The Blanket

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Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you'll be criticized anyway.
You'll be damned if you do and damned if you don't.
- Eleanor Roosevelt



What Price American Values?


Tommy Gorman


The letter from David Blankenhorn et al hardly amounts to a robust defence of American imperialism. I detect nothing new. Quotes and hopes from some 'founding fathers' compound a list of aspirations. The use of the words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. as an indicator of the well being of American society is, to say the least bizarre. This man fought against accepted American values, values that allowed his people to be enslaved, marginalised, brutalised and murdered. He himself was eventually murdered by a fundamentally sick society that viewed his and his people's struggle as a threat to American Values.

Those who composed the letter appear unable or unwilling to accept that the dreadful carnage that befell New York on September 11 did not occur in a vacuum but was part of a much wider context and series of events happening at the other side of the globe. This I feel is where this letter of absolution of US foreign policies falls down.

Having acknowledged that his "nation has, at times, acted with arrogance and ignorance towards other societies" David Blankenhorn doesn't take the next logical step by examining and explaining how this "arrogance and ignorance" has manifested itself amongst those nations at whom it was directed. Arrogance and ignorance are handy euphemisms to throw about when one is reluctant to face the reality. Did it entail the US cocking-a-snook or not giving due respect to the flag of another nation? Did US ambassadors not stand whilst the anthem of another nation was being played?

It would appear that David Blankenhorn believes that instances of US aggression or 'arrogance and ignorance' in the past were rare and mere temporary aberrations from a fundamentally humane and just administration operating under strict universal principles and values. Let us take a look at these rare lapses.

In dealing with its closest neighbours during the past 150 years the US has used military force against Mexico 14 times, against Cuba 13 times, against Panama 11 times, against Nicaragua 10 times, against the Dominican Republic 9 times, against Honduras 7 times, against Haiti 5 times, against Puerto Rico 3 times, against Guatemala twice. Without exception, all were small poor nations with not the slightest possibility of resisting this bully from the north.

Cuba stands alone amongst all the states in central and South America that has maintained a modicum of real independence from the United States.

During the 1950s - 60s and 70s the emphasis and battle-lines switched to South East Asia. In this departure from 'American Values' the United States administration unleashed a protracted and bloody war against the Vietnamese people that spilled into neighbouring Laos and Cambodia. Over 7 million died in these countries as the result of US military action. More than 50,000 young American men gave their lives in this terrible conflict. Almost all were young conscripts forced into an army, to travel thousands of miles from their home and fight a war against people with whom they had no quarrel save that constructed by their own war lords back at the Pentagon.

In David Blankenhorn's own words this was unjust and illegal because…
"The principles of a Just War teach us that wars of aggression or aggrandisement are never acceptable."

In more recent times the CIA was central to the overthrow of the democratically elected Government of Chile. During the coup Salvadore Allende the elected President was assassinated and a US sponsored dictator, Augusto Pinochet was installed as leader. Subsequently tens of thousands of Chilean people were murdered and as many 'disappeared' under Pinochet. He only escaped being brought to trial for war crimes through claiming to be too ill to face the court. If only the Nazis had thought of that out.

Pol Pot is recognised to have been one of the worst despots to blight the earth. During a short but bloody reign in Cambodia it is reckoned that he put to death over 5 million of his own people. When Vietnamese forces had stabilised Cambodia, by defeating Pol Pot and his army in the aftermath of their campaign of genocide, the US rearmed and financed this murderous gang to once more destabilise this already stricken land.

In the Gulf War the US took on its former ally Iraq, led by Sadaam Hussain. The intent, we were informed, was to 'liberate' Kuwait. In reality the whole conflict was about protecting American oil interests in that part of the world. As for liberation, there is and never was any freedom in Kuwait. Political parties are banned and all control and power remains in the hands of the Al Sabbah family'.

Desert Storm followed the Gulf war and again was directed against Iraq. Having defeated inferior Iraqi forces the US along with its British ally has maintained a blockade of the country and still carries out frequent bombing raids on an impoverished, traumatised people. According to United Nation figures upwards of 3,000 Iraqi children are dying each month as the direct result of the blockade and bombing. Basic medicines to treat curable illness are denied these innocent Arab children by the US and Britain causing the equivalent of a 'September 11th' every month over the past 10 years

In every decade in the past 150 years American might has been in action in somewhere in the world, near and far, killing and maiming poor people. Their most recent adventure in Afghanistan is once more against former allies in the Taliban. This group was armed, financed and trained by the US to help drive the Russians from Afghanistan. One of the most trusted and fearless leaders of the Taliban was Osama Bin Laden. On September 11 that little arrangement came back to haunt the American administration and visit upon the American people what other societies have suffered for decades.

David Blankenhorn nor anyone else within the United States of America can, on the one hand maintain the right of the US forces to strike back at those behind the New York carnage, and, at the same time, dismiss the simple logic that people who suffer at the hands of the US administration or their agents, might feel that they have a similar right.

Given what has gone before and the suffering that continues within Israel and Afghanistan the terrible attack on September 11 2001 was as inevitable as the US response to it. I condemn both actions without reservation. Understanding the reasons behind particular actions does not mean that one condones such activity. An eye-for-an-eye philosophy will leave us all blind.

To finish I would like to inject another factor into the equation which is ignored by the 'great and the good' when speaking of the situation in Afghanistan. Massive oil reserves have been discovered in some of the former Soviet Republics that border Afghanistan. To access and exploit this untapped resource the US requires a stable and peaceful Afghanistan under a 'manageable' regime. Could this have been more to the fore in the decision making processes on Capitol Hill than any thoughts of justice or retribution?



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