Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Should These Men Be in the Clink?

Andrew Jackson was instrumental in the systematic eradication of Native Americans; Harry S. Truman presided over the atomic destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki; Presidents Johnson and Nixon were both responsible for sending thousands of young men into the senseless meat grinder of Vietnam.

And even Barack Obama continues to advocate the Bush-imposed, CIA-sponsored drone missile program responsible for killing unknown quantities of Afghani and Pakistani civilians. From Jane Mayer's "The Predator War" in The New Yorker:
The first two C.I.A. air strikes of the Obama Administration took place on the morning of January 23rd - the President's third day in office. Within hours, it was clear that the morning's bombings, in Pakistan, had killed an estimated twenty people. In one strike, four Arabs, all likely affiliated with Al Qaeda, died. But in the second strike, a drone targeted the wrong house, hitting the residence of a pro-government tribal leader six miles outside the town of Wana, in South Waziristan. The blast killed the tribal leader's entire family , including three children, one of them five years old.
...because of the C.I.A. program's secrecy, there is no visible system of accountability in place, despite the fact that the agency has killed many civilians inside a politically fragile, nuclear-armed country with which the U.S. is not at war. Should something go wrong in the C.I.A.'s program - last month, the Air Force lost control of a drone and had to shoot it down over Afghanistan - it's unclear what the consequences would be.
Yes...we...can - kill civilians at will.

Is it still too early to label an (unofficial) Obama policy as stupid and rash? (That it was conceived by the Bush administration should've been enough evidence to give the current president and his war cabinet a looooooong pause. But no.)

No wonder why so much anti-American venom exists in areas of the world where we routinely tread. The U.S. has developed a well-earned reputation for arbitrarily imposing its will in any region in which it feels the pull of destiny - leaving an indelible footprint in the process - and often forgetting or dismissing the possibility that denizens of other foreign countries have national pride just like we do.

Imagine having your house errantly scrubbed off the planet by a drone fighter jet - an unmanned robotic flying machine, whose missles were loaded courtesy of a profit grubbing private contracting company. The flight would be piloted by a civilian in a cubicle in Langley, VA, who goes about the whole ordeal as though he's playing a fucking X-Box.
Using joysticks that resemble video-game controls, the reachback operators - who don't need conventional flight training - sit next to intelligence officers and watch, on large flat-screen monitors, a live video feed from the drone's camera. From their suburban redoubt, they can turn the plane, zoom in on the landscape below, and decide whether to lock onto a target.
So it's a tad disingenuous to feign surprise at all the global rancor that's frequently directed at U.S. And to chalk it all up to Stars and Stripes envy, as we often do, is the height of inanity - and ethnocentrism.

They're jealous of our freedom!
They're jealous of our liberty!
They're jealous of our way of life!


(In America, liberty and freedom are the verbal equivalents of the American Flag lapel pin: cheap, visceral triggers predictably overused by demagogue politicians to instantly transform nationalistic pride into fierce electoral or legislative support. These two words have been used to dupe Americans into doing everything from supporting various war policies to rejecting gay marriage and universal health care proposals. For Big Square State Americans, they've attained a kind of religious significance. But their meaning remains an abstraction to residents of the developing world, who more likely concern themselves with the more tangible concepts of peace and stability.)

The truth is, most citizens of the world would kill for our wealth; and by wealth, I mean the ability to adequately feed, clothe, and shelter themselves and their families. But as far as ways of life are concerned, I'd be willing to bet that most Afghani villagers would do fine without strip malls; cineplexes; The Real Housewives of Orange County; Healthy Choice; Hot Pockets; high fructose corn syrup; blue tooth; Blu-Ray; Going Rogue, Ford tough; trans fats; UPN; political attack ads; high-stakes standardized testing; health care rescission; pre-existing conditions; doppler radar; cable news gossip crawls; Bloomin' Onions; Crips, Bloods, and MS-13s; Nutra-Sweet; Cookie Crisp; sub-prime loans; hockey moms; Black Fridays; and exclusive interviews with Bubble Boy - providing they don't have to deal with their families being accidentally vaporized in the middle of the night by a viagra-fueled suburban dad with a receding hairline and a fancy for "Gears of War."

But back to our hypocrisy, which has achieved almost galactic dimensions. When civilian atrocities occur as a result of a foreign leader's misguided or bellicose policies, they're labeled war criminals - miscreants deserving swift and firm justice from the international community.

Slobodan Milosevic and Saddam Hussein were both depraved shitbags and deserved what they got.

But, in 2008, former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori - a slimy, Machiavellian third-world hack of a politician - was brought up on charges of crimes against humanity for his government's ruthless campaign against the Shining Path, an oppressive extremist organization known for domestic terrorism (think Latin American Taliban - with Communists). Not surprisingly, Fujimori fled to Japan, hoping to evade criminal charges, but he was eventually extradited back to Chile and convicted of human rights abuses and corruption. He now sits in a prison cell when not performing nightly geisha shows for los hermanos of cell block C.

Now... your wildest dreams, can you imagine Bush Jr. ever idling in a prison cell? Can you ever fathom the Hague or the International Court of Justice charging him with war crimes, obstruction of justice, war of aggression, torture, intent to assassinate a foreign leader, or conspiracy to commit murder (all charges that could conceivably be levied against the former president)?

Will he ever even be investigated?

The answers to the above questions: No, no, no, and no. And that's because, when U.S. presidents engage in ruthless tactics that result in the death of innocents, it's justified as the inevitable price of war. Rarely is further explanation necessary, unless you consider "I'm the decider" to be sufficient. Naturally, the majority of the mainstream media rarely questions this claim, as they understandably have their hands full with hourly Sarah Palin "Will she or won't she?" updates.

The most recent evidence of Commander-in-Chief recklessness is the news of a 2007 bribery scandal in which key Blackwater (a private military contractor hired by both the State Department and the C.I.A. - and championed by the Bush Administration) personnel attempted to slime off hush money to Iraqi government officials in exchange for keeping quiet following a mass civilian slaughter by Blackwater storm troopers in Nisour Square, Iraq. In the end, 17 civilians were killed, including children who were murdered when at least one of the Blackwater reps hurled grenades inside a nearby school. From The New York Times:
Blackwater approved the cash payments in December 2001, the officials said, as protests over the deadly shootings in Nosour Square stoked long-simmgering anger inside Iraq about reckless practices by the security company's employees. Americans and Iraqi investigators had already concluded that the shootings were unjustified, top Iraqi officials were calling for Blackwater's ouster from the country, and company officials feared that Blackwater might be refused an operating license it would need to retain its contracts with the State Department and private clients woth hundreds of millions of dollars annually.
Now known by the West Hollywood gay rave club-esque name Xe, Blackwater was originally contracted out by the Bush Administration prior to the war in Iraq.

I'd speculate that just hearing a word as cryptically criminal as Blackwater would give a guy like Dick Cheney a massive boner (for him, at least). Blackwater! Maybe that's why the firm won an exclusive no-bid contract to further putrify Iraq with the stench of even more death and corruption. Or perhaps it was because Blackwater's former CEO, Erik Prince, started as an intern in Daddy Bush's administration. Or maybe it's that Prince had donated over $200,000 thousand to the Republican party by that point? Or that Prince is a fundamentalist Christ freak with a penchant for civilian carnage, just like Junior? It's difficult to pinpoint, really.

Blackwater was never actually affiliated with the U.S. military operation in Iraq. The firm was - and is -privately owned, which enabled it to operate free from the constraints of the naggy, sissified rules of combat by which American G.I.s must adhere.

And because Blackwater had carte blanche in Iraq for six years, the dark lords of the Bush Administration could always say, "We don't know anything about these guys: Their operation is completely independent from our jurisdiction."

Once again: Bullshit.

While the past and current presidential administrations continue to squirm away from their ties to profiteering firms like Blackwater, Haliburton, and KBL (at least publicly), citizens throughout the world forced to suffer at the hands of these immoral parasites have no choice but to associate their malicious deeds with U.S. policy.

I'm sure all of this makes me sound like an unappreciative, anti-American, communistic freedom-hater. Quite the opposite.

I've seen what this country can be: altruistic, unified, charitable, and even, at times, open-minded. We wept for the victims and families of 9/11 in '01; sent money, food, clothes, and volunteers after the disasters in Sri Lanka and then New Orleans (though far too late in the case of Katrina) in '05; ousted an inert, Republican-controlled Congress from the majority in '06; and elected an intelligent, thoughtful, black man to be our president in 2008.

America the Beautiful is also hegemonic, short-sighted, and ruthlessly self-serving. For better or worse, when our republic feels the least bit threatened, we collectively dust off the plastic CVS American Flags (made in China), flip on hi-def. cable news, turn our adversary's homeland into "Blade Runner," and tune out global outrage directed at us.

None of this is new information.

What's so galling is our leaders' refusal to ever admit even a scintilla of wrongdoing. Intoxicated by their vision of living in a world in which developing countries simultaneously resemble ours and yet submit to our every whim, they design policy around the unrealistic notion that cultures can be coerced into modernity, democracy, and...liberty.

Both Bush and Obama insist that the post-9/11 world in which we reside is a dangerous one. They're right. Genocide, civil war, and oppression abound. But living in the cross hairs of American foreign policy might be the most treacherous of all.

Stumble Upon Toolbar

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Stop the Inanity. by Brock Cohen is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at