By Alexander Baron
For some time, I have been castigated in an on-line forum by an American citizen who it seems has nothing better to do than to pore over my writings and call me hurtful names. I say pore over, obviously he doesn’t read them, or if he does, then what I write goes over his head, because although he rants against me at length, he has little to say apart from hurling such vacuous epithets as “racist”, “Jew-hater”, “bigot”, etc. Then there are the personal insults, but being a fairly thick-skinned individual I am not concerned with those – here or anywhere else.
What is interesting about this character is that although he uses the rhetoric of the organised left he is not a leftist, but a retired law enforcement officer. He is also guilty of all the sins of which he accuses me – apart from “Jew-hater” that is – he can see no wrong in any Jew anywhere, even though he is probably acutely aware that even the most fawningly philo-Semitic creeps can and will be smeared as anti-Semitic along with the rest of us.
This individual has no sympathy for the Palestinians at all, he says the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were justified because they shortened the Second World War, and these two great cities were bona fide targets anyway. And, for some reason he has a particular distaste for Iran and most especially its charismatic President. Recently he told me I should be grateful that I live in a democracy like Britain, because here I enjoy the free speech I would not have in Iran, which is a country that oppresses its people to such an extent that its citizens would be justified in rising up and overthrowing the régime. And of course, the CIA would be (are?) justified in backing them to those ends.
After that last exchange I shut him up with two short questions:
How many men have been held in Iranian gaols for the past eight years without charge or trial?
And how many Iranians are living in “tent cities” like the ones in the Golden State?
I have both posted and e-mailed these questions to him, and have not heard so much as a whisper since.
Let me state here and now that I am not saying there is no injustice in Iran. I know very little about either the country or the régime, though I do know there is injustice everywhere. But is there any more injustice in Iran than in the United States? And even if there were, what business is it of Uncle Sam or anyone else to interfere in the domestic affairs of a sovereign nation?
The United States is an enigma, a far greater enigma than the old Soviet Union. Even before the classical scholar Emma Lazarus published her sonnet The New Colossus, it was not only a haven for refugees, but the modern equivalent of the Promised Land. It has maintained that status to such a degree that many of those who are openly hostile to the United States, including those who loathe it with every fibre of their beings, remain fascinated by it.
It has been suggested – bizarrely – that even as Mohamed Atta and his co-conspirators were murdering thousands of innocent people they were paying homage to Hollywood, crashing the planes into the Twin Towers in a spectacular fashion that would do justice to any Tinsel Town disaster movie.
For those who are fortunate enough to live the American dream, life is not simply good, it is rewarding beyond all meaning of the word. Much is made of so-called racism, even today when America has a black President, but blacks have always been among the most privileged of Americans. Ray Charles grew up in 1930s segregated America; although he lost his sight at the age of seven, he went on to become a music legend. How come? He was sent to the Florida School For The Deaf And Blind where he developed his musical talent. Can racist America have been such a terrible place in the 1930s that it sent a young black boy to school and taught him to read music in Braille?
Ray Charles may be exceptional, but American blacks have always excelled in music; from the 19th Century many black performers, composers and songwriters have won both fame and fortune. Ditto black sportsmen. (This is known as racist stereotyping).
But it is only half the story, let us not forget that the United States was founded on injustice; the very land was stolen from its indigenous peoples, or at the least was swindled out of them for a handful of trinkets. Today, these once proud warriors are at the very bottom of the socio-economic order, their communities decimated by settlers, smallpox, alcoholism, and a plethora of social ills from which they have never fully recovered.
And whatever spin is put on it by “anti-racists”, injustice is, and always has been, colour blind. Britain had Matthew Hopkins; America had its Salem Witch Trials. There was Red Scares, Prohibition, the Wall Street Crash followed by the Great Depression. It is little wonder that put upon working class and middle class whites have little sympathy for the at times shrill demands of the black establishment for an even bigger slice of their pie through affirmative action when they see blacks dominating basketball, the box office and the music charts.
But as I said, injustice is colour blind; as I write these words, black American James Bain is celebrating his release from prison after serving thirty-five years for a crime he did not commit. His conviction appears to have been based on compelling but flawed evidence. The State can be forgiven for that, but it cannot be forgiven for denying his appeals for DNA testing which would have proved his innocence as long ago as 2001.
Scandalous as that may be, the ongoing scandal of the Guantánamo Bay detainees pollutes not simply American justice but the justice systems of the entire so-called free world. Leaving aside any talk about these men being “enemy combatants” or “illegal combatants”, about being technically not on US soil, or any of the other sophistries that are trotted out to justify their continued detention, how long does it take to gather evidence of wrongdoing against a suspected terrorist, even without the use of torture?
The continued existence of this state of affairs sets a precedent; we have seen similar – although not such intense or enduring – treatment of alleged terrorist suspects in Britain. We have now reached the position where anyone – not just a suspected Islamicist or a Moslem, but anyone – can be kidnapped off the street by the secret police, and held in communicado indefinitely on the basis of secret evidence of dubious legality and doubtful probity.
Then President George Bush stated publicly that “we” will not allow the terrorists to destroy America. What he doesn’t seem to realise is that if this sort of despotism is not stopped, he and his ilk rather than Al-Qaeda will have done precisely that.
Moslems see this double standard, they see it most especially with the all but unconditional support afforded to the Zionist entity – the only democracy in the Middle East - against whom no Gentile American may rail without attracting the indefensible charge of anti-Semitism, a charge that even dissenting American Jews cannot always escape.
In the siege of Gaza, the Israelis murdered over thirteen hundred innocent Palestinians, mostly women and children. A few days into this onslaught, Whitehouse spokesman Gordon Johndroe responded “The United States understands that Israel needs to take actions to defend itself”.
Senator Obama’s response was just as muted: “If somebody is sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that - and I’d expect Israelis to do the same thing”. Undoubtedly he would have liked to condemn this ongoing act of mass murder in far more forthright terms, but if he had, does anyone believe he would today be sitting in the Whitehouse?
If the Iranians had perpetrated such a massacre, would he or the then President’s spokesman have responded in such feeble terms?
The ongoing madness in Iraq cannot all be blamed on the United States and Britain; it seems now that Iraqis and so-called Moslems are murdering each other just for the sake of it. Many if not most of the terrorist attacks and suicide bombings have no rhyme nor reason, not to the Western mind. But never let it be forgotten that George W. Bush and his equal partner (not his puppet) Tony Blair started this madness in the first place.
If the tenuous pretext for the invasion of Iraq and the toppling of Saddam Hussein was 9/11, the death toll of US soldiers in the so-called war on terror has now exceeded the death toll on that dreadful day. And the number of Iraqis who have died as a direct result of the war and invasion beggars belief. There is still no end it sight, and but for the election of Barack Obama, Iran may well have been attacked too. And on what pretext, that it likewise is a threat to world peace because it seeks to develop nuclear power? Britain, France, Israel and even India have not only nuclear power but nuclear weapons, but Iran is a danger to world peace even if it mentions the word nuclear. So says the only nation ever to have used nuclear weapons in anger.
Meanwhile, at home, the parasites of Wall Street have plundered the economy, trillions, not simply billions, but trillions of dollars, which have been created out of nothing, have literally disappeared.
On January 13, BBC Television’s Newsnight programme reported on the American domestic crisis. Robert Kuttner of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission said that 26 million Americans were now unemployed, and over two million families had lost their homes to foreclosure in the last three years. Hence the “tent cities” alluded to earlier. While American troops are dying to impose “freedom” on the Iraqis, the plunder of their own nation continues. On the same programme, analyst Janet Tavakoli said that in spite of Obama’s attempts to get tough, there had been a coordinated non-response on both sides of the Pond. And of the measures now proposed to bring the bankers to account, she drew this analogy: A drunk driver mows down and kills several people in your neighbourhood and crashes the car; a traffic cop comes along, takes away his car but hands him the keys to an even more powerful car, and a bottle of Johnny Walker and a traffic ticket. Then he says, by the way, you - not the maniac - will be paying for the ticket.
Obama has made health care reform his number one domestic priority, in particular to bring the estimated thirty million Americans who do not have proper cover within the fold; for him this is a personal crusade, but he has also committed more troops to the war on terror. It would be far better for America and the world if all the troops were now brought home and the money spent on their deployment relocated to house every homeless person in America. And let the bankers pick up the tab for their own foul deeds. Any Moslem anyone at all in Iraq, Iran or some other non-Western nation, or any homeless person on the streets of America’s great cities for that matter, must wonder at the wisdom of deploying troops to fight often imaginary enemies and to destroy the infrastructures of far off lands when there is so much injustice, poverty and even hunger in the Promised Land. Even before 9/11, the United States as the world’s only remaining super-power had taken on the role of global policeman, something which extends far beyond the Middle East, and even the perfidious influence and machinations of the Zionist lobby. Again, the interests of its own citizens would be better served if it were to leave well alone and venture abroad only to deliver genuine humanitarian aid in times of crisis.
The moral of the story so far can be summarised by one well known Biblical passage: “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?” is one modern rendition. But I would like to end on a note of hope with an allusion to another and even more familiar passage from the Bible, the parable of the Good Samaritan. Terrible though is the destructive power of man, that of Nature is far worse; as I write these words, the island of Haiti in the Caribbean is reeling from the effects of the worst earthquake in two hundred years. The death toll so far has been estimated conservatively at over forty thousand, but it may be much greater. The entire infrastructure of an already poor nation has been totally destroyed, and now the plagues that follow all such natural disasters loom over the island: hunger, homelessness, desperation, and a plethora of diseases. Where are the Americans now? They are in Haiti.
The President has recruited the services of two former Presidents to raise funds, the Secretary of State is on the ground along with American troops who have traded in their weapons for food parcels, stretchers, and blankets. Islamic organizations are raising money for relief, gaming websites are raising money; in Australia, the Swiss tennis ace Roger Federer has organised an exhibition match to raise funds. And, surprise, surprise, among the rescue teams on the island are Israeli medical and auxiliary staff. How much more senseless is it then that the same government that sanctions the oppression, torture and at times murder of men, women and children in its own back yard will send relief workers across the ocean to aid strangers in distress? The fact that the whole world is in Haiti, and that both small and great nations, Christian, Moslem and Jew are prepared to bury their differences in this time of need proves there is yet hope for mankind, if only those who steer the destiny of the Great Satan can learn from the tragedy.
[The above was published originally by Mathaba, January 18, 2010].
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