15 June 2010


WARS FOR RESOURCES. I was once among those innocent souls who believe that the US commits its troops to war for sainted reasons like protecting the innocent and facilitating the spread of democracy. My innocence has long since been replaced by the cynical view that like all nations, we enter into wars to promote our own welfare and our own power base. Vietnam was fought for oil and rubber, Iraq was (and continues to be) fought over oil. Now comes a NYTimes report exposing our ulterior motive in the war in Afghanistan -- the presence of vast reserves of iron, copper, cobalt, gold, and lithium -- at least $1 trillion worth. US military presence in Afghanistan started in 2001, shortly after the 9-11 attacks, and was ostensibly an assault on terrorism. But our government already knew of the mineral wealth in that country, as evidenced by a report by the USGS, which was available to those in power prior to its publication in 2002. To control a resource, we must control the territory in which it resides, or at least control the political and military leaders of that territory. To make a war palatable to the public, whose sons and daughters will be the ones at risk, military deployment must be cloaked in a grand rationale which appeals to our (misguided) patriotism or to our (equally misguided) sense of fair play. Any time there is a disconnect, whether it be a war or an oil spill or a political scandal, the bottom line always has a dollar sign attached. Afghanistan's mineral riches and its opium poppies, together with neighboring Uzbekistan's oil reserves, are more than sufficient justification for going to war in the eyes of some. Our ostensible reason, ousting the terrorist Taliban, carries two ironies. One, we ourselves armed, funded and advised the Taliban's progenitors, the Mujahideen, during their armed struggle against invading USSR forces in the 1980s. And two, US military presence in Afghanistan and Iraq is seen for what it is -- an invasion to seize control of resources and power. The longer we stay, the more terrorists we create. If another nation invaded the US, we would just as readily rise up in revolt.

C'est la guerre.

TAKING CHANCE. Focusing down to the very human, very personal dimension of our current wars, the film Taking Chance portrays a real life journey -- that of a Marine officer who escorted the body of a Marine (killed in Iraq) to his hometown. The movie was understated and crafted with attention to detail, and I was moved to tears. In contrast to my war (Vietnam), the American public now respects and honors those in the military, living and fallen. The Marine officer encountered numerous small gestures of caring and support. Here is a video preview of the movie. And here is a summary written by the Marine officer himself. Spoiler alert -- if you plan on seeing the movie, you might want to do that first before reading the summary. The film stars Kevin Bacon, in one of his most riveting performances.

WESTERN TANAGERS. Missoula's cool, wet Spring has been welcome by all of us who dread the summer forest wildfire season. A week ago a bonus appeared -- sightings of migrating Western Tanagers have been numerous, especially along the Clark Fork River which runs through town. A Missoulian article does a good job of summarizing the event and the bird. On one of my daily walks, I was delighted to spot a pair as they fed among nearby trees. Even without my binoculars at hand, the splash of avian color was a wonderful surprise.

JUST BECAUSE. The APOD image from June 11, enhanced to show the distribution of hydrogen, a marker for star-forming regions. Click on the image to enlarge. Cheers.

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