As I've told many, I'm expecting a lot of 2004. For me and many of my friends, next year promises many changes and opportunities.
The year 2003 refuses to go out kindly. From children being buried by mudslides in this area, to the Martian probe plowing into the Red Planet, we're surrounded by evidence of nature's whim. You think terrorism is bad? the world is whispering to us. You'd better wise up.
I was especially saddened by two earthquakes that shook the Earth in the last week. Although almost the same size, one killed two while the other killed, at the last estimate, over 30,000 people. They also damaged two great monuments.
The earthquake near Paso Robles destroyed several historic buildings in that small town, but it also did significant damage to the Mission San Miguel. This is the last of the 21 missions in "upper" California to have been maintained in its original state...all the others have been restored in some fashion or rebuilt totally. But San Miguel remained unchanged for over 200 years. I stopped at this mission during my frequent drives between Los Angeles and the Bay Area over the years, and always stared for a long time at the mysterious eye painted high above the altar. I also imagined that, if I ever took a leap into matrimony, it might be nice to do it at the Mission San Miguel. I hope the mission will be repaired with minimal changes.
The earthquake in Iran, of course, did far more damage, essentially destroying an entire city of 200,000. This is a terrible loss...my first interest in travelling to Iran came about when I saw a video of this city, Bam, a remarkable fortress of red adobe built on the Silk Road between India and Persia. The great citadel at the center of the city, which has survived 2000 years of siege and earthquake, was destroyed by this earthquake. I have enclosed two photographs; as you can see, a great world treasure was leveled. It's another great tragedy, I think, for a country with many problems that is always trying to go it alone, one of the first great empires in history.
For those who want more history (rather than pictures of destruction) of Bam:
Not to be outdone by world events, New Yorkers unleashed a little weird rage:
Reputed NY Mobster Shoots Man for Heckling Singer
As did some Africans:
Man Commits Suicide to Escape Nagging Wife
Anyway, let's move along to more screed-like events. I've been gathering and receiving many little tidbits about Saddam Hussein and what everyone thinks we should do with him. After seeing yet another public beheading on my favorite medieval Korean soap opera, "Emperor Wang-Guhn", I'm in favor of the international consensus. Here's a wild idea: LET'S PUT SADDAM ON TRIAL! Let's hear about all the goodies (read: Weapons of Mass Destruction) that nice, friendly Western democracies, like the US, England and France have sold him over the years.
World Leaders Should Take Stand in Saddam Trial: Lawyer
By Agence France Presse
Controversial French lawyer Jacques Verges says he is willing to defend Saddam Hussein in court and, if he can, bring world leaders to the witness stand, in what could be a huge embarrassment for the United States, France and other countries.
Sometimes the long arm of the law may seem ridiculous...
Two-Year Old Model Seeks Lost Wages in Mishap
Still, it would be good to see Saddam answer for all of his crimes, not just trying to plug George Bush the Elder. On the contrary, Saddam could say much that would be bad for Bush:
Saddam's capture bodes ill for Bush's re-election
By William Pfaff
And another opinion (thanks, Lawrence):
Here's an interesting take on the upcoming Saddam trial. Scroll down to
the "Saddam the Can of Worms" link and open it. Jane's is the leading
British private source of information on military affairs. It's enjoyed
this role for over a century.
> Saddam - the can of worms
> [Jane's Intelligence Digest - 17 December 2003]
Of course, many people would like to see Saddam handed over to his countrymen and promptly put to death, probably in the "old way" (thanks, Ellen):
The Globe and Mail
By PAUL KNOX
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail
If I find Osama bin Laden rooting around in my back yard over the Christmas holidays, and I pick up a shovel and beat him to death, should I be charged with murder?
Obviously. Sure, it looks to me like he sent planes into the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, killing nearly 3,000 people. Sure, a lot of people would like to see him bludgeoned to a pulp. But I don't get to do him myself. It's just as wrong for me to club a mass murderer to death on my own as it would be to poison Mother Teresa.
Nations without a death penalty (which is most of them) are concerned:
U.S.: Experts Say American Plans To Try Hussein Expose Trans-Atlantic Fissures
By Jeffrey Donovan
I've even dug up a little conspiracy that Saddam was not, actually, caught:
Saddam Was Held by Kurdish Forces, Drugged and Left For U.S. Troops
But either way, the war continues in Iraq, and violence against our soldiers continues as well. I have a much more apt comparison, not to our failure in Vietnam, but the French expulsion from Algeria:
Winning and Losing
By Philip Gourevitch
The New Yorker
One day late last summer, as the tally of bombings, shootings, and acts of sabotage against the American occupation in Iraq took on the unmistakable profile of a war of guerrilla insurgency, the office of Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, at the Pentagon, designed and distributed e-mail flyers with a cautionary headline: “how to win a battle against terrorism and lose the war of ideas.” The e-mail invited those involved in the “wot”the war on terrorismto a private screening of the Italian Marxist director Gillo Pontecorvo’s 1966 masterpiece, “The Battle of Algiers.”
It certainly doesn't help when we deny the Iraqis the rights that we (used to?) have:
Tanks Roll into Tikrit
By Robin Pomeroy
"Any demonstration against the government or coalition forces will be fired upon"
-- U.S.-backed Regional Governor Hussein al-Jaburi
Or if we treat our own soldiers like so much cannon fodder:
Contractor Served Troops Dirty Food in Dirty Kitchens
By Agence France Presse
The Taipei Times
The Pentagon repeatedly warned contractor Halliburton-KBR that the food it served to US troops in Iraq was "dirty," as were as the kitchens it was served in, NBC News reported on Friday.
Indeed, even the research group of the CIA (and I will have something more to say about this odd group in a future screed) is predicting dire results if the heads of government don't get in touch with their troops in the field:
NIC: Iraq Outlook Bleak
By Bill Gertz and Rowan Scarborough
The Washington Times
The National Intelligence Council, a group under CIA Director George J. Tenet, has released a paper that is part of an effort by intelligence analysts to predict global events in the next 17 years.
But let's not worry about all the massive destruction of nature and man. Let's hold out a little hope for the New Year, a little flicker of possibility in our lives, a little goodness.
For those who enjoyed the website I sent in the last screed, whatacrappypresent.com, the authors of that site have ideas about how you can, individually and as small groups, successfully unleash your own kind of economic terror on the minions of the music industry. Check it out:
With that, I'll say au revoir and hopefully I'll see you on the other side of midnight, in January 2004! Vive le Screed!
29 December 2003