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02/08/2003 Archived Entry: "A strange optimism"

On the Political Front:

The Australian Senate has passed an historic no-confidence motion against the prime minister over his handling of the crisis in Iraq. It is the Senate's first vote of no-confidence in a serving leader in its 102-year history. The vote is in reaction to Howard's deployment of troops in the gulf region, presumably to support a US invasion of Iraq.

Meanwhile, the US is on orange alert...I wonder who came up with the color-coded thermometer-type system for measuring terrorism. Orange is a bump up the thermometer from yellow. No one produces evidence as to why the danger from terrorism has intensified, they just make vague references and everyone jumps, everyone regards their neighbor with a bit more suspicion. A reporter on CNN asked Bloomberg (the NY mayor) exactly what people were supposed to do in respond to an orange situation: he replied that everyone, from the local to the federal levels, knew the required procedures. CNN immediately cut to a local official who said, "we don't know what to do. We were already doing everything possible."

The government may be released no information but it seems determined to gather more, and on its own citizens. According to the Center for Public Integrity, the Justice Department is preparing to expand the 2001 Patriot Act to increase surveillance within the United States while restricting access to information and legislation from "a government source" and posted the document, which was labeled "confidential," on its site along with an analysis. For Reuters coverage, click here.

On the Personal Front:

Despite being flooded by news of war and "anti-terrorism," I cannot shake a sense of strange optimism that has settled over my life in the last day or so. I find myself oddly out of touch with the wider world in terms of my emotional reactions. I don't even feel anger or cynicism when listening to Rumsfeld or his war-mongering ilk. I draw an emotional blank instead. It is too difficult to sustain the level of dismay that I have felt for so many weeks, especially when a whole lot of nothing keeps happening. I wonder if this is what "the phoney war" felt like in World War Two...that several-month period after the conquest of Poland during which everyone expected war but nothing happened. Maybe people just got tired of dreading a blitzkreig and went on with their lives, figuring "what happens, happens."

As understandable as this reaction is, I think it is also dangerous. Opposition to war could be eroded away just by tiring people out emotionally so that, on the 200th time they hear sabre-rattling, they no longer respond. Dangerous or not, I am enjoying the optimism and I intend to make good use of it by turning my hand to fiction again -- a prospect that usually intimidates me. I will also continue to blog against the war, even without a sense of urgency, because it is as important to respond every time the warmakers tell their lies.

On this last point, I recommend a wonderful article by Robert Higgs entitled "To Make War, Presidents Lie." As Jim Henley wrote of warmakers, "Because they lie. Routinely and often and deliberately. They said there were 100,000 people in mass graves in Kosovo. That was a lie. They said Iraqi soldiers were tossing babies out of incubators. That was a lie. They said Iraqi troops in 1991 were massing on the Saudi border. That was a lie. They said Saddam's attack on Kuwait was a total surprise. That was a lie. They said US troops had no combat role in Central America in the 1980s. That was a lie."

Even Colin Powell lies. The intelligence dossier that he touted at the UN, which was supposed to have been freshly prepared, state-of-the-moment, by Downing Street was actually plagiarized from an article last September in a small journal: the Middle East Review of International Affairs. The Downing St version alters language to make Iraq seem more threatening.

My best to all,

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