Peter Arnett, the “Traitor”

I wasn’t interested in some journalist getting fired. The news buzzed by me as quickly as it did when that talk-show host got thrown out of Iraq. I didn’t recognize the name and I certainly didn’t recognize his somewhat ugly face even though I’m assured by every article I have read since that this Arnett guy is someone I should know about. What can I say, I don’t watch that much TV?

Then I stumbled upon Walter Cronkite’s editorial at the New York Times. That sparked my interest. I recognized Cronkite’s name because I think I have seen him, or rather recordings and impersonations of him, in various historically set Hollywood productions.

Without knowing any details of the Arnett affair, in which the journalist gave an interview to Iraqi TV and said some disheartening things about the US military effort, the Cronkite editorial was enough to get me really interested. Here was a fascinating little piece to work with.

It began with Walter basically calling Peter a traitor…and I am always interested in traitors.
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Command and Control

The looting in Baghdad looks like it is finally dying down. The US forces there are now making genuine efforts in quelling the chaotic looting and killing that has ravaged the city since their entry. They have promised to send police officers, have made efforts to re-recruit local civil service, and are paying local civilians in various areas to work with an appointed US soldier. Although there will be a lot of frustration and bad memories about these first few days, it is likely that the majority of the Iraqis in the urban centers will show some degree of gratitude for increased security provided.

Regretablly, even if the US had done nothing, the looting would probably have died down in a few days anyways. Everything of much value that could be stolen is already gone. 39 of the 40 hospitals in Baghdad have been robbed of equipment with uses their robbers could have only guessed at, double-decker buses have been commandeered, embassies and government buildings stripped of even their chairs, and the National Library emptied by avid looting bibliophiles.

A professor of Political Science at Baghdad University, Dr. Ramiz said, “I believe the United States has committed an act of irresponsibility with few parallels in history, with the looting of the National Museum, the National Library and so many of the ministries. People are saying that the U.S. wanted this ? that it allowed all this to happen because it wanted the symbolism of ordinary Iraqis attacking every last token of Saddam Hussein’s power.” While his anger is understandable, we have to realize that the US didn’t want rampant and indiscriminate looting, and there are many signs they did not expect it, train for it, or otherwise sufficiently plan for it. Also, no one can deny that they are operating in small numbers in large population centers.

However, these reasons cannot be used to excuse the horrible incompetence displayed by the coalition.
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Senator Byrd has very eloquently summarized the most stark result of this week’s events:

“Today I weep for my country,” said West Virginia Democrat Sen. Robert Byrd. “No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. … Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned.

“We flaunt our superpower status with arrogance,” Byrd said, adding: “After war has ended the United States will have to rebuild much more than the country of Iraq. We will have to rebuild America’s image around the globe.”
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Waking up to War

After programming into the wee hours of night, I woke up late this morning and turned on the TV, expecting to hear some indication of whether the war had started.

I don’t watch TV much here in Japan but when I found myself staring at CNN I was surprised. I don’t remember having CNN access here in Japan…

What I discovered was that more than half of the channels were covering the attack, which had begun with an explosion just a few minutes earlier. In the hours that followed I was beginning to get a feel for how the Japanese television media covers the war.
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Immigration Office

Together with my friends Lee and Lars, I went to get a “Re-entry Permit” from the new Tokyo regional Immigration office in Shinagawa.

I will be heading back to New York for about 10 days or so from the 17th of February. I’m looking forward to seeing friends (and Sayaka!), and taking care of a few things at Columbia.

Getting the permit, which allows me to re-enter Japan using the same visa, was, as best I can remember it from my stay in Yokohama in 97-98, a really miserable process involving hours of waiting and multiple forms. I have nasty cold and was not in any mood to deal with a bureaucracy…
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Newsweek Covers

My friend Lars brought over two issues of Newsweek today, the Japanese and American versions of the same issue. The contents are never identical, but major articles are often translated from English to Japanese. This time, however, the contrast between the covers of the February 3rd (US) and February 5th (Japan) issues are interesting…

The title of the US issue is “Hell Bent on War: Will Attacking Saddam Really Make Us Safer” set on a background of a young soldier (American?) with perhaps a hint of anxiety in his look.

The cover of the Japanese Newsweek issue is a cartoon globe with a rather comical depiction of Bush riding (and holding the reigns of) a bomb marked with the US flag, reminescent of Dr. Strangelove. The cover line is ブッシュは世界の敵?正義を掲げるカウボーイの異常な「戦争愛」 which I guess can be translated as “Is Bush the world’s enemy? A Cowboy’s twisted love of war in the name of Justice” (leave a comment if this is off) The major cover article on “War and its consequences” in the US magazine is translated into Japanese and included in the Japanese issue with all the usual maps and military statistics, though the title of the Japanese version is translated oddly as “The Attack on Iraq cannot be Avoided”

Pledge of Allegiance

Recently I have become interested in various manifestations of nationalism in the US, particularly as the intensity of rhetoric has increased while the diversity in language used in political statements has rapidly decreased after 9/11.

This is certainly not something unique and there are countless examples of this across the world in pretty much every modern period of perceived crisis. However, we now all have an excellent opportunity to watch a case study unfold before our eyes. My friend Jai pointed out an interesting CNN article about Bush’s increasing use of religious terms. Jai’s own research interests as a PHD student make him exceptionally sensitive and adept at detecting the growing theocratic undertones in politics and the media in events as diverse as the Shuttle crisis and preparations for the invasion of Iraq.

While I’m also interested in this topic, most recently I have wanted to learn more about the US Pledge of Allegiance. I was never required to recite it in the international schools I attended but it was required during my short period in the American Boy Scouts.

I believe most Americans, including until recently, myself (despite my dual-citizenship), take the pledge for granted. Only the recent “Under God” controversy has really raised consciousness about it to any significant level. However, I have recently come to suddenly realize that the pledge is really quite a fascinating topic…
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State of the Union

Most of my friends know that I am no fan of Bush. I have never been really impressed with his speech writers either, and Tuesday’s State of the Union speech was no exception.

Around the world everyone who cared enough to listen were waiting to hear how soon the small “coalition of the willing” were going to go to war and whether the US had come up with any compelling reasons to do so. Unfortunately, there was much of the usual, though there was a promise to reveal evidence. I think the last time that was promised we were told of aluminum pipes that the IAEA believe can be unrelated to nuclear arms research.

The speech was, however, an interesting study in what has increasingly become the debate over America’s approach to foreign policy and the terms it uses…
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Gallery Added

I installed the “Gallery” module for this web site. I can now upload pictures to the Muninn site. You can view the albums in my gallery here or by clicking on “Gallery” from the list of links at the left. I will not be adding all pictures I take in Japan as my space and permitted bandwidth is somewhat limited.

Shrine trouble again

Koizumi whipped up controversy again amongst his neighbors by visiting Yasukuni shrine last week. Even today, days after the event, it is still making news in the Chinese media (Sina) although it has dropped off the scopes of the CCP’s People’s Daily.

In Japan, NHK and Asahi, did their usual critical approach, with emphasis on the reactions of Korea and China or critical voices at home but within a few days there were plenty of articles noting the “well planned” and “strategic” timing of the visit (See Mainichi Daily News and Yomiuri articles, both English, for example) which avoided the upcoming transfers of power in Korea and China and the need to visit again during the key August 15th date.

江藤隆美 (Et� Takami or perhaps Takayoshi), an LDP right-wing politician who is famous for losing his cabinet position with the 1995 declaration that “Japan also did good things for its Korean colony” declared on the 18th that since the Russian Prime Minister visits military memorials, why is it objectionable that Japan visits Yasukuni. Besides the obvious historical fact that they aren’t paying homage to convicted war criminals, on the pragmatic end he doesn’t seem to have noticed the different diplomatic climate which Japan continues to face. Your comments are welcome…