Category Archives: moral ambiguity

>What’s really going on in Copenhagen? The Yes Men arrive!

>Did Canada just promise to dramatically reduce its greenhouse gases and pay their climate debt? It looks like it:

Uganda responds:

Will the real Canada please stand up:

Oops, its the Yes Men being, well, the Yes men.

I feel rather sorry for Uganda, but not for Canada.

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Filed under anarchism, ethics, government, humor, moral ambiguity, nature, non-violence, Politics

>Good Journalism

>Amy Goodman & Robert Sheer on the state of journalism and its implications:

I have become increasingly convinced that the state of mainstream journalism in the U.S. today is lousy. If we do not take the time to find and engage with good journalism, rather than merely consuming the mainstream media, then we are and will remain ignorant and potentially very foolish.

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Filed under American history, moral ambiguity, Politics, war

The casualties of Operation Overloard

One of the truest clichés is that war is hell.

New Zealand Commandos ready to hit the beach

Today is 65 years since Operation Overlord began – also known as D-Day. This day stands as one of the great moments of triumph in the wars of good versus evil that are seared into our consciousness. I have always viewed the actions of the soldiers who landed on the beaches to be nothing short of heroic, and I still do, but I am burdened by the casualties from the event. I wrote a post recently on my attitude towards war and I must confess I have difficulties bringing together my hatred of war and my thanks for the heroes of D-Day.

British commandos in a ruined French town, Normandy.

Consider the casualties from Operation Overlord. This is taken directly from Wikipedia and it bears reading and pondering:

The cost of the Normandy campaign had been high for both sides. From D-Day to 21 August the Allies had landed 2,052,299 men in northern France. The Allies lost around 209,672 casualties from June 6 to the end of August, around 10 % of the forces landed in France. The casualties breaks down to 36,976 killed, 153,475 wounded and 19,221 missing. Split between the Army-Groups; the Anglo-Canadian Army-Group suffered 16,138 killed, 58,594 wounded and 9,093 missing for a total of 83,825 casualties. The American Army-Group suffered 20,838 killed, 94,881 wounded and 10,128 missing for a total of 125,847 casualties. To these casualties it should be added that no less then 4,101 aircrafts were lost and 16,714 airmen were killed in direct connection to Operation Overlord. Thus total Allied casualties rises to 226,386 men. 78 Free French SAS (Special Air Service) killed, 195 wounded in Brittany from 5 June to the beginning of August. For Allied tank losses there are no direct number. A fair estimate is that around 4,000 tanks were destroyed, of which 2,000 were fighting in American units.

The German casualties remains unclear. The estimates of the German casualties stretches from 288,000 men to 450,000 men. Just in the Falaise Gap the Germans lost around 60,000 men in killed, wounded and captured. The majority of the German casualties contained of POWs as nearly 200,000 were captured during the closure of the battle. The Germans committed around 2,300 tanks and assault guns to the battle in Normandy, and only around 100 to 120 were brought back across the Seine. The overwhelming majority of the German tanks destroyed were put out of action by the Allied airforce, while very few of the Allied tank losses were inflicted by the Luftwaffe.

19,860 French civilians were killed during the liberation of Normandy, and an even greater number were wounded. The number excludes the 15,000 civilians killed and the 19,000 wounded in the bombings of Normandy in preparation of the invasion. Many cities and towns in Normandy and northern France were totally devastated by the fighting and the bombings. As many as 70,000 French civilians may have been killed during the liberation of France in 1944.

These numbers are staggering. Keep in ming that is for less than two months of fighting and such losses are entirely unbelievable by today’s expectations.

Dead U.S. soldier, Omaha beach

D-Day is considered a great triumph. It was the first major stake through the heart of European fascism and Nazi ambitions. We use the words “saved the world from fascism” and “liberated Europe” when we talk about D-Day and its heroes. I have always had strong emotions about WWII and D-Day. The opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan truly chokes me up. I spent hundreds of hours as a kid pouring over my WWII book collection, closely examining photographs, reading the stories, and wishing I had been there. However, D-Day can also be seen a part of a huge failure. A failure not merely because there where many political options not exercised by the Europeans and Americans all through the 1930s that could have dealt with the rise of Hitler and fascism and avoided war altogether, and not merely because one source of WWII was the WWI (the war to end all wars) which also could have been avoided but was entered into with relish by all sides, but D-Day is a failure because all war is failure. War is a powerful and profound testament of human evil. To seek war, whether from selfish ambition, glory, or even from a felt obligation is, to use an old but still valid term, sinful.

Dead German soldier, Normandy.

More than ever on days like this one, where we appropriately remember the sacrifices of so many human lives for causes that we believe in, I am in conflict. Should those soldiers have stormed the beaches in Normandy 65 years ago to save the world? Maybe not, for war is wrong. And yet they did and I am grateful they did. So today I will remember what those soldiers did and what they gave (in fact I am in awe of their service), but I will also remember and grieve the casualties on all sides, including the civilian casualties, and I will remember that the human tendency to war and glorify war is my tendency too because I am a sinner.

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Filed under American history, memory, moral ambiguity, pacifism, war



When it comes the plight of the Palestinians I don’t trust what I hear coming from either the Israeli government or the U.S. government – and not merely because governments lie. And, of course, I certainly do not support the actions of any group that uses terror against civilians to push forward their political goals. So, that means I don’t support Hamas. But it also means that I don’t support the Israeli government in its present form very much. But it is hard for me to have an opinion, being so far away geographically, socially, and informationally.

If you are like me then you probably don’t know a lot about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and the roots of the recent Israeli invasion of Gaza. If I have learned anything about what is going on over in Gaza and the West Bank, as well as the rest of the Middle East, it is that I am quite ignorant of the facts. I am not willing anymore to parrot the typical American refrain that “those people have been fighting forever and they will always fight.” (I have become increasing wary of the term “those people” however it’s used.) If they have always been fighting then it follows they were fighting during the time of Christ, and if that is true then the admonition to love one’s neighbor as oneself, or the story of the good Samaritan, or the conversation Jesus had with the woman at the well are meaningless if there is no hope for peace.

The two videos below take a look at life under occupation from a particular and personal perspective. These videos were made before the recent invasion of Gaza and the war against the Palestinian people. Although the audio is sometimes rough this is the kind of news/reporting/insight that the rest of the world needs even if only as a kind of starting point to begin discussing the issues rather than falling into the typical stereotypes and worn out stigmatizations. It is particularly important for American Christians to view, for they are some of the most ideologically driven and yet least informed people when it comes to Israel.

There is mention of the organization Breaking the Silence. Their web site is here.

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Filed under ethics, government, moral ambiguity, non-violence, Politics, religion, war

>Zinn on War and Social Justice

>Howard Zinn gave a talk just after the presidential election. It is worth listening to. The audio/picture don’t quite match in the video in the intro, but the rest looks okay.

He mentions the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. If you are not familiar with it, check it out here, and learn more about it here.

Also, Democracy Now is one of my favorite news programs. I usually watch/listen to it online while I eat lunch and do emails.

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Filed under ethics, government, moral ambiguity, non-violence, pacifism, Philosophy, Politics, Socialism, war

>The World After Bush

>I am fascinated by what the world is thinking about the outcome to the U.S. presidential election. There have been many reports of people celebrating from around the world, which is rather amazing. Those celebrations should remind us of how important the U.S. and it’s foreign policies are to people everywhere. I find it both remarkable and sobering.

There are also concerns from various quarters. Does an Obama presidency truly mean change? What about the Palestinians when Obama selects a hard-line Zionist as his chief of staff? Is he really going to end the war in Iraq or develop diplomatic ties with Iran? Is it even possible to fulfill those promises? Below is a four part discussion from Al Jaeera that looks at U.S. foreign policy, Obama as president, and the future from the outside. I found it fascinating and worth taking the time to watch.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4


Filed under American history, ethics, government, moral ambiguity, Politics, war

>voting the lesser of two evils?


the politicians all make speeches
while the news men all take notes
and they exaggerate the issues
as they shove them down our throats
is it really up to them
whether this country sinks or floats
well I wonder who would lead us
if none of us would vote

~ Larry Norman, from The Great American Novel

I’ve heard it said about every presidential election I can remember.

Along with saying they might not vote at all, I have heard a number of people refer to voting the lesser of two evils in this upcoming election. This seems to be said mostly in reference to voting for Barack Obama. I tend to agree, but not because I think Obama merely represents a lesser evil*, but because voting is largely about voting for which elite do I want to be in power. I want to pick the elite that will do the most good over time for the country – even though I don’t really want to pick any elite.

I don’t like the idea of this thing we call democracy being about elites ruling the masses. It doesn’t sound right. But it’s what we got. It was built into our system by the “founding fathers.” That may be why so many people feel disconnected from being able to affect much change – it’s because we are. But not entirely. Voting does matter, and voting for the lesser of two evils does matter. In fact, it’s a good thing.

For a little perspective here’s Noam Chomsky talking about choosing the lesser of two evils, and why this is the system we have:
This clip is from The Real News Network

So, if I can help it (read: do my homework and make an informed choice), I will try to NOT vote for the greater of two evils. I am disinclined to vote outside the two most prominent choices because to do so is to inadvertently support whoever wins, and that could be the greater of the two evils. And yet I believe one should vote one’s conscience, so I consider all candidates as my potential choice.

* I want to be clear. This is not about which person is the lesser of two evils. I don’t think Obama or McCain are personally more or less evil than anyone else. What we have is a system of slight, but ultimately significant differences. Which faction of of the “business party” is in power is important – over time.

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Filed under American history, moral ambiguity, Politics