The abused prisoners in pointed black hoods featured in the Abu Ghraib photographs reminded me of America’s past. At one time it was Americans who wore hoods – pointed white hoods – a well-known part of US history. It seems that the majority of the American people, still have their vision clouded by hoods. Some of them have hoods worn willingly and proudly, while the vast number have had them dropped over their heads, by those who would gain the most by keeping them in the dark.
In my early years it was quite clear to me how democracy and freedom, differed from tyranny and oppression. The former was of course personified by the ‘Land of the Free’. The latter was defined by Communism – although its ideals were good in theory, the road it took to achieve them was faulty. The doctrine of ‘the end justifies the means’ I was made to feel was where it went wrong. The means were manifestly evil, and it corrupted the end – ultimately leading to its collapse and rejection by the late 1980s.
However, while growing up I became aware that the ‘two sides’ were not so far apart after all. America was closely in league with dictators, as well as being involved in coups and overthrowing of democratically elected governments in many places around the world. Planning and plotting to assassinate leaders of other nations was also evidently part of its ‘Democratic Ideals’. Successfully carrying out such acts it was said, was ‘in the National Interest.’
Over ten years ago I had the pleasure and privilege of walking through the famous Washington Mall. We started at the US Congress Building, through the Smithsonian Institution’s museums and into the Washington Monument and all the way up to the Lincoln Memorial. In my little office room hangs a framed hand-written copy on parchment of the Gettysburg Address – the most treasured memento of that outing. We could not make our way to the Jefferson Memorial, but I recall looking at it from the top of The Monument. In the gathering gloom we found our way to the Vietnam Memorial and read some of the 55,000 names on it, before we made our way back to our hosts’ home in Maryland.
No structure in DC rises above The Monument – as homage and respect to their first President, the man they wanted to crown king. The one who rebuked them for attempting to do so. The man associated with the Cherry Tree episode I learnt as a child. The epitome of truth, honesty and integrity, ‘Father, I cannot tell a lie; I cut the tree’. It may be an invented tale by Mason Locke Weems, Washington’s biographer, that became part of the move to ‘deify’ the Father of his Nation. However, it served America well, as an ideal to look up to. No necessity to hold on to power – above all, no deception, of his father or of his people.
The speech by former Vice President Al Gore on 26 May 2004, uttered truths that had not been uttered, ever since deception of the American people went spiralling out of control. The deception it appears began not on 12 September 2001, but as Gore mentions it began in November 2000. The country has paid, and will continue to pay a high price for this deceit.
Books published in the past eighteen months, and films released graphically catalogue where the country has been taken. Empires in human history have shown that their end is hastened not from outside, but from within. It appears so with the USA. The people accountable have been exposed as using falsehoods and deceit repeatedly. Some have said they are answerable as it ‘happened on my watch’ – but no one has resigned. The only resignations have been by those disgusted by the fabrications and misrepresentations of facts, which they know, are indefensible.
I recall years ago watching a TV program entitled ‘Rescue 911’ re-enacting actual emergency calls and their aftermath. ‘9-1-1’ is the well-known number which Americans use to contact their emergency services. Only when I saw a poster advertising the film ‘Fahrenheit 911’, did I realise the fateful symbolism of the date when the Twin Towers fell. Symbolic for Americans in many ways. They are in a crisis situation – the biggest emergency they have faced as a nation. When the trumpeters announcing action to be taken against ‘enemies’ are themselves found to be the worst enemy of the American nation and its people.
Who is to come to their aid? When long standing friends speak out, they are ridiculed and condemned. Senator Robert Byrd’s lone voice asked why there was no debate before pre-emptive strikes were launched. Something that should be anathema to all Americans – Silence! Have the elected Ã©lite become almost a replica of the obsequious ‘representatives’ assembled by the Stalins and Saddam Husseins of this world? A chamber for debating issues of the utmost importance – don’t look for it in Washington. Instead look for a chamber that breaks out in sycophantic applause at its leader’s words – interrupting speeches with standing ovations. This recalls other childhood memories – the chambers of the Supreme Soviet, or the Chinese Assembly under Chairman Mao.
Corruption – we all know the charge hurled, in many cases justifiably, at third world countries. Various government projects – usually gigantic dams, or massive highway projects – are used by those in power to siphon foreign aid to private accounts via commissions and secret bank accounts. Projects used to cheat the public of their wealth – where for every dollar gainfully spent, ten times that amount may be secreted away as ill-gotten gains. No such likelihood with a superpower. The projects are global. There is no highway or dam project that is worthy of a global multi-national’s budget. You have to unroll a world map, and select a few countries to launch your ‘war projects’ in.
When the multi-national is engaged in arms production, or in the oil industry you play for big stakes. When you have poured in mega dollars into a presidential campaign, or when you have your own high placed executives sitting on top of the Administration, you go for the billion dollar ‘projects’. When you have a former president sitting on your board, with his son as the current president, you aim to mobilise all the armed forces might, so that the millions spent on research into weapons can be recouped from the American tax-payer. Instead of money being available for health, education and welfare – with one State of the Union Address declaring War, War, War…you can drop the hoods over everyone’s heads and steal them blind.
You can boast that you are invading a country justifiably as it is a ‘war against terror’. A country that had no links with terrorism until you invaded. Then you can boast that you have done this to fight the terrorists on foreign soil, and not on your home soil. But there is an important rider, you and your children will be safe on home soil, but you need ordinary Americans to supply their sons and daughters to engage the terrorist on foreign soil. So you want their money to finance the war and all its machinery, and you also want them to donate their flesh and blood to the cause. You take their fine young kids, order them to wage war in far away places, to do terrible things to other human beings – who bore you no ill will in the first place – in the so called ‘national interest’.
These truly global projects – they put dam projects to shame which probably only provide a few millions in a few bank accounts. These global ‘war projects’ which go on for decades, produce not only continuously burgeoning accounts, but they also produce memorials on Washington’s best real estate. Let the American people start looking around for where their next big war memorial is going to be. It surely will be required, unless they throw away the hoods that are blinding their sight.
The hoods at Abu Ghraib – who is in charge? Who is answerable? A military facility? Civilians walking around in military uniform running the torture sessions? Is this the American way? Is this planting democracy? Winning hearts and minds? Are the hoods so firmly on the US public that they cannot see what is obvious to the world? Brig Gen. Kapinski called them ‘the disappearing ghosts’. Those who are answerable also have disappeared. According to the US high command, Saddam should also be set free, since he could use the same excuse used by those at the top. Why is Milosevic at The Hague? Could he also not blame faulty intelligence? Could he not say the military actions were by lower placed individuals?
If the attacks on Sept 2001 are blamed on grievances arising out of US attacks on countries prior to that date, what is to come in the future? Are the hoods so firmly in place that Americans cannot see that the crimes against unnumbered civilians in the period since September 2001, are greater than what has gone before? The use of depleted uranium weapons alone is a crime against humanity. The lies and deceit are now known to the whole world. Will the retribution be greater too? If the iniquities and deceit of Gulf War I produced one Timothy McVeigh, how many will Gulf War II produce?
The America the world knew in the not so distant past, had men and women who stood out like beacons to all humanity. Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Eleanor Roosevelt Have they now been replaced by the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Limbaugh and Rice? Are these the minds that will shape America’s ends? Have not Americans read Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Emperor’s New Suit’? Can they not see the armour suits these new empire builders are clad in? Or are they fooled by the words ‘Patriotism’, ‘Support the troops’, ‘Good & Evil’, and can only see gossamer clothing worn by guardian angels?
Animal Farm when I read it many decades ago, was I thought a parody of Communism. But as I realised in my growing up years, ‘Left’ and ‘Right’ seemed to be two ‘wings’ located on a globe. It appeared that if you go too far left, you meet up with the ones who are too far right. I could not differentiate the activities of the Stasi Secret Police in East Germany, from the activities of the Pinochet Secret Police in Chile, when viewed from the perspective of the ordinary person. Animal Farm ends with the ordinary animals watching in horror, and realising that the humans and the faces of the pigs had become indistinguishable from each other. These two groups were enemies of each other at the start of the story, but by the end had become alike. Many in the world, hearing the use of so called religious rhetoric on both sides, and watching death being rained down upon the citizens of Iraq, in order to ‘liberate’ them, feel much the same.
There will be nobody to come to America’s aid from without – that is the loneliness of life at the top. The sole superpower – help will have to come from within, in this its hour of greatest danger. ‘We the people…’ The people of America will have to show the world what they are made of – are they blinded by rhetoric, and the hoods thrown over their faces by falsehoods, deceit, and fear? Or will they finally throw off the hoods that were first thrown over their heads almost four years ago?
Four years is a long time to live with a hood covering your face. Not only covering your eyes and ears, but your hearts and minds as well. The world awaits the outcome with a mixture of hope and trepidation.
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