Letters to the Editor

(January 15, 2007)


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Video Life and Actuality -- Assuming the latter term makes any sense any more

Dear Gilles,

I am very, very sorry to hear about Jan's nephew joining the Marine Corps. I do believe that the majority of people in the armed forces are decent (even if often highly indoctrinated and/or ignorant). I believe that a crucial part of the dehumanization of the enemy is the way in which war is sold as a virtual reality. Literally. Since at least the late 1990s the US Defense Department and its various agencies have been involved in producing war simulation video games for use in training and recruitment. America's Army (the US army's official video game) is apparently the number one online video game as well as an important recruiting tool.

Feel free to check out articles on it here:


and here:


...or some background info on America's Army and other US military sponsored video games in this Wikipedia entry:


Does it work?

From The Washington Post:
One blistering afternoon in Iraq, while fighting insurgents in the northern town of Mosul, Sgt. Sinque Swales opened fire with his .50-cal. That was only the second time, he says, that he ever shot an enemy. A human enemy.

"It felt like I was in a big video game. It didn't even faze me, shooting back. It was just natural instinct. Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!" remembers Swales, a fast-talking, deep-voiced, barrel-chested 29-year-old from Chesterfield, Va. He was a combat engineer in Iraq for nearly a year...

"The technology in games has facilitated a revolution in the art of warfare," says David Bartlett, the former chief of operations at the Defense Modeling and Simulation Office, a high-level office within the Defense Department and the focal point for computer-generated training at the Pentagon. "When the time came for him" -- meaning Swales -- "to fire his weapon, he was ready to do that. And capable of doing that. His experience leading up to that time, through on-the-ground training and playing 'Halo' and whatever else, enabled him to execute. His situation awareness was up. He knew what he had to do. He had done it before -- or something like it up to that point."...

"Remember the days of the old Sparta, when everything they did was towards war?" says Anderson, now a defense consultant. "In many ways, the soldiers of this video game generation have replicated that, and that's something to think about." (February 14, 2006, "Virtual Reality Prepares Soldiers for Real War," The Washington Post)
At least one soldier is quoted in the article as stating that he will no longer play violent video games or watch violent movies and tv shows.

Apparently, Islamists are belatedly producing their own video war games. (See "Way Radical, Dude -- Now Playing: Video Games With an Islamist Twist," by Jose Antonio Vargas Washington Post Staff Writer, Monday, October 9, 2006; Page C01

It's horrible and terribly depressing, but (I hope) not unstoppable.

Best wishes,

Dimitri Oram
Northampton, Massachusetts, USA - January 11, 2007


From Yugoslavia to Iraq and onto Iran


I was looking through the archives tonight and came upon all the great writing you did on Yugoslavia in the 1990s. I think I first heard about Swans via a reference in something by Diana Johnstone, who, up to that time, was one of only a few people I knew who took a critical view of the official US line. If the truth of the US destruction of Yugoslavia ever becomes widely known, some of the best expressions of it will be found right here in Swans' archives.

Earlier I listened to a few minutes of Bush explaining his new policy on Iraq. Everything he said was wishful thinking; nothing he proposed will bring stability to Iraq. The problem is, no one in government can admit that we have failed in Iraq, that the whole endeavor was a tragic mistake, not to mention criminal act. Why is this? Why is a nation incapable of admitting a mistake? Not many people go through a whole life without facing some mistakes they've made -- and not just minor ones, like buying Qualcomm, but seriously bad actions that harmed other people. Why should a nation not be given the same chance for self-correction?

My New Year's wish for all of us is that we learn to be less afraid and more honest, and that we find leaders who are the same.

Best wishes to you and Jan.

Robert Wrubel
Sausalito, California, USA - January 11, 2007

P.S. I didn't listen to the President's whole speech last night and only heard about the threats to Iran and Syria later. That is the important content of the speech, not the wishful thinking about Iraq. It appears that the President is going to use the wretched situation in Iraq as the justification for an attack on Iran, and that is truly frightening. Evidently the plan is already in motion, as in the arrest yesterday of employees of an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq.


Get on Board. We Need the Oil.


Perusing your publication from time to time I keep being reminded that our sons and daughters are dying in foreign lands so that you and your acolytes may spill poison over the Internet.

Without the sacrifice of our soldiers you could not run to the store (there would be no gas in your car) and you could not post your drivel (there would be no electricity).

What President Bush is about has to do not only with your freedom of speech but your ability to speak. No energy. No voice heard. It's about time you grab the situation we are all facing and get on board.

Respectfully submitted,

Brian Brown
Hoboken, New Jersey, USA - January 11, 2007


Is Solar Energy the Future? An Interview with Travis Bradford, author of Solar Revolution

Dear Editor,

In this conversation I talk with Travis Bradford, author of Solar Revolution, a new book out from MIT press. Travis believes that market forces are poised to transition us to a solar energy future, one in which energy production becomes localized and we all become much more self-sufficient and secure. It's an extremely optimistic view, but he may well be right. Listen and decide for yourself :)

Just FYI, as a follow-on to this, I'm tentatively scheduled to talk in a week or so with Jonathon Porritt, the head of an independent UK government commission on renewables.

And the show next week is a conversation with historian Gabriel Kolko, who has some gloomy assessments of our present situation, but very interesting nevertheless, and I highly commend it.

If you have the time thanks very much for listening!

The podcast entry is here:


Best Regards,

George Kenney
Electric Politics
Bethesda, Maryland, USA - January 5, 2007


Alouette, gentille Alouette

Hey Monsieur d'Aymery,

I feel sorry for the nephew of yours and I commiserate with your Janie.

About time for your great country to come up with a new energy policy, no? Don't worry much: we, on this side of the pond, are equally incapable of finding a solution.

So, I'm left with my beautiful legs and the sempiternal hope for a better future.

Who's this guy, Bruce Patterson? He looks to me as being a mountain goat with a big beard or whatever woodsman. Writes well, though.

Allez, bon vent. Give him and 'em hell.

Alouette Arouet
Paris, France - January 7, 2007


Satan's coming to your local 7-Eleven

Dear Editor:

In 1988 I asked my Social Studies class to pray that God would clean out the Supreme Court -- either by death or retirement. I got scoffed at.

Now I think God has given this nation over to Satan. It's just a matter of time.

Lorraine Maiden
Morehead City, North Carolina, USA - January 4, 2007


Please help us. Thank you.


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Published January 15, 2007
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