People are beginning to see other inhabitants of the planet as fellow citizens,
endowed with an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Human
rights organizations, the anti-sweatshop campaigns and the globalization movement
are all fueled by an expanding awareness that the well-being of the earths
people should take precedence over the gambits of nations and the profits of corporations.
International organizations and treaties are laying the groundwork for economic
and legal standards that would supersede those of nation-states. World trade
bodies (were their deep flaws fixed) could provide a basis for an integrated
world economy. The International Criminal Court, despite U.S. refusal to accept
its jurisdiction, could provide a forum to hold leaders of nation-states accountable
for crimes against humanity.
Armed conflicts also have become internationalized. As the September 11 attacks
demonstrated, some are no longer limited to self-contained regions. Other wars
are limited geographically, but, as in the case of East Timor, the world community
takes it as its responsibility to get involved.
The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon fostered a nationalistic
reaction, but they also personalized war by bringing home the tragedy of civilian
lives lost. As a result, many Americans are reluctant to endorse military action
that costs further innocent lives. The Bush administration understands this,
at least judging by the rhetoric if not the substance of its actions. Adapting
to this new reality, the U.S. military has tried to limit the killing of Afghan
civilians via unintended damage.
Yet such an awareness has yet to filter down to the current U.S. policy toward
Iraq, where sanctions have taken the lives of up to a million people. Recall
that prior to the Gulf War, the Bush Sr. administration, playing a geopolitical
power balancing game, quietly provided more than $1 billion in aid and more
than $2 billion in loans to support Saddam Hussein, who was still waging war
against Iran and massacring Kurds.
Bush was continuing the Reagan administration policy of supporting Iraq over
archenemy Iran, which, until the overthrow of the Shah in 1979 by Islamic fundamentalists,
had been our best friend and the recipient of 26 years of U.S. military and
financial aidlargess that began in 1953 with a CIA-orchestrated coup that
deposed the elected government of Mohammed Mosaddeq, who had threatened the
profits of transnational oil corporations.
Successive American administrations have squandered the goodwill of the Islamic
world through a parade of geopolitical gambits that have placed U.S. commercial
interestsunimpeded access to oilover an interest in
doing the right thing. As Henry Kissinger once put it, Covert action should
not be confused with missionary work. (He was explaining the logic of
a Nixon-era deadly double-cross of Iraqi Kurds that delivered them to Saddams
forces as part of a backroom deal with the Shah.)
We are now dealing with the consequences of that venal foreign policy. And
so far the only lesson the administration seems to have learned is one of public
relations. In announcing the bombing of Afghanistan, Bush declared that Operation
Enduring Freedom aimed to defend not only our precious freedom but also
the freedom of people everywhere to live and raise their children free of fear.
But there are other freedoms: freedom from hunger, freedom from want, freedom from disease, freedom from ignorance, freedom to live in a clean environment, freedom to unionize, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, freedom from war. These freedomsfar from enduring for people everywhereare ones the administration has yet to acknowledge.
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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.