Good Math, Bad Math

Today is Memorial Day, and I feel compelled to say something about it.

We’re in the middle of a horrible and pointless war. A war that we started, based on a bunch of lies. Since we did this, we have caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis, and thousands of American soldiers. And we did it for no reason.

As the situation has grown progressively worse, and more and more people have been maimed and killed, we’ve heard an endless drumbeat from Bush supporters: me must support the troops!

I support American soldiers. As the son of a WW2 veteran, I grew up with a lot of respect for soldiers. People who join the military voluntarily give up many of the freedoms that we take for granted, and allow themselves to be put into situations that people like me can’t even really begin to imagine. We ask the members of our military to go and put themselves into a situation where they have to pick up a weapon, point it at someone, and kill them in cold blood – because they’re a member of the enemy’s army. We ask them to put themselves into a position where other people are going to try to kill them. These are horrible things, things that most of us can’t even really contemplate. Because my father put himself into that situation many years ago, he understood what it meant, in a way that I can only imagine.

When soldiers go to war, they’re taught to dehumanize the enemy. They don’t do that because they’re bad people. They do that because they have to: normal people, sane people, can’t pick up a gun, look through its sights at another human being that they don’t know, and pull the trigger and watch them die. People put into that situation hesitate – and hesitation in battle costs lives. As horrible as that sounds to us sitting in our comfortable homes, that’s what must happen to create effective combat soldiers.

When we ask people to do that on our behalf, we take on a great responsibility. We are asking them to do terrible things, things that will, under the best of circumstances, leave deep emotional scars. What happens when we put them into the hell of war is our responsibility. When we send them to war, we are obligated to respect the kind of sacrifices that we ask them to make; to make sure that we only ask them to do it an a cause that’s truly worthy of the price that they will pay; and to care for them and their families after the war is over.

In this war, that hasn’t happened. We’ve asked people to kill and die for no good reason; and while doing it, we have consistently neglected the soldiers we put in harms way, and the families that they left behind.

Our president criticizes people who want to get our soldiers out of harms way as “not supporting the troops” – while opposing funding for medical care for soldiers, housing wounded people in rat-infested hell-holes, denying financial assistance to them and their families. He talk about sending people back into combat three and four times as “support”. He sends them to die, and never attends a funeral, never watches the coffins coming home, never takes any responsibility for the horrors he’s inflicted on them and their families. He works hard to oppose things as simple as funding medical care for returning soldiers. But people who fight him on that, he tars as “not supporting the troops”.

He’s given the orders to teach them them to torture people, given the orders to tell them to torture people, and them blamed them for doing it. The horrors that he has chosen to inflict on them are, in his eyes and the eyes of his supporters, unimportant. He feels no responsibility for what he’s made them do. He’s sent near-children to the front lines, and watched as they’re punished for following his orders, while pardoning – or even rewarding the people who created the policies and gave the orders.

We should honor and respect the people who make sacrifices for our country. Instead, we spit on them, and call it support.

Today is memorial day, the day when we are supposed to remember the people who gave their lives for our country. And instead of honoring them, we’re sending more of them to die for no good reason, in a phony pointless war. Honoring them means making sure that we never ask them to sacrifice themselves unless there is a real need. We deserve to be deeply ashamed of what we’ve permitted in our names. On this day when we honor them, we should be begging them for forgiveness, for what we made them give, and what we made them do.

And meanwhile, our president’s idea of celebrating memorial day is giving a five minute speech, and then rushing off to his barbecue.

Comments

  1. #1 Donald
    May 28, 2007

    Mark,stick to math.

  2. #2 Matt G
    May 28, 2007

    No Don, Mark has a very deep and true point, of which I don’t see much point in explaining as Mark has done the best job I’ve seen of the pointless nature of such a war. All I can say is, I hope more and more people will see the folly. If only Carl Sagan could see the current situation. :)

  3. #3 Ben
    May 28, 2007

    Mark, don’t stick to math. This was a great article, and a great reminder about how screwed up things are these days.

  4. #4 Fuquier
    May 28, 2007

    Thanks Mark. A good gauge of the importance of an idea is how fast someone tells you to shut up, like Donald.

  5. #5 Nick Johnson
    May 28, 2007

    Very, very well put. I’m not an American (I’m from NZ), but this pretty much sums up how I feel about the whole thing, only a lot more clearly.

  6. #6 Rob Knop
    May 28, 2007

    I also really liked this post, and agree with the bulk of it.

    I never did this, but before the last election was thinking about making bumper stickers that said, “Support the troops: elect them competent leadership.”

    The funny thing is that the notion that trying to bring them home and get them out of the disaster they’re in is, somehow, not supporting them…..

  7. #7 Thony C.
    May 28, 2007

    Respect Mark; an excellent post.

  8. #8 Julie Stahlhut
    May 28, 2007

    Great piece, Mark. Thanks!

  9. #9 Norm Breyfogle
    May 28, 2007

    Propaganda Day

    All is now as has long time been.
    Those who fib glibly and loudest will win
    unless the dream of utopia arrives
    where compassionate virtue finally thrives
    for all humankind.

    Splashed in the blood of the innocent,
    the local politicians crow and vent.
    With point blank lying meant to cover their crimes,
    they bleat out obscenities disguised as lines
    from the book of God.

    Then the band plays the flag song again,
    and all of the children, women, and men
    obediently place their hands on their hearts,
    swearing allegiance to the militant arts
    that murder their kin.

    Soon the gaudy jubilee begins.
    With sparklers, hot dogs, toothy laughter, grins,
    beauties, striplings, macho heroes, holy men,
    all party alongside their amputee friends
    in shadow of war.

    After the parades, music, and beer,
    the desensitized crowd rises to cheer
    as staccato psychedelics in the sky,
    deafening their hearing and dazzling their eyes,
    mollify their minds.

    All is now as has long time been.
    Those who fib glibly and loudest will win
    until the dream of utopia arrives
    when compassionate virtue finally thrives
    for all humankind.

    (copyright Norm Breyfogle)

  10. #10 Norm Breyfogle
    May 28, 2007

    I wrote the above poem on Independence Day, but after Mark’s heart-wrenching article I couldn’t resist posting it here.

  11. #11 Dave Ward, FCD
    May 28, 2007

    Thanks, Mark. As a vet, I appreciate your understanding of what our people in uniform have been asked to do, and I doubly appreciate your pointing out the hypocrisy that cheapens the sacrifices that they and their families make for us. None of us should “stick to math”.

  12. #12 JRS
    May 28, 2007

    Thanks for this post, Mark. I couldn’t agree with you more. My father was also a WW2 veteran. Keep up the good work!

  13. #13 anonymous
    May 28, 2007

    When I was in the military in the 90’s, I was acutely aware that I had the right to demand a written copy of an order, and the right to refuse to obey an illegal order. It’s a damn shame that the people who did the torturing neither requested orders in writing so that their bosses could later be held accountable, nor refused to carry out those orders.

  14. #14 Repugnican
    May 28, 2007

    Why do you hate American so much?

  15. #15 Saboma
    May 28, 2007

    “And meanwhile, our president’s idea of celebrating memorial day is giving a five minute speech, and then rushing off to his barbecue.”

    Thank you, Red States.

  16. #16 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 28, 2007

    A clear and powerful post, Mark. And don’t worry about the knee-jerk hecklers, your love for people and american soldiers come through clearly for us others.

  17. #17 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 28, 2007

    your love for people and american soldiers

    Frak! Since we have hecklers around, there is a dropped “especially” here – your love for people and especially american soldiers.

  18. #18 Repugnican
    May 28, 2007

    I am curry-catcher — I mean caricature — I mean, the real me totally agrees with Mark, and my “knee-jerk heckl[ing]” was just intended to show how deeply idiotic the right’s propaganda phrases are when faced with thoughtful observations like Mark’s. Sorry if my irony didn’t come across to Torbjörn or others.

  19. #19 Ahistoricality
    May 28, 2007

    Very true, Mark, very true.

  20. #20 Tony
    May 28, 2007

    I met a WWII vet today. He just walked into the retail store I where I work, and during the course of routine customer service, he mentioned about his service. I asked him in which theatre he served, and he told me the Pacific. We had a nice conversation and I thanked him for his sacrifice. The modern ideas of liberty and equality that I take for granted were almost lost during the 40s, and this man, a stranger to me, helped save them so that I am free to enjoy. I wonder what veterans of the Iraq War will say to people in 60 years. What will people of the future have to thank them for?

    Thank you, Mark, for your impassioned post.

  21. #21 Polly Anna
    May 28, 2007

    Oh, my goodness! Congratulations, you are a true patriot by Republican Congressman Ron Paul’s description, see In the Name of Patriotism (Who are the Patriots?).

    I hope you campaign for him.

    Polly A

    [Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart–Anne Frank]

  22. #22 Peter Flom
    May 28, 2007

    Great post!

    Here’s a link to a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon that says it perfectly:

    http://www.webskinz.com/photoshop_intro/projects/comic/calvin_hobbes1.jpg

  23. #23 gus3
    May 28, 2007

    You might be good at math, but you have a poor understanding of human nature. To wit:

    normal people, sane people, can’t pick up a gun, look through its sights at another human being that they don’t know, and pull the trigger and watch them die.

    Yes, they can, and they do, in the name of protecting themselves and their loved ones. There is always someone who wants to take what you have away from you, for the simple fact that you have it and they don’t want you to, and they will try to take it away with force.

    Put simply, if, God forbid, you or a family member of yours is ever attacked, I hope a practicing member of the NRA, the JPFO, or the Pink Pistols is somewhere nearby to help you.

  24. #24 carey
    May 28, 2007

    There seems to be a natural tendency to prolong senseless conflicts, out of fear that ending the conflict will somehow rob the dead and wounded of a meaning for their sacrifice. The warring factions continue to shed blood in search of transcendent meaning for blood already spilled. Any who suggest that lives have been thrown away needlessly are shouted down and called ‘traitor’. And for decades after, we speak solemnly of sacrifice but never of the stunning waste of it all; politicians would rather expend many thousands of lives than recognize the comforting illusion of ‘meaning’ for what it is.

  25. #25 Gerry L
    May 28, 2007

    Last year I picked up a bumper sticker that says “Honor Vets — Wage Peace.” I recently put the same words on a poster board that I take to the weekly peace vigil. So far no one has challenged me on the sentiment. I’m still waiting for one of the bozos who flash “half a peace sign” at us to say something so I can ask which branch of the service they were in … I was in the Air Force.

    Great post, Mark.

    BTW One of the peace vigil-ists has a yellow ribbon magnet that says “God Bless Jingoistic Ribbons.”

  26. #26 ArtK
    May 28, 2007

    Fantastic post Mark, thank you.

    My sons and I watched the first DVD of Ken Burn’s Civil War tonight. I was struck by a number of things — first, the eloquence and sincerity of the leaders of the day, in the South as well as the North. As wrong as I believe the South was, I respect people like Davis and Lee far more than I can ever respect our current “leaders.”

    One of the other things that struck me is a bit more relevant to your post. This is the fact that people like Sherman, who predicted a long war and terrible casualties, were treated as if they were insane at the beginning of the war. The image of Washington socialites riding in their carriages to view the first Battle of Bull Run is echoed too much in the actions of inside-the-Beltway chicken-hawks today.

  27. #27 Anonymous
    May 29, 2007

    A voice from Iraq…

    Don’t bury your heads in the sand.
    I had said it over and over again that some of us in Iraq and America are sending wrong messages to the terrorists and the dictators behind them; in fact I wasn’t surprised when I saw Zawahiri appear on al-Jazeera to announce America’s defeat, not long after Reid did.

    Zawahiri claims al-Qaeda has won and Reid claims America has lost but I see only a war that’s still ongoing and I see no victory for al-Qaeda or any other entity. On the contrary I see that al-Qaeda has the shortest stick.

    We are going through a fierce war and sending more wrong messages could only further complicate an already complicated situation and create more mess that would be exploited by Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia for their own purposes–more iron-fist control on the peoples and treasures of the region and pushing the middle east to crises and confrontations with the world not forgetting spreading their dark, backward ideologies.

    The American forces should stay in Iraq and yes, reinforcements should be sent if the situation required. Not only that, these forces should be prepared to expand their operations whenever and wherever necessary in the region to strike hard on the nests of evil.

    The cost of liberating Europe was enormous in blood and treasure and thereafter it took half a century of American military presence to protect Europe’s nations from subsequent threats–now if that made sense during a cold war, and it did, then I don’t understand why would anyone demand a pullout from Iraq (and maybe later the middle east) when the enemies are using every evil technique, from booby trapped dead animals to hijacked civilian aircrafts to kill us and destroy the human civilization.

    We need to see a firm policy not afraid of making tough decisions replace the Byzantine debate of withdrawal. This became America’s destiny the day it became a superpower. A destiny to show responsibility toward her own people and toward the world, and running away from this responsibility won’t do any good.

    Otherwise those who prefer to bury their heads in the dirt today will be cursed forever for abandoning their duty when they were most capable. I don’t understand why someone who has all the tools for victory would refuse to fight the enemy that reminds us every day that it’s evil with all the daily beheadings, torture and violations of all humane laws and values.

    Some will keep blaming America and her policies and they will consider anything America did and does wrong whether America stayed or left, fought or ran away, negotiated or boycotted. There will always be those who blame America for everything that goes wrong in this world but that doesn’t mean America has to listen to them. America instead should listen to the spirit of America and what it stands for.

    Reaping the fruit won’t be today, it will be in the future after patience and great fighting.

    Read the whole thing: http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/

  28. #28 Anonymous
    May 29, 2007

    April 27

    Why Are the Democrats Doing This?
    Instead of trying to come up with ideas to help they try to halt the sincere effort to stabilize Iraq and rescue the Middle East from a catastrophe.

    I am Iraqi and to me the possible consequences of this vote are terrifying. Just as we began to see signs of progress in my country the Democrats come and say ‘well, it’s not worth it, so it’s time to leave’.
    Evidently to them my life and the lives of twenty five million Iraqis are not worth trying for and they shouldn’t expect us to be grateful for this.

    For four years everybody made mistakes; the administration made mistakes and admitted them and my people and leaders made mistakes as well and we regret them.

    This strategy although its tools are not fully deployed yet is showing promising signs of progress.
    General Petraeus said yesterday that things will get tougher before they get easier in Iraq and this is the kind of fact-based realistic assessment of the situation which politicians should listen to when they discuss the war thousands of miles away.

    Quitting is not an option we can afford –not in America and definitely not in Iraq. I said it before and I say it again; this war must be won by all means, otherwise the world as you know it today(or as we here dream for it to be) will exist only in books of history.

    Even more appalling I see and hear some people who think the solution is to end the war from our end and I can’t find an argument more naïve than this–I’ve seen enough wars in my life that I can’t remember a day when there was peace and I hate wars more than they can imagine. But we didn’t start his war; it’s the terrorists who started this war against life.

    Instead of telling us to stop fighting back, I’d like to see some people stand up and protest the crimes of the terrorists and tell them to stop the killing and destruction…turn the stop-the-war campaign against the terrorists, is that too much to ask for?

    Tell the criminals to stop killing us and stop attacking the people who are risking their lives fighting for liberty and equality.
    We’re not asking the media and the stop-the-war crowd to carry arms and shoot the terrorists; we just want them to stop shooting at us.

    Read even more and check out the rest of the blog: http://iraqthemodel.blogspot.com/

  29. #29 natural cynic
    May 29, 2007

    All I can say to anonymous is that Iraq is a piss-poor model. What you quote seems not even to be a voice of and Iraqi, most of the Iraqis don’t want us there. What a way to support “democracy”. And what about the thousands of lies. Chickenhawk.

  30. #30 Anonymous
    May 29, 2007

    Piss poor model of what? Did you bother to check out the website? It’s written by a couple of brothers that live in Baghdad. And sure, most of the Iraqis don’t want us there forever but aren’t particularly happy at the thought of us walking out on them in the near future. I don’t get the “what a way to support ‘democracy'” bit. 1000’s of lies?? Chickenhawk?? Is this an insult?

    http://www.daybydaycartoon.com/2007/05/27/#004144

  31. #31 Harald Korneliussen
    May 29, 2007

    “When soldiers go to war, they’re taught to dehumanize the enemy. They don’t do that because they’re bad people. They do that because they have to.”

    When people deliberately condition themselves to work around their moral standards, you got to wonder by what moral standard they have decided to do it. No, soldiers aren’t bad people, if by bad people you mean people worse than average, but Thoreau had some very harsh words for such soldiers. His observations on the mexican war (in “Resistance to Civil Government”) are more relevant than ever.

  32. #32 Vityok
    May 29, 2007

    As others have already said: great post!

    I have to add, that this war has had a very negative impact on attitude to US and its citizens.

    Moreover, it looks like the war has done more harm to Iraqis than good: constant bloodshed on the streets, explosions, conflicts and so on…

    It also became clear, that there is no country, or international body to punish the US Government for breaking war on independent state based on the lies. US spend so much money on their army, as no other country, and they owe to the rest of the world so much, like no other nation as well.

    It is just great, that there are people in the US, who do not support this awful war.

  33. #33 Daniel
    May 29, 2007

    I also agree this is a great post.
    There’s no excuse for war… ever!
    Since I’m not american, I’m glad to see that not all americans are the same.

    Mark’s words about your president make me wonder about why he’s the president in the first place.
    It’s ok if americans made a bad vote the first time, but what was on your minds when you did it again?

    I mean no disrespect to no one… but I’d really like to understand how that happened.

    I’ve just heard the news about the US disagreeing with the proposed environmental laws… it’s just sad, really.

  34. #34 Paul A
    May 29, 2007

    Great post Mark, “Support the troops – Bring them home” has been a rallying cry here in Scotland for like-minded people these past four years.

    And Daniel, I agree that Bush’s election to a second term was pretty incomprehensible to most of the rest of the world but remember the UK did it with Blair as well…

  35. #35 Chris
    May 29, 2007

    Mark: Amen.

    Vaguely to Repugnican, et al: Apologies in advance for any sleep deprived rambling. I don’t know how any sane person could survive the last several years go by and stay involved in political discussion without occasional recourse sarcasm and satire. The best I can usually muster when confronted with the actions/methods –which range from cynically duplicitous to bizarrely, confoundingly sinister– of this administration and it’s followers is stunned silence and withdrawal. But I think that in some cases there is reason to ignore the wider debates about Iraq in order to temporarily look at things from a less callous perspective.

    As Mark points out, our troops are trained to dehumanize the enemy, and likewise our collective instinct to dehumanize the troops is constantly reinforced by the administration’s PR. I’ve been particularly guilty of this. When this war started I was in high school, and it’s my peers who are over there. So I suppose my thought for memorial day is that were there any justice, I’d be over there going through this with them.

  36. #36 Jim
    May 29, 2007

    No point in arguing. If the writer believes the US is guilty of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, there is not much that can be said.

    5 years * 365 days/year = 1825 days
    200,000 (the lowest implied hundreds of thousands) / 1825 =

    110 dead Iraqis every day, for 5 years.

    If that has happened, the media deserves to be chastised for not reporting some 90 Iraqi deaths a day. And, I imagine the number the author is referring to is closer to 365,000 dead Iraqis. If you are gonna believe that, there is not much grey matter left to consider any argument you might throw out.

    But, a phony, pointless war? If you cannot see the advantage to having another democracy in the Middle East, and further cannot see that Iraq is the best candidate for said democracy, well, once again, there is no point in arguing.

  37. #37 Chris
    May 29, 2007

    Jim: Limiting my reply to your comment about the numbers of Iraqi casualties, I think you’ve ironically hit it pretty close. If I remember correctly, and this is ballpark, bodies have been discovered at something like an average rate of a couple dozen a day. Maybe that’s high or low, but not by too much, and that’s just the capital. Add to that increasingly lethal bombings, say 20-100 dead at a time a couple times a week. Add to that indirect casualties, i.e. unnecessary deaths due to lack of medical care and other services. And you’re right, the media should be chastised for failing to report it.

  38. #38 Nat Whilk
    May 29, 2007

    Mathematics called. It wants its blog back.

  39. #39 NFG
    May 29, 2007

    @Jim
    “and further cannot see that Iraq is the best candidate for said democracy, well, once again, there is no point in arguing”.

    I suspect there is no point, however I could not let your comment slide. In fact Iraq is an artificial state, in many ways it was the worst possible candidate for democracy in the middle east. Ironically a country such as Iran is a far better candidate. It posseses a coherent history thousands of years old, its people have a sense of nationhood and cohesiveness; add to that the fact that it has fledgling grassroots democracy and a large young population anxious for advance, and one can see Iran is actually well on the way to emerging as a successful middle eastern democracy (and, amazingly, this can happen without the need for an invasion or attempts at destabilisation). What amazes me is the utter lack of systematic thinking that seems to afflict the US at the moment, consider the current Iranian tensions, the one force which gaurantees continuing support within Iran for hardliners is the unceasing threats of intervention from the west. I’m no bleeding heart, nor am I an apologist for terrorism, and I’m certainly not “anti-american” — I simply think if people only looked at these problems objectively for a moment to analyse the effect their rhetoric is having then the world would be a better place.

  40. #40 Blake Stacey
    May 29, 2007

    Funny how after this post, nobody said that MarkCC should “stick to math”.

  41. #41 Blake Stacey
    May 29, 2007

    NFG:

    Thank you for making the points about Iraq being an “artificial state” (we should have bisected it and made Kurdistan a decade ago) and about the prospects for a democratic Iran.

  42. #42 Nat Whilk
    May 29, 2007

    Re #38: So you’re saying we should cut people the same slack when it comes to political rants as we do when they’re grieving a lost parent? Are you as tolerant of broadcasting of political emails by your work colleagues as broadcasting of a message about a colleague’s loss of a loved one?

  43. #43 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    May 29, 2007

    Sorry, what planet is it that you claim to live on? How on *earth* is a country like Iraq the best possible candidate for democracy?

    Do you *really* want to make an argument that a country made up of three primary factions, each of which has a deep hatred of the others, and in which the smallest faction has a history of horrifically opressing the other factions, a country with essentially *no* functioning social infrastructure, is somehow the best possible candidate for becoming a stable democracy? Or that the correct way to create a democracy is by sending in an army to destroy the entire infrastructure of the country, and then hold elections in the post-invasion rubble?

    Is that *really* an argument that you believe is credible?

    And that’s ignoring the fact that we did *not* invade Iraq with the stated intention of creating a stable democratic state. The war was sold as self-defense: the insane madman Saddam Hussein was building weapons of mass destruction, and we had to stop him before the smoking gun was a mushroom cloud!

    If the war had been presented honestly as an attempt to bring democracy to the middle east, and the US united wholeheartedly behind that cause, and the invasion was planned carefully with the goal of creating a stable democratic state, then it would be legitimate to debate the war in terms of whether or not it really made sense to try to impose democracy in Iraq. But that’s not what happened: we went to war to depose a evil madman on the pretense that we needed to do it as a matter of self defense. And the war was planned *solely* in terms of the military actions needed to depose him. Creating a democracy out of the ruins was an afterthought, and it was botched at pretty much every step.

    And there are really only two groups of peoples that have paid the price of that horrible series of botches: the American soldiers sent to execute a botched plan, and the Iraqis themselves. Neither of the groups of victims deserved the horrors that have been inflicted on them. And meanwhile, the people who are responsible continue to throw parties to congratulate themselves.

  44. #44 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    May 29, 2007

    Nat:

    This isn’t mathematics’ blog. This is Mark Chu-Carroll’s blog. From the day I started it, I’ve been very clear that I’ll write what I want to write about. If a post interests you, that’s great. If a post *doesn’t* interest you, skip it.

    If you feel that by reading the blog, you have some kind of right to tell me what I can and can’t write about, then you’re suffering from delusions of grandeur, and I would suggest that perhaps you ought to go find something else to read that’s more in keeping with your sense of self-importance.

    I *mostly* write about math. But I have always periodically injected other subjects when I felt like it – from politics, to science fiction, to music, to my opinions of new clarinet parts. And it’s going to continue to be that way – mostly math, but with intermittent injections of other things that I feel like writing about.

    Deal with it, or go find something else to read.

  45. #45 THobbes
    May 29, 2007

    So you’re saying we should cut people the same slack when it comes to political rants as we do when they’re grieving a lost parent? Are you as tolerant of broadcasting of political emails by your work colleagues as broadcasting of a message about a colleague’s loss of a loved one?

    If you don’t care for the message, stop reading or listening. Nobody’s making you stay here, or read this, or give a damn.

  46. #46 elspi
    May 29, 2007

    Mark has been infected with the shrillness! Remember Mark, if you worship him, he will eat you first.

    Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Krugman R’lyeh wagn’nagl fhtagn!

    http://nielsenhayden.com/makinglight/archives/005547.html
    MORNING ANNOUNCEMENTS: MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY: SEPTEMBER 16, 2004
    Professor THIDWICK will not meet his class in “Modern American Politics” this morning, or indeed any morning. In partial explanation we offer this note, written by him in the pre-dawn hours:

    I begged the Dean not to make me teach “Modern American Politics” this semester. I knew that in order to teach it properly I would have to delve into the secrets of the Bush administration. I knew that I would learn THINGS THAT HUMANS (as we say in these post-sexist times) ARE NOT MEANT TO KNOW. I feared that this would drive me insane–into shrill unholy madness. And so it has.
    But up until now I have still able to teach my course. I am proud of that. Far gone in shrill unholy madness as a result of the incompetence, mendacity, malevolence, and disconnection from reality that I am, I could still communicate with my students in English and. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Krugman R’lyeh wagn’nagl fhtagn! Aiiiiiii!!!

    Apologies. The fits come and go. They come more quickly now. By proper effort of will I can sometimes. Ph’nglui mglw’nafh. Stop them. There. But I fear that tonight I have taken another step, and will no longer be able to intelligibly communicate with humanity. I have learned more. So shrill as to be inaudible to human hearing. But the dogs will still hear me, for a while at least.

  47. #47 speedwell
    May 29, 2007

    Always struck me as strange that we should celebrate the May national sacred festival of the glorious and noble civic sacrifices (and the corresponding September national sacred festival honoring Communism) by setting aside days on which the entire country indulges in an orgy of slacking off.

  48. #48 Joe
    May 29, 2007

    Great post. Regrets for your loss.

  49. #49 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    May 29, 2007

    Sorry if my irony didn’t come across to Torbjörn or others.

    ‘Tis a sorry world indeed. But irony must make itself known, and at the time it didn’t look any different from a straight line to me. Today, and after your comment, it looks fine.

    Sorry [that word again!] about messing it up for you!

  50. #50 Nat Whilk
    May 29, 2007

    Re #42: Yes, it’s clear that this blog, in practice, does not live up to its title, or the title of its umbrella organization (ScienceBlogs). It’s not just that, as I’ve pointed out before, you’re not a mathematician and make simple mistakes in mathematics that no professional mathematician would be likely to. It’s that, like most bloggers, you’ve fallen prey to the narcissism that suggests that the world is dying to know, say, what music you’re going to listen to this weekend.

    Re #43: It seems that the best reply is to recommend that you take your own advice: “If you don’t care for [my comments], stop reading or listening.”

  51. #51 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    May 29, 2007

    Nat:

    So if this blog is so horrible, why do you waste your time reading it? It’s not like someone is chaining you to your keyboard and forcing you to come back multiple times per day to read and comment. If you think that I’ve got nothing to say that’s worth reading, why not make better use of your time, and go read something worthwhile?

    I really don’t get why you bother to come back and read GM/BM. You clearly hate my writing, my style, the subjects I choose to write about, and the way I choose to write about them. You clearly think I’m an idiot who’s completely unqualified to write about math; and you clearly are disgusted by the fact that I sometimes write non-math posts. So *why do you bother to read this blog*? Don’t you have anything better to do with your time?

  52. #52 Daniel Martin
    May 29, 2007

    Re #43: It seems that the best reply is to recommend that you take your own advice: “If you don’t care for [my comments], stop reading or listening.”

    A truly excellent suggestion, Nat.

    For those of you using the Firefox extension GreaseMonkey, you can go and install this script after which you’ll be able to hide all of Nat Whilk’s comments simply by clicking the “kill” link next to his name. (you’ll need to refresh the page after installing that script to get the “kill” link to appear)

  53. #53 Nat Whilk
    May 29, 2007

    Re #49: We all read things we don’t think highly of. Why do you keep reading the writings of Creationists and IDers that you find so abominable?

  54. #54 Christian
    May 29, 2007

    Mark,

    First I must compliment you on your post. Many people forget that having authority over people means having responsibility for them as well. Wasting soldiers lives for questionable reasons is definitely irresposible. Our soldiers deserve respect for their service, but that doesn’t mean that we have to respect the person responsible for creating the orders.

    Secondly, congratulations on your new troll. He isn’t quite as amusing as the ones that drop in on Pharyngula though.

  55. #55 Nat Whilk
    May 29, 2007

    Re #51:

    I’ve been reading and posting on Good Math, Bad Math since before it moved to ScienceBlogs. And if Mark only wants people who agree with him to comment, all he needs to do his say so. (But doesn’t everyone scorn Dembski for doing that?)

  56. #56 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    May 29, 2007

    Nat:

    You’re welcome to read and comment here as long as you want to. As I’ve said plenty of times in the past, insulting *me* is no problem; by putting my writing up where other people can read it, I’m inviting whatever criticism anyone wants to toss my way.

    That doesn’t change my lack of understanding of *why* you would want to. But you’re welcome whatever the reason.

  57. #57 idlemind
    May 29, 2007

    Since Nat clearly thinks he knows better, and amply demonstrates that he has the necessary free time, why doesn’t he maintain his own blog? Then we can all bask in his innate superiority, and Mark’s blog will languish unread.

  58. #58 Mondo
    May 29, 2007

    /me pets poor self important Nat Whilk. There there it’s OK.

  59. #59 Richard Clayton
    May 29, 2007

    I’m a veteran of the current war (though I lucked out and spent a year in Kuwait rather than Iraq). I have only four words to say to you, Mr. Chu-Carroll:

    Thank you. You grok.

  60. #60 Mark C. Chu-Carroll
    May 29, 2007

    Guys:

    Please, lay off.

    I *don’t* want to see comment threads turning into “Let’s bash anyone who critizes MarkCC”. Nat’s entitled to his opinion, and I’ve made it clear over the history of this blog that attacking or insulting *me* is OK; attacking or insulting other comments is *not*. I appreciate the fact that you’re trying to support me, but that doesn’t change the fact that I don’t want to see commenters attacking each other. Please stop it before I have to start deleting offensive comments.

  61. #61 Caledonian
    May 29, 2007

    We’ve always been more willing to glorify the sacrifice of soldiers dead and gone than live up to our obligations to the living.

    I always get creeps when people talk about the sacrifice of soldiers – I hear it not in the personal sense but that of “lead to slaughter”. We sacrifice lots of our troops for stupid reasons, and this war is one of the very stupidest.

    It’s also going to cripple our military for a generation, maybe more. No one’s going to want to join if they’re going to be turned into nation-building political footballs.

  62. #62 Polly Anna
    May 29, 2007

    Oh my goodness!

    Like my predecessor, the ORIGINAL Polly A, “despite everything, I believe that [all of you] people are really good at heart,” but why are you ignoring my hero, the boring scientist obstetrician Ron Paul, who has a comprising way out of the mess, the mess beyond the Middle East situation.

    Go by the Constitution of the USA in all its aspects (no cherry picking), the opinion and example of Presidents Washington (the first Republican) and Jefferson (the first Democrat) and begin from there.

    Polly A

    No matter what you say, [Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart–Anne Frank]

  63. #63 Vietnam Veteran from Oz
    May 29, 2007

    Mark, that was a good appraisal of war and its consequences. For someone who hasn’t experienced it you aced it.
    I didn’t realise shrub was opposing medical aid for veterans but I shouldn’t be surprised. Politicians always ignore the veteran when he’s of no further use.

  64. #64 Doub
    May 29, 2007

    Just to react to the emphasized word on the second paragraph, actually there is a reason for that war. It’s to get free oil.

  65. #65 Science Avenger
    May 29, 2007

    Great article Mark. Saved me the trouble…

    Jim said: I imagine the number the author is referring to is closer to 365,000 dead Iraqis. If you are gonna believe that, there is not much grey matter left to consider any argument you might throw out.

    There you have neocon Bushite reasoning in technocolor: get a fact you don’t like, dismiss it. Ridicule those that delivered it. Can’t grasp a fact? That makes it untrue, right, because everyone can grasp everything, right? Claim it is “naive”, a word Bush has been using lately to basically mean “disagrees with me”.

  66. #66 Anthony Honstain
    May 29, 2007

    I respect Mark’s understanding of the burden carried by our soldiers. As a OEF/OIF combat veteran, I agree with much of the assessment about the treatment of veterans. Ironically I left the Army in an effort to pursue a degree in math, so that I could get away from these issues… I got enough rocks in my rucksack.

    An a personal note… My friends did not die for nothing, it may not be as obvious or glorious as everyone in America would like… but shit thats war, not everyone gets to fight WW2.

  67. #67 Caledonian
    May 29, 2007

    So what DID they die for? Failed dreams of democracy-by-force?

  68. #68 Michael Ralston
    May 30, 2007

    For those who reject the numbers, I have to ask what they think the ratio of Iraqi dead to American dead is.

    Remembering that most of the suicide bombings were targetted at Iraqis more than Americans (because it’s easier to bomb native civillians than foreign troops, when you’re delivering your bomb by hand), remembering that pretty much any encounter between Americans and Iraqis that involves shooting is going to have a lot more dead Iraqis than Americans…

    Anyway: Iraq was the worst< choice for "establishing democracy" in the Middle East.
    Iran was a far better choice... except of course we didn't, and instead have been actively pushing Iran towards the radical mullahs and away from the students and such who were pushing for democracy.

    Is Al Qaida winning in Iraq? Probably not. But America isn't either, because we do not know what winning would be. It is impossible for us to win, because we don’t have any objectives we can achieve! Al Qaida can win (although they probably won’t – even if we pull out completely tomorrow, they’re still going to face a lot of people who don’t want them there. And of course, if we DID pull out, we’d not only cut down their support, we’d make them be faced with the choice of turning people against them or not doing anything – either way, they’d lose. But no, we’re “surging” to ensure they have MORE people to shoot and get shot by, giving them precisely what they want.)

  69. #69 undergroundman
    May 30, 2007

    Glad to see a bunch of people commiserating around a flawed policy. I just wish more intelligent people would enter politics…this is far from the only bad policy.

  70. #70 zilch
    May 31, 2007

    Great post, Mark. Even my lifelong Republican, NRA member, WWII vet uncle, was turned Democratic by Bush and Iraq.

    To anonymous: if you substitute “Vietnam” for “Iraq” in your post, it would sound pretty much like what we were told forty years ago. Granted, Iraq is not Vietnam. But the stupidity, arrogance, and waste are comparable. There can be no winners, only losers, in such wars.

  71. #71 Jonathan Vos Post
    May 31, 2007

    “There can be no winners, only losers, in such wars.”

    So far, Iran has won, and China has won. Our economic competitors have won, excpt so far as the fallout from The Bad Guys increased, as in London and Madrid. The Republican Party lost. Blair and his party lost. The Scottish Nationalist Party won. Overall, the world lost, and each human life is an entire universe snuffed out for no good reason.

  72. #72 Troublesome Frog
    June 2, 2007

    Mark,stick to math.

    These kinds of comments have always stunned me. I didn’t realize that only certain classes of professions were allowed to discuss public policy in the US. My impression was that everybody here has a stake in what’s going on, not just non-mathematicians or non-actors or non-musicians. Nobody would think to say something like “You shouldn’t be allowed to vote. You’re a schoolteacher,” but they wouldn’t hesitate to jump on the same person for expressing an opinion.

    I have news: The people who get paid to write their opinions in newspapers and rant about them on TV were mostly wrong about Iraq. The people who get paid to make decisions for us in Washington were mostly wrong about Iraq. The idea that regular citizens should just shut up and let that ruling class talk is nonsense. As Bill Maher said, “You shouldn’t be allowed to call yourself a ‘think tank’ if you’re always wrong.”

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