ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, September 24, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 17
Front Page Columns
Issue of the week

Stop and think, oh! Americans with a conscience

By Ameen Izzadeen

So it seems the Non-Aligned Movement is finally has got some leaders with backbone to steer it on a course independent of big-power interference. Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and Sudan's Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir took the bull, sorry bully, by its horns and spoke the language that the man whom they refer to as the devil, the owner of the world, interventionist and regime changer would understand. Like David, they aimed their catapults at whom they saw as a globe-gobbling Goliath.

Indeed, it was more like a 'state of the world' address by a few Third World leaders who had the courage of their conviction to shake the American conscience. Although pro-war lobbies, alleged human rights violators, alleged torturers and Zionist element in the greatest country in the world may dismiss what these leaders said in their address to the United Nations General Assembly as diplomatic showmanship, the speeches should nevertheless serve to shake the American conscience, if there is still something called the American conscience under the Bush administration.

Their speeches, especially that of Chavez, have provoked some Bush-faithfuls in America to ask how dare Chavez, Ahmadinejad and the likes could come to "our country and slam our president". These Bush-faithfuls who ask this question are people with a conscience because it is quite natural for people with a conscience to get hurt when outsiders interfere in the affairs of their country and tell their President how to behave. Oh the American with a conscience, hearken to this, when your president takes unilateral decisions to invade sovereign nations and interfere in the affairs of other countries, the people of those countries, too, feel like how you feel now.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice walks with US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton as they leave a meeting with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan at UN headquarters on Thursday. AP

And indeed the people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Venezuela, Iran, Korea, Vietnam, Cuba, Grenada, Panama and several other countries have felt like that and some are still feeling like that. Saddam Hussein could be a tyrant but it should be left to the Iraqi people to decide on how to deal with him. People's revolutions in Iran, the Philippines and Eastern Europe have ousted despots and dictators. It could have happened in Iraq. As Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe said at the United Nations General Assembly this week that a regime change in his country was a matter for the Zimbabweans to decide and not for Washington or London.

There may also be Americans who do not approve of Bush's interventionist foreign policy. Going by the 2004 election results, some 50 million Americans rejected Bush and his policies. Those Americans may or may not have been irked by the speeches of Chavez, Ahmadinejad and others. But how many of them will do some soul-searching, direct the searchlight inwards and ask why a majority of the people in the rest of the world are not happy with their president's policies and why anger at the US is uniting the people of the developing world in a manner not seen since the end of the Cold War. The solidarity that is being built up among the handful of anti-US non-aligned countries is reminiscent of the unity with which the newly independent states forged ahead with their opposition to colonialism in the 1950s and 60s and built up a powerful force that challenged both the United States and the Soviet Union.

If the Americans with a conscience venture to ask such questions, they may realise that there is a global divide on the lines of the oppressed versus the oppressor.

As Noam Chomsky agrees in his book Hegemony or Survival - the book Chavez urged the Americans and the world leaders who attended the UN conference to read - "there may still be two superpowers on the planet: the United States and the world public opinion ("the United States here meaning state power…).

It is not hatred towards the United States' state power that is uniting the people of the rest of the world, especially the people of the developing world or the political south, but the manner in which the Bush administration uses its unbridled military power to bring countries to their knees. If the Americans want proof they can trace the timeline and study the history of their country's involvement in other countries. If they feel it will be time consuming, they can ponder on what Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has told a CBS interview to be telecast on Sunday.

On Thursday, newspaper reports from the United States quoted Musharraf as telling CBS's '60 Minutes' programme that after the 9/11 attacks Richard Armitage, the then deputy secretary of state, had told Pakistan's intelligence director that the United States would bomb his country to the Stone Age if it did not help fight terrorists. No wonder, an astute Musharraf, abandoned the Taliban which his country trained, armed and used and joined Bush's bandwagon to hunt down his own boys.

At a joint news conference on Friday, when a reporter asked both Musharraf and Bush to clarify the matter, the US President prevented Musharraf from answering first. When Bush finished his response which simply said, "The first I heard of this is when I read it in the newspaper. I guess I was taken aback by the harshness of the words," Musharraf hid behind an agreement which he had signed with the publishers of his biography and declined to comment.

Let Americans with a conscience also refer to a recent Pew Charitable Trust poll which showed a wide resentment of the US foreign policy, especially the "war against terrorism".

It is no surprise when the people of the Muslim countries responded negatively to the question whether they approved of US-led efforts to fight terrorism (82 percent in Egypt, 74 percent in Jordan, 77 percent in Turkey and 50 percent in Pakistan). But when people in some European countries overwhelmingly said they rejected the US policy, it is a matter for the Americans with a conscience to stop and think. The poll showed that in Spain, 76% of those surveyed said they did not approve; in France, it was 57%.

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