Sunday, January 17, 2010

World Opinion, Afghanistan, Haiti and Google

Stay with me. Things appear complicated but they really are so simple. A few days ago I started an article on world opinion, that other superpower. But, that article became too personal with uncontrolled, PTSD driven, vivid images of Vietnam that lead to a personal confession. I decided on another approach, less revealing yet same subject: World opinion matters.

Whatever you've read or think you know about the fall of the great empires of history, Greek, Hellenistic (Alexander), Roman, Dutch, German, Russian or British you need to know that the ultimate reason they fell was world resentment; world opinion formed in response to ruthless and inhuman, oppressive policies of those empires and they died. People finally win in the end. A Gandhi arises. A Martin Luther King comes. These kind of people come when least expected and they change the world. They wake the world to injustice and the world rises up and applies its judgment on an oppressor who kneels in submission, eventually.

So, what are we as a nation? A cold, hard objective assessment gives every indication that we are an empire. A hegemony in the world, by large and small acts of oppression and deliberate deceit, in some cases, and naivete, in other cases, perpetrated, presumably, to preserve our national interest . But, if you ask most Americans, the majority will answer that they don't want to be this. They don't like being an empire. They don't want to oppress others and in fact deny that we do. I, too, don't want to be an empire, or to act like those of the past, and I want to deny that we do.

But, we can't deny the injustice of this story in the London Times. Most Americans did not see this story because it wasn't printed in the United States, nor was it on CNN, Fox, CBS, ABC or any other news report. It should have been because we need to know about these incidents. This is a story of U.S. Special Forces or Mercenaries we've hired killing ten people, including schoolchildren, in Afghanistan. “Western sources” and a “NATO insider” say the ten were terrorist, an IED (Improvised Explosive Device) cell operating in Afghanistan. They were, therefore, executed on the spot. The village Headmaster and an Afghan investigator, however, claim the ten were simply members of a family that included seven schoolchildren of the the family and another child visiting the family overnight. Whatever the case, one fact appears to be true; they were handcuffed and executed. No prisoners were taken.

Whatever version you, if you're an American, believe will not matter. What matters is what others, in other countries, believe and I suspect that they will believe the Headmaster and the investigator. Unfortunately, so do I. But, even the belief formed isn't the larger issue. If these ten people were innocent, it was an egregious act and if they were an IED terrorist cell, it is an equally egregious act. Was there no redeemable person among those executed at all? Not one? Is that our policy, according to “Western sources” and a “NATO insider,” that we have thugs of either U.S. Special Forces or hired Mercenaries roving Afghanistan executing suspected terrorist on the spot?

From all I've heard, those that are committed to the Taliban ideals are ruthless and I have no objection to executing the leaders and teachers, those Imams, of jihad and who recruit others to their cause. But, I've also read of young people coerced to the cause through threats and blackmail, so I have to ask again: Was there no one among those executed redeemable? Is there no law that requires us to at least interrogate them. To find out their real intent. It seems to me that we, Americans, are the terrorists in this case. The intent of such an act can be for no other reason than terror; a lesson to other Afghans to not join the Taliban, even if coerced beyond one's control. How did this happen?

I know the answer to my own question. Every sufferer of PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, down to the last one, knows: 1) War causes humans, even those planning war not directly involved, to make inhuman decisions and do inhuman, brutish acts, and 2), humans are not intended to kill other humans under any circumstances. World opinion will judge and war atrocities will cause resentment against us, no matter how evil the Taliban is. The only way out of the hell caused by the ruthless execution is not to have done it in the first place.

It is this story of Anthropologist Paula Homes-Eber teaching U.S. Marines to think of the consequences of their actions that I don't believe, in that I don't believe it can be done. Ms. Eber is trying to teach Marines to be nice. “Blowing up a bridge,” for example, means “farmers can't bring their fruit to market.” Marines are supposed to think of this before they act. But, in the heat of the moment when the Taliban cross, or is known to cross, that bridge, the bridge will be destroyed and the farmer forgotten, except in world opinion. And, the Marine who calls that air strike, especially if innocent life is on that bridge, and maybe only by remembering the farmer later, will suffer PTSD. He will regret calling the strike, eventually, as will the those who executed the family whether they were really terrorists or not. The only way out of that hell is not to be there.

We, the United States, make the policy of empire that eventually lead to these brutal acts that, in turn, lead to world resentment. For example, I believe this sixty-minute long video, a story of Catholic Priest Father Roy Bourgeois and his struggles against the U.S. Army School of Americas, that he calls the School of Assassins, located at Fort Benning, Georgia. Take sixty minutes to watch it. The opinion the story forms is one of a government policy, and an official school that implements it, that is responsible for most of the strife and conflict in Latin and South America. I can't help but think that if we don't want that other superpower, world opinion, to come down on us like a ton of bricks, then this school needs to be abolished. If you don't want that hell, then don't go there. There is no doubt in my mind that Latin and South America would have been a lot better off if we, the United States, hadn't gone there at all.

Who can imagine or even know of the suffering Haiti has experienced so long. The devastation there now reminds me of Vietnam; the only difference is that one is natural and the other man made. Our generosity will bend world opinion to our side, but it is fragile and a slight mistake may undo whatever good we do there. We should have paid attention to this nation long ago. See the warning on an ancient pottery shard that I cite, below.

Then we have Google in a face-off with the empire China. Google, a giant in its own right and who has in its Creed “do no evil,” is right, in my mind, to stand its ground, not only against cyber-attacks but against China's restrictions on its people. China, in the end, will back off its ideological stance because it has joined the global economy and its competitive advantage depends on the latest technology that Google brings to the market. And, world opinion is against any other outcome. China's leaders, after all, are human and will feel the pressure of world opinion.

Its a strange coincidence that while I'm thinking about these things and trying to write a comprehensible article about the world's opinion of us that this article suddenly appears at the top of Yahoo's home page. Yahoo's lead is “Discovery cast light on Bible's age” and the article's title is “Bible Possibly Written Centuries Earlier, Text Suggests.” I think it's a stretch to say that writings on a 10,000 BCE pottery shard suggests the Bible is older than we think. It may well be, but I believe it's more accurate to say that people living 12,100 years ago knew better how to treat others. They had no idea, nor intent, of writing a bible even though they clearly chronicled their lives. They, 12,100 years ago, had already discovered civility and the needs of community. It's a philosophy. Maybe we would listen better if we did not think in terms of the Bible. Here's what's written on the pottery shard:

  1. You shall not do it, but worship the Lord.

  2. Judge the slave and the widow. Judge the orphan

  3. and the stranger. Plead for the infant. Plead for the poor and

  4. the widow. Rehabilitate the poor at the hands of the King.

  5. Protect the poor and the slave. Support the stranger.

Whatever Lord you worship, it's clear to me that governments, i.e., the King, has a duty regarding the poor, the stranger, the widow and the infant. You might say these who deserve protection are the ten in Afghanistan or those living in Latin and South American countries and certainly those in Haiti. I'm sure that the other superpower, world opinion, will agree and it will judge, eventually, and we won't like it. And, we who agree with the verse are still pleading for the poor and the unheard unfortunate. We haven't learned much in 12,000 years.


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