The Trayvon Martin Case Writ Large

    There is an interesting article from the New Yorker in the news section that was linked to by Artappraiser. For the purposes of this rant I will only refer to the introduction and not the document the article presents.

    Most people in this country have taken a side in the controversy surrounding the arguably "legal" shooting of Trevon Martin. Everyone I have read here believes that his killing was an appalling injustice, and if the killers actions are protected by law then it is bad law which should be changed. Significantly, we are all speaking out, all venting our outrage, all feeling righteous in our conviction that this is the sort of wrong towards a specific human being which is brought about by the feelings of some, too many, against a class of human beings. The Americans who justify such action are heartless, twisted, racists. So, most everyone here can comfortably blame the other side in our national politics for their attitudes that created the situation which ended in tragic death of a human being who had as much right to walk the planet eating skittles as do any of us. We can blame the other political side because we see the error in their thinking, in their attitudes, and in their solutions. We know better, and we wouldn't allow those things if it was up to us, if it was in our ability to stop or prevent them. Yes, but we, we must speak up, we must demonstrate our outrage. There are lives in the balance. We must make our conscience a comfortable place to rest.

    We can call heartless, twisted, racist, and stupid, the Americans who justify the law involved and the resulting action. They can defend the law and the action, and do so on the grounds that we have a right to protect ourselves. They believe that they can identify a threat by the looks of a person, by where they come from, by where they grew up, by whatever the worst thing anyone who looks like them ever did, and justify acting on the possibility that they might do something bad. They justify the use of lethal force to protect themselves from any threat which they can say made them fear and say it made the fear for their lives, and they are easily scared. Some do this honestly within their own belief system. Some just use rhetoric to mask their hate. And most of them, like most of us, will sometimes lie, most often to ourselves.  For almost everyone, this legal crime happened far away and is a passing news item which mostly drives reaction against those who judge it differently. If those who defend it have any qualms about the incident they might  call it "collateral damage" in the war for peace, justice, and the American way.

    If Trevar Martin's death was a mistake, one political side can easily live with it, like we all live with so much death around the world done under our laws and done by our representatives who twist and stretch laws.

    From the article, which is worth a read for itself even if no connection is made to current domestic events. [Emphasis mine in all cases]

    “I think it’s important for us to get it right,” President Obama said on Tuesday of the American relationship with Pakistan. Lately, though, we haven’t.

    Three years later, those ambitions are in tatters, undone by the Raymond Davis affair, the killing of Osama Bin Laden, and continuing drone strikes, which most Pakistanis regard as acts of war.

    The essay declares that Pakistan’s total casualties—dead and wounded—since 2001 in the “fight against terrorism” number about forty thousand.

    Administration has signalled to Pakistan’s military leadership that it is willing to try again, but has urged the Pakistanis to accept that the U.S. reserves the right to attack any target that threatens American lives or other important interests.

    Pakistan’s generals believe that one chronic problem is America’s drone-targeting policy. Many lethal drone strikes are not directed against a specific terrorist whose name is known and whose real-time location has been pinpointed.

    There are a few cases like that, but often the American drones strike more adaptively at what are known as “force protection” and “signature” targets.

    A force-protection target can be a truck full of bearded men wearing turbans and holding rifles, driving toward the Afghan border. There are, as it happens, more than a few of these.

    A signature target can be a house in North Waziristan where many bearded men wearing turbans and carrying arms gather for dinner, chatting on their phones. The U.S. drone operators may listen in and watch over such a suspicious-looking dinner party, and, back at Drone Central, officers on duty may conclude there is sufficient cause to fire missiles at the house—but they could have little or no idea about the names of all the guests. The Americans insist that signature drone strikes of this kind are necessary because that is how the United States has regularly, semi-accidentally killed Al Qaeda leaders along the Pakistani border in recent years, resulting in a reduction of Al Qaeda’s global capability. But they have also semi-accidentally killed Pakistanis who are not tied to Al Qaeda.

    That document is classified "secret" and presumably some of us, if we are to be even a little bit consistent, believe that Steve Coll, the management and editors of "The New Yorker," and whoever leaked the document belong in jail for leaking it and alleging how much our foreign policy and our national attitude resemble  Zimmerman's. It could possibly instigate a little criticism of our country's current leadership by those on his side in everything he does and ironically on the one subject where his hate full opponents support him. But that is another subject.

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    You mean we should do Neighborhood Watch, but without weapons? Pakistan as gated community? Burkas and Karakuls as hoodies?

     No,  unless I misunderstand your meaning that is not even close, except, in part, for the burkas and karakuls having the same affect on some people as hoodies won by blacks does on some others.

    And is that not similar to the 2 other analogies as well?

    This is so well put. And you take my mind from the streets of Detroit or Boston or NYC or any other great city in this country besides our smaller towns and the suburbs of course.

    I hereby render unto Lulu, the Dayly Line of the Day Award for this here Dagblog Site, given to all of him from all of me; especially for this gem:

    They believe that they can identify a threat by the looks of a person, by where they come from, by where they grew up, by whatever the worst thing anyone who looks like them ever did, and justify acting on the possibility that they might do something bad. They justify the use of lethal force to protect themselves from any threat which they can say made them fear and say it made the fear for their lives, and they are easily scared.

    Without a hearing, people die every day in this country from some type of domestic violence perpetrated by individuals or gangs or those who feel they are on the side of truth, justice and the American Way!

    And we 'gather up' individual 'terrorists' and put them in holding tanks for an indefinite period without benefit of counsel or access to the courts.

    And we send out 'James Bonds' or robot killers to seek out and murder those we 'believe' are our enemies.

    And when we as a nation actually 'kill', there is collateral damage; innocent folks die.

    Well put!

    What do we actually know anyway?

    I do not have any answers, especially on the foreign fronts. How could I? All the info is secret!

    I'm no supporter of Obama's foreign policy, except to say that he has more competently managed things than Bush did and that counts for a lot, even if I dsagree with a lot of the thought behind it.

    I have a hard time making the leap from Zimmerman's brand of "pre-emptive strike" and "targeted killings" to our foreign policy.  Yes, I see the parallel.  But I also see a huge difference between Zimmerman the self-styled hero and an enormous security/intelligence/military apparatus.  I also see a major difference between civil defense and the Neighborhood Watch.

    Don't understand what differences you see, which you think is better.

    The only foreign policy "success" I see is keeping us from leading the assault on Libya, and even there it's questionable whether Libyans will end up any better.

    (okay, I guess I should give Obama credit for following Bush's roadmap out of Iraq once al-Maliki refused immunity to stay.)

    I didn't (and don't) support our intervention in Libya, but it was handled masterfully.

    OBL was handled masterfully.

    He's doing a good job with Iran so far.

    It's not all bad.  It's certainly not like a bumbling and dangerous vigilante prowling the streets of a central Florida town.

    Heaven forbid we be bumbling and dangerous, between civilian drone deaths and:

    Jerome Starkey recently reported for The Times of London about a night raid on Feb. 12 in which U.S. and Afghan gunmen opened fire on two pregnant women, a teenage girl and two local officials -- an atrocity which NATO’s Afghanistan headquarters then tried to cover up.

    I don't really call OBL's hit "foreign policy" aside from telling Pakistan to stuff it. It was an intelligence & special forces operation. Well done, but not FP.

    As for Libya, masterfully arranged regime change, with even UN & Arab approval, aside from no principle for why regime change, a bit of black slaughter in aftermath, and say, a huge sense of deja vu:

    07 Mar 2012 Financial Times

    Libyan interim leader warns against partition

    • The leader of Libya's transitional government threatened to use force to keep the country together after a large group of leaders in the country's east launched an autonomy drive.

    Regarding Iran, we've proclaimed it evil, invaded countries on both sides, threatened invasion for 11 years (us or our Israeli allies), refuse to meet with Iranian leaders over  20% pure uranium, and use our media to distort Iran's cooperation with the IAEA. But the good news is Netanyahu hasn't yet attacked, so I guess it's a good job, eh?

    This is one instance where I am prepared to believe that Prez in his private communications with Bibi is less accommodating than his public posture would imply--I believe this because if it were otherwise, there would be smoking ruins in Teheran, Tel Aviv and Times Square.

    Not so sure - remember how in 2006-2007, war with Iran was guaranteed to happen by late summer, with Lieberman leading the charge? how Hillary had made it inevitable through supporting Kyl-Lieberman?

    We will shower Bibi with concessions to support his magnanimous restraint, or else he'll go to his AIPAC support group which will create a PR nightmare for him.

    Here's Israel asking for a green light in 2008:

    Here's us thinking about an attack in 2007 just because Iraq wasn't going well

    Here's Cheney supporting our 1st strike led by Israel in 2005:

    It's all a Happy Meal game. Israel knows very well Iran is far from any nuclear threat capability, and even if the have facilities, a few bunker busters can seal up any entrances. So what does it gain? Iran's letting IAEA inspect its facilities. There's no real progress. Bombing Iran would just make all this clearer, when Bibi just wants power over us instead.

     If a policy is bad then I cannot see giving any praise to a person for more affectively carrying out that policy then did his predecessor. Praise for being more affectively bad?

    There are policies that I think are bad that, deftly enacted, might have acceptable or even good outcomes.  I thought all of the bailouts, including the financial institutions and the automakers equally, were bad policy.  But I can still admit that the outcomes were nowhere near as bad as I predicted and that some good came of them.  I still don't support them.  But they were managed pretty well.

    I am nI do not think it is wrong to be outraged at what happened to Martin and I am not down on Obama for every action and every policy he has instituted or furthered, but I believe that some actions taken in furtherance of our foreign policy are wrong ethically, morally, and legally.Those are the ones I speak out about. I also believe that in the long run they will prove to be wrong pragmatically. This is all somewhat a diversion from the point of my rant. [Tangents are fine, I'm just pointing that out] The main point of my blog, though, was to rant about how selective we are in our outrage depending on tribal affiliations. Based on the weight of the comments here everyone should be outraged when innocents are killed with no good justification or, I would add, those guilty are killed extrajudicially. I agree. If that killing is made "legal" then someone is responsible for a bad law and, there is a plane where those who hide behind the law are still guilty. Now that our CiC is from our tribe most of us react to his war crimes resulting in the death of innocents, including young children, [and young children are no doubt as innocent as a human can be, even more innocent than Martin could possibly be] by ignoring them or apologizing for the perps, or justification, or by concentrating on other issues where we can still feel conscientiously upright. I think racism and tribalism play a part in the feelings of most of those who defend Zimmerman and racism and tribalism play a part in the feelings of many of those who ignore or defend much of the unjustified killing in the Middle East. Sometimes there is a rather thick patina of hypocracy over it all. I see it as being dealt with by selective use of rose colored glasses.

    It is  bit of a tangent.  I like to think that's it not quite your point, but it rhymes.

    As for your point about selective outrage.  Indeed, Lulu, Indeed.  I'm in total agreement.

    I don't think that the parallel was so much the point as the contrast. On my reading, the objective of the post was not to condemn Obama for being like Zimmerman, though perhaps it nodded that way, but to challenge us to examine the intensity of our reaction to Martin's killing against a backdrop of so many more victims of American violence in Pakistan (and Iraq and Afghanistan).

    The parallel emerges in the way people employ notions of justification and legitimacy to evade responsibility for the death of innocents.

    I thought that the piece was subtle and trenchant. Well done, Lulu.

    On behalf of Dick Day, I hearbuy create a new award called the Lulupalooza, employing subtlety, good taste, trenchance (word?) and other qualities we scarcely recognize.

    The award can be invested formally, or by proclaiming, "Whew, that's a Lulu".

    Hopefully it won't come to be looked upon with scorn and ridicule and deep suspicion, such as the Lady Bing Trophy for good sportsmanship in hockey, but will instead be seen as calling on our better selves in blogging our higher nature.

    Ayup, that's a Lulu.

    Good idea. And if someone writes something belligerent and mostly off-topic, we'll call it the PP Prize. First person to win a Dayly Day, a Lulupalooza, and a PP with a single comment gets a free 2008 Obama bumper sticker.


    Ouch. My reward for trying to be funny & friendly?
    2nd prize - a 2012 Obama bumper sticker?
    3rd prize.... hold my tongue
    Pardon-moi for my lack of bon humor
    But hen-pecking seems much like a tumor
    We parlay away 
    The tough duels of the day
    To engage in snide quips and bald rumor
    Since the other side never acquiesces
    Our contempt for them too never ceases
    We proclaim verbal war
    Till we sleepwalk and snore
    And find ourselves distracted to pieces
    To be accurate never suffices
    A wit that cuts, shreds and slices
    Is usually preferred,
    Whether far-fetched or absurd
    To lead our way out of this crisis
    When all things are said and not done
    We've engaged in a whole lot of fun
    We've adopted a tack
    From which we can't quite get back
    Where we support the values we shun
    But it's fine when we go out and do it
    It's not lying - we just want improve'd
    The truths of the day
    Hidden away
    What the facts lack, we're proud to intuit


    It was funny, actually. I was just returning the friendly salvo.
    Speaking of which...
    There once was a man from Duluth
    Who insisted on telling the truth.
    To every report
    He'd respond with a snort,
    "You've messed up the facts!"
    Then he'd take up his axe
    And whack it with zest
    'Cause he knew the best.
    No nit was too nitty,
    No matter how witty.
    If the facts were OK,
    He'd whack anyway.
    "For Justice!" he'd cry.
    "For Truth," he would sigh.
    But no matter how hard he'd grind,
    He couldn't change someone's mind.
    His axe was too dull,
    And his mind was too full
    Of self-righteous pride
    In the Truth that he spied.
    His contradictions made waves
    But did nothing to save
    The fools and the cretins
    Who did not agree with him.

    Yeah, but that's Minnesota - what do they know?

    Fishing and Scandinavian folk songs

    (with apologies to Mr. Day)

    This is all too confusin’ for my simple mind, but thanks for the responses. I’m thinkin’ I’m thankin’ Pearaclawsporfavor too, but I hold to the right to change my mind if I ever make it up.

    And you up there, DDay, It’s a pleasure and a plivlidge to receive your daily award. Thanks 

    Hey Lulu, something got lost amid the banter, the thing that I really appreciated about your piece.

    So much of blogging...and any public writing showmanship. We're always trying to outdo one another, whether in knowledge, wit, eloquence, argument, or even rhyme. Everyone wants the last word, the irrefutable point, the devastating cut. That's fine, I think. That's what makes it fun and inspires us to communicate effectively. That's what makes us click back to a day-old post to see if anyone responded.

    But the real prize, in my opinion, is the rarest of achievements: to make people think. Your piece made me think. That's what I liked about it.


    As the article said:

    Because of its record of past lying about its covert-action programs (and other matters), the Pakistani military does not engender much trust.

    Pakistan wants all of Kashmir, and they want total control over Afghanistan after the US departs. They also expect to continue to get billions in US military aid. The military runs the country. The method they use to extend control into the neighboring nations is terrorism and violence.  As the article says there are a multitude of terror incidents where they have been involved and later lied about it. Nothing any Pakistani in authority says can be taken as the truth, the country is the national embodiment of the phrase 'a wilderness of mirrors'.
    They even torture and kill their own journalists, dispatching one of the more famous ones investigating the Pakistani military last year.  Any comparison between the lawless tribal areas of North Waziristan and Sanford Florida is not 'writ large. but 'writ absurd'.

    Any comparison between the lawless tribal areas of North Waziristan and Sanford Florida is not 'writ large. but 'writ absurd'.

    Your comment here made me think of how there is a comparison with US history that is pretty common- if you google "FATA Wild West," you get 220,000 results, and I imagine there are plenty more out there using another term besides FATA.

    The Wild West was like a Cub Scout outing compared to the FATA.

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