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MLK, Peacenik Rant, and a Book Review [Jan. 20th, 2003|10:32 am]
[Current Mood |sorrowful]

So here we are, celebrating MLK and civil rights while our nation prepares for war. Bush & Co. seem dead set to have their war while people are protesting in the streets. Yet there's a large part of the American public in Bush's camp, supporting the concept of war in Iraq, with or without any of this trivial "proof" stuff. They think we should attack Saddam by ourselves, regardless of the feelings of the international community.

While I cannot make any excuses for Saddam -- he is a horrible despot -- I cannot agree that we should rush in. This is why we have the United Nations and processes in international law; to go in ourselves is to trivialize the UN and become the renegade. Many countries already see us as a playground bully; we don't need to do anything to ruin our reputation further.

But I am most frustrated by the part of the American public that calls for war without really understanding what war entails. People who have not been in a war are saying that we should attack. They know we have complete military superiority and that there is no real threat to their own insulated middle-America white-collar SUV-driving life; they are immune to the effects of war.

They see the war on CNN, right after the latest sports scores. What cities have we bombed? What's the score in the third quarter? How many killed? How many goals?

Recently, I read an interesting book. It's called Grandma's Wartime Kitchen. It is not only a collection of historical recipes from the 40s, but a perspective on what World War II was like on the homefront. American housewives were drafted in this war effort as our government sought to maximize food supplies available to the troops in Europe and Asia.

The book is quite enlightening. I, like many Americans, have never lived through the desperate conditions of a real war. But I like to think that I can learn from the experience of others; what I learned was something of the sacrifices everyone made during that era.

Recipes are provided for braised beef hearts and how to make meatloaf from old breadcrumbs and kidneys. These are not the exceptions. Several meals per week were likely to be made from what was euphemistically termed "variety meats", because that was all that you could buy. Food stamps limited how much meat, sugar, chocolate, eggs, butter, and oil you could buy; even if you had the stamps, there might be none at the local market and you were allowed no gas to drive to another town's store.

And I look around today... And I hear people yelling about that commercial that says SUVs support Iraq because they're gas guzzlers. Though an exaggeration, it is at some level true. But people were incensed by this ad! To suggest that we should give up SUVs! When we could simply start a war and take the oil and continue driving wasteful vehicles!

What would these people think of gas rationing? What would they think of having to eat stewed pork shoulder because it was the only thing they were allowed? What would they think of a real war?

[User Picture]From: stego_s_aurus
2003-01-20 05:26 pm (UTC)

"Real War" in todays terms...

Theres one thing that will prevent any future American generation from ever fully experiencing what our Elders went through: Mass Manufacturing. Here in the us, since the World Wars, we have perfected the processes of making products quickly... be it foodstuffs, furniture, bombs, you name it, it can be manufactured here, or over in nations to whom we source out, in a few days. Food rationing and the like back during the world wars were because we did not have any of the resources to process foods as quickly as we do today: Any meats that were raised had to be processed using the equiptment of the time, which had a MUCH lower output than todays machinery can. Even guns and munitions can be made a heckuvalot faster these days, especially with the amount of automation that is now available.

A Good percentage of the world is still on 1960's technology when it comes to infrastructure and manufacturing... Those are the countries that will feel the effects of a "Real war" as we experienced in the past... Unless our manufacturing infrastructure is completely disabled (and there are few thousand manufacturing plants of all sorts that would need to be taken down for this to happen), our generations will continue to look at war as "Something that happens in the News".

PS: I Don't drive an SUV, but I Do drive a 1984 Buick Electra Station Wagon with a 5 liter V-8 that guzzles the same amount of gas as a modern-day SUV does, and my Dad drives a 1971 Chevy Monte Carlo with a similar-sized engine... Are they trying to imply that Old and Classic Car drivers are ALSO helping support IRAQ?

Pps: Ultramar's (Diamond Shamrock) gas as I understand is completely Gulf-State in origin, so if I'm buying gas from them, I'm making a few texas tycoons richer... isnt that what we want, to support domestic businesses?
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2003-01-20 10:26 pm (UTC)

Re: "Real War" in todays terms...

that will prevent any future American generation from ever fully experiencing what our Elders went through

Hey, let's hope. As I said I haven't had to live through anything like this -- and I really don't want to and wouldn't wish it on anyone else, either. (A side point being conditions in Iraq are probably nearly this bad; I contend war would make it worse.)

And it might be true that we don't have to go through this ever again. That would be a triumph. Though you point out, and I agree, that this may not be true in other countries involved. And I think that it still could be true of the U.S. if we had to mobilize to the degree necessary in WWII; the number of troops involved was a noticable fraction of the population. Something unthinkable in the wars we are involved in today. (And, perhaps, the point could be made that the changing nature of war makes it progressively less likely that we'll see such a thing again.)

But I am primarily alarmed that people (generalized; not you) cavalierly call for war as an "easy" solution to the problem.

our generations will continue to look at war as "Something that happens in the News".

Probably true. The cynical side of me fully agrees with you. :)

I can only hope, on the other paw, that people will learn from history. I've always had a fascination with WWII, probably precisely because I didn't live through it yet it was such a dynamic time for American culture. (FWIW, I have the same feelings about the space race.) I certainly hope that I don't have to ever experience such a war myself. I'm content to see it on the news. But we shouldn't forget that it's more than that to many people.

Are they trying to imply that Old and Classic Car drivers are ALSO helping support IRAQ?

No, I doubt it. I think SUVs were singled out because they are a recent automotive trend, created at a time when (1) more efficient alternatives existed and (2) we knew better. It's conspicuous consumption.

That's my take on it, anyways.
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[User Picture]From: chipuni
2003-01-20 06:12 pm (UTC)
As far as I can tell, George Bush is raiding the stores to give to his cronies, and leaving nothing for everyone else.

As far as I can tell, this war is about oil. If we were worried about dictatorships, we'd be sending troops to Zimbabwe and to D.R. Congo. If we were worried about weapons of mass destruction being used, we'd be seeking to disarm Pakistan and India (I still consider that the most likely spot for a nuclear war in the near future) -- and sending troops to North Korea. The one thing that Iraq has, that Zimbabwe, D.R. Congo, Pakistan, India, and North Korea don't... is oil.

Instead of pushing hard to reduce our use, George Bush has been pushing to open more areas in Alaska to drilling. (Though I'll admit he has curtailed drilling in Florida.) In my opinion, these pushes exist to help his friends in oil.

Though he has gone from the nation's largest surplus to the nation's largest deficit, he's still pushing eliminating taxes for investment dividends. In my opinion, this only aids the most wealthy. (For another opinion, read Rowyn's excellent commentary.)

In short, I'm watching where the money's going -- and I don't like it.
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[User Picture]From: nicodemusrat
2003-01-20 10:37 pm (UTC)
George Bush is raiding [...] As far as I can tell, this war is about oil.

I'm of that opinion, too. I was focusing more on the oil/horrors of war than Bush, just because I felt more like writing about that.

This also ties in to an understated point of the piece... I would not necessarily oppose war should the international community decide that it is justified. Saddam is doing horrible things, it's true; but Mugabe (sp?) is far worse, from all I've heard. War is regrettable, but I don't believe it is always wrong. The case in Iraq, however, where we are considering moving on our own is not an international imperative but a bullying superpower.

[Bush] has gone from the nation's largest surplus to the nation's largest deficit

True. Even as much as I dislike Bush, I must say that he did inherit a declining economy. He has, however, not done a lot to improve it, and that is fair game for criticism.

Beyond that, when we move onto issues of dividend taxes, I really can't comment. I'm not savvy enough financially to see the many implications of such a move. I can say, from analyses I've read, that I don't think it's really a bad thing, it just doesn't look like it'll actually help revive our economy in the short run (which is how Bush is trying to spin it).
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[User Picture]From: twopiearr
2003-01-20 07:09 pm (UTC)
And I hear people yelling about that commercial that says SUVs support Iraq because they're gas guzzlers. Though an exaggeration, it is at some level true.

I don't think it's an exaggeration at all. The more gas you consume, the more oil is required. The more oil is required, the more dependant we are on imports. The more dependant we are on imports, the more money is funneled to countries who happen to produce both oil and terrorists...of which there are rather a few.

With today's technology, there is aboslutely zero reason for any vehicle intended for personal use to average less than 25 MPG. Zero. I won't go so far as to call for the outlaw of "classic" cars (it's certainly an approach i favor, personally, but i also recognize it's hardline nature and Slippery Slope factor) but there is absolutely no reason that any non-commercial vehicle that wasteful should be produced.
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[User Picture]From: kinkyturtle
2003-01-21 12:03 am (UTC)
First of all, Grandma's Wartime Kitchen reminds me of this page from James Lileks' Institute of Official Cheer. First he makes fun of the silly frilly avocado-green dress the woman is wearing in the exact same shade as the toilet paper, but then he says...
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. When the popular magazines of the day are filled with ads for color-coordinated bathroom tissue, it means the society is prospering. When the popular mags have grim ads for Family Shrouds ("buy in bulk and save") or Victory Coffee ("Now with 87% chicory") - then you're in trouble.

Second, I've seen other folks talking about the whole SUV thing elsewhere on LiveJournal. Some responses to that anti-SUV ad are sensible, like the guy (I forget who) who pointed out "Some people do need SUVs, but yeah, many people who buy them would be better off with just a car"... but then some are more along the lines of "Dammit, nobody can tell me what kind of vehicle to buy!" (To be fair, the guy I'm thinking of specifically pointed out that he bought a small SUV, not a huge behemoth. Still, man has he got a short fuse.)
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