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Friday, June 22, 2007

Iraq and Stem Cells -- Killing Former Embryos

It's a study in contrast. There are the things the president says and the things the president does. In order to buy it, you either need to develop a split personality or remain willfully ignorant of one or the other. There are those few individuals who can accept conflicting information in the same skull and accept both as true, but there can't be that many. President Bush's approvals are at a new low, with only 26% approving in a Newsweek poll. It's probably safe to assume that these few with a talent for cognitive dissonance are among that 26%, but doesn't account for all of them. There are also the single issue voters who don't give a crap about anything other than their pet concern and those who believe that the Democrats are inherently evil and therefore see themselves as having no other choice.

But it was the voter who can swallow contradiction that Bush was playing to this week, with a (not unexpected) veto of stem cell legislation.

White House:

Destroying human life in the hopes of saving human life is not ethical -- and it is not the only option before us. We're already seeing remarkable advances in the science and therapeutic uses of stem cells drawn from adults and children, and the blood from umbilical cords -- with no harm to the donor. Researchers value embryonic stem cells because they are pluripotent -- which means that they have the potential to develop into nearly all the cell types and tissues in the body. Researchers are now developing promising new techniques that offer the potential to produce pluripotent stem cells -- without having to destroy human life.

He had a lot to say about science when he vetoed the bill, but his central argument was a philosophical one, not a scientific one -- the 'human life' he spoke of was merely theoretical. "If this legislation became law, it would compel American taxpayers -- for the first time in our history -- to support the deliberate destruction of human embryos," he said. Virtually all unused embryos are destroyed, 'snowflake babies' aside -- the percentage of embryos that are 'adopted' are mathematically insignificant. The rest are incinerated as a biohazard. Bush's veto won't 'save' a single embryo.

And then there's the obvious contradiction -- that we're awfully busy killing non-theoretical kids in Iraq and Afghanistan. Laila Fadel of McClatchy's Baghdad Bureau gives us a view from the ground, courtesy of Editor & Publisher:

...I walked towards the office and saw Mohammed, one of our staffers, staring out the window. His eyes were red. He didn't hear me call him. Then he looked at me blankly.

He described the pictures of the 24 starving special-needs children, some chained to cribs that CBS had aired. Orphans in a government orphanage were discovered by U.S. soldiers. Their bodies were naked and emaciated. Nearby there were shelves of new clothes wrapped in plastic and canned food.

"A warehouse full with clothes and food and there are children starving and naked. This is the story of Iraq. This is just the story of Iraq," he said. "The government must go. Just quit."


"We don't do this to children," he said. "They are too precious."

On the contrary, we do do this to children. We shouldn't, but we do. Baghdad is becoming a city of orphans -- those children who survive are hardly any better off than those who die. The government fails them, so they turn to secondary institutional structures and wind up as child soldiers and future 'martyrs.' Fadel tells us, "...I returned to the bureau in tears after hearing one story after the others of brutal killings at the hands of the Mahdi Army. It was Lord of the Flies, young boys ruling and killing in a Baghdad neighborhood."

Most of that 26% who still support Bush don't know anything at all about Iraq -- not anything true, anyway. Those few who can practice cognitive dissonance may know, but the majority cherish their ignorance, carefully choosing media outlets that only speak of Iraq rarely or right wing talk shows that tell out and out lies. They have no idea that child soldiers even exist there or that US forces must, by necessity, be fighting them.

What that bare quarter of americans get is happy talk from Lieberman and Petreaus and McCain. BS about how peaceful the markets are and photo ops surrounded by marines. They're told -- over and over -- that Iraq has 'turned the corner,' a phrase that's become so overused that it's lost any meaning. In the maze of Iraq, turning a corner doesn't mean you're heading in the right direction and progress doesn't necessarily mean your're on the path out. Turning corners and making progress may mean you're only heading deeper and deeper into the heart of the labyrinth.

And around every corner are more people to kill -- men, women, and children. Bush can talk about the 'sanctity of life' all he wants, but his actions -- our actions -- make his words empty. Crying over a discarded embryo while you sit on a pile of skulls should be written into the dictionary as the definition of hypocrisy.

It's not just Bush's hypocrisy, it's that of those who still support him, as well. The willfully ignorant, those who only care about children before they're born, and the just plain insane that make up that 26% share in this. This veto was for them, so they could feel a little better about themselves. They are the saviours of the unborn.

The born, however, can go choke.


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