The Portrait of Uncle Sam
Like the painting of Dorian Grey, which portrayed eternal youth and goodness before it began to reflect the contents of Dorian’s soul, the face of the once-kindly Uncle Sam is today exposed for all to see.
The benign features of this American symbol were already distorted when George W. Bush first took office. They contorted with fear and paranoia after the attack on America last year, which quickly turned to the desire for revenge. That was the time that the US President decided to capitalise on the world’s outpouring of grief and support to further his own geopolitical agenda.
An unsuspecting world has taken time to take stock of this new world order. Now that it has, it is just beginning to realise how helpless it really is, confronted with the muscle-flexing of the world’s only superpower, intent on showing the rest of us just who is boss.
Nations around the globe are waking up to the fact that they have no real sovereign integrity, only the illusion of being in charge of their own destinies. To thwart the will of American hegemony is to metaphorically sign one’s own death warrant.
The collapse of the Soviet empire has meant that the US has no real opposition, and it knows it. Prior to Bush junior’s arrival on the scene it, at least, pretended to defer to the wishes of the community of nations. These days it hardly bothers putting on a token show.
Any nation or person which dares to challenge the authority of Dubya, or his buddy Ariel Sharon, the Israeli Prime Minister, is deemed irrelevant, as the veteran Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat discovered to his cost.
Today, Arafat sits in his besieged compound, a prisoner; held hostage by a country which believes in punishing the innocent when it cannot find the guilty. Ariel Sharon disavows the Oslo Accords, imprisons an entire nation, while his uniformed thugs murder Palestinian women and children with impunity. But that’s just fine and dandy because there is nothing anyone else can do about it–not as long as he enjoys the seemingly unconditional backing of the White House.
Flushed with confidence now that big brother is firmly on his side, Ariel Sharon has informed the US that Israel may consider going to war with Lebanon once more. Why? All because the Lebanese government has dared to siphon off water from its own river to irrigate the crops in the south of its country, which means that less water flows on to Israel.
Lebanon says that it is operating well within the constraints of international law. But, hey! Who cares about international law these days when the only visible international law is the dictates of the American President, the same leader who took American people out of the jurisdiction of the new international court in The Hague?
The US showed its disdain for international law when it trussed up detainees in Afghanistan like chickens with chains and blindfolds and subsequently kept them in coops, open to the elements, without any proof of their alleged crimes or trial. It showed further disdain for international law when it rounded up its Arab guests and gaoled thousands of them, without even publishing their names.
Now it’s the turn of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Some believe that Iran, Syria and, perhaps, even Saudi Arabia are next on the list. The now famous Rand presentation to the US Defence Advisory Committee ominously suggested that ‘Egypt is the Prize’.
Even the United Nations are not immune from receiving a certificate of irrelevance, if its members refuse to play ball with American interests, as the American President made clear during his recent speech before the General Assembly.
When that erstwhile organisation doesn’t move as fast as the Bush administration might like, or in a direction which suits its agenda, it is accused of having no ‘backbone’. When it supports America’s ambitions, the US gives it some candy. Last year, when it supported the invasion of Afghanistan, America’s long-outstanding membership dues were paid. This year, it gets America’s re-entry into UNESCO and all the benefits which will derive from that.
Last year, Bush spoke the words..”you are either with the United States or with the terrorists`, and few took that sabre-rattling rhetoric seriously. Now they all do. Translated, it means ‘do as we say or be considered as our enemy’. Few nations are courageous enough to put themselves in the firing line of the militarily strongest and most technologically-advanced country in the world, and although they may mutter their objections to this or that, they invariably give fold as soon as the US wags its finger.
We saw evidence of this after the President’s speech at the UN. The speech contained nothing we didn’t already know about Saddam Hussein and no evidence that he has weapons of mass destruction, ready to unleash on the rest of the world. Instead, it was full of hypocrisy and double-standards, which the member states chose to ignore out of cowardice. Instead of standing up to the US, those member states were glad they could pass the buck for any decision vis-a-vis Iraq onto the collective body of the United Nations.
Just the day before that speech, French President Jacques Chirac was a vehement opponent of any adventurism in Iraq. The day after he was making conciliatory noises to the effect that France might lend its support to a regime-change in Iraq, provided it had the cover of the UN. Many of the Arab leaders, once firmly behind the Arab League, which said any attack on one is an attack on all, are now getting cold feet and look as though they might be ready to turn a blind eye on the Iraqi situation.
The negative stances of China and Russia, also permanent members of the Security Counsel, altered dramatically too and both are now predicted to support an American-sponsored UN resolution on the return of the weapons inspectors to Baghdad… or else. One can only speculate on what these countries have been proffered, or rather which portion of the pie their oil companies will receive when a puppet government is installed in the Iraqi capital.
Nelson Mandela is one of the few respected statesmen whose words match his true convictions. He has made no bones about saying loudly and clearly that America’s current attitude is a threat to world peace.
The ugly face of George Bush’s America was further exposed on September 16 when after persuasion by the Arab League Iraq finally said that it will allow the inspectors back into the country unconditionally, the US laughs in its face. All Bush’s talk about inspectors is baloney. He isn’t going to allow Iraq to comply with UN resolutions and thwart his real plans for the region.
While America gloats at the success of its bullying and belligerence thus far, beneath the surface there is a simmering cauldron of anti-US sentiment around the world, and especially in the Arab and Moslem worlds. America certainly had its enemies before 9-11, but as a result of its unilateral policies concerning the environment, land mines, the now defunct ABM Treaty, and towards the Israel-Palestine conflict, their numbers have multiplied.
In the meantime, the American public is kept blissfully unaware of the real reasons for its country’s unpopularity. Instead, it is hypnotised with such sound bites as ‘they (the faceless, nameless enemies) are jealous of our freedoms’ or ‘they hate democracy’. They are told repeatedly that they are the defenders of freedom and the only hope for a better world ‘for our children and our children’s children’. Ask a man on the street in Seattle or Nebraska as to why he thinks America was attacked and he will parrot the party line while genuinely wondering: Why us? We haven’t done anything wrong.
The rest of the world’s populations are mostly confused and resentful. Many are angry at the seeming subservience of their own governments towards the US, and Arabs, in particular, are offended at the constant attacks by the American media–and some politicians and pundits–on their culture, traditions, religion and everything which makes them individual and unique.
Let’s face it folks! The US dominates the world and we are all its loyal or disloyal subjects as the case may be.
So here we all are between a rock and a hard place. We can either beat ‘em or join ‘em. The first option isn’t practical as things stand, and the alternative is abhorrent to many, including those of us who still believe in the concept of a just world. The solution requires a large dose of Edward de Bono’s lateral thinking or some divine intervention–provided, of course, that God doesn’t only bless America.
LINDA S. HEARD welcomes feedback and can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org