Wednesday, June 09, 2004

"We learn from history that we learn nothing from history"

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Left-wing, liberal, democrat... all words vehemently spat at people who refuse to dutifully exalt Bush's reckless, reactionary, and counterproductive policies. By the time these fanatical Bush apologists have finished reeling off adjectives and have us categorically and politically boxed off, they run out of steam and completely forget what their actual point was... if they ever had one to begin with! I can only assume they are ignorant of the definitions of these words because they are far from insults.

Let's visit our old chum Mr Dictionary and look at some common interpretations of the word 'liberal' shall we...

- "a person who favours a political philosophy of progress and reform and the protection of civil liberties"

- "showing or characterized by broad-mindedness"

- "having political or social views favouring reform and progress"

- "tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition"

Ouch! You meanies really know how to stick the boot in!

A 'democrat' is, of course, someone who is "an advocate of democratic principles". Here's a selection of acknowledged definitions of the word 'democratic'...

- "characterized by or advocating or based upon the principles of democracy or social equality"

- "representing, appealing to or adapted for the benefit of the people at large"

Gosh, these left-wing nuts sound like utterly loathsome, wicked people. They must be eliminated immediately before their irrational ideals bring humanity as we know it crashing to its knees.

Look up the word 'left-wing' and you'll be referred to 'socialism'. Now socialists believe in equality, empowering the people, promoting universal education and healthcare, civil liberties, freedom and democracy; clearly all despicable aspirations which must be kept in check if the human race as we know it is to survive.

With reference to the threat imposed by the ruling elite's abuse of corporate and state power, Albert Einstein had this to say: "I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals."

Appeal to authority is a cheap tactic I know, though I think the point is clear without Bert's help; haranguing people for showing compassion towards their fellow human beings and striving for equality makes no sense whatsoever.

Equally illogical is accusing anti-war protesters of not supporting the troops. If anything, no-one is demonstrating more support for the troops than those people who want to end the illegal occupation of Iraq and bring them home safely to their families and friends. Has it not occurred to you that some of these 'whining liberals' spend their days ominously awaiting the news that their brothers, sisters, neighbours, colleagues, husbands, wives or friends have been needlessly slaughtered in combat, or even as a consequence of 'friendly fire'? The equation is very straightforward; the longer the troops remain in this Iraqi quagmire, the more chance they have of being sent home... in a flag-draped coffin (if the cameras happen to be rolling)! What use is a cute, miniature, red and white flag to someone who's dead? Let's not forget that it was civil unrest that brought an end to America's involvement in Vietnam preventing many, many more casualties. Don't think for a minute that Bush wouldn't turn tail and run if he thought the decision would be a make-or-break vote winner. With an election on the horizon, he will do whatever it takes to sustain his position.

When it comes to misnomers, nothing beats the vacuous accusation, 'anti-American'. Translated this means, "self-reflection is painful so I'll avoid it like the plague". Whenever one of these abominable lefties manages to hatch a plausible criticism of the behaviour of a US politician, the retort 'anti-American' can be brought into play to deflect it, much like Captain America uses his shield to repel lightning bolts. Because lefties are a bit dim, they can only think in terms of black and white. For instance, when they fail to praise the incompetence and corruption of government officials, what they are really saying is that they despise every American on the planet, their way of life and the colour of their socks. They harbour an acute hostility towards all Americans because deep down they are envious of their military might, wealth, movies, freedom and overall superiority. It's also decidedly fashionable and entertaining to bash the Americans for no coherent reason, and this further helps to explain why they are so harshly victimized.

Meanwhile back on Planet Reality, clear-thinking people, American or otherwise, recognize that being anti-US-government or anti-war doesn't equate to being anti-the-whole-nation-of-America. If you honestly believe that the US government, and the Bush administration in particular, have done nothing to warrant such criticism, you can't have been paying attention closely enough. It is without a doubt the United States' imperialistic foreign policy that is the number one rationale for animosity expressed towards the country, both from within and beyond its borders. Don't be blinded to the fact that there are many thousands of American dissenters who still consider themselves to be patriots because they have the strength of character to probe the suspect motivations of their leaders. The government exists to serve the people, not the other way round and it is certainly not unpatriotic to scrutinize their immoral actions; it is your civic duty!

It is especially sickening to witness the "my enemy's enemy is my friend" approach to 'diplomatic' relations. American presidents, over the years have been the most generous sponsors of terrorism, bestowing upon themselves the right to decide who the bad guys are and who the good guys are, and are not opposed to switching sides whenever it is in their interests to do so. When our old friend Saddam was fighting against Iran he had the full backing of the US government, and the same can said of the Taliban when the Russians were the enemy. Some of the most atrocious violations of human rights of our time have been brought about through US endorsement of the tyrannical regimes of, for example, Egypt, Syria and Saudi Arabia.

As the British failed to resolve Jewish-Arab squabbles over who had the right to live where, in 1947 the UN stepped in and decided how the region, which was then known as Palestine, should be carved up. Egypt, Transjordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq opposed this interference and consequently declared war on Israel. Rather than remaining impartial, the US allied themselves with Israel, endorsing their campaign to defend ownership of 'their' land and alienating the rest of the Middle East in the process. To this day Israel still receives vast military and financial support from America to aid their ridiculous battle over a scrap of so-called holy land. Palestine terrorizes Israel and vice versa; unless you take into account the initial US backed coup it's difficult to define who the victims are (who gets to decide who owns what anyway?), but Israel has developed an air of legitimacy through its impenetrable connections with the US. As a consequence of the strong Jewish influence Israel has over America, Bush is adamant in his refusal to condemn Ariel Sharon's actions no matter how heinous they may be. If the whims of a dictator happen to coincide with the interests of America, adherents of the regime are hailed as freedom fighters, while those in opposition to the regime are vilified as terrorists.

You can debate the piety of America's involvement in various wars until you're blue in the face, but it's difficult to deny that they have shown little compassion when it comes to minimizing the loss of civilian life throughout these conflicts. Dropping atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki to end the Second World War didn't do the US any favours in the popularity stakes. Neither did the use of other horrendous weapons of mass destruction in the years which followed right up to the present day. The ends always justify the means, governments don't apologize and coincidental loss of human life is casually dismissed as collateral damage.

Serving to pour salt on the wound is the chasm between the reasons presented to the public for waging war or deposing fairly elected leaders and the apparent pursuit of US economic and military interests. We have come to learn that Bush certainly can't be trusted and neither can his troop of fawning cronies. His administration is made up of friends, relatives and other corporate bedfellows who will stop at nothing to further their own economic interests at the expense of the electorate. Bush's connections stretch so far and wide that no-one will say boo to him, and this is precisely why he's been allowed to get away with murder for so long. Sadly this imbecile is responsible for much of the United States' bad press and is dragging the reputation of the whole country and its people down with him. The corporate elite run America - it's a modern tale of Robin Hood in reverse yet it's afforded a credible veneer of democracy.

Notwithstanding the US government's desire to be seen to promote the need for global cooperation, they dismiss the Kyoto Protocol, rubbish the International Criminal Court, withdraw from the ABM treaty and impose outlandish tariffs to boost the US economy while suppressing that of the rest of the world. If anyone so much as dares to call into question these decisions, the administration throws a tantrum and the repercussions can be immense. The threat, "it's our way or the highway" has never been more forcefully upheld.

These are merely a smattering of the reasons people cite for criticizing the US government; a tirelessly comprehensive summary can be found here if you are really serious about answering the question, "why does everyone hate us?". If many of these points are new to you, you should really consider reading a different selection of newspapers. Watching Fox News doesn't constitute keeping up with current affairs - it's widely known that Fox is the most fanatically pro-Bush, pro-conservative network in existence. It's essentially a never-ending republican party political broadcast. Illustrating this point very succinctly is the October 2003 study conducted by the University of Maryland's Program on International Policy Attitudes entitled "Misperceptions, the Media and the Iraq War". The survey found that the more commercial TV news you watch, the more likely you are to absorb false information relating to the Iraq war, and the more likely you are to be in support of it.

The way it works is that Bush fudges the statistics, bends the truth or spreads outright lies in his official press releases or verbal addresses, and his cronies in the media report his version of reality as gospel. Droves of staunch Bush supporters tune into these conservative networks because they like to be reminded of things they already believe, they filter out any evidence to the contrary and proceed to parrot the Good Word to anyone who will listen. One propaganda technique which was exploited to full effect is that of enthymematic argumentation. Bush couldn't plausibly allege that Saddam Hussein was responsible for the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 because he had no proof. Instead, to implant the association in people's minds, he made absolutely sure that every time he mentioned Al Qaeda, he also made reference to Saddam Hussein and the threat his regime posed to the west. Position the names 'Hussein' and 'Bin Laden' in close proximity to one another often enough while condemning terrorism and rogue states and warning people of the threat of future apocalyptic strikes on the homeland, and you can pass off the two arch enemies as bosom buddies. These insinuations were backed up by the presentation of faulty intelligence reports, which combined, led enormous numbers of the electorate to believe that world public opinion was skewed towards attacking Iraq, evidence of close pre-war links between Al Qaeda and Iraq had been discovered, and that the coalition had found WMD in Iraq. These assumptions are wrong, wrong and wrong.

While the Bush administration tried to brainwash the American public, Bush's MiniMe, Tony Blair, was busy pulling the wool over the eyes of the British public. At one stage it was claimed that Hussein had the capability to launch weapons of mass destruction at UK military bases in neighbouring countries within 45 minutes, and this served to convince a sufficient number of people that we had to act immediately before it was too late. When it turned out that he could do no such thing, Blair shifted the goal posts, instead asserting that he had really been talking about battlefield weapons all along. This assertion was one line in an intelligence dossier, which was purported to provide unshakable justification for going to war. What threw a spanner in the works was the discovery that the 'dodgy dossier' was actually a decade-old, plagiarized student's thesis. When the BBC alleged that the dossier had been 'sexed up', or embellished, to make it appear more persuasive, a source for the leak of information was established and the government threw him to the wolves. Dr David Kelly was later found dead, the official cause being suicide. An 'independent' inquiry into his demise was conducted by Lord Hutton who concluded that Blair and his cronies would not be held accountable, and that no 'sexing up' occurred. The BBC apologised for telling the truth, BBC Chairman, Gavyn Davies, BBC Director-General, Greg Dyke, and the journalist responsible for broadcasting the allegations, Andrew Gilligan, resigned, and it was back to business as usual for Tony Blair and Co. Considering the entire intelligence dossier was fake, it's staggering that Hutton was so preoccupied with quibbling over the possibility of exaggeration.

This was far from the only British 'own goal'; another intelligence report cobbled together by our finest spooks asserted that Iraq had purchased tonnes of uranium from Niger in West Africa for the purposes of manufacturing WMD. Bush was so delighted by the discovery that he cited the misdemeanour in his State of the Union address, only later to be informed by the CIA and Colin Powell that the documents were forged. The pertinent question is, are all these embarrassing incidents evidence of incompetence or a concerted effort to spread disinformation? Blair being a professional liar, and Bush being no less of a stranger to the truth, it's difficult to tell.

When the coalition could find no evidence to support their claims that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and that they posed an imminent threat, Bush and Blair started singing a different tune entirely. They needed a new justification, one which would appeal to the public's sense of decency and moral values and make any naysayers look like heartless enemies of the state. So it was decided that the real, real reason we were invading Iraq was to liberate the oppressed masses who were living in fear of Hussein's tyrannical regime. This had of course always been the case, it's just no-one thought to mention it until now. There's not a shred of doubt that Hussein was a mercilessly evil despot responsible for slaughtering his own people in the most horrific ways imaginable, nevertheless, that doesn't explain why Hussein was made an urgent target while so little fuss is made about the equally tyrannical leaders of, let's say, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and China. How is it that Bush is able to make distinctions between virtuous, friendly despots and depraved despots, and still have people take him seriously? Likewise, if we're so keen to altruistically alleviate the suffering of innocent civilians, why not do something about the humanitarian crises in Chile, Rwanda, Congo, Nepal or Peru? To penetrate the caring, sharing facade of target selection you have to delve into the matter of who stands to gain from ousting Hussein and transforming Iraq into a pro-American ally.

The most outlandish conspiracy theory of all is that Bush spent nearly 117 billion dollars and sacrificed the lives of 940 coalition soldiers during Iraq War the Sequel because he's a thoroughly decent chap who can't bear to stand by and watch innocent people suffer. The problem I have with this latest Disneyesque fairy tale is that in liberating the people of Iraq, Bush and his rabble of pliant confederates murdered in the region of 11,000 Iraqi civilians. Note that no official attempt has been made by the coalition to keep a record of Iraqi civilian deaths, yet each and every soldier or allied 'contractor' killed is ceremonially saluted through the dedication of endless newspaper column inches. The only thing these innocent bystanders have been liberated of is their right to life. Are we then to believe that there is also a fair distinction to be made between those civilians who deserve to be rescued and those that don't?

Judging by Bush's happy-go-lucky approach to exploiting the anger and grief of the American public following the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001, was anyone surprised when he gleefully seized upon the opportunity to hijack the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landing to bolster his own ego? Apparently our illegal occupation and decimation of Iraq is much like World War II. Of course it is Dubya, providing you neglect to mention that World War II was a just and absolutely necessary defence of our freedom against a fascist dictator and his depraved horde of Nazis, whereas Iraq War II was an inhumane and unprovoked attack on an irrelevant target underscoring the imperialistic whims of the Bush administration. It's a vile insult to the veterans who lost friends and family in World War II to even hint at a connection between the two conflicts. At the very least, the families of the fallen heroes of World War II can be certain that their loved ones sacrificed their lives for a genuine purpose.

Predictably befitting of Bush's version of revisionist history, the president's second assault on the truth came this week as he paid homage to another conniving, morally bankrupt leader, Ronald Reagan. Thanks to the current administration and the American media's talent for mythology, an entire nation is now mourning the man who secretly sold arms to Iran to fund Contra terrorist's attempts to overthrow the democratically elected government of Nicaragua resulting in the deaths of thousands of innocent people. This is the same man who trained and supported Islamic radicals in Afghanistan who later formed the Al Qaeda terrorist group, nurtured Saddam Hussein and ordered the bombing of Libya to avenge a terrorist attack on a Berlin nightclub, even though there was no proof that Libya was involved. This is just a small sample of the 'achievements' of this "truly great American hero". Dead or not, Reagan's political record speaks for itself.

Before we get too carried away with demonizing US governments for their appalling foreign policy decisions, I should point out that British foreign policy isn't as far removed from that of the US as we would like to believe. Perhaps our leaders have merely been better at dissembling our human rights abuses over the years. The issue I'm trying to raise is that outright refusal to reflect on the nature of the beast only exacerbates the problem. What we have to do to move forward is kick these charlatans out of office, even if the alternative candidates aren't ideal replacements. A small step in the right direction is preferable to many taken backwards.

You know, I've now committed the cardinal sin of criticizing my own infallible commander-in-chief and those who went before him. Though I don't suppose I'll be accused of committing treason, being anti-British, un-British, a terrorist hugger or unpatriotic; why the difference I wonder. Maybe it's because such criticism is entirely warranted and most British citizens recognize this, just as enlightened Americans recognize that Georgykins also has a lot to answer for. I can even criticize the behaviour of the British public without being accused of perpetrating hate crime, and let's face it, there's a lot of scope for criticism. Many of the things which are wrong with America also apply to Britain. We have a nascent obesity problem resulting from sheer gluttony and a penchant for refusing to take responsibility for our own lives. Similarly, a mounting debt crisis (much of which is brought about by greed and irresponsibility) and compensation culture are seriously starting to gain a foothold. Worse still, we reward lazy people who refuse to work with endless social benefits while the NHS and education system suffers from under funding. Crime, gun violence and hooliganism are on the increase, we have no real culture of our own and our politicians regularly lie and cheat and reap the benefits. We even have a political party who are single-mindedly dedicated to disseminating bigotry and racism. Then there are the embarrassments we can claim sole ownership of. The monarchy for instance - they contribute nothing to the country, make us look foolish in the eyes of foreigners and are a fiscal liability. It's despicable that they are content to loaf around in their largely empty, decadent palaces while there are still homeless people living on the streets.

British people recognize that Britain is far from perfect (maybe that's why I always drop the 'Great'); we just wish certain fanatical Americans would face reality too. Call us insane, but some people tend to object to constantly being told that "America is the best country on earth" and that they live in a an uncultivated backwater. What far too many people fail to realize is that America isn't the only "land of the free", and in some cases the pilot project has even been surpassed. According to the United Nation's Human Development Report, if it's quality of life you're looking for, Norway is the number one place to be. The United States actually crosses the line in seventh place in the latest survey. If I cared at all about petty nationalism I'd be very reticent about posting this link seeing as my own country, the UK, limped over the finish line at a dismal thirteenth place. While Freedom House, in their latest Freedom in the World assessment, awards the United States with top marks, both for the provision of political rights and civil liberties, thirty-nine other countries are deemed to be on an equal footing.

Furthermore, it is a much vaunted myth that the US is the most charitable country where foreign aid is concerned. Of course it gives away the most money in absolute terms. No wonder, it's the most wealthy country in the world with a population of 280 million! However, if you look at the value of US donations as a percentage of its Gross Domestic Product, an entirely different picture emerges. Only 0.1% of the US' GDP is committed to foreign aid.

The 2004 Commitment to Development Index takes a broader look at the quality of foreign aid donated by 21 of the richest countries, and again the results are far from flattering for the US. This is because the report factors in the tendency of countries to only agree to donate funds if the recipients agree to give a proportion of it right back to them through the coerced purchase of donor-manufactured products or to repay third world debt. Also taken into account is the rationale of governments' selection of beneficiaries. In other words, countries lose brownie points for funding corrupt, undemocratic regimes. For a detailed analysis of this year's results refer to this www.foreignpolicy.com article.

The notion that 'anti-Americanism' stems from our jealousy of America is absurd. If anything, it's getting more like America which worries us. Not that this detracts from all the scientific, medical and technological advancements we have America to thank for, or their help in rebuilding Europe after World War II or their vast literary, musical and artistic contributions, and so on. Believe it or not, you can be sceptical of the president's motivations for invading Iraq and still admire (and benefit from) America's immense accomplishments, maintain friendships with Americans and appreciate the beauty of the American landscape if you choose to spend your holidays there. To prove it I'm going to conduct a watertight scientific demonstration here and now before your very eyes to settle the matter once and for all. Please join me so you can experience this for yourselves. OK, repeat after me, "If an amoeba and the US president took part in a battle of wits, George Dubya would lose". Now try this one, "Mr Bush is a dangerous lunatic and has no respect for human life". What we do now is a quick reality check to see if a range of random achievements which Americans are perfectly entitled to feel proud of remain true. For instance, can Neil Armstrong still claim to have been the first man to set foot on the moon? Is it still true that Martin Luther King, one of the world's greatest leaders of all time, brought an end to racial segregation in America by means of peaceful protest? If you've got plenty of time on your hands you can think of some of your own test questions and keep this up indefinitely. Nevertheless, what this rigorously objective experiment indicates is that it is possible to separate various aspects of the United States of America, allowing you to criticise some of them while lavishing others with wholly merited praise. Thanks for playing, please take a lollypop on your way out.

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