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A toxin in the blood
Courtesy: Marjorie Gibson
Like acrid fumes seeping from a chemical dump long thought dormant, attitudes of an unmistakably-fascist nature are drifting through American society. One catches whiffs of the dreadful stuff on almost every breeze from America.
Just the day before the recent Congressional election, the CIA laid claim to the assassination of six men in Yemen. The men were, of course, described as associated with Al Qaeda, and may, for all I know, have been so, but just when did bragging about the public murder of six people by a government agency become acceptable practice to Americans? No charges, no trial, no evidence - just murder.
That act was in keeping with the spirit of America's treatment of prisoners from its stupid, disastrous war in Afghanistan. First, many hundreds of prisoners were murdered under American auspices. Second, thousands were illegally detained and abused. Many were tortured. Hundreds remain prisoners in cages thousands of miles from their homes with no legal rights. A scholastic nonsense about these men being held away from the rights-protected soil of America appears adequate to make their treatment acceptable.
The murder also is in keeping with the alliances and interests America has been forming abroad. Perhaps the most murderous elected leader in recent memory, Mr. Sharon, responsible literally for the deaths of thousands and for keeping an entire people hopelessly crushed into apartheid-style camps is called a "man of peace." His works of assassination and destruction are blessed and supported more cordially than I remember support for America's old friend, the Shah of Iran, who smiled at dinners in the White House while his secret police, Savak, pulled out the fingernails of screaming opponents and suspects.
Russia's Mr. Putin wages the most devastating small war of recent times, a relentless, murderous effort to hold a people who do not want to be held, reducing their towns and farms to burnt-out wasteland, and he, too, is regarded as a partner for peace and an opponent of terror. I wonder how many Americans caught the little-noted fact that not one Chechen left the theater in Moscow alive, despite all having been knocked out by gas. I'm not objecting to effort to free hostages, only to the clear fact that every Chechen was summarily murdered in scenes that must have recalled the old NKVD's bullet to the back of the head. I wonder was the old Soviet practice of charging relatives for a cartridge followed?
A military dictator in Pakistan is regarded as an ally against terror, as are bestial warlords in Afghanistan.
The Attorney General of the United States tells Arab Americans they are fortunate not to be treated the way Japanese Americans during World War II were - that is, fortunate not to be thrown into concentration camps and have most of their property seized, never to be returned. More disgusting yet, coming as it does carefully wrapped in robes of reasoned debate, are the words of an American lawyer on the need for establishing legal procedures governing the proper use of torture in the country.
It does suit the tenor of times in which U.S. border officials have been routinely photographing, fingerprinting, and grilling visitors for hours from certain countries even though they may have taken up a new citizenship. Prize-winning Canadian author Rohinton Mistry, a man born in India and whose religious background is a form of Zoroastrianism, about as far removed as you can get from being a Muslim Arab, cut short his American reading tour after being stopped and interrogated every time he caught a plane.
Another Canadian, unfortunate enough to have been born in Syria many years ago, was refused entry to the U.S. and deported. Not serious you say? Well, yes, had he been deported to his home in Canada? But the INS, in a frenzy to demonstrate appropriate zeal, deported the man to Syria, leaving his family in Canada desperate for some time while trying to locate him. It's the kind of activity Germans in the 1930s used to call fondly "working towards the Fuhrer," that is, guessing what action might please the leader.
There's been a lot of "working towards the Fuhrer" lately in America. It seems to come quite naturally to a significant number of people. I am reminded of the farce in Florida when a mindless police chase was created by the paranoid reports of an overheard conversation. Or the universities and colleges where dissenting views are punished. Or the lists published of dissenting voices. Or the nonsense that pours from mainstream American media like CNN or the New York Times, as when recently they deliberately underreported the size of an anti-war rally in Washington.
Ah, the New York Times, that courageous tribune of the people - people, that is, who make well in excess of $100,000 a year and think the word empire when applied to America is actually a benevolent concept. Does that motto about all the news "fit" to print not suit well?
This government has given America corruption, poor appointments to important posts, a huge and wasteful increase in military spending, not a single worthy humanitarian initiative, and it has set its jaw in grim contempt for the sensibilities of virtually the rest of the planet. It is determined to launch a war for which there is not one sound reason, a war that promises to send the world into a downward spiral of resentments, uncertainty and death.
Yet Americans have given it a vote of confidence.
A political party that in one generation has included as prominent spokesmen and leaders Jesse Helms, Tom De Lay, Phil Gramm, Dick Armey, John Ashcroft, Bob Barr, Pat Buchanan, and Newt Gingrich, that attracts vultures like Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, and whose spokespeople include genuine hate-mongers like Ann Coulter, cannot be regarded as harmless. There is a large enough cesspool of ignorance and arrogance here to threaten all people who regard human decency and rationality as important.
Students of history will know that not every member of the Nazi party in Germany at the height of its prestige and power around 1940 shared the poison dreams of its leadership. People joined because of social pressure or the requirements of career advancement or agreement with limited aspects of the Nazi program. Yet we do not sort this all out when we speak of Nazis. Who on the planet does not use the term Nazi as one of contempt and anathema? Of course it is not just the bulk of "decent" Republicans who fail to speak against genuine evil. The Democrats are softer spoken, more benign in their use of words, but they have utterly failed to provide leadership here. They have not raised their voices against torture and abuse of prisoners, against public murder, against policies advocating unprovoked attack, against the wanton destruction of a generation's work on treaties and conventions for international cooperation, or against unholy alliance with thugs like Sharon, Putin, Musharraf, and General Dostum.
Mr. Clinton's eight years in the White House were not marked by particularly enlightened measures either at home or abroad, although almost anyone would agree that his smiling intelligence was more reassuring than the numb-faced, thick-tongued mumbling of Mr. Bush. All decent people had sympathy over the low-life dragging of Mr. Clinton's private life into the glare of publicity, but that fact did not render him a particularly enlightened leader on the world's scene.
America spends on its military as much as the next thirty countries in the world combined spend on theirs. This gigantic flow of money, like a monstrously-swollen river roaring over the landscape, erodes every value and decent aspect of American life. It simply cannot be otherwise. And it erodes America's every relationship with the rest of the world. It has been observed by numerous historians that the very presence of great armies helps induce war.
Please remember that not once did Hitler attack a country without a plausible excuse, and the emotional tug of his arguments resonated in many capitals outside Berlin. Moreover, he had what he regarded as a visionary purpose for his belligerence. He spoke of terror against the German people. He wanted to secure Germany's long-term future as a great and powerful nation. He wanted to end the barbarism of Bolshevism. He also pleaded eloquently for peace at times. Yet the sum total of his work was the greatest destruction in human history.