Curtain Raiser

Remember Your Humanity, Colltalers

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proceeds as tragic as expected, aggravated now by the illegal use of cluster bombs by Putin’s armies. Since the U.S., the U.K., and others have used these particularly brutal devices on civilian targets to universal condemnation, who has morals to stop the Russians now?
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the torture and 80 times waterboarding of Abu Zubaydah by American agents in a Polish so-called Black Site earlier in the Iraq invasion is a sanctioned “state secret.” Chile’s new president has hit the ground running. And why Brittney Griner is still locked up?
We begin in Saudi Arabia, the murderous regime President Biden is reportedly cozying it up to so to neuter Russia’s oil influence, announced that it has mass executed 81 people. The kingdom’s largest execution included Yemenis, Houthis, and Shiites among the executed. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who has ordered the killing of American-Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, told The Atlantic that he’s “the real victim” of Khashoggi’s murder.
In Pakistan, an unarmed Indian missile landed near Mian Channu, luckily with no casualties, after being accidentally let off during maintenance. The incident revived for a moment fears that tensions between the two nuclear-ready neighbors would rise again as the disputed Kashmir remains an issue.
In China, 17 million people are in lockdown again as an outbreak of Covid infections has reached levels not seen since the beginning of the pandemic. 13 million of them are now constrained to their homes in Shenzhen while clusters of Omicron and Delta variants are attacking near 18 other provinces.
Despite it all, China has officially less than five thousand coronavirus casualties, compared to the U.S., which is approaching its first million deaths.
In France, thousands took to the streets to once again remind the world that humanity is still on death row due to climate change. What’s happening elsewhere won’t change that. But bodies, millions of them, may. This war is giving oil barons another lifeline, and if again we ramp up fossil-fuel production, the planet will be in worse shape faster than the razed buildings of Ukraine and Gaza. This obscene war is also in the way to our salvation.
War is reaching a critical point now as Russia nears Kyiv and Ukraine increases its plea for help. Mostly in the form of shutting down its airspace. It’s becoming harder for Biden not to do that, even if by doing so, it opens the U.S. Air Force up to direct confrontation with Russian warplanes. We know where that road will lead us to. On the other hand, Russian military superiority is bound to break Ukrainian defenses and kill thousands of civilians.
It’s evident that diplomacy must be on steroids to prevent or at least minimize that. But the reality is, the anti-war movement hasn’t yet risen to this challenge. With peaceful activists being jailed in Russia, there needs to be a worldwide clamor strong enough to stop every big city in the name of “Peace Now, Peace Ever.” Only regular citizens, in big numbers, can scare tyrants. Sadly, there’s not much encouragement coming from that camp.
The documented use of cluster bombs, which are designed to penetrate structures and detonate once inside, has been especially cruel considering that they’re targeting residential buildings. It’s heartbreaking to realize that only a few weeks ago, these neighborhoods were thriving with life, full of kids playing and everyday people going about their businesses as they’re entitled to. Then Putin’s deranged ambitions poured hot lava over their community.
Of course, these evil gadgets should be banned, just as mines have been even if so often they too get to be used. For that’s the rule of war and violence: once it escalates, everything is fair game. And because the U.S. has often used them too, it’d be hypocritical to condemn others for doing the same.
In three weeks of this war, as it’s been happening since ancient times, every catalog of misery or index of degradation has quickly come into play. On display, there’s the same arrogance of violent men, their manipulated racial hatred, similar lies and excuses we’ve witnessed being used by despots throughout time to justify their cruelty and greed. And there’s always this underestimation, the dismissal of the power raised by peaceful movements.
There’s a clear intention, from the part of the Supreme Court’s conservative majority, to reverse or halt some social achievements of the civil society, from voting rights to money in politics to child labor to reproductive rights. Now it issued yet another misguided ruling, determining that torture that took place in an open-secret Black Site location in Poland is privileged information, and as such, cannot be disclosed. Neither what happened there.
Lawyers for Zubaydah, a Saudi captured in Iraq in 2002 and still being held in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, had argued that the location of the site in Poland was well known and its disclosure wouldn’t impact national security. But their argument didn’t go far as the court sided up with Trump’s former Sec. of State Mike Pompeu, himself accused of being aware of the torture taking place there, who wanted the case dismissed. His case was dismissed.
A new era may have started in Latin America as Chile’s new president, Gabriel Boric, takes the Oath of Office. And reportedly, got right to it by taking part in a ceremony with indigenous peoples on his very first day on the job. At 36, the former student leader is the youngest ever president of Chile.
There’s been growing concern about the situation of Brittney Griner, the American professional basketball player who’s been detained in Russia for almost a month. U.S. diplomats have accused Moscow of preventing them from reaching out to her in blatant violation of international law. She was accused of drug possession just as Russian troops started to crowd out the Ukrainian border and few have heard from her since. Free Brittney Now!
“The conflict today is no more than an old-style struggle for power (…)” The difference is that this time, the rise “of atomic power has imbued the struggle with a ghostly character; for both parties know and admit that should the quarrel deteriorate into actual war, mankind is doomed.”
Albert Einstein would be 143 today and his words are eerily accurate. A scientist who fled the Nazis whose work set the foundations for the Manhattan Project and the development of the first atomic bomb, Al lived and died a pacifist, mistrustful of religions and of the power of mankind to curb itself.
It was thinking about paying him homage that physicist Larry Shaw created Pi Day in 1988, using his month and day of birth that coincide with the first three digits of the Number π (3.14), which measures the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter. No matter, many will have a pie today, both to the wonder of precisely calculating a circle and to the great author of the Theory of Relativity. To all poor violinists, Happy Birthday, Einstein.
There’s little consolation in the times we live now to those who dedicated their lives to a world free of war and injustice. They may be doubting themselves right now, wondering if what they’ve done was enough or made a difference. That’s the angst and quagmire of not giving up and neither plan on doing so. If you know one of them, or are one yourself, please be assured, this is not it. Humanity may be down but it’s not out yet. Suit up. WC


One thought on “Curtain Raiser

  1. It seems we are accomplices. How can one point a guilty finger?


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