I saw this morning, on one of the public affairs programs on one of the major networks, an interview with the actor and activist, George Clooney. Mr. Clooney is working with others to set up satellite monitoring of the border between northern and southern Sudan, with a view toward discovering any atrocities by the Sudanese government forces or paramilitaries against the people of the south. A laudable enterprise, no doubt.
There were some of the usual statements about trying to stop violations of human rights, to forestall atrocities, or, at least, providing evidence that the international community can use, at some point, to bring perpetrators to justice.
Then I thought of Private Bradley Manning locked up in solitary confinement for months, for acting in a similar fashion to what Clooney proposes, and under, as well, the obligation that all members of the U.S. military are placed to report violations of the laws of war, for releasing almost a year ago a tape of U.S. forces’ murder and wounding of civilians in Iraq, including journalists, and people who came – out of simple human decency – to the assistance of the wounded.
I turned off the interview with the photogenic actor about his worthy effort.
I asked myself: Why are media interviews and news stories almost invariably framed in such a way as to make it appear – usually by omission – that the United States and its European allies do not have any responsibility for non-European people dying and for their continued exploitation and oppression ?
It seems – according to narratives found primarily in the corporate media – the only ones who cause death, maiming and destruction are “the others”, those “untermenschen” in benighted lands.
History – both recent and not so recent – shows that Western European governments (particularly those of Great Britain, France, Holland, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium) and – for the last 100 years at least – the American government have been responsible for tens of millions of deaths and scores of millions of injuries, lack of justice, massive exploitation, and outright theft in country after country in Africa, in the Middle East, in Asia, in Latin America, first in the form of colonialism and empire, and then – after the era of direct colonial control ended through the efforts of the colonized themselves – by using proxy actors, namely, local dictators and strongmen and their US-trained armies and police forces, to continue policies beneficial to European and American governments and their nations’ corporations. As payment, the governments of “The West” – those great defenders of the rule of law – looked the other way as these proxies of ours stole from, oppressed, tortured, and murdered their own people.
It’s truly a wonder that even more people in more countries – not just in the Islamic ones – haven’t taken to murdering any European or American white person on sight, no questions asked – especially now that the United States and its allies have returned to a policy of direct occupation and control, with the fig leaf of local, “elected” leaders, usually former Western-educated exiles or corrupt puppets like Ngo Dinh Diem, Marcos, Karzai and al Maliki, or self-elected strongmen like Nguyen Cao Ky, Nguyen van Thieu, Mobutu, Suharto, the Shah of Iran, the Saudi princes, Saddam Hussein (until 1990), Mubarak, Hassan of Morocco, Siad Barre, etc., etc., in a seemingly endless succession…
Of course, all of this is always done in the name of “peace” and “freedom” and “democracy”– but whose peace, whose freedom, whose democracy?
And yes, of course, it is goes without saying that the good people, like those in this country, just let their governments send their fathers, sons, brothers, husbands or lovers (now also their mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, or sweethearts) across the seas to slay the dragons they’ve been taught to hate and fear…
As we used to say when I was in the Army, “You can’t clean your hands with other people’s shit…”
As our great essayist of revolution and freedom, Thomas Paine, wrote:
Where knowledge is a duty, ignorance is a crime.
|If there is a sin superior to every other it is that of willful and offensive war. Most other sins are circumscribed within narrow limits, that is, the power of one man cannot give them a very general extension, and many kinds of sins have only a mental existence from which no infection arises; but he who is the author of a war, lets loose the whole contagion of Hell, and opens a vein that bleeds a nation to death.|
The old saying has it that charity begins at home – that also pertains, with an equal or even greater moral imperative, to enforcing laws and doing justice.
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(c) Gregory V Driscoll 2010