Friday, October 17, 2008

“Never Having To Apologize”: An Imperial Mentality

It must be nice going though life never feeling you have to apologize. I know people like this. They are always right. They are extremely narcissistic. They never do harm to others, are never insensitive, and therefore never have to apologize for their actions. They never have to say: “Sorry, I was wrong to do that.” OR, “I am sorry, I was thinking only of myself and was insensitive to your needs.” They are often impervious to whatever injustices they may commit in life and generally go through life oblivious to the impact of their actions on others.

“Joe the Plumber,” the latest media star brought to prominence by John MC Cain, didn’t want to talk about the” small issues.” He said we should “never apologize for America.” Sounding like someone wired directly to FOX News, Joe said we “liberated” Iraq and brought them “freedom.” Nothing to apologize for.
This is an example of the imperial mentality par excellence, and it is found pretty much everywhere in America, certainly not just in the working class. You can find it in both political parties and in all classes.

Approximately 5 million Iraqi refugees wander the world homeless, but America has nothing to apologize for. Over a million Iraqi’s killed –nothing to apologize for. A humanitarian disaster ?–Nothing to apologize for.

Most Arabs believe America just wants Iraqi oil. So? Nothing to apologize for there. Every day new news reports come out of Afghanistan about so many civilians being killed by American bombing raids. Nothing to apologize for. Abu Graib, Guantanamo, “water-boarding” –nothing to apologize for. Hiroshima? –nothing to apologize for.

We are a people and a nation that never does wrong, that never commits injustices, so we have nothing to apologize for. Like a narcissist we only see our own self-interests, and they are the only interests that really count. Although the rest of the world thinks the US is the greatest threat to peace, that we have become arrogant, we have nothing to apologize for.

The jingoism found in Joe the Plumbers” comments is a form of narcissism writ large. It is linked to the militarization of American society and provides a never ending rationalization for American violence. If you want to see an example of it in its most corrosive and ugly form turn on FOX NEWS anytime of the day.

Of course, the US is not alone in suffering from this short sighted imperial mentality that says: ‘ I can do no wrong’. In his latest book of essays, THE AGE of THE WARRIOR(2008), Robert Fisk talks about the big mistake made by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and a former High Commissioner for Human Rights. Fisk writes:
"She made a big mistake. She dared to criticize Israel. She suggested –horror of horrors –that ‘the root cause of the Arab –Israeli conflict is the occupation’. Now whoah there a moment. Mary! ‘Occupation’? Isn’t that a little bit anti-Israeli. Are you really suggesting that the military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel, its use of extrajudicial executions against Palestinian gunmen, the Israeli gunning down of schoolboy stone throwers, the wholesale theft of Arab land to build homes for Jews , is in some way wrong?" (p.129)

Fisk notes how sympathy for the victims of Israel, people who think that the Palestinians are getting a raw deal, is often translated into accusations of “anti-semitism.” Since Israel can do no wrong (ask VP candidate Joe Biden) and since there is no need to criticize and no need to ever apologize, it must be prejudice that motivates the criticism.

Lets face it, the same thing happens to critics of American policy in the Middle East who may have sympathy for the Iraqi people who have suffered immensely as a result of the illegal and aggressive American war–and who openly say that the war is a crime against humanity - they are called “anti-American.”

But then again there are those of us who believe that torture, aggressive war, and the bombing of civilians should be “anti-American.” Somehow we weren’t properly socialized to believe that “America Never Needs to Apologize”, that American violence is always benevolent, and that it is without fault on the world stage.

Like our media and intellectual elites, we are expected to sit silently in approval as they bomb countless children, women and men into their graves. Nothing to apologize for??? History will judge us differently.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

The song “Georgia On My Mind has been one of my favorites for many years. I have several versions of the song on CD. But lately it has been another Georgia on the far eastern shores of the Black Sea that I have been worried about. She does not bring me peace of mind.

The worry emerged from hearing and reading the official American media and newspapers go into one-sided rants about the “unprovoked” Russian military attack on Georgia last August. Unprovoked? It was almost as if we were right back in the middle of the Cold War again, and our old nemesis the growling Russian bear was back and the Americans and Georgians were the innocents strolling in the woods.

The Bush administration made hilarious hypocritical speeches about respecting other states territorial integrity in the 21st century. A slew of hostile and alarmist American rhetoric from both political parties was followed by the arrival of American warships carrying aid to Georgia. A US Navy warship anchored in the southern Georgian port of Batumi. Then the heavily armed guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived . The arrival of the warships came after a partial withdrawal of Russian military forces from Georgia. This after a Russian military invasion of Georgia – but only after Georgia itself had launched a bloody military incursion into Ossetia last month. The Georgian assault caused tens of thousands of South Ossetians to flee into Russia. Some observers claim that Russian-US relations are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Like every American of my generation “I learned to hate the Russians throughout my whole life,” as Bob Dylan sang it in his song WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE. The evil and godless “communist” empire was seen as the source of all evil in the world and conversely America was the source of all good and light. In the face of such an evil enemy, every American intervention on every continent was blessed with the impeccable label of defense. All North/South conflicts were dressed up as East/West conflicts. American defense spending grew rapidly.

From the end of World War Two until the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US pursued a policy of “containment,” often using the very existence of the Soviet Union to wage counterinsurgency wars in the third world against popular liberation movements. In the process, it turned Latin America into what author Greg Grandin called in his book an EMPIRE’S WORKSHOP - a dark and violent history of the use of imperial power and the reality of US sponsored coups, support for Contra terrorists, death squads, and massacres. A sordid history indeed! Documents now show that the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which followed the botched CIA sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, nearly caused a nuclear war. We are lucky to be alive today because the Soviet Union ultimately backed down from the military confrontation.

In addition to numerous US foreign interventions (both covert and overt) and regime changes, the Cold War containment policy involved several components directed at the Soviet Union –surrounding the Soviet Union with US military bases and American friendly states or client states, maintaining an official “first strike” nuclear policy (and a concomitant “defensive” anti ballistic missile program known as Star Wars), and last but not least, the development and expansion of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in Europe.

As author Steve Breyman pointed out in an essay published in COUNTERPUNCH (September 12, 2008), the “benefits of NATO membership include hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of tanks and aircraft, hundreds of warships,” and “thousands of American, British, and perhaps French missiles and bombs” ready for members collective defense. Breyman gets to the heart of why Georgia is on my mind with the following assertion: “The threat to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict is the cornerstone of NATO defense doctrine.”

The end of the COLD WAR did not bring an end to NATO’S horrid first use policy. If Georgia is integrated into NATO, it automatically becomes part and parcel of the American first strike strategy.

One would think that NATO would have been disbanded after the breakup of the Soviet Union, as occurred with the Warsaw Pact. Instead, with US encouragement and direction, NATO expanded into the Baltic Region and the former Soviet Republics who were encouraged to join and become part of the US military alliance. The NATO military attack on the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990’s against strong Russian and UN objections must have stimulated Russian nationalism among ruling circles. They likely perceived it as an expansion of an aggressive American military power into their former sphere of influence. Additionally, it is not inconsequential that NATO is now heavily involved in America’s growing commitment to the intensifying war in Afghanistan.

The recent US efforts to place 96 Patriot Missiles in Poland (now a signed deal), and attempts to place the accompanying radar equipment in the Czech Republic, have increased Russian fears of being surrounded and being vulnerable to a first strike nuclear attack. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are members of NATO. Georgia’s integration into NATO is at the heart of the crisis.

It is also important to note that the crisis has occurred in the wider historical context of an official US policy of world domination and global military superiority, unilateralism, a loosely defined “global war on terror,” and a declared policy of the right to wage pre-emptive war and engage in the “first use” of nuclear weapons anywhere and everywhere.

It is the same historical context in which the US has essentially abandoned the Geneva Protocols, abolished the ABM treaty, tried to block the establishment of the International Criminal Court and refused to ratify its Statute after it failed. Currently, the US is involved in two bloody protracted and expensive “wars without exits” in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has been threatening military action against Iran in spite of Iran’s cooperation in stabilizing Iraq. Apart from Russia’s historical ties with Ossetia, and the issue of the oil pipeline through Georgia, the overstretched nature of US military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been a factor in the Russian decision to militarily intervene in the Georgia/Ossetia crisis. America’s convulsive domestic economic crisis and financial meltdown on the home front, partly caused by the long expensive wars, is another factor.

The recent Georgia crisis during the China Olympics showed just how shallow those old “hate the Russians” prejudices that Dylan sang eloquently about have been buried, and how easily they can bubble to the surface with the slightest stimulation.

It is also relevant that the crisis occurred in the context of the 2008 US presidential election and brought many moldy Cold Warriors to the surface yelping for McCain’s election bid. They were all screaming for blood and punishment. The established media provided the accompanying dramatic music and the dramatis personae. Nevertheless, it is important to look at the historical contextual realities and the power politics behind the crisis before passing judgment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Dolphin Manifesto

Note: This manifesto was found while walking on the cliffs of Ocean Beach in San Diego.

We cetacean ocean dwellers are increasingly concerned about the never ending stream of toxic, bacterial, and nutrient contaminants that are spilling daily into every nook and cranny of our watery ecosystem. Although we like humans, and have sometimes gone out of our way to help them when they were in distress, we do not understand why they persist in polluting our home. Perhaps we like them because we are like them in many ways – we live in groups, we are intelligent and playful, we make a lot of noise, and we are sensual warm blooded mammals with very little hair.

Yet, our kindness has not been repaid with kindness. For years hundreds of thousands of us died painfully in purse seine nets that were set by tuna fishing vessels. Additionally, hundreds were violently kidnapped and placed in marine parks where as prisoners they were forced to entertain and amuse human onlookers. Imagine – an intelligent animal imprisoned and forced to perform tricks!

Others have been forcefully taken from their ocean playground and turned into trained instruments of war by the US Navy. Reports of Navy trainers abusing dolphins have disturbed us greatly. We are peace loving and playful animals and object to being turned into programmed killers. Please stop using dolphins as militarized pawns in your infantile war games.

We object to the fact that our oceans and seas have been transformed into perilous nuclear battlefields by the world’s nuclear navies. From our vantage point, the large number of nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors still floating on the open seas are a threat to our existence. Some weapons and reactors have already accidentally dropped to the bottom of the ocean. We hoped that all of this would stop when the Cold War ended, but the mindless militaristic nonsense still goes on to this day.

While we are like humans in some respects, we do not understand their proclivity for fighting highly organized and destructive wars. Although humans allegedly have a high degree of intelligence, and undoubtedly rule the animal kingdom with “full spectrum dominance,” they do not seem to be intelligent enough to solve this fundamental problem. Dolphins do not engage in organized warfare and we do not make or sell weapons. Maybe humans can learn something from us in this regard.

Please listen to us and heed our call to get rid of all of your nuclear weapons. Make the ocean a Nuclear Free Zone and prohibit the development, testing, transportation, and usage of nuclear weapons within the ocean ecosystem. There should be a “zero tolerance” policy toward the dumping of radioactive nuclear waste into the oceans.

Enough. No more we say. Some of the river dolphins are endangered because humans have destroyed their habitat. If humans don't take care of the earth, it is likely that more dolphins will become endangered in the future.

So please stop dumping your toxic and bacterial waste into the natural water system – the streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans. End the dumping of hazardous industrial wastes (PCBs), heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, zinc) as well as fertilizers, pesticides, medical wastes, and untreated sewage into out watery biosphere. Toxins can get into our food chain and bio-concentrate in our bodies.

Finally, please ban all offshore oil exploration and drilling. Avoid the conformist politically driven stampede to drill. It will only exacerbate your problems. The continental shelf is teeming with marine life which is threatened by the toxic chemicals and hydrocarbon compounds released by drilling operations. Humans must learn to reduce their addiction to fossil fuel consumption and develop rational alternatives to supply their transportation and energy needs. Otherwise they certainly will face the terrible consequences of rapid climate change and global warming. And certainly, on stormier seas, they face more mammoth oil spills like the “Exxon Valdez” that created an adverse impact on the marine environment for years. More “war for oil” is not out of the realm of possibility either.

We dolphins view the ocean as our home and source of livelihood. We reject all forms of human activity that endanger the natural balance of our ecosystem. Since we do not engage in organized warfare, we have no other recourse but to appeal to human reason and hope that our concerns are listened to before it is too late.

The degradation of our ocean habitat must stop now! It is in everyone’s universal interest, dolphins and humans, to keep our oceans clean and life enhancing.