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January 23, 2003

Citizen, Witness, Accomplice

While everyone comes up with a good reason to justify killing Iraqis or not, I thought I might pause a moment to reflect on what cruel trades we make for the sake of empire. In the end, as sad as it seems, we're all jockeying for position on some scale to show how thoughtful and intelligent we are. The Blogosphere is full of I Told You So, a significant portion of which is angling towards military conflict. My DeathOMeter only starts at 3k, but I'm going to recalibrate it for a moment.

Some of you may have heard about a horrendous situation in NJ which resulted in the death of a small boy. This is the kind of stomach turning news that makes for light reading in comparison to the kind of suffering that goes on in this world. But because it is so rare in these United States, it still has the power to turn our minds towards more righteous ways of thinking.

And yet I still recall the murder of 7 year old Sherrice Iverson in a Nevada casino. Her assailant's friend, an eyewitness to the dastardly deed, managed to remain in good standing with UC Berkeley. I only refer to the political hay in passing. But I do take very seriously how my citizenship is tarnished as eyewitness to the sausage making in foreign policy discussion which aims for a militant solution.

The poem I wrote about the eyewitness, Mr. Cash is as follows:


lil ole girl
what the fuck
is you doing here?
must be nobody cares

don't you know this ole world
works on neutrons and valences
and balances of power
up beyond yo lil brown forehead?

i bet you think you cute
i bet you think you special

you don't know this place of chance
is for grown folk
watching for tells and duplicity
with videos and lasers?

of course you don't
you've got enough nerve to spit
as if you got wad
as if you got something i'm bound to respect

take that! and that!
now you dead.

my slack is cut
testimony for immunity
arms for hostages

In retrospect, I could have made it clearer that Cash was not the murderer, or the rapist. He just watched. My revulsion got the better of me. He did, nevertheless, cut a deal with DAs, defended his friend, and continued to study nuclear physics.

It would seem that there is something supernatural about those who would come to understand, as Oppy did, the power of nuclear weapons. Perhaps Cash, like the blackmailers of Pyongyang have something on us. Maybe the world is ordered in such a way as to make certain types of knowledge more valuable than human decency. I think that's part of it, but I don't think that's the primary reason we let Cash off easy.

We Americans simply don't believe in indicting the innocent. For us innocence is a way of life we strive to maintain at all costs. An innocent American is a proper American, goes the thinking. If and when we go to war, we may don the rhetoric, we may agree in principle, we may wish we were part of the action, but in the end we will not be combatants, and we will disclaim all responsibility for whatever slaughter occurs. We citizens will be eyewitnesses. We will be friends and family of the soldiers. We will provide the necessary cash. But we will refuse to be indicted.

I'm not sure I'm such a proper American, despite the fact that I don't like Bush's policy. I want to feel guilty in this. I want to feel responsible as I did so very fully when he presented his case against Afghanistan to the joint session of Congress in 2001. My gung, don't say Ho! any longer.

I know, however, that this all is being done in my name, if not my voice. And I believe the intention to protect my world is real and righteous. So I am not going to pretend for a moment that I'm not a part of this action. I am not going to stand here and tell anyone that Bush is not my president despite the fact that I had nothing to do with his election whatsoever.

You can read my English from anywhere on the globe, if you're interested. Google 'black republicans' and you'll come right here. If you think you don't like people like me, you're welcome to hear what I say and then decide. This is my politics right here. And I say, no to a costly war, and no to GWBush's kind of leadership into war. But Ialso say pull the plug on dictators like Saddam, whether or not they have super weapons. Which brings me to my final points.

Some of you out there, like Ritter, like Tarik Aziz, know exactly what kind of man Saddam is. You have been eyewitnesses to his dastardly deeds and you too have played innocent. I'm not going to forgive you. Bush's war bus is pulling off and that's the big way that the immediate future is going to be shaped, not by words, but by actions. Innocent Iraqi citizens are just as much a part of this as I am. And, I'm sorry to say, I probably won't read your blogs any sooner than you're going to read mine.

One day the numbers of dead are going to come back and haunt us. All of us with ordinary lives to attend to will crank up our DeathOMeters once more and remain aloof to the details of suffering. Not because we are inhuman or incapable, but by choice. While my lower threshold is hovering around 1, as in one murdered child, I offer tears on my keyboard and a moment of silence.

If I were President of the United States, I would send Congressmen and American Citizens to Iraq to attend funerals and bury your dead, and I would have your people come here and do the same. Until then..

Posted by mbowen at January 23, 2003 01:01 PM

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In his errors a man is true to type. Observe the errors and you will know the man.

Posted by: Peck Amy at December 10, 2003 05:21 AM

Hey man ive been doing an internet search for the 3/17 episode of the chapelle show. IT has the most incredible musical segment and the songs had the phrase if i were president and that thing you wrote is alot like it. I was wondering if you knew what it was. If you could reply to my email adress id be forever thankful for im thinking about preforming the song accousticly for my "situational awarness"project in world studies

Posted by: Chris at March 23, 2004 10:35 PM

There are no weird people - some just require more understanding.

Posted by: Heiner Paul at September 30, 2004 11:10 AM


I'm not sure I understand. Do you believe David Cash should have been arrested in the Sherrice Iverson case or no?

Posted by: Amber at October 12, 2004 01:29 AM

If I remember the incident properly, he was a material witness and held for questioning. But he essentially gave consent to what his friend was doing; he didn't mind having the girl hurt. Morally, he was accountable.

Posted by: Cobb at October 12, 2004 07:46 AM