British investigators. I was going to say "shameful Republican political exploitation" except that the current leadership in Washington bears almost as little resemblance to historic Republicanism as it does to the Democrats.

Paul L at Showers of Blessings mentions Hibbard Thatcher in his post of earlier this week. I loved visiting with Hibbard and Ruby Thatcher back in my days of circulating among Midwest USA Friends for Friends World Committee and Friends United Meeting. I knew Hibbard's health was failing, but it's still hard to say goodbye. I love the letter his family sent out upon his death:
Dear Friends:

Ruby, Alan and Jonathan Thatcher here, writing from Nashville. Hibbard Thatcher passed away on Saturday night, August 5th. He had taken a turn for the worse early in the week, developed pneumonia and apparently had a small stroke. His last days and hours were easy, and his last communication, on Wednesday, was blowing a kiss to Ruby.

In accordance with Hibbard's wishes, there will be no funeral, but we are beginning to plan a memorial service. We are just realizing the magnitude of such an event and how many people will want to come, taking into account the Nashville Friends Meeting, Nashville Country Dancers, Sacred Harp singers, and many others. It will take some time to arrange, and to coordinate schedules, so we are looking at a tentative date of September 10th for the service. We will let you know more as soon as the date and place are fixed.

As you probably know, Hibbard had made a partial recovery from the very damaging pneumonia and staph infection he had in January. Over the last few months he struggled to regain his strength, and through heroic efforts and determination, he made a lot of progress. But ultimately it seems his body had too much lasting damage for him to survive.

During these last several months we got to see Hibbard at his best. Nurses and aides at the medical facilities kept talking about what a wonderful patient he was and as one social worker commented, coming out of an interview with him, 'What an interesting man!'

Family and many friends were able to spend time with Hibbard at St Thomas, at Select Specialty Hospital, at Stallworth Rehab Center, and at NHC, during this long medical odyssey. During these visits he was often very llively and voluble, and I know many of you had wonderful conversations with him, as we did. And Hibbard especially appreciated those who came and shared their voices and music with him.

We would invite you to write down any memories or stories of Hibbard, recent or otherwise, to share at the memorial service. Or, of course, we'd be happy to hear them now if you'd like to email them to us.

Thank you all for your support and love for Hibbard. Please continue to hold him in your hearts, and, as the Quakers say, in the light.


Ruby, Alan and Jonathan Thatcher

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