Saturday, May 5, 2007

End the occupation

I need to say this: it's not a war in Iraq; it's an occupation. The war ended four years ago. The neocons had a stated vision of Iraq as a "pro-American democracy", but what they really wanted was a colony of a new American empire. The stubborn refusal to leave Iraq is based on this desire, but it is doomed to failure. The age of empire is over. Throughout history the middle east has resisted foreign occupation, and the current situation in Iraq reflects this. As we continue to fight "insurgents", we should ask ourselves "Who are they? What is their motivation?".
Put yourself in the position of an Iraqi citizen: foreign soldiers and tanks are on your streets, people who don't speak your language or understand your culture rule your lives. Remember that before the foreigners came, you had a stable society despite the brutality of the dictator. Now you are surrounded by chaos. Would you resist the foreigners?
As Americans, we believe that we're innately good and benevolent. We need to realize that this is a myopic view that the Iraqis do not share. We cannot remake their society into our ideal.
The reality is that at some point in time we will have to leave Iraq, whether tomorrow or ten years from now. Our continued occupation will only lead to more death and destruction, destroying more Iraqi and American lives.
The administration's rhetoric is patently false. They can't even tell us who the "enemy" is. Vague terms like "terrorists" or "insurgents" are disingenuous. They can't define "victory". A "free and democratic" Iraq? How can they be "free" while our tanks roam their streets?
I'll end this rant with this from Riverbend:
I remember Baghdad before the war- one could live anywhere. We didn't know what
our neighbors were- we didn't care. No one asked about religion or sect. No one
bothered with what was considered a trivial topic: are you Sunni or Shia? You only asked something like that if you were uncouth and backward. Our lives revolve around it now. Our existence depends on hiding it or highlighting it- depending on the group of masked men who stop you or raid your home in the middle of the night.

On a personal note, we've finally decided to leave. I guess I've known we would be leaving for a while now. We discussed it as a family dozens of times. At first, someone would suggest it tentatively because, it was just a preposterous idea- leaving ones home and extended family- leaving ones country- and to what? To where?


May 5th, Cinco de Mayo, and I wake up to snow. Life in the mountains.

Friday, May 4, 2007

And a Friday Boobie

The Red-Footed Boobie.

Failure at Sharm El-Sheik

So Rice went to the Sharm El-Sheik summit, but didn't talk to the Iranians. Whatever good could come from the dialogue with Syria has been cancelled by insulting the Iranians.

SHARM EL-SHEIK, Egypt (AP) - Iran's foreign minister walked out of a dinner of diplomats where he was seated directly across from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on the pretext that
the female violinist entertaining the gathering was dressed too revealingly.

``I don't know which woman he was afraid of, the woman in the red dress or the secretary of state,'' State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Friday, regarding the actions of Iran's
Manouchehr Mottaki.

The Iranian entered the lunch, greeting the gathered diplomats with the Arabic phrase, ``As-salama aleikum,'' or ``Peace be upon you,'' according to an Iraqi official who was present.

Rice replied to him in English, ``Hello,'' then added: ``Your English is better than my Arabic,'' according to the Iraqi official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the lunch was private.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit then piped in, telling Mottaki, ``We want to warm the atmosphere some.''

Mottaki smiled and replied in English with a saying: ``In Russia, they eat ice cream in winter because it's warmer than the weather'' - more or less meaning, ``You take whatever atmosphere-warming you can get.''

``That's true,'' Rice replied, according to the Iraqi official.,,-6607749,00.html

The Iraqi government and some Arab countries had hoped for a real one-on-one meeting between Rice and Mottaki, saying that the two countries' conflict is only fueling Iraq's chaos. Ahead of the two day conference in the Egyptian resort of Sharm el-Sheik, Rice had expressed a willingness to meet, and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said he would welcome talks.

But on Thursday, Rice said the American side was not asking for a meeting, and the Iranians appeared reluctant to be the ones to make the first move.

The U.S. accuses Iran of increasing Iraq's violence by backing militants there, as well as accusing Tehran of aiming to build a nuclear weapons program. The Bush administration has rejected direct talks with Iran despite growing calls for contacts.

I'm inclined to blame the Cheney wing of the administration, who's policy seems to be that diplomacy is for wimps. We should have engaged with Iraq's neighbors years ago, but the neocons were determined to impose their will on the region. Now we're stuck with a disaster and an administration that refuses to make any concessions that might help resolve the situation.
Can I hide in the wilderness until 1/20/09?

Trip Photos

Here are a few photos from the river trip. I didn't get to take too many, as halfway through the trip my camera decided to quit on me. I think it may have gotten some water in it despite my best efforts to keep it dry. I'll try to collect more from my fellow travelers.

Boats ready to launch.
Boatman ready.
Camped at Travertine Falls.

On the water.

I'll post a few others in the future. I'm so ready to go back that I'm already planning a trip for September.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

A slow return

I'm taking my time returning to civilization, with my mind still river mellow. I'm finding the news is something I really don't want to think about.
One item I will comment on: Ellen Simon has announced that she will again run for congress in my district, AZ-1. My response is "please, don't". Simon ran a completely lackluster campaign against Rick Renzi in 2006, and while she might be a competent congressperson there really is nothing inspiring about her. I'm betting that Renzi won't be the rethuglican candidate for 2008, but I really want a dynamic Democratic candidate.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

I'm back

I'm back. The trip went great. I'll be downloading photos later, but I didn't get all that many. Midway through the trip my camera lost it's mind (I think some water got in it) and refused to store new pics. Now I've got tons of gear to unload, organize, and clean. And no energy.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Game, Set, and the Iraqis!

"To put this in a simple army metaphor, the Commander-in-Chief seems to have gone AWOL, that is 'absent without leave.' He neither acts nor talks as though he is in charge. Rather, he engages in tit-for-tat games…I hope the President seizes this moment for a basic change in course and signs the bill the Congress has sent him. I will respect him greatly for such a rare act of courage, and so too, I suspect, will most Americans."
- Lieutenant General William E. Odom

Does that sum it up enough for everyone? We've lost. Get over it. Move on to constructive activities in the Middle East (by which I mean NOT bombing anyone).

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Why We Live Where We Live

OK, so yesterday, in our hometown, it was "officially" the real, true, first day of Spring. I know, I know, we're about a month late, but yesterday felt like you knew we weren't going to have any more lousy weather (e.g., snow or rain) for bit, and that you could really get out and enjoy the town and its surroundings.

So here's how to spend a weekend, now that many of the students are in finals and are getting ready to leave, and the tourists haven't really gathered yet.


Sleep in until 8 am. Ye gads, I ain't slept that late in awhile. Get up, some tea now that I've eschewed the java, shower, girlfriend is over by ten am, and we're set to walk downtown and get some eats, preferably at the new creperie.

As we're walking, a couple of blocks down a friend - C - yells out a window for us to stop - and he'll join us. So it's 3 for breakfast now.

We get to the creperie, but they're not set up yet, so we wander to MartAnne's and, getting a table right away, we eat (hugely) there. It really is the best place for chorizo or chiliquillas early on.

After breakfast, we wander the few blocks of downtown, window shopping, while tourists are just starting to flood out of the hotels and hostels to join us. We catch a seat in front of the Christmas store and people watch, and then go listen to Jee-bus man (an itinerant preacher) shout out salvation in the town square. Hugely chuckle at the "For Rent" sign plastered in front of Renzi's office; you take laughs where you can get them, I guess.

Girlfriend has to work for a couple of hours, starting at 12:30, so we wander to the park next to the library, and sprawl on the grass, kicking off shoes, lounging and making pointed comments on the parks other denizens - the couple all dressed in white, the puppy dogs cruising by, and the dancer/martial art troupe practicing nearby (and by practicing I mean really doing a lot of stretching).

Girlfriend is at work, and friend C has decided to change into shorts, so we walk the 3 blocks to his house, and then return downtown, marveling at the great freakin' weather. We let the changing of the downtown streetlights guide our passage, and eventually find ourselves back at the park to wait for girlfriend, while we lie in the grass and snooze.

Girlfriend's work finished, we decide to head 3 blocks back to downtown and drink beers at a local brewery, on the outside patio. Luckily, we grab the local arts rag and find out that the downtown theater/concert hall is showing "CaddyShack" that evening in a new tradition of movie nights downtown, so we make a note to go.

Of course, we sit in the sun too long and have one too many beers, but, as friends stop by to visit and move on, we don't really worry.

Finally, we must grab some food, so after going home and getting cleaned up, we meet again downtown and we end up at the creperie for dinner before heading off to the movie house.

CaddyShack was as silly as ever, but the theater does have a full bar, so slugging down a cold one while watching Bill Murray's antics was well worth it. We even all got up and danced the gopher dance to Kenny Loggins at the end.

Finally C had to go off to meet other friends, and girlfriend and I were ready to crash, so we all went home.


Starts as a repeat of Saturday, up with girlfriend over by 10 am, only this time, we're packing everything on our backs.

It's a quick 15-mile sprint out of town and we're down in a local canyon, rock-hopping through the (dried-out) wash, climbing up and down the trail, and even venturing off-trail to climb through an amazing natural arch - which left us stranded for a few minutes until we butt-slid our way back down.

After and hour and a half and two miles of boulder hopping, we decide we're getting hungry and decide to head back, rather than walk all the way to Sedona. Good thing, too, because that's an over-nighter for sure, and we didn't have all our gear.

So we get home, get cleaned up, she goes to study and I go have a beer and do the shopping, and then we get together and have an absolutely fantastic dinner of grilled steak and spuds and a cucumber salad. Oh and beets, fresh beets from a friend. A-and, a lot of aloe vera lotion to help with sunburn.

That's our town. It may not be Lake Woebegone, but, it works for all of us. So, while the crew is enjoying themselves on the river this week, they'll be glad to know we're keeping up our enjoyment end right here in town, while we wait for their return.