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/
I apologize for the long silence. I’ve been packing and moving a school and unpacking it at the other end. Also, it’s been hard to write anything sensible during the circus of the Republican primaries and the election campaign since. It would be so nice to think of something cheerful and optimistic about what is going on in the US and in the World, but everywhere people seem afflicted by the “Austerity Disease”. In Greece it’s despair is killing old men with their own guns, and quite likely to drive the country out of the Eurozone. In Fact the European Union appears to be coming apart at the seams. The lack of demand is slowing down even China, and how does that help the rest of us?
In the US, the Republicans are so intent on damaging President Obama that they apparently don’t see (or don’t care about) the greater damage they are doing to our economy and the futures of millions of ordinary people. How can business create jobs, when there is no demand for their products because people have no money to spend on anything but basic survival, and sometimes not even that? I just don’t understand how the conservative mind works, either here at home or in Europe. All this pain has been so unnecessary, but I’m afraid it will get worse before it gets better. Has Romney thought about how he might fix all the damage his fellow Republicans have done to the country both at the national and the state level by their insistence on Deficit reduction and tax cuts, but cutting the jobs of state & federal workers and then refusing to bargain with those who are left?
I’m afraid that a Romney win in November will just make things worse, although with Obama facing a Republican dominated Congress again wouldn’t be much better.
Parts of the rest of the world are even sadder. Egyptians are watching their Revolution escape through their fingers even while they try to elect a new president between 2 choices few are happy with. It looks very much as if the Army is set to take over again, and that will be a tragedy.
In Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki keeps moving closer and closer to consolidating dictatorial powers in his own hands rather than reaching out to other groups and building some sort of consensus. As a result the bombs are going off again, and opposing politicians are being put in prison or escaping into exile abroad.
Syria is descending into full-scale civil war as the UN gives up its attempts at mediation and leaves the country. Congressional Republicans want us to get into the fight militarily, but how are we to do that without the help of other countries who refuse. Besides, what good could we possibly do if we sent arms or put boots on the ground? (And putting those boots on the ground might be extremely costly and dangerous. Syria is not Iraq.) Aren’t the Syrians suffering enough without us? Hasn’t our military seen enough of fighting without result in the last 10 years without throwing them into more of the same in a country whose language and customs we do not understand? Is Libya really better off now because we “helped” them militarily overthrow their dictator? It seems to me that all our hugely expensive military activity since 9/11 has done nothing much good for us or for the countries we “helped”.
I will vote in November and cross my fingers, but I doubt things will get much better for a long time to come.
NPR had a story this morning that struck me as showing up a blatant selfish meanness among the so-called Tea Party Republicans who think they ought to be running the United States. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone in my lifetime justify what amounts to robbery of the poor and elderly (the Paul Ryan Budget) to satisfy the greedy urge to keep more of their hard earned and sometimes dirty money with some sort of “Christian” doctrine. Call it whatever you will, but it’s not Christian, or any other religion that I know of.
Go ahead, be as mean and selfish as you like, but don’t justify it as anything to do with Christianity. Jesus threw the money lenders and other greedy sellers out of the Temple, remember? Ross Douthat may be right, but I hope we haven’t completely become a Nation of Heretics.
It’s hard to believe the circus going on in Washington. All I can feel is complete and total disgust for all parties involved. Every so-called plan put forward to raise the debt ceiling at the cost of complete cuts in essential programs is more draconian than the last. Regardless of what Obama said, ordinary people have been forgotten altogether.
Obama’s biggest mistake was to suppose he could placate the conservative fanatics by meeting them more than half way. On every single occasion he has concede ground getting further and further away from the ideas that brought him to office. When you desire to win at any price, you sell your soul to the devil. Of course, in their own destructive way, the Republicans have done exactly the same thing. Hence the disgust.
The debt ceiling is an enduring problem for presidents. It’s been around since World War I, and ever since Presidents who went to war or battled economic depressions have gone deeper into debt. It’s not as if the country’s finances can be balanced the way families sometimes balance their budgets at the kitchen table making sure that incomes cover costs. In America we’ve gotten into trouble in the last 12 years by refusing to save or balance our budgets as individuals and families, thinking that the boom times would never end. Well, George W. made sure they would end by not paying for his wars or his drug benefits and donating beyond his ability to pay to the wealthiest among us and their corporations. Now Republican super conservatives are using the debt ceiling and risking the US credit rating in a ridiculous effort to fix what they themselves broke. Rather than being responsible about owning up to their own profligacy, they are using this situation as a bludgeon to hit Obama with and hopefully (from their point of view) ensure his defeat at the polls in November 2012.
The Wikipedia has an interesting graphic for those interested in history:
It doesn’t take a great brain to see what happened after 2000. And who knows? With the constant drum beat of Republican propaganda from Fox News, they may actually succeed in bringing down the President. The only trouble is they may well bring down the country as well, proving themselves totally unfit to govern.