A Wistful Goodbye to Loompanics Unlimited

I’m sad to report that Loompanics Unlimited is going out of business.

I’ve been getting Loompanics book catalogs in the mail since I was a high school punk rocker. They always had the edgiest things to be found between two covers and were courageous free speech extremists. The catalogs were not only lists of books your local bookstore was unlikely to risk carrying, but also included original essays by freedom-loving writers like Claire Wolfe.

The up-side to Loompanics going out of business is their going-out-of-business sale — 50% off everything they’ve got, including:

The news has lately been full of reports of U.S.-launched precision explosives being used in targeted strikes that destroyed homes and the families who lived in them.

First, a strike in Iraq that was designed to kill three people thought to have been planting roadside-bombs, but that for some reason didn’t hit until they had ducked into a home nearby the one that was actually destroyed by the missile strike.

And, more recently, a missile strike on a home in Pakistan that the U.S. hoped would take out Ayman al-Zawahiri, but instead seems to have yet again killed mostly women and children.

In earlier Picket Line entries, I’ve discussed the U.S. policy of launching airstrikes against civilian-occupied buildings in the hopes of assassinating “high-value targets” (and what a poor batting average they have when doing so):

  • and : “Human Rights Watch report that U.S. air strikes designed to assassinate top Iraqi leaders were utter failures — zero for fifty — and because they involved techniques like dropping ‘bunker busters’ on residential neighborhoods they caused many civilian casualties.”
  • : “It’s interesting to play with some thought experiments. Imagine Saddam Hussein in a desk chair suspended by a rope above a volcano. He’s up there, directing his regime via fax and email, safe in the knowledge that this is the last place the invaders will look for him. But you’ve found him. And you’ve got a pair of scissors. And you see where the rope is tied off. You go to drop the bastard, but you notice he’s got somebody else tied up and dangling from the bottom of the desk chair. You don’t recognize this other person. Maybe s/he’s a complete innocent — or maybe a P.O.W. Maybe there are five people dangling there — or fifty. Maybe you do recognize this person and it’s someone you know. Maybe it’s 1,000 uniformed draftees in Saddam’s army. Maybe it’s your mom. Maybe she’s holding a kitten.”
  • : “I continue to be struck by how people morally evaluate the killing of innocent people. There’s an implicit heuristic at work that includes the race or nationality of the perpetrator and victim, whether or not that person was part of a uniformed and organized military force, how expensive and high-tech was the equipment used, and whether the perpetrator and victim might have been able to look each other in the eye. I sometimes wish that this heuristic could be made explicit, because I think people would disavow much of it then.”
  • : “I saw a picture of an Iraqi child covered in burns from one of the bombings. I think that the people who insisted that this child had to suffer in order to liberate Iraq would have gone through a different, more honest mental calculation if instead of deciding this a planet’s-width away from a child they’d never see, they decided it with the flamethrower in their hands and the child in front of them. Maybe they’d decide the same way, but they’d decide knowing the real cost of their decisions. I think if George Bush had to personally burn, dismember, and crush the victims of his war, he would lose the heart for it. He would beg for excuses to try some other way with even more desperation than he in fact searched for reasons to go to war. The gruesome technology that allows him and people like him to rain death on people from a distance shields them from seeing the consequences of their actions except as results that can fit into a framework preselected to exclude non-abstract considerations of human suffering.”
  • : “If you want to minimize casualties to civilians, you can start by not throwing explosives into the countries they live in. Have you been keeping track of how many of our ‘precision’ weapons have missed the country of Iraq? So far, I’ve read reports of these sophisticated devices hitting Turkey, the Persian Gulf, and Iran (not to mention the ones that took out a British bomber and a bus full of fleeing Syrians). If you can’t even hit the country you’re aiming at, you sure as hell can’t be confident you’re going to hit the barracks instead of the elementary school. And of course, even when they hit exactly what they intended to hit, what they intended to hit sometimes turns out to be a civilian bomb shelter or the Chinese embassy.”
  • : “One of the persistent myths about the recent Iraq war was that it was conducted by the U.S.-led coalition in a manner that was unusually sensitive to minimizing civilian casualties.… [T]he available data seem to show the opposite: the U.S. seems to be getting more and more reckless about civilian casualties over time.… ‘In this war in particular we see that improved capabilities in precision attacks have been used to pursue more ambitious objectives rather than achieve lower numbers of civilian dead.’ ”
  • : “The United States military said it dropped a 500-pound bomb on the wrong house outside the northern city of Mosul on Saturday, killing five people. The man who owned the house said the bomb killed 14 people, and an Associated Press photographer said seven of them were children.… ‘The house was not the intended target for the airstrike. The intended target was another location nearby,’ the military said in a statement.… ‘Multi-National Force Iraq deeply regrets the loss of possibly innocent lives,’ the statement said.”