Why does the world mistrust the motives touted by our government to explain post 9/11 pre-emptive militarism? Most people around the world, when asked about America, will make a clear distinction between Americans whom they find warm and engaging, and our government's foreign policies which they find unilateralist and coercive in nature.
The dichotomy that exists between our words and deeds, as a nation, leaves our allies and foes, alike, confused at what we are trying to accomplish around the world under the guise of combating International Terrorism. It is as if America had suddenly become schizophrenic, with internal voices fighting epic battles for control of a wounded American psyche. As a result of the trauma experienced by our country and the ensuing chaos, and due to the lack of clear purpose, only the loudest and most brazen ideologies, not necessarily the most substantive ones, rise above and over the more legitimate political discourse. Not unlike the proverbial annoying squeaky wheel that commandeers attention.
From this knee jerk reaction, an oft haphazard method of discourse, coupled with the primal nature of distressed behavior, not much good can be expected. ‘These colors don’t run‘ says a t-shirt I once saw, not long after 9/11 and just the kind of john Waynish symbolism that our country didn't need, led me to believe that our nation was going to strike someone, quickly and violently to retaliate against the horrendous crime committed against us on 9/11. Against Afghanistan, we were on the right divide of international law.
But then, we got ahead of ourselves and strayed; let me rephrase that, the neo-cons and their religionist acolytes got the better of us, and illegally used our military might to attack a sovereign nation. The Iraq attack came after the public and the world was deluged with a well tuned war propaganda spearheaded by our embedded media and using our public airwaves to advance the political and economic agenda of the elite. Even under this constant bombardment of lies and deceptions, millions across America, and elsewhere, took a stand against the incoming war. The masses that saw the war for what it was, are been vindicated as we speak. All the reasons brought forth in support of the war, have been discredited. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, and has no WMDs.
So, before the smoke had cleared from the Afghani battlefield, and the real 9/11 culprits brought to justice, we find ourselves, many deaths, pains, destructions and embarrassments later, sinking in the Iraqi desert with no help in sight from the International community. The secretary of state, Mr. Collin Powell warned our president, before the hostilities began, that "If you break it, you own it". A strait forward assessment, from a seasoned military man, not to proceed with the invasion plans in that region of the world unless the international community is with us. The voices of sanity however did not prevail over the more boastful and arrogant political elite ones.
The repercussions and ripples emanating from such disruptive policies and action are been felt around the globe and tallied in loss of innocent human life as well as the destruction of whole communities halfway across the planet.
It is not difficult to see why the post 9/11 world has become a very dangerous place. Talk and actual application of the preemption doctrine has put the world's nations and populations squarely into the path of an angry American military juggernaut led by an even more chest thumping group of extremists. The lucky ones [nations and individuals] are those who can weather such a storm and live to tell about it. What is even more frightening is that in giving ourselves the right to preempt, we have opened Pandora's Box. What is to stop any nation from attacking another under the presumption of imminent threat? Following that same logic, what is, then, the best deterrent available to nations? Simple, nuclear weapons and means to deliver them.
Guess what, that's happening, as we speak the nuclear family is growing; nations like Pakistan and India, secretive Israel, North Korea, and soon Iran are all in the running. There will be many more nuclear nations within a few years. Iraq and North Korea played a major role in convincing nations that when survival is at stake only nuclearization can effectively deter the enemy. We have yet to understand the implications and consequences of our hastiness.
Thanks to the neo-cons and their cronies, it seems to me the American people were duped into engaging the war path, instead of diplomacy. And so, when the dust finally settles, we may end up with neither peace nor security. All the goodwill that poured our way post 9/11 has dissipated due to our foolish behavior abroad. We have let a small band of misguided buffoons turn us into a paranoid, schizophrenic nation that sees menacing enemies lurking behind every bush.
Our current predicament reminds me of a family member whose bouts with schizophrenia destroyed his life. Bill, a dear family member, was constantly harassed by internal voices that tore at him without mercy. Not been able to control these torturous internal tugs, Bill tried to commit suicide, twice. On the second attempt, he nearly succeeded, but he was brought back long after his heart stopped pumping blood to his brain. Now, he lays comatose, in a necrotic state, neither dead nor alive. Needless to say, a fate worse than death.
For anyone who has seen a comatose human being, it is a heart wrenching experience, to say the least. It is like sitting on a fence between life and death. This is not what Bill wanted. Now our family is held in suspended grief and delayed closure. Watching someone dear to you waste in front of your very eyes is devastating, especially to Bill’s mom who still prays for divine intervention.
The parallels between Bill’s ills and America’s reactionary policies may not be self evident, For one, we can all agree that, clearly, not all internal voices have good actionable intent, as some would have it in the intelligence community. Who among us hasn’t had to squelch unsanitary and sometimes violent thoughts? When not properly medicated, Bill's voices grow in decibels and become more threatening, demeaning and injuring his psyche. I asked him once, during a dart game, which he excelled at, why he was humming a tune over and over; he replied he was trying to drown voices that were threatening to hurt him physically. To Bill, those voices sounded corporeal as if someone would suddenly materialize behind those verbal threats and actually harm him.
After 9/11, the voices that have emerged and gained prominence in our government seem to be using our national tragedy as a cover for unlawful actions. The incessant mantra of ‘you are either with us or against us' has pushed even our closest historical allies away from us. I believe there are two schools of thought on the subject of good and evil; one where good and evil are two separate entities, and the other where good and evil share the same continuum and intersect within those confines, even transmogrify into the other. Back to our congress when, in a fit over France's war opposition, renamed the mess hall 'French fries', 'freedom fries'. Is that what we elect those clowns to do? But a most egregious act came when congress, without any public debate over the issue, did abdicate its constitutional right to declare war and signed it over to the president just like the Supreme Court handed Mr. Bush the presidential crown.
So, here, we have an executive bursting to the seams with unchecked power and in complete control of government, and on the move across the planet for war on terror. A truly masterful coup d'etat on the trophy shelf of Mr. Rove, the president's grand strategist. We launched a pre-emptive strikes against Afghanistan and Iraq, two sovereign nations whose populations are now suffering the dire consequences of American retaliatory might.
A case can be made for Afghanistan’s invasion on the grounds it refused to hand over Bin Laden and his cohorts. Iraq’s invasion, on the other hand, was based on false pretenses and outright lies, and has damaged our standing in the world. Now, every nation is preparing for the worst coming out of our shores. The kind of schizophrenia that afflicts America, I should say our government, is the type that compels us to act against people we believe might attack us in the future. Even when all indications are to the contrary, our ruling elite still thinks it otherwise, and sends our soldiers into harm‘s way. So unlike Bill, an introverted schizophrenic, America is fast becoming an extroverted schizophrenic.
Voices of moderation and introspectiveness are kept out of the national discourse because, according to the ruling political elite, they are considered either unpatriotic or enemy appeaseniks, when in fact they are neither. Just like Bill who had his daily unpleasant bouts with his illness, our political leaders, using the government’s civil and military might, are giving the American people plenty to be unhappy about here and abroad. With a media that is whispering fears into the American ears, and the neo-cons who are undermining our national security, Americans find themselves between the hammer and the anvil at the mercy of a band of misguided ideologue that are leading us into increased instability, and decreased security.
To stay in control of his ailment, Bill used a batch of antipsychotic drugs and carved wooden sculptures to busy his chattering mind. Overtime, the drugs would loose their effectiveness, and he would be put on a different regiment to stabilize his condition. So, like any chronic affliction, regular and continuous maintenance was required for stability and sanity.
The voices spewing talk of imperial hegemony and violent pre-emption against the outside world are also targeting law abiding, tax paying American citizens. The Muslim and Arab segments of our society have suffered disproportionately, and like the WWII Japanese in the US who were put in concentration camps, have become the new beasts of burden. The Patriot Act, in one fell swoop, rendered moot some of our hard earned civil rights. Besides collective punishment, inflicted upon the Iraqis, the Ashcroftian domestic act is the new 21st Century coercive tool of this runaway government. The homeland department uses a constant barrage of color coded fear indices to maintain a controlling grip on the populace.
Just like Bill’s internal voices, we too must keep our psyche and moral center in check. When some are loudly preaching bloodshed and violence, the rest of us have to brace ourselves for a future based on who can outlive the other -us or our enemies. Not a tenable solution. The American people may not react immediately to what takes place in their name and within their mist, but as a resilient bunch, we usually recoup, and set in motion newer and creative approaches to resolve challenges facing us and the world at large, or so I hope.
Terrorism cannot be fought using military strategy, as we are finding out. It is primarily, in my view, a law enforcement matter which requires cross border cooperation, not coercion. However, the real battle still remains to be the eradication of the causes and reasons leading to terrorism. Some of the biggest complaints coming out of the Middle East today, and other parts of the world as well are not directed at the American people, but at our biased foreign policies. The Israeli Palestinian conflict is the leading grievance, followed by the anger over the illegal war launched on the Iraqis, the support of dictatorial regimes in the region, our moves against Syria, Iran, the ratcheting up of rhetoric against North Korea, our inaction in Darfour, and other African conflicts, and many more grievances laid at our feet by the international community.
I do not think the paranoia within our government is healthy for the American psyche. Our past foreign interventions, not including WWII, have left us abhorring such adventurous and destructive forays. Viet Nam comes to mind when one wants to draw parallels to our current quagmire in Iraq, and our tarnished image in the world today.
Millions of people came out and marched the world over in opposition and protest against our planned invasion of Iraq. But, like an un-medicated mental patient in the grips of an existential crisis, our government went ahead with the foolish invasion of a sovereign nation, namely Iraq. We are now seeing the folly of unchecked dogma when it is in the driver seat, and is allowed to wreak havoc indiscriminately.
The Iraqis who, according to undersecretary of defense Paul Wolfowitz, were to welcome us with flowers, never showed up; instead, our military finds itself surrounded by hostile forces and taking increasing casualties. Iraq is going to hell in a hand basket, and I don’t see how the interim government can arrange elections, in such a deteriorating security environment. Even though the American people are becoming more vocal about their opposition to this current war, our government still persists in its wrong headedness.
The fast approaching elections do not bring any kind of relief in sight to those of us who believe we ought to disengage our military and resort to cooperative internationalism, not coercive militarism. Kerry is as gong-ho about the war in Iraq as our current president. The only difference between the two candidates lies in the approach. Were Kerry to be elected in November, he is expected to be more moderate.
What Kerry underestimates, is the cost to the average American tax payer who has had to shoulder the bill for the war. The toll will most certainly rise both in human casualties and financial losses, and on top of that, our image will still remain sullied. If elected, Kerry hopes to internationalize the American adventure, and bring in fresh non-American forces, to incrementally supplant our forces thus minimizing our losses and alleviating our financial burden.
What Kerry forgets is that his scenario to bring in international help assumes the called upon nations will respond favorably to our wishes and not to those of their respective constituents. Spain may well have been a good indicator of things to come in that vein. By embracing the cause of war, one cannot expect international cooperation. In my opinion, Kerry has really missed the ‘swift’ boat on this issue and, no matter what he will propose in the future based on this expressed ideological penchant, he has undermined his only chance at residing in the white House. As an aside, I still think Kerry has a shot at the White House if he comes against the war on Iraq, promises to bring the troops home as soon as logistically possible, and truly hand over the reins of power to the Iraqis. The UN would certainly agree, under the new parameters, to pick up the pieces and help the Iraqis rebuild their society.
There may be other political leaders willing to take on the war party, but they haven’t yet built a strong movement from which action can be spearheaded to take advantage of the growing anti-war and internationalist feelings permeating the American political landscape. One leader in particular comes to mind, Ralph Nader, whose views superimpose those of us against unilaterism, pre-emption, and never ending wars. But, unfortunately, Americans are made to vote their fear, not conscience. The American political landscape doesn't look kindly on new political parties attempting to grab a piece of the electorate. So, for the foreseeable future, and the way we do politicking, I don’t see a way out of the sandbox.