Sunday, November 22, 2009

Beetle Bailey is a comic strip about the banality of military life in peacetime. With that in mind, isn't it wrong to be running Beetle Bailey when we are involved in two wars? Or even,a s Cheney would have it, one war on two fronts?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Report From Ground Zero

Outside my window as I type this I can see ground zero. It is two blocks away. Three weeks ago I couldn't see it, but that was before they finally, after eight years of delays deciding what to do with it, tore down Fritterman Hall, our campus building here at BMCC that was damaged when most of World Trade Center #7 fell upon it. I was teaching in Fritterman that semester (though not that day) and so in a minor way claim to have been a victim of 9/11. My classroom was destroyed as a result. My job came within a day of disapearing too, but they managed to bring us back in time to finish out the semester.

So I've got a minor amount of skin in this game from that, and from the fact that I still cry sometimes when I see a firetruck go by.

So I get to throw in my two cents and say I think bringing the accused terrorists here to New York to stand trial is not only the right thing to do, it was the only thing we could do.

But that is not what I want to say in this post. What I want to talk about is all these people, both int he media and on the street, who are saying that the trial shouldn't take place at all. I'm talking tot he Glen Becks and Sean Hannities of the world, I'm talking to Mayor Giuliani and the editors of the New York Post--everyone who says that becasue these accused terrorists are not US Citizens they don't deserve the protection of the constitution (the post went so far as to say they should have been lined up against the wall and shot years ago).


The concept of "rights," born of the enlightenment, is that all people deserve them, no matter where they are from, simply by virtue of being born. The Declaration of Independence (which has no weight of law, I know) said it best when it said that tehy are "inalienable" and are endowed to all men by their creator. The declaration recognized three rights--life, liberty, and the pursuit of hapiness. The constitution recognized several more. Theya re not gifts granted to the citizenry, they are restriction placed upon the government. The fact that there are more than the ones listed is recognized by the ninth amendment, which says that just becasue a right is not listed in the constitution doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The idea that non-citizens are not protected by the constitution is simply wrong.

And those people who say that the accused terrorists don't deserve those rights, that they should be imprisoned forever without trial, that they should be lined up against the wall and shot-- they are as bad as Osama Bin Ladden himself. Bin Laden, mind you, didn't fly the planes into the towers himself, he simply told people it was ok to do so--just like the post is telling people it would be ok to line these men up against a wall and shoot them, with no respect for justice, no respect for the rule of law, no respect for human rights. So Sean Hanity, Mayor Giuliani, editors of the New York Post and all the rest: you are no better than the terrorists. Shame on you!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Liberal Blogger Strays From The Path

Far be it from me to ever agree with Sean Hannity or Ollie North, but the question of whether or not Nidal Hassan should be considered a terrorist is a valid one. And it has nothing to do with whether or not he was in "operational contact" with radical Islam. It has only to do with his motivations.

There is a lot of speculation about what drove Hassan to attack the processing center at Fort Hood. There has been so much stress and violence surrounding Fort Hood, which Hsssan was deeply involved with as a psychiatrist, that it is very easy to believe that this had to do with his future deployment. If so, if his motivation for the shooting was that he just didn't want to go or was afraid of combat, then this is not terrorism. But as more and more information comes out about his radical views, it seems more likely that this was politically motivated, and if so then it might have been terrorism. I say might because there is a third element to terrorism that is not discussed.

Take the case of an assassin shooting an abortion provider. He may have been motivated to do so by Bill O'Reiley or by Operation Rescue, but he has no operation contact with him. Yet he is considered a terrorist. His terrorist act was politically motivated. But if it was just anger would it still be considered terrorism? The act of killing an abortion doctor is more than just politically motivated, it also has a purpose: to frighten other doctors away from performing abortions. Terrorism, despite how it is described in the news, is *never* "senseless". It is always part of a plan. It is a form of communication meant to terrorize people into submission, to get them to stop doing something the terrorist feels is wrong.

If Hassan, even though politically motivated, was simply lashing out in anger was it still terrorism?

I don't know, but if they want to call him a terrorist on Fox that's ok by me. I don't feel inclined to cut this guy any slack. This much I do know: when I read today that Hassan is paralyzed from the waist down as a result of being shot, my response was "good." After all, it was his job to counsel people with just that type of issue. Now maybe he can counsel himself.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Chris Guefroy is a name that is not well known in the United States. But it should be. He did get a mention in Newsweek last week, and in yesterday's Florida Times Union, and in the Washington Examiner. But the Washington Post? New York Times? Anybody else?

Chris Gueffroy is very well known in Germany. At twenty years old, on February 6 2009, Gueffroy became what turned out to be the last victim murdered by East German forces for trying to cross over the Berlin Wall. He was shot ten times in the chest and died immediately. The soldiers who shot him were given medals (and later tried for murder). The saddest thing about his story is not his young age but the fact that if he had waited just a few months he would have been able to walk through the Brandenberg Gate. That's because twenty years ago today the Berlin Wall fell. But there was no way he could have known.

The fall of the Berlin Wall remains the most important historical moment of my lifetime, the most important event since the end of World War Two. It was not just the day that freedom won out over tyranny, nor the day that the 136 confirmed martyrs murdered while trying to escape East Germany were finally redeemed. It is also the day that everything in the world changed. I never believed, as some ridiculous talking heads put it, that the fall of the Berlin Wall meant "the end of history", as though nothing would happen afterward, but it did mean that my life and the lives of everyone in the world who had grown up in the shadow of the cold war had been changed forever. It meant we were all, finally, free.

Ten years later, when I finally got there, I remember that nothing in Berlin moved me the way standing at Checkpoint Charlie did, looking at the remains of the wall, thinking about all the people who had died trying to cross it, all the people who had died in the cold war: I cried. Soon after the wall came down we had normal relations with Russia. Soon there were no longer nuclear missiles pointed at me. Sure, I was always more likely to die in a car accident, but the prospect of total global annihilation was much more frightening. All that because they finally did tear down that wall (yes, even I have to admit it redeemed Regan a bit too).

Once the Brandenburg Gate opened, everything changed. Life became somehow lighter, somehow more free, and the 90s became the decade when anything was possible. Remembering the fall of the Berlin Wall is a time to celebrate the greatest single moment for America, for the World, of the past sixty-five years. Sure, I know that the anniversary of Tienanmen Square, where the youth of China failed attempting what the youth of Berlin had accomplished, is coming up in a few weeks. But the Berlin Wall, that was special. That was something I will never ever forget.

And in remembering the Berlin Wall, we have to remember Chris Gueffroy, the last martyr to the freedom of East Berlin. Rest in peace.