0712 hrs. Just a few hours ago, I turned the lights off and tried to sleep. I had just finished a solid three hours of writing and while I didn’t want to stop, I can’t be scraping myself off off the mat tomorrow morning on no sleep.
Three hours later, at 0511 hrs., I was up again, unable to sleep. In a few hours, I will be paying for this, I know. But for now, I am digging this early morning cool. Soon enough, LA will be a damn kiln. The last several days have been pretty intense.
Over the last several days, I have been thinking about Syria, the use of nerve agents and the seemingly strange and urgent push for military action by America’s president.
I think it is wise to look at this with the widest possible lens. It is more than bad people doing bad things in a far away place who need to be neutralized. It is an issue and a situation, as large as the world itself that involves Russia, Iran, Israel and China at least and should be looked upon that way.
Syria, the country, is not old. It was basically “formed” post WWI by external forces, like, oh, the French. It is a country full people with very different points of view that do not always play well together. In my opinion, a “unified” Syria is not possible. One that is not too turbulent this month, is more like it.
Places like Syria, Lebanon and Iraq find a lot of their identity in how they were carved out by other countries. There is a lot of imperialism and bloodshed in the rearview. I am obviously no expert but I think it’s safe to say that if you want to consider Syria and the surrounding countries, you have to take in a lot of history, centuries of it and run all that up against the almost eye-blink time line in which this area of the world went through truly radical reform.
I am not a history teacher and not very knowledgeable on the Ottoman Empire and what came afterwards but I think it’s fairly obvious that anything done in Syria by any force in the West, will be felt in all the surrounding countries and that should be taken into consideration.
I am willing to bet that the Obama administration has access to far more sensitive and revealing intelligence than you and I can get our hands on. I think any administration does. When you have the NSA, CIA and countless other intelligence gathering agencies actually working for you, I think you’re going to know some stuff.
This is what I considered for a few seconds when seemingly out of nowhere, the president started promoting the idea of a limited military strike against Assad’s assets. A limited strike to me, is the equivalent of being a little pregnant.
The more this whole thing started to crank up, hearing secretary Kerry trying to sell this thing, it rang extremely hollow to me. I don’t think Kerry could sell cold beer on a hot day anyway but there were some very familiar sounding ideas coming from the man that I sent alarms off in my head.
So much of this echoes all that horseshit about the “smoking gun/mushroom cloud” and “we’ll be in Iraq for six weeks, maybe six months” “our friends in the area”. Please note that America doesn’t have any “friends” in that area of the world. Countries that depend on American firepower and countries that have assets that are key to the American way of life, yes but friends, no.
So, over the last several days, the president has been hard selling his idea of crippling the Assad regime. British Parliament loudly and with great flair, basically kicked that shit to the curb. The French are with it, which neither surprises me nor floats my boat. Yesterday, secretary Kerry claimed “double digit support” of countries for military action. He would not specify the countries. Is this the new “coalition of the willing”? Who, Romania, Albania? Oh, okay, that’s huge. Wasn’t that what Rumsfeld called the “new Europe” when he was trying to show how much international support he had for Iraq? Like I said, all this is sounding very similar, to me at least.
I know that many of you do not like the president. Or you did and he has disappointed you and you are somewhat to almost all the way done with him. I got it. I have been less than pleased at some things happening in Washington DC as usual. I also think that the president is an exceedingly intelligent man and perhaps more than any recent president, fully understands that any American president must choose his words with the the greatest care as they are analyzed and parsed by every other country and leader in the world. I really think president Obama gets that. I also think that, like president Lincoln, he is a total and complete politician and everything he says and does is to further political goals. I also think he is a supreme strategist. So, what could be taken as quite hamfisted, basically, “Hey, Assad, we’re gonna kick your ass,” could very well be a very shrewd move.
Now that I have somewhat put myself in the unenviable position of defending the president, let me explain what I mean. There can be no doubt that Assad heard the president. There can be no doubt that he doesn’t take it lightly. If he has WMD’s, he will perhaps be moving them. These movements will be picked up. The president’s call out is also a great way to get a read on what China and Russia think and what their next five moves will be. It’s great to know where Britian stands on all this. They just told us and it’s good to know. The fact that Putin is on Assad’s side has just polarized him even more in the eyes of the world, also bringing a brighter light on Putin’s war on Russia’s LGBT community, which also turns up the heat on those who seek to oppress LGBT people anywhere else, who can now be compared to Putin.
It also starts some conversations that Americans should be and are currently having. Like . . .
Saudi Arabia is not a friend of Assad. They have a formidable air command. Of course they do, we sold it to them. They could be over Damascis by lunch time.
This could be a perfect opportunity to re-think America’s role in the world. Being the global cop is costly and increasingly dangerous.
Does every disagreement America have with countries half the world away have to be resolved militarily? Why is it always a kneejerk reaction to go to that first, rather than last?
Syria is having a civil war. Rebels are rising up against the government. America had one of those. Not sure if it’s still in the history books they’re slinging at high schoolers but some of you might remember that whole thing that went down in 1861. What if the British had aided the Condederate forces?
Back to the president. He indicated that he could move on his limited strike. Americans immediately hurled their two cents at this. In my opinion, the president took a read and sent it to Congress. Some say this was flipflopping, a lack of leadership, etc. I think is amazing leadership. I can’t wait to hear hundreds of normally blood thirsty, war profiteering, Muslim hating members of the Congress and Senate oppose a military strike because it was Obama’s idea.
Now the world is engaged. Now Russia and China are in the bright lights. Now perhaps some multilateral action can be had. I wonder if this is part of what the president is up to. Just some thoughts.
As to what Russia and China are up to in regards to that region, it’s oil and natural gas.
I can only speak for myself but I happen to think that most Americans are incredibly decent, generous and good people. I think you would be hard pressed to find many people who think children dying in a gas attack is anything less than obscene. I also think that most Americans are, as representitive Grayson said recently, not tired of war, they are disgusted by war. I think to a great degree, that’s who “we” are.
There are a lot of easy-to-reach low branch items to consider. If Russia backs Assad and America goes about military action in Syria, are we re-heating the Cold War? If America takes this course, will there be collateral action against Israel and if that happens, what would Israel do and what would America be charged with having to do? Kerry and the president keep saying there will be no ground troops. If this thing goes one inch further, than how can their not be? Is there solid proof on who did what? The president doesn’t seem to be all that sure. I would want to be before I went into any country that didn’t attack me first. Oh, do you think that Syria will be passively bombed? If the “rebels” get control, could they not have to get taken out in years to come, or is that the long game strategy in the first place? If you make bombs, bullets, weapons, delivery systems, etc., this is how you make your money. Have you noticed how CNN and other carriers are already hyping this thing? This is how they make their money. Ever seem like a racket and that you and I are the perceived dupes?
This commons sense list of things goes on and on. Again, I don’t think any part of this escapes the president.
I think that a lot of America’s posture in the Middle East is a product of people like Cheney, Wolfowitz, Kristol, Rumsfeld and others who devoted considerable parts of their lives to re-shaping America’s position in this part of the world and the perception of America’s military presence all over the world. Some people would tell you that “this is the way it is” and it’s time you face the facts. I say it is not the way it is. It has been, for quite some time, an agenda, that has made some people insanely wealthy and a lot of other people miserable or dead. It can change. I am not saying it will. I’m just some guy with a laptop, what do I know. All I am saying is that it can change.
I knew something was up in Syria when I was there a few years ago. I walked all over Damascus and talked to quite a few people. They were very cool to me. When I asked them about Assad, whose picture is everywhere on the streets there, they all got quiet. They were scared to give their opinion. More than once, I have been detained at an American airport and made to answer questions as to where I have been. Perhaps the country that set these homeland dicks off the most was Syria. They were all over me about Syria. I thought coming back from North Korea was going to set them off. I think there has been quite the geopolitical eye on Syria for some time. I think if you were to put your follow the money glasses on, things might start making sense. Ultimately, it’s always that. The hearts and minds crap is just that.
I feel bad for anyone anywhere who is caught in the crossfire of civil strife, tribal conflict, ethnic turbulence, etc. But when I hear from Congress that America can’t afford healthcare, teachers, roads, bridges, etc. but we can magically afford the billions of dollars required to send some rockets hissing through the air, I just have to wonder what the hell the priorities of these elected officials are. I dare all of them to go to their districts and take an inventory of what really needs to be done to “promote the general welfare of the people” they represent and make that priority one and then see how they perform.
I have read online, posts of people who do not want military action taken against the Assad regime to be the “pro-gassed children crowd” which is sick and comletely wrong headed. I would ask those people, if you are so against harm being done to innocent people, where are your letters to the president about what’s happening in Congo? Where? Right. There are bad things happening to good people all over the world, sad to say.
You want to keep America safe? Educate Americans. I don’t know what we’ll do with all those empty prisons but I’m sure we’ll figure something out.
I do hope that you fully understand that while I take these issues with a great deal of seriousness, I do not take myself with much seriousness. I am like anyone else, entitled to an opinion. Thank you.
So, what else?
I am almost done with a book of journal and travel writing from 2009 – 2010. It is in a fairly final state of edit. I want to call it A Grim Detail. Heidi, who is editing the book with me, wants to call it More Of Same, as she thinks all those journal books are just one long yawn. It’s a good thing she keeps turning up at the office, year after year to remind me of this, lest I ever get to thinking I am actually doing anything of worth.
I have been getting letters asking why there have not been many shows this year. Firstly, thank you for the interest.
Here is why: I am loathe to go in front of you without new material. I try to avoid this as best I can. In order to get new stories to distract you from the numbing of your assess in those seats, I need to go out into the world and gather. This definitely keeps the blood thin but is not easy or quick. Believe me, I wish I could magically have on hand, endless amounts of new stories to lay on you, so the tour would never end but that is not a possibility.
I have started to sketch out travel plans for the end of the year and the beginning of next year. I will let you know when things get set.
These days, when you do work in the “entertainment industry”, you often sign these incredible non-disclosure agreements. I want the work and I respect the reasons these companies and studios want to keep things to themselves until they are ready to announce. I also acknowledge that it’s really not mine to talk about. So, I sign them. Sometimes, even an audition comes with the non-disclosure thing. Why am I telling you this? I can’t tell you.
I also can’t tell you what to do but I can at least recommend a great documentary I just saw. I am going to cut out what I wrote in the radio notes and paste it here:
EXCELLENT AND MUST SEE DOCUMENTARY ALERT DEPT.: Damn! 20 Feet From Stardom, directed by Morgan Neville is SO great! Morgan Neville is always, always, always, excellent but he has hit it so far out of the park with this one. I really hope you get a chance to see this one. I saw it a few days ago and am looking forward to seeing it again. Here’s some info: http://twentyfeetfromstardom.com/ . Really, it must be seen.
It really is all that.
I get letters now and then from people who ask why there has not been one of these things for so many weeks. Sunday is usually the day I used to write these. The LA Weekly column takes a lot of time, as well as the Rolling Stone Australia monthly column and these have sapped the time required to put this together. Also, the radio show moving to Sunday has not helped at all. That, by the way is a heavy lift. To go into that place on a Sunday night and try to be all excited about doing a show that will get me back to my place late at night with Monday morning responsibilities looming hours away, not all that conducive to a great time from our end. Knowing that someone may be listening and enjoying the show makes it a little easier to deal with.
I need to get the radio show notes happening now, so, off I go. Thanks for reading this. Henry
2017September July June May March
2015July June May April
- 04-28-15 Henry & Heidi Podcast: Rollins Band Part 2
- 04-13-15 Henry & Heidi Podcast: Haagen-Dazs
- 04-03-15 Henry & Heidi Podcast: The Chase
2012December November October September August July June
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- 01-29-12 DISPATCH 01-29-12 Saarbrucken Germany
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2011December November October
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- 02-02-11 DISPATCHES JANUARY 2011