Category Archives: War

The Invisible Children: Night Commuters of Uganda

Sometimes the world sucks. I’m not often reminded of it in my comfortable North American lifestyle, but every now and then you remember that running out of Pepsi isn’t such a bad thing.

Today it started with an interesting marketing story: How to Raise $500,000 from Middle Class White Kids (and Why the Red Cross Never Will) from Seth Godin. But as I read the story and watched the videos, I stopped caring about the interesting marketing techniques. I cared more for the invisible children of Uganda who every night walk miles to the nearest town to sleep on the floor in relative safety so they won’t be abducted, raped or killed by a rebel group.

Continue reading The Invisible Children: Night Commuters of Uganda

Gee, Maybe Soldiers Should Learn Arabic

Almost three years after the invasion of Iraq the U.S. Army has decided it’d be a good idea to teach officers how to speak Arabic. You think? We decide to topple an unauthorized dictaorship (The Tick hat tip: “American Maid! American Maid! We’ve lost our arms, we’ve lost our arms!”) and then occupy the country for a while until we decide they’re on their feet–yet we neglect to bring along a few people who can speak the language (1 in 400 hardly qualifies as a “few”)? And we don’t begin to remedy the problem until three years later?

The image of U.S. soldiers–the best military force in the history of the world–doing a little dance in front of Iraqi locals in order to communicate is just embarrassing.

Sheesh. You’d think after 9/11 speaking Arabic would be one of the most in-demand skills. Why are we still teaching French in high school? We should be teaching Arabic and Chinese.

Terrorism Vulnerabilities

With the London terror attacks today every reporter seems to be talking about the vulnerabilities to terrorists across the world. Our public transportation isn’t safe, our ports aren’t safe, our power plants aren’t safe, and on and on they go. I’m not sure I get it. Can we ever really be safe? Can you ever secure something like the New York Subway system? One reporter today noted that there are some 2000 airport security checkpoints across the U.S. There are at least that many entrances to the New York Subway system alone.

We simply cannot have the same level of security on public transportation as we do on airplanes. It’s just not that hard to slip a bomb onto a trane or a bus, especially if you plan on blowing yourself up with that bomb. I’m not sure I get the surprise at that fact.

The best we can hope for is to be vigilant.

From the Mouths of Babes

Children's drawings of the bloodshed in SudanLast night I was kicked in the teeth, figuratively, over a personal conflict. As much as it hurts me, this takes me to a new level of pain. Humanity sucks.

These are drawings from children who survived attacks from the Sudanese military and Janjaweed forces in Darfur. Villages bombed, women raped, people exterminated.

Yet the world stands by.

Abd al-Rahman, Age 13
“I am looking at the sheep in the wadi [riverbed, or oasis]. I see Janjaweed coming

Enjoying Your Work?

Last month I quoted a comment from Lt. Gen. James Mattis who said “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot [Afghanis],” drawing quite a response. I just came across a column from Gene Edward Veith defending Mattis. In part Veith argues that soldiers are fulfilling a God-given vocation, obeying their authorities and thus like other occupations, “there is nothing wrong with enjoying one’s work.” Martin Marty has a response, reprinted by the EPA (that’s the Evangelical Press Association, not the other EPA). Marty asks “how finding it a ‘hell of a lot of fun to shoot’ those who ‘ain’t got no manhood’ squares in any way with ‘love your enemies’?

U.S. General: “Shooting people is fun.”


“Actually it’s quite fun to fight them, you know. It’s a hell of a hoot. It’s fun to shoot some people. I’ll be right up there with you. I like brawling. You go into Afghanistan, you got guys who slap women around for five years because they didn’t wear a veil. You know, guys like that ain’t got no manhood left anyway. So it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.” -Lt. Gen James Mattis, who commanded Marine expeditions in Afghanistan and Iraq. (CNN, Feb. 3, 2005)

They talk of Mattis’ bravery and experience and how he speaks with incredible candor and is only being honest about the realities of war. Okay, sure, but “it’s fun to shoot people”? I played with G.I. Joe’s as a kid and I like playing war games (pyeu-pyeu!), but there’s a giant mental leap you need to make when you’re shooting real people. I’m sure that’s not easy with all the stress of the military, but it just plain frightens me to see military personnel this giddy about killing people.


Yesterday President George W. Bush laid a wreath at the tomb of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on what would have been his 75th birthday while protesters chanted in the distance.

Many protesters accused Bush of staging a photo opportunity, citing King’s non-violent stance. The image of a president leading a divided country into a questionable war standing at the grave of a man who gave his life for peace seems a bit disjointed.

In a twist of history, city buses were used to block any view between the protesters and the president.

Fly On, Moon Man

Some are celebrating 100 years of flight today, and interestingly, others are mourning it. With the Internet you can always find someone who disagrees with what’s happening, but it’s especially poignant when used to raise moral questions.

While President George W. Bush is honoring the 12-second achievement of the Wright Brothers, some are mourning the anniversary of a war machine (link via bloggedy-blog), arguing that planes have always been intended for military purposes, and now even the commercial version is an environmental hazard and a tool of the upperclass.

While I don’t think we can so quickly dismiss the airplane as a weapon of war and death, it is a point worth considering. How much of life do we honor and revere without noting the negative aspects in this complicated world.

On a lighter note, facing expectations that Bush might announce a new moon mission today, actor John Travolta volunteered for the first mission while introducing the president. The president responded by saying, “We shall call him moon man from now on.” (AP via Knightopia)

Uncensored Stories of War

It seems strange timing after my entry the other day about the under-reported stories of the war that I come across this CBC story, Deadline Iraq – Uncensored Stories of the War (link via, again). It’s a report based on interviews with 50 journalists who were in Iraq. The web site has photos and complete interviews with 12 of the journalists.

They do some reflecting on how the war was reported, whether it was biased or not, whether embedded journalism worked, etc. But the most chilling aspect is the personal stories.

The worst is one fire fight where a journalist describes the fighting getting thick. They were surrounded and medics and chaplains were picking up M-16s and fighting back. The journalists says he seriously considered picking up a gun and fighting. If you remember the image, this was the same battle where a U.S. solider was being carried away on a stretcher while still firing his gun.

The worst is the pictures of dead civilians lined up in row, the burned faces of Iraqi children, and story after story hinting at the damage high-caliber weapons do to the human body. War is not the G.I. Joe thing we think it is. Some of these stories mention the anxious U.S. soliders, many younger than I am, and the incredible remorse some of them felt.

One of my good friends from high school is in Iraq right now. I’ve had his address for a couple weeks, and I’ve been meaning to write him. Busyness has kept me from it, but I know part of it is that I don’t know what to say. It’s not as simple as a dose of patriotism and thanks for fighting for freedom.