And I wondered: “What in hell’s name are these American politicians doing turning such a glorious land into the hate-figure of the world?”
It must be particularly nice to be an American right now. I first chanced upon the beauty of the American “fall” (autumn) in the countryside near Bloomington, Indiana. If you have lived in Africa’s evergreen forest before, just imagine that the leaves of all the trees had changed colour from green to something else – yellow, gold, pink, purple, violet, red – name it (apart from blue!), and it was there. And this canopy of diverse but merging colours stretched high and wide as far as the eye could see. The whole forest had turned into an artist’s colour pallet, but a living one. I asked my companion to stop the car, and I got out. I just stood there and drank it in.
As if to greet me specially, as an old friend from the continent of sunshine, the sun came out at just that point from behind the clouds and sent its rays cascading down into the leaves. Each leaf, already as brilliantly coloured as could be imagined, now began to glow into near-incandescence. Not only was an artist at work colouring the leaves with his immaculate paintbrush but he was also lighting a fire above and below the leaves, giving the eye an incomparable vista of beauty on display.
I said to myself: “What a blessed country this America is! To possess such natural beauty, and at the same time, be master of the most advanced technological prowess in the whole world!”
And I wondered: “What in hell’s name are these American politicians doing turning such a glorious land into the hate-figure of the world?” You went to Vietnam, and they were cursing America. Cuba, ditto. Congo; Palestine; South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia: in every one of these places, the US was perceived by many as the ally of the evil perpetrators of racist oppression.
In the past six years, that unattractive perception of America, which President Bill Clinton and others had worked hard to eradicate, had reasserted itself under the presidency of George W Bush. Whilst the rest of the world had acted as one with America and wept like a child on seeing the horrendous destruction of the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11/2001, George W Bush, chose to use the 9/11 destruction as an excuse to cause destruction, worse than that of 9/11, in other people’s countries.
Afghanistan, once a heroic country in America’s eyes for throwing out the “atheistic Communists” from the Soviet Union, now became the central point of an “axis of evil” that had to be bombed into the Stone Age. And having rained bombs on that unfortunate country – which has been made to endure, in a single generation, the effects of bombardment by the two most powerful nations of the earth, one after the other – the “Neocons” of America, led by Vice-President Dick Cheney, pushed for the implementation of the rest of a programme they had conceived as early as 1997, called “The Project for a New American Century”, and turned on Iraq.
They invented “weapons of mass destruction” for Iraq that it did not possess. They maintained, before the United Nations that these weapons did exist and that the UN should authorise them to invade Iraq to take them out. Iraq allowed UN inspectors to comb its territory for these weapons. None were found, but still, the Neocons wanted to invade.
They cajoled the other members of the UN; they actually bribed some. But the UN wouldn’t budge and give them the resolution they wanted. They then said they didn’t need the UN anyway. Dragging Tony Blair of Great Britain along, the Neocons defied the world community and invaded Iraq to visit death upon its people.
One estimate, published in the prestigious medical magazine, The Lancet, says that 650,000 Iraqis have died as a result of the invasion. Even if this is an exaggeration and it is cut by, say, 50%, we would still be left with a figure of 325,000 Iraqis killed. Dead for nothing.
America itself has incurred casualties, by 11-11-06, in the following order: Since “Mission Accomplished” (5/1/03) – 2,847. Since Capture of Saddam (12/13/03) – 2,381. Total American Wounded: 21,077. (Source: Antiwar.com)
Has the heartache signified by these cold figures been necessary? What has the US campaign in Iraq achieved? OK, Saddam Hussein has been overthrown. But is he worth so many casualties? If he was so obnoxious, why were the Americans, including Donald Rumsfeld (the former defence secretary and prime Neocon tool) dealing with him before 9/11?
Saddam’s dictatorship was brutal and murderous for sure. But was it worse than the current civil war – euphemistically called “insurgency” by the Americans – in which Sunni Muslims are killing Shia Muslims and vice versa, and which will no doubt continue long after the Americans have left Iraq? What will happen when outside countries that are centres of Islamic power, such as Iran and Saudi Arabia, become fully involved in what is going on in Iraq (if they are not already involved?).
The most shocking thing about the American invasion is that despite the enormous amounts of money seized from the Iraqi treasury as a result of the Americans gaining control of the production and sale of Iraq’s oil, life in Iraq has not yet recovered to anywhere near where it was before the invasion. Bechtel Corporation, one of the American companies given a lucrative contract to bring Iraqi life back to normal, has packed up and left Iraq. No one knows what these companies have been doing in Iraq anyway, apart from obtaining so much money from there that it is pouring out of their ears.
Electricity is still absent from many homes in Iraq, as is water. Hospitals have no essential equipment or medicines. Long petrol queues are the order of the day, in a land awash with crude oil. Schools are largely empty because people are afraid to let their children leave home and go to school. The streets of Baghdad have become the most dangerous streets in the world, where kidnappings take place at the rate of several hundred a week. People are even kidnapped from their homes, sometimes by vigilantes dressed in official military or police uniforms.
Muslims don’t feel safe when they go to their mosques to worship. Day in day out, bodies are fished out of drains and waste dumps, some bearing signs of torture. No one ever knows who committed these murders or why. Sunnis suspect Shias and Shias suspect Sunnis. And each swears vengeance on the others.It is in the midst of this gloom that the sun has once again chosen to shine on America. The good sense of the American voters has prevailed in the mid-term elections held on 7 November and they have thrown the Republican Party, the party of the Neocons, who had controlled the US Congress for almost a decade and a half, out of power, both in the Senate and in the House of Representatives.
Americans have decided that what has been done in their name in Iraq over the past three years in particular, and in pursuit of the Neocon agenda in general, is not in their interest as a nation. And the beauty of their system is that when they make such a decision, they can put it into effect. By voting.
The Neocons – especially Donald Rumsfeld – deserve no sympathy whatsoever. For they were absolutely ruthless. Look at the way they threw Colin Powell to the wolves after doing their best to destroy his image by prevailing on him to go and tell lies for the US in front of the whole world – at a session of the UN General Assembly – at which he stoutly espoused the fiction that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.
Look at the way they got Robert Armitage, the deputy secretary of state they had planted in Colin Powell’s “wardrobe”, to leak the name of the CIA agent, Valerie Plame, to the journalist Robert Novak, in order to punish her husband, Ambassador Joseph Wilson, for disclosing the fact that when the CIA sent him to Niger in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq had bought uranium (or “yellow cake”) from Niger to manufacture nuclear bombs, Wilson had found the story to be untrue.
The Neocons had also used The New York Times’ journalist, Judie Miller to spread their lies in a respectable publication. Karl Rove, the White House specialist in the untraceable dissemination of malignant “news”, went into overdrive on the uranium exercise, supported by Scooter Libby, chief of staff of Vice-President Cheney. Libby has been indicted for his part in the conspiracy, though Rove managed to get off scot-free. They all thought they could get away with it. But just as Richard Nixon found out, the American system is self-corrective, and those who take undue advantage of it eventually get punished. And they turn into the little mice that they are.
The Democrats who have won power in the mid-term elections must remember that their country has a better destiny than the one mapped out for it by the Neocon ideologues whom the voters have now thrown out. Of course, as in any party, there are some Democrats who are just as bad as the Neocons. But it is the leadership that counts. If the new leaders of Congress give positions such as chairmen and members of the all-important congressional committees to people of proven integrity and wisdom, America will gradually regain its reputation in the world.
When America ceases to inflict suffering and pain on the rest of the world, it will find out that the world has been waiting all the time to love America, but that it is America itself that has been preventing this from happening.