Saturday, October 22, 2011

out of Iraq ... singing

-- On the day, yesterday, that U.S. President Barack Obama announced that the bulk of American troops would be home before year's end, 92-year-old folk singer Pete Seeger, a man once excoriated as a socialist or a communist or whatever other epithet occurred to those in power, joined the Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York.

The BBC offered the following statistical rundown on the country the U.S. invaded under false pretenses so many years ago:

  • War began on 19 March 2003 with 173,000 troops, 150,000 of whom were Americans
  • 670,000 Iraqi security forces were on duty as of March 2011
  • 4,408 American troops have been killed
  • 179 British troops have been killed
  • 115,405 Iraqi civilians are estimated to have been killed
  • 32,195 American troops have been wounded
Source: Brookings Iraq Index, US Department of Defense

And for what? On television last night, a deputy director from (I think it was) the Defense (or maybe State) Department said the U.S. wanted to cement relations with Iraq in the same way it had cemented relations elsewhere in the Middle East. Among other things, he referenced liaisons with Egypt, a country to which (I had earlier discovered) the U.S. provides approximately $2 billion in aid every year -- second only to Israel. Over half of what is described as military and economic aid to Egypt is earmarked (by agreement) for the purchase of U.S.-manufactured arms. These strings mean that U.S. corporations make a lot of money from aid depicted as strengthening and benefiting the nation. So ... the taxpayers get to sacrifice their sons and daughters AND enhance a variety of business empires. Does it get any sweeter than that, assuming you are a businessman? Republicans might say that this arrangement creates American jobs and all I can think is, American jobs whose tax-paying-foreign-aid-producing workers can then send their sons and daughters to the next military misadventure. Anyway, these are the sorts of ties the U.S. would like to develop with the country it invaded.

Seeger has spent a lifetime adding music to a variety of worker-oriented causes ... well, he's one of my pillars, but I have become skeptical about the role of music in support of any cause. Music binds people together because, I think, it touches an intimate place inside them, an open place, a vulnerable and delighted place, a place of so-called sharing. Militarists and rebellious upstarts all know this and all add music to their agendas. There is music for war, music for peace, music for baseball, music for movies, music for any number of causes ... and yet music has no cause. Music is pure heart, whatever the impurities of its employers.

-- And in other news that might be categorized under "sic transit gloria mundi," miners in China are digging far and wide for profit, just as they do elsewhere. And one result, besides the riches, is that the Great Wall of China is under attack and crumbling. The miners have legal permits and so the past is left to fend for itself.

-- And then there are those determined to preserve the past, finding riches within it. In Alexandria, Va., a wife and her husband are cataloguing stuff that was made to be thrown away. Their interests run to the midway of passing fairgrounds. And they are not alone. The world of ephemera is a world worth preserving, these collectors of political buttons, fliers, comics, fair posters, etc. seem to say. Perhaps for money, perhaps for love ... it is a world unto itself, this world of what might have been discarded. And thus there is an Ephemera Society of America.

However rough-hewn, still there is the worldly wisdom of American humorist Will Rogers -- wisdom I rank right up there with Shakyamuni Buddha:

There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.


  1. Our leaders continue to pee on the fence selecting a different time and place and then somehow expecting a different result.

  2. They pee on the fence, but I feel the shock. How does that work?

  3. Money is an excellent insulator if you have enough of it.