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Thursday, September 16, 2004

ABSOLUTION 

FROM THE WAR CHRONICLES: DISSEMINATE FREELY.

By Jack Random


To initiate a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.

The Judges of Nuremberg.


America clings to the belief that she is absolved from all sin, all crimes against humanity, all acts of unconscionable violence and equally unconscionable indifference by the simple recycling of leadership every four to eight years. We are not to be held accountable for our past behavior because the names of those who reside on Pennsylvania Avenue have changed.

It is of no consequence that the leading players in the current White House are the same individuals who committed those crimes under previous administrations. The fact is, regardless the changing cast, American foreign policy since World War II is a continuous line of intervention, self-serving unilateralism, and utter defiance of international law and universal principles of equity and human decency.

The world community has long understood and detested American foreign policy. The people of the world have long understood that a changing of the White House guard does not produce a change in America’s behavior in the world. It is only a matter of degree. Ronald Reagan and the elder Bush were the hammers of foreign policy. Presidents Carter and Clinton may have provided a brief respite in the brutal prosecution of American policy but they did not (perhaps could not) change the path that would inevitably lead to the critical impasse we now face.

What is now happening in the world is the realization that its people can no longer endure. The problem is not that the world fails to see the Bush vision. The problem arises from the fact that they see it all too clearly.

The entire world was listening in hushed silence when our vice president declared “forty years of war” in the wake of September 11. They understood what Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld meant when they suggested that the tragedy of that momentous event could be seen as an opportunity to resume the war on Iraq. They understood that those in charge of the Bush administration’s foreign policy were cold warriors longing to return to the games of international warfare, subterfuge, corruption and intrigue.

Blessings on Jacques Chirac, for though the French had undeniable interests in the region, France stood to gain immeasurably more by caving to American interests in open defiance of her own people. If we believe in democracy then France and Germany were the world’s champions in the United Nations effort to prevent the war. You cannot in good faith advocate democracy while dragging your people into war against their will. Trying to achieve democracy through invasion is like trying to achieve tolerance through intimidation. It is a fallacy and a lie. You cannot champion democracy while lying to your people to win their approval.

If you still do not believe your government lied to you, then read its own statements in the weeks and months following September 11, 2001. There was and is no connection between the events of that horrific day and the regime in Baghdad. The alleged meeting between Iraqi officials and Al Qaeda agents never happened. There was no Iraqi connected Al Qaeda training camp at a specified location in northern Iraq. That Iraq openly supports the cause of occupied Palestine is unquestioned and that is the only connection to “terrorists” this White House has documented.

The administration had to resort to fabrication and falsehood because it failed utterly and completely to make its case for war. What they failed to achieve through diplomacy, however, they attempted to achieve through bribery and intimidation. Against this background of failure and disgrace, America saw fit to demand that the United Nations fall into line or withdraw from international relevance. Nothing could be further from the truth. If, under these circumstances, the United Nations had yielded to American demands it would then have proclaimed its own irrelevance. Like the United States Congress, it would have abdicated its right and lawful duty in world affairs.

If we but examine the American case for war without passion or patriotism we will arrive at the same conclusion the rest of the world already recognizes. America repeatedly noted that Saddam Hussein used chemical weapons against Iran and the Kurds (“his own people”) decades before but considered it irrelevant that America knowingly and deliberately allowed corporations to provide chemical precursors and biological elements to Iraq with the clear intent of employing them as weapons.

America condemned Iraqi use of chemical weapons – as it did publicly in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war – but it is not to be acknowledged that America protected Iraq from the sanctions of the United Nations. Saddam Hussein was America’s man in the Gulf region and Donald Rumsfeld was on the scene to seal the deal with a handshake.

America claimed that Saddam Hussein openly defied the United Nations for twelve years, yet for eight of those years a successful inspection regime disarmed massive quantities of chemical and biological weapons and dismantled the Iraqi nuclear program. More arms were destroyed in this period than during Gulf War I or the subsequent bombings and no lives were lost in so doing. In the second Gulf War, countless lives were saved by those years of “doing nothing,” of defiance and UN failure to act.

We should not forget that the American government (whose president was in political trouble) in fact orchestrated the discontinuance of the inspection process. The ensuing four years of inactivity were in large part the legacy of Ken Starr and a right wing conspiracy – although the president can hardly be absolved.

America claimed that the United Nations did nothing for twelve years yet the UN sanctions – which the US alone continued to support and prosecute – resulted in over a million Iraqi deaths. All the while America fought against the Food for Oil program and all proposals to restructure the sanctions so that they targeted weaponry instead of food and medicine.

America claimed (rightly) that Saddam Hussein was guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity yet America alone refuses to sanction the International Court of Justice. The truth is: America would stand trial as Saddam’s accomplice.

As we stood on the precipice of war, the advocates of the Bush Doctrine argued that we had to go to war because our troops were in place and they could not wait much longer. If ever there was a reason for justifiable war this did not rise beyond the level of contempt. It seems to me our soldiers could have learned to persevere in the deserts of Kuwait and Bahrain in the hope that war could be averted but we had beat the drums of war so long and so loudly (they argued with the curious passion of a child that has lost his favorite toy) that we could not fail to act now! What would become of our prestige, our credibility, and our weight on the world stage?

One thing we can readily agree on without trepidation is that neither the cost of maintaining our troops nor the collective credibility of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice was worth the blood of a single American soldier – no less thousands of innocent civilians. Let them eat diplomatic crow and let our soldiers be spared.

Recall: in a last ditch effort to justify the irrational and reclaim their self-proclaimed prominence in international affairs, the warmongers threw up their hands and demanded: What would you have us do? Nothing? Would you allow Saddam Hussein to go about his business? Surely, if he was not developing weapons before the threat of war, he will do so now!

There are in fact many things that could have been done to further contain and disarm this monster of our own creation though doing nothing would have been preferable to the path of destruction we have pursued.

As former Senator Gary Hart suggested, we could have expanded the No Fly Zone to include all of Iraq and continuously monitored his activities. We could have increased the number of inspectors and provided them with all the equipment and intelligence they needed – as required by Resolution 1441. We could have maintained a force in the region while withdrawing most of our troops so that cooperation could be measured without the threat of an imminent attack. We could have restructured the sanctions so that the Iraqi people were no longer denied essential commodities – drinkable water, food, and medicines – while the Iraqi government was denied the materials of war. As an assurance of good will, America could have pledged, in the event of war and occupation, that the United Nations would assume control of Iraqi oil. Finally, we could have sanctioned the International Court of Justice and submitted our case against Saddam Hussein.

All these actions could and should have been taken with United Nations approval and support. The UN behaved admirably in this crisis. They stood the high ground between the world’s superpower and the world’s people. Under the constant pressure of American demands, the United Nations alone was positioned to make an informed judgment as to what should happen next. The United Nations alone had the authority to act where no nation has attacked another. If the time for war with Iraq had come, the United Nations would have known it and acted responsibly.

If the time for war did not come then we should all have been eternally grateful for the crisis would have been defused, diplomacy would have won the day, Iraq would have been disarmed peacefully, and the world would not have been hurling toward four decades of unending war and violence under the banners of freedom and security.


Jazz.

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Sunday, September 12, 2004

INFANT NATION 

FROM THE WAR CHRONICLES. DISSEMINATE FREELY.

By Jack Random


What could be more pathetic than the incessant lament of privileged white men condemning preferential treatment on the basis of race, if not the lament of successful black men and women who appear to have severed themselves from their cultural and ancestral roots?

It is symptomatic of a greater problem shared by all of America and consistently exploited by its congressional, judicial and executive leadership: Americans have pathologically short memories.

From an historical perspective it is undeniable: In the great expanse of recorded time, America is but an infant nation. Given this simple and unquestionable observation our behavior in the world suddenly comes into focus. As an infant nation our behavior is as predictable as the salivation of Pavlov’s dogs.

Consider the psychological profile of an infant: An infant knows only the moment. Yesterday is ancient history. An infant remembers only the blow that struck, never the blow that preceded it. An infant believes that the universe revolves around her and only her. An infant’s emotions run no deeper than unconditional love and uncompromised rage. When an infant is harmed he strikes back. He is incapable of understanding the complexities of circumstance. To the infant there is no history. There is only now. The infant seeks immediate gratification and blind vengeance. There can be no middle ground. The infant believes that the soft stroke of the moment is eternal love and a terse rebuke cannot be differentiated from utter hatred. The infant relies on simple labels in place of a reasoned response to interpret events. In the voice of her parents “bad” becomes a moral imperative.

I submit that we are an infant nation. We believe what we are told. We rely on push button logic in place of reason. Our leaders create and offer labels that become the triggers to a guttural response. In the McCarthy era, those labels related to the Cold War enemy: communist, socialist, Marxist, red. In the era of mass media we are given a broader array of push button triggers: radical, liberal, Hollywood left, conspiracy theorist, tree hugger, anarchist, actor, extremist. The purpose of these labels is to short circuit the logical process and supplant it with a conditioned reaction based on raw emotion. Thus, when the environmentalist is called a tree hugger, the conditioned response labels her un-American. When the activist is called an extremist, he is labeled unpatriotic.

Our leaders rely on the assumption that Americans have short memories and, to a large extent, the assumption is correct. On the matter of Vietnam, Americans tend to consider it ancient history though the world will tell us it was only yesterday. When we consider it at all, we lament that our soldiers were not well received or that we lost the war. Any reasoned analysis of that tragic, misbegotten war must conclude that the patriots were those who fought against an unjust war. It was the massive protests of the left – not the passive submission of a silent majority – that shortened the war and saved countless American and Vietnamese lives. Yet our leaders would have us believe that protest in a time of war is unpatriotic. Nothing could be more infantile.

Though history tells us that our leaders have habitually misled us when war or military action was involved, we continue to believe that they tell us only the truth. When our president proclaims that he has proof positive of the cause for war yet refuses to reveal it, we are expected to accede. We are expected to go along. We are told that our forces fight only for democracy when, in fact, our government has always preferred to support military dictatorships and right wing despotism. Yet we are expected to accede. We are told that we have always fought for peace though we have planted the seeds of war, creating circles of violence all over the world, with the intent of overthrowing and replacing the governments of sovereign nations. There is no corner of the planet where American interests have not attempted to exploit internal conflict.

I submit we are an infant nation. Once a year we are pledged to remember our soldiers who have died in war but we have never acknowledged the dead of our adversaries: four million Vietnamese, Laotians and Cambodians, four to five thousand Afghanis, one million Iraqis, uncounted thousands of Nicaraguans, Argentineans, Salvadorans, Columbians, Panamanians, Indonesians, on and on. We have given a solemn oath never to forget the three thousand Americans who died in a horribly misguided act of terror yet we are blind to the horrors we have wrought in nations less powerful than our own. We cry out for vengeance yet we fail to see that we are creating an endless cycle of violence that was, in fact, instigated by our own intervention in foreign affairs.

Does it matter that Iraq had nothing to do with the terrorist attack? If this is about creating a model of democracy for the region, let us not forget that we have already conquered, occupied and promptly forgotten a nation in the region. If we wish to create a model of democracy let us do so in Afghanistan. Let us rebuild a country we have devastated. If this is about weapons of mass destruction, let us first look to our own stockpiles. Let us next look to North Korea and Pakistan. Without oil in the equation it defies reason to attack a nation already defeated in war.

But we are an infant nation. We cannot be expected to find the path of peace. It is difficult to make peace. It requires true compassion built on a foundation of knowledge, tolerance and understanding. It requires digging deeper than hatred and characterizing those who oppose us as evil beings devoted to evil deeds. It is much easier to cry vengeance, to paint everything in black and white, to raise the flag and set the blinders: God, country, rock and roll! It is much easier to make war – unless you are chosen to fight it. It is a crime against humanity that those who must fight and die in war are those least capable of understanding why: the poor, disadvantaged and poorly educated.

I submit we are an infant nation and infants never see the faults of their parents. George W. Bush is the perfect president for this endless “war” on terror. He has little knowledge of world history. He has little understanding of world dynamics. He is incapable of compassion because he clearly believes his own platitudes. He believes that Osama bin Laden and his followers were born hating America. He believes in the Holy War. He believes in the Crusades. He believes that “evil doers” hate us because we are free, because we have McDonalds and Sunday football and wealthy oil companies that hand deliver the American dream to the sons of CIA directors. He does not know what his father did in the Middle East when he was in charge of intelligence. He does not know what his father bargained to make his son Commander In Chief.

I submit we are an infant nation led by an infant king. Jeb had the brains but W had the attributes that counted. He does not ask questions. He does not need nor can he profit from lengthy explanations. He is a “bottom line man.” He was never trained to think for himself. He had no interest in history or international affairs. Point him the way, tell him what to say, watch him swagger, wink and stammer. George W is the man of the hour. George W is the answer to the question: Why didn’t anyone notice when Ronald Reagan’s mind slipped away? The answer: He was not necessary to the policy-making government.

I submit we are an infant nation and nothing is more dangerous than a child who believes he can bend the world to its knees.

I submit we are an infant nation but we are showing signs of growing up. There are times when even a child can rise to the occasion. We are no longer so easily fooled. We are slowly finding the courage and independence required to question our elders, to question the policies of our government. Even now, only two years after the tragedy of September 11, many of us have found our voices. We demand a concrete reason before we destroy another country in the name of democracy. We question the validity of a policy of preemptive strike. We question the doctrine of perpetual world supremacy. We question the motives of a government dominated by oil interests. We question the need for innocent civilian deaths. We question the need for sending our soldiers to war – perhaps to die in combat, perhaps to die from chemical, biological or plutonium poisoning. We wonder why we have lost the trail of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. We wonder why we no longer seem to care.

It may well be that we as a people are growing up faster than our leaders thought possible. In the Enron scandal, the energy crisis, the election frauds, the tax relief scam, the deregulation schemes and so many other disturbing events, we have peeked behind the curtain that hides the real workings of our government. The more you say it is not about oil, the more we are certain it is.

It is the enduring shame of our government that a popular uprising of unprecedented proportions could not stop the relentless march to war but it will be our shame if we do not stop the march to empire. They lied to justify this war just as they lied to justify Vietnam. If the people do not heed the lesson, they will surely lie again. Ultimately, our leaders must have our consent to continue on the path of destruction.

There will likely be an election between Iraq and the next invasion. If we fail to defeat this president, we will have sanctioned the Bush push to empire. Only a small child could believe that this cause is truly righteous. Let us not be fooled again. Let 2004 be the year America grew up.


Jazz.

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