Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reverend Wright

Reverend Wright is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who volunteered to give years of his life to America, in spite of growing up in pre-civil rights America, which treated him and other blacks terribly.

Recently, Barak Obama's presidential campaign was rocked by short video clips of offensive statements by his pastor, Reverend Wright, the Marine Corps veteran. Senator Obama responded by denouncing these statements and giving a very thoughtful speech on race which, I believe, has helped make America a better place. Nonetheless, the video clips of Reverend Wright make many Americans, particularly white Americans like me, extremely uncomfortable, to say the least. Although many whites attend his church and the denomination is 99% white, some accuse him of racism and anti-semitism. This article explores my take on this.

One of the objectionable videos show Reverend Wright suggesting that 9/11 was brought on by American actions, particularly foreign policy. This clip is taken from a sermon built around the phrase "America's chickens are coming home to roost" to sum up what (white) U.S. diplomat Edward Peck said in a TV interview. While right-wing pastors such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell have blamed 9/11 on feminism and gay rights, Reverend Wright suggested that U.S. bombing of HIroshima, Nagasaki, and other places played a role in 9/11. It is unlikely that World War II played a role in motivating the 9/11 terrorist. However, consider the following facts:

  • Of the 19 hijackers, 15 were Saudi and 4 were Egyptian.
  • Osama bin Laden is Saudi.
  • The Saudi and Egyptian governments are tyrannies.
  • Support for Egypt and Saudi Arabia has been a pillar of American foreign policy in the region, including, but not limited to, money, weapons, and protection by American soldiers.

It seems likely that these facts are closely related. Although Reverend Wright may not be correct in his analysis, at least it is plausible that 9/11 was payback for American actions in the region, which is more than can be said for what Reverend Robertson and Falwell say.

The second really objectionable video features Reverend Wright repeatedly saying "God Damn America" for killing civilians, oppressing blacks and so forth. The language is ghastly, but Marines tend to use strong blunt language. What is not clear from the clip is that Reverend Wright is referring not to America the country, but rather to the U.S. government. The section of the sermon just before the "God Damn" bit is built around the phrase "governments lie," a sentiment most conservatives agree with whole heartedly.

Wright also understands that governments can change, consider this phrase from the same sermon: “Prior to Abraham Lincoln, the government in this country said it was legal to hold African in slavery in perpetuity…when Lincoln got in office, the government changed ... But I stop by to tell you tonight that governments change.”

“Prior to Harry Truman’s government, the military was segregated. But governments change.”

“Prior to the Civil Rights and equal accommodation laws of the government in this country, there was backed segregation by the country, legal discrimination by the government, prohibited blacks from voting by the government, you had to eat and sit in separate places by the government, you had sit in different places from white folks because the government said so, and you had to buried in a separate cemetery. It was apartheid, American style, from the cradle to the grave, all because the government backed it up.”

“But guess what? Governments change.”

For a fuller view of the sermon look here.

Reverend Wright is accused of being an anti-white racists for saying things like "rich white people run this country." Well, that's not racist, it's true. The vast majority of presidents, congressmen, CEOs, etc. etc. etc. have always been white and are usually rich. But Reverend Wright is more broad minded than his critics would let on, consider this phrase from the link above: “All colonizers are not white. Turn to your neighbors and say that oppressors come in all colors.”

We deserve to give this U.S. Marine veteran a fuller hearing. He is not the man the media is trying to cram down your throat.

Finally, Barack Obama is not Reverend Wright. Unlike Wright, Obama grew up after the civil rights movement, and in tolerant Hawaii at that. He does not share the righteous anger of those who have been deeply and unfairly oppressed, although I'm sure he's felt the sting of racism from time to time. In any case, by his words and actions Obama has proven that he can help heal the racial wounds this nation has carried for 400 years. Vote for him.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Sunni Extermination?

Before the US invasion of Iraq there were about 5 million Sunnis in the country. There are currently about 2-2.5 million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan, both are Sunni states so these refugees are probably Sunni. In addition, the best available data 1 suggest that about 500,000 Iraqis have died due to the invasion, mostly to violence. Assuming at least half of these are Sunnis, a pretty safe assumption, roughly half of all Iraqi Sunnis are either dead or have left the country.

In this context it's clear why some Sunni's are at least temporarily allying themselves with US forces, they are well on the way to being completely removed from Iraq. Allying themselves with America may be their only hope for survival 2

1. This is from a study done a year or two ago that used nation-wide interviews to determine total deaths. The data aren't that good, there are very wide error bars, but it's the best we've got. Totals based on newspaper accounts, for example, are known to be major undercounts since many war deaths are not reported in newspapers.

2. The alliance is against al Qaeda in Iraq, which are bunch of scum bags if there ever were any. Reaction to al Qaeda in Iraq's excesses is probably an additional motivation.

That 3AM Call

I'd like Obama to answer it. Why? Watch the debates. The more intense things get, the calmer he gets. In many debates, when things get heated you can see McCain getting angry and Hillary getting aggressive. Angry people tend to do stupid things. Aggression is great on the soccer field, but it can get a super-power into a lot of trouble. When the s--t hits the fan, I want my president as cool as a cucumber. Obama is the guy.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How Arabs View the Iraq War

Winning the war on al Qaeda requires understanding and eliminating their appeal. Otherwise, they can easily recruit terrorists faster than we can kill them. Central to al Qaeda's appeal is their claim that America is waging war on Islam. Exhibit A for this claim is the war in Iraq. Thus, winning the war with al Qaeda requires, among many other things, that Americans understand how Arabs view the war in Iraq so al Qaeda's claim we can be effectively countered.

One of the best expositions of the Arab view I've seen is 'Iraq is a war-torn nation' by Faruq S. Ziada. If you want to win the war with al Qaeda, I strongly suggest you read it, whether you agree with the author or not.

A note on the war deaths figures: the figure Ziada uses appears to be the high end of a estimate made based on Iraq-wide interviews a year or two ago and extrapolated to the present. Americans are accustom to a much lower figure based on either the low end of the same study or figures based solely on newspaper reports, which are known to be a significant undercount.