Footnotes from the British Underground

This blog began as venue for my stories as I traveled in Africa. 18 months later, I return to it as I travel to study as a Marshall Scholar in the United Kingdom. My hope is that this blog can be a conduit for you - my family, friends and secret/strange admirers - to track my movements, see a photo or two and get a glimpse of my days in the UK. Apologies once again to Dostoevsky for the blog's name...

My Photo
Location: Bradford, United Kingdom

After graduating from Notre Dame, I'm off to England for graduate study. I'll be studying for a M.A. in International Politics and Security Studies. When not studying, I'm continuing to coordinate Uganda-CAN's efforts to end the 20-year war in northern Uganda!


Three Days of Southern Inspiration

I just got back to Bradford from my travels in southern Wales and then Bristol.

Bristol is a spectacular city, and once-home to the famous political philosopher Edmund Burke who said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."


"What It Means to be an American During War"

I'm in Swansea, Wales at the moment after presenting yesterday at the university here on "what it means to be an American during a time of war." Before I ship off to Cardiff and Bristol, I thought I'd post a few excerpts from my lecture:

"To really understand the depth of vulnerability that Americans felt after 9/11, you have to understand the historical context. Unlike most of Europe and even the vast majority of the world, modern Americans have had little to no experience of war on our own land. We certainly have violence in all its ugly forms, but little experience with what we might call “political violence” within our own borders. With the small exception of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, not since the 1941 attacks on Pearl Harbor during the Second World War had there been a foreign attack on American soil. And before that, we might have to go back as far as the U.S.-Mexican War from 1846-1848. The point being, the U.S., whether as a result of geography or foreign affairs, has maintained forms of isolationism."

"This was a time when the country wanted a duty, not a debate."

"As I’ve argued, in the vulnerability of tragedy, the tides of nationalism quickly and sharply define citizenship in terms of loyalty to the state and its protection. Hedges, Freud and others contend that this becomes synonymous with mass mobilization for war. Consequently, I want to argue here that the solution to or the transformation of this problematic phenomenon requires us to reclaim and reconceptualize democratic citizenship and its responsibilities."

"The question then is how to purify patriotism from the muck of nationalism in which it becomes entrapped during times of crisis and conflict."

"Let’s face it: with the rather small exception of those families – generally low-income and likely minority – that have lost loved ones in Iraq or Afghanistan, Americans have remained detached from the realities of war. Without a draft that forces middle-class and some upper-class kids (those who can’t or don’t buy their way out) to fight, the war remains almost unreal for the vast majority of American voters. Sure we are outraged in principle by torture in Abu Ghraib or the slaying of civilians in Haditha or reports that 655,000 Iraqis have been killed, but it doesn’t hit home. And Americans have been generally unwilling to act in response; to demand change or as Walzer puts it: 'do all we can to prevent or stop the war.'"

"After 9/11, it would be naïve to argue that the U.S. did not face great dilemmas. For example, how to secure justice and pursue accountability for atrocities, while transforming the socio-economic roots of political violence? Or how to confront real security threats without fueling new grievances or instigating greater instability? Yet, only loud voices that were willing to give simple answers were heard."

"The only hope I see for a solution or really protection against these horrors begins with a reconceptualization and a strengthening of democratic citizenship: a citizenship that distinguishes discerning patriotism from blind nationalism; a citizenship that takes responsibility for its government’s actions especially in war; a citizenship that demands nuance and cultivates a moral imagination. It ought to mean a lot more to be an American in a time of war. It ought to mean a ‘hell of a’ lot more to be any citizen in a world of war. Until we take that responsibility, that duty, seriously, we’re condemned to the same historical patterns of mass violence and atrocity."


How Barcelona Won My Hearts in Four Days...

As promised, photos from Barcelona...beginning with me at the Sagrada Familia, and me drinking (lots of) excellent Spanish wine...

Next, here's me at the castle (and war museum) of Montijuic, which overlooks the majestic old town of Barcelona...

And the biggest surprise: Barcelona has my favorite coffee in the whole world: Dunkin Donuts!!!

More to come...


Rambling on Las Ramblas

I've been spending the last three days here in Barcelona, and I'm convinced that it's about as close as a city can get to heaven on earth. The Mediterranean weather is perfect, the architecture is stunning, the restaurants are excellent, the wine is cheap and the people are so nice. Mark (my Canadian co-traveller) and I have visited the Picasso Museum, Gaudi's famous Sagrada Familia cathedral, the Barcelona Cathedral, the Montjuic Castle, the famous Las Ramblas street and more. Photos coming on Sunday.


Unwilling or Unable?

I've just started contributing to a new blog, Unwilling-or-Unable, which "tosses the idea of the international 'responsibility to protect' on the table and asks: Will we ever find the political will to live up to our commitment to 'prevent, react and rebuild' in the face genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity?" The blog was started by my friend and GuluWalk founder/director, Adrian Bradbury.

I actually just posted two new entries, so check them out:
To Intervene or Not to Intervene in Darfur?
Humanitarian Intervention NOW in Iraq

I'm off to Barcelona for the next few days, but hope to post some photos and anecdotes...


Is Saddam Death Sentence Meaningful Justice for Iraqis or Just More Politicking?

The Swamp, the Chicago Tribune's news blog, reports today on Saddam Hussein's death sentence and questions whether this will be a boost for the GOP in the final days before Tuesday's midterm elections. The Swamp reports:
President Bush, calling the death sentence of Saddam Hussein 'a milestone' in the development of a free government in Iraq, said today that the 'rule of law' has replaced 'the rule of a tyrant,' and this never would have been possible without the 'sacrifice' of American forces...Nevertheless, the verdict and the way that Bush is playing it underscore the potentially decisive role that the war in Iraq itself will play in this week's elections – and Bush will be mentioning the verdict at campaign stops today, the White House says.
Of course we all want to see Saddam face justice for commiting war crimes and crimes against humanity, but I can't help but think how the politics of this all trumps a meaningful justice. First, it is indisputable that the death sentence will stir new resentment among some sections of the Iraqi population, giving fuel to the soaring levels of violence and sectarian killing. Second, this trial seems quite bizarre in the context of Iraq's current anarchic state. I have to wonder how much of it was about a meaningful justice for Iraqis, and how much was simply about entrenching the new Iraqi regime and self-congratulating politicking by the Bush Adminstration?

I spoke with an Iraqi woman today who asked me when President Bush will stand his trial. She was visibly angry and said this was just a staged act to overshadow the overwhelming violence throughout Iraq.

Amnesty International has also condemned the use of the death sentence. The use of the death sentence is particularly volatile and reeks of revenge, not justice or rule or law.

So I guess my point is that President Bush should pause before he immediately uses this in his stump speeches over the next two days. The American people are not naive enough to believe that the execution of one man is worth 655,000 Iraqi war deaths, increases in Middle East extremism, and the U.S. military overextended and caught in a Vietnam-like quagmire with no near exit strategy.


The Guardian: UK Voters Believe Bush is Greater Danger than Kim Jong-il and Ahmadinejad

As US voters prepare to go to the polls next Tuesday, an international survey shows that British voters see George Bush as a greater danger to world peace than either the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, or the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The survey was carried out by the Guardian in Britain and leading newspapers in Israel (Haaretz), Canada (La Presse and Toronto Star) and Mexico (Reforma), using professional local opinion polling in each country.

In Britain, 69% of those questioned say they believe US policy has made the world less safe since 2001, with only 7% thinking action in Iraq and Afghanistan has increased global security. 62% of Canadians and 57% of Mexicans said the world has become more dangerous because of US policy.

President Bush is outranked only by Osama bin Laden in all four countries, but runs the al-Qaida leader close in the eyes of UK voters: 87% think the al-Qaida leader is a great or moderate danger to peace, compared with 75% who think this of Mr. Bush.