I’ve just finished reading Victoria Brittain’s piece on TomDispatch. I know a bit about how bad things have been for people under suspicion of terrorism here in the States, but what she describes about policies followed in Great Britain is far worse than anything I have yet read about what happens to people here.
I will eventually have to buy her book, Shadow Lives, but I don’t seem to have much time to read these days. It’s too hard keeping up with the daily idiocy that America has become. She quotes Desmond Tutu at the end of her piece, the same quote I pulled not long ago:
…”I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity.I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims. Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity”.
I don’t think it’s a threat anymore. I think it’s happened. The so-called debate over the drone wars makes it pretty clear. Why is Rand Paul the one and only lone voice trying to get guarantees that our government won’t go after us with drones without legal protections? Where are all the other public voices, even that of our constitutional lawyer President? We are already depraved by our own brutality and fear, and he, the President, has been ill-served by the powerful forces in Washington that are determined to continue the fighting, the killing, the military-“intelligence” machine that seems to have taken over everything in our government.
These drones will be back one day to haunt and terrorize us as they have terrorized thousands in Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Pakistan. The whole concept of this kind of war is morally bankrupt and just plain wrong. It’s use reveals the bottomless fear that has distorted and crippled our views of others in this world. We are forcing ourselves to believe that those women and children killed with the supposed insurgents aren’t worthy of life or thought or compassion.
Where are the liberals and the Democrats who berated George W for his policies of torture and indefinite imprisonment without trial? How do we know that our super secret government isn’t continuing the same policies in one form or another, but giving its actions a new name, a different euphemism to describe the morally reprehensible? WE do not regain the moral high ground because we claim to have stopped those practices when we are still detaining people without trial for years on end – even our own citizens – and rain down death from the sky on other innocent people. America was supposed to be different, but ever since we walked into Vietnam, we’ve lost our original constitutional, legal justification for being an exceptional nation. We can’t call ourselves the virtuous, righteous nation any more with out our faces turning the deep red of shame.
Reading Brittain’s piece is like listening to Hugh Sykes Documentary at the BBC World Service, as he speaks with Iraqis affected by American brutality and stupidity. Some of that is powerful indeed, and there is more to come with a 2nd part next week. He exposes the anger and frustration of those left behind in the mess we made of Iraq, and about which we no longer seem to care. The bloggers I used to read who described their lives under Occupation are mostly no longer blogging, but scattered here and there around the world. Those who remain in Iraq do so with remarkable optimism and humor as Sykes notes. Having to survive in awful conditions seems to do that to people. Iraqis share it with many Palestinians.
Having listened and read, I now want to ask questions here about the families of those entrapped by the FBI, and the consequences they faced after their husbands or sons were carted off to prison having been convicted by fearful juries and judges. What happens to those under surveillance? Are their funds cut off as well? Do women who traditionally have stayed at home now have to work to support their families here? What happens to the children in these families?
Somehow, part of me has held on to the belief that Great Britain, home of the Magna Carta, was somehow better, more civilized that we barbarians across the water, but now I’m not so sure. In fact, if I really think about it, the Brits have always been part of that European empire building frame of mind with the same attitudes toward “native peoples” as we have now.
We should have had that long reflection after George was no longer President. We should have tried those who were guilty of war crimes and otherwise faced our problems truthfully and rationally, but we missed that opportunity when Obama said let’s move on. All that did was shove the mess under the rug where it has festered ever since, and trapped him in the same kind of monstrousness.
And another on our wimpish Democrats: http://www.salon.com/2013/03/08/the_invisible_shrinking_democrats/
There have been suggestions that we take an “active” role.
William Kristol in yesterday’s Washington Post, seems to think that our President isn’t doing enough to support the democratic upheavals in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Libya. What’s happening in Libya in particular with Qaddafi setting his troops, mercenaries and thugs to shoot down his own people, is particularly nasty and bloody. Kristol apparently thinks that we should provide overt and covert help to the democratic movement there, maybe even resort to force.
This means more than speeches – though speaking out would be a start. It means aggressive efforts, covert and overt, direct and indirect, to help the liberals – in the old sense of the word – in the Middle East. It means considering the use of force when force is used to kill innocent civilians. It means a full-scale engagement of the U.S. government, an across-the-board effort with allies and international organizations, a real focus on the challenge these times present.
He wants Obama to seize the moment and turn it to our advantage. He makes no suggestion that as we’re in the middle of 2 other wars and a deep recession, where and how we might find the resources for such a project, but he is convinced that it is in our interest to do so. I believe he is dead wrong. If the people of the Middle Eastern countries that want a more democratic rule want it badly enough to rise up against their rulers, it is time for the US to give moral support but allow those people to finally take ownership of their own destinies on their own terms. Adding another quagmire in Libya on top of the trillions we’re already spending in Iraq and Afghanistan would probably be the financial ruin of us. For just 10% of the world’s oil, it just isn’t worth it. Moral support and advice when asked will be enough. Egyptians, Tunisians, Bahrainis, and Libyans have a right to determine their own destinies without our meddling. Interventionists should sit on their hands and shut their mouths.
Even Dana Millbank goes on about the White House being “Passive” in the face of the changes taking place, but he says little about what the President ought to be doing. Active, aggressive American action in the rest of the world has always brought us nothing but trouble, both here and in the countries involved. It is time for all the commentators to understand that we have no “right” to interfere in the affairs of other nations. At best we can work around the edges with persuasion and other non-military resources. We’ve been doing our best to push the arabs and others around for years with an “active, aggressive” interventionist policy, and where has it gotten us? The result has been terrorism and ordinary people who hate the way we behave towards them. It’s long past the time to try something else.
Obama’s seeming passivity may be just the right approach at the moment, giving the people of those countries time to figure things out for themselves. They are much more likely to end up with enduring, stable, democratic societies, if we stay out of the manipulative role that western governments have practiced for centuries. The promoters of “active” engagement should go and read Washington’s farewell address again, and learn it by heart. While the French helped us with our Revolution, they did so for reasons other than promoting a democratic government on this side of the Atlantic. Their own rivalries with others in Europe made them attempt to seek a balance of power.