Tuesday, March 22, 2011

No Fly Zone

AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

No Fly Zone

So says the "leader" of the "free world."

I agree. There should be a no fly zone in Libya: The United States military should NOT fly anywhere near that country.

But too late now.

The Arab world has roundly condemned the United States' Middle East policies for decades. Even when I lived in Saudi Arabia in the mid-1970's, there wasn't much love for Americans in the Arab world. I'd say that we were, at best, tolerated. Perhaps the US was the least of the Cold War evil empires during that period, with Anwar Sadat having ended Egypt's love fest with the Soviet Union in 1972.

But dictatorships aside, the US presence in the Middle East in general, and Saudi Arabia in particular, has probably been more of a stabilizing force in that part of the world than we realize or than anyone else cares to admit. And that's not saying much.

Radical Islam was in full force throughout the world then and years prior. It's only in the past 20 years or so that we in the West have begun to open our eyes to those dangers. It's my not so humble opinion that most Americans still don't quite grasp the seriousness of radical Islamic movements, and many simply don't care.

The fact is, we are immersed in two ugly wars with people who culturally, spiritually, and politically don't like us. And if that's not bad enough, our government has now drawn us into yet another military conflict in the Arab world, under the auspices of an "international coalition" that makes it sound A-OK. "International coalition" should be stricken from the lexicon of our political discourse. Forever.

No good can come out of this latest US military exercise in Libya. None.

We're told that we are helping these "rebels" overthrow madman Gaddafi. And a madman he most certainly is. But just who are the rebels? What will THAT government look like? A tolerant, socially progressive power structure dedicated to civility, peace, and civil rights? Or will the Muslim Brotherhood, a group partially responsible for the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, try to portray themselves as "moderate" peacemakers in Libya and other countries?

Please. Review history. And stop believing the nonsense that's being spewed that these rebellions in the Arab world are "pro-democracy" movements that will lead to freedom throughout the Middle East. The recent violent actions taken by the Saudi military against the Shiite uprising in the Saudi Arabian city of al-Qatif were not designed to stop democracy: They were taken to stop pro-Iranian Shiite radicals from gaining power on the Arabian peninsula.

During my years in Saudi Arabia, I had to drive through al-Qatif several times a week, between my company's office in Dammam and my work site in Jubail, about an hour and a half north. Qatif was our stopping place in between for food and gas. What you probably never read in your papers in those days was that these Shiite uprisings were being staged even then, in the mid to late 1970's. And they were always violently squashed by the Saudi military.

Today, nothing much has changed except that these radical groups have much faster communication networks and more money and arms to stage uprisings throughout the Middle East and other areas of the world. Democracy be damned!
Arab League of Nations
So I say let the League of Arab Nations, a group that has given the coalition the green light to impose the no fly zone, police their own sand box.

Let the former colonial overlords, the Italians, help these peace loving Libyan rebels. Let the British and French, both of whom from time to time were colonial administrators in Libya, punish the madman. After all, the French have a long history of slipping out the back door of their colonial digs at the first sign of trouble. It's time France get a backbone and help save the world for a change.

And it's time the people of the United States get a fly swatter and smack the next politician who suggests we start another military adventure.

Wake up, citizens of the United States. Stop believing that by planting the seeds of democracy, and winning hearts and minds, the world will become a more peaceful place.

None of this is about democracy.

It never was.

Rick B. Baker
Rochester, NY
March 22, 2011

©2011 by R. Burnett Baker

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Retail Sacred

I'm not some rabid xenophobe who goes about shouting "BUY AMERICAN!"

We do, after all, live in a world with a global economy and always have. There was a time when the United States was a manufacturing powerhouse that offered plentiful, and profitable jobs for her citizens. We created, designed, built products, and sold them to ourselves and the rest of the world.

Contrary to popular, emotive belief, we still are a manufacturing powerhouse. It's just that our manufacturing sectors are more specialized, and require fewer actual humans to complete the tasks. But that's not the purpose of this essay.

Today, by golly, I found something that is actually made in the U.S.A. Now as I mentioned, I'm not a "buy American" kind of redneck type, but there are a couple of things that should be somewhat sacred, "retail sacred," if you will, when it comes to making, selling, and buying in this country.

American flags are at the top of my "should-be-made-in-America" list, and today I found some that are actually made in the U.S.A.

They were at BJ's Wholesale Club. (And no, I'm not getting paid by BJ's.) How many times have I seen flags, particularly around the Fourth of July that are stamped "Made In China?" I mean, really, now... Is NOTHING sacred? Why would anyone going out to celebrate our nation's independence, or place a flag on a veteran's grave, or celebrate any holiday that requires a flag buy one that is stamped with "I'm made in China, you know, that polluted, communist, WE-NOW-OWN-YOU country China." Long live Chairman Mao!

Yes, American flags made in the U.S.A. How quaint!

Another example of how some things should be "retail sacred" are gifts and souvenirs sold in places such as The Old Statehouse in Boston.

The Old Statehouse, poor little thing, is smack dab in the middle of a boring forest of, seen one seen 'em all glass skyscrapers in downtown Boston. That building was once the heart of Boston's civic life beginning in the 1700's. It was the scene of what is known as the Boston Massacre, the first casualties in America's revolutionary war. In July of 1776 The Declaration of Independence was read from one of its balconies to the citizens of Boston by Col.

Thomas Crafts.

Today, visitors can also buy cheesy souvenirs within those historic walls. Several years ago I visited The Old Statehouse. I considered buying a memento of my visit, but noticed the "Made In China" sticker on every item I touched. I was ticked off about that, and didn't buy anything.

When Chinese citizens visit the Forbidden City or the Great Wall, do you, for one moment, think that they buy souvenirs with a little stickers on them that say "Made In U.S.A"?

Yeah, I didn't think so!

One last example: Just an hour and a half drive from my house is the Corning Museum of Glass. It's a fascinating place that I never get tired of visiting. Visitors from all over the globe visit there in little Corning, NY every year. I'll bet many or you eat your meals from Corning Ware. But in the gift shop, when you buy those beautiful hand-blown glass flowers as souvenirs, where do you think they're made?

Yeah, you guessed it: China.

With so many people looking for work, you'd think the Corning Glass Works could put a few folks to work blowing glass flowers. That would certainly help the economy in Western New York!

So I will continue to look at "made in" stickers from now on. I won't become obsessed with that, but there are some items that just should NEVER be made anywhere but in the country of origin. Recent recalls notwithstanding, I'll stick with my reliable Japanese car for as long as it continues to give me flawless performance.

But the flag I display on my front porch this summer WON'T be made in China. Or any where other than the United States for that matter!

Rick Baker
Rochester, NY
March 6, 2011

©2011 by R. Burnett Baker
Flag photo ©2011 by R. Burnett Baker
Old Statehouse Photo from Freefoto.com