Hair Trigger Alert
On Friday the 13th of November, 1998, without warning President Bill Clinton picks up the phone in the oval office and orders the immediate deployment of US air and ground forces to Iraq. All branches of the US military are put on a hair trigger causing an entire nation of people to go into crisis mode. The corporate media descends upon Baghdad to get the scoop. Then, as suddenly as they appear, forces are quietly withdrawn. The media report that UN secretary general Kofi Annan has received not one, but two letters from Iraq begging the UN publicly not to unleash the US and UK on their already-devastated community. It is a pivotal moment in history. It is an awkward moment for the president. Not willing to risk further alienating US "allies," Clinton orders US forces to heel, at least for now. The "Iraq story" grows cold again; the reporters go home. They have bigger turkeys to bake. US troops remain behind, positioned to strike. Death and destruction in Iraq since the Gulf War have already cost US taxpayers nearly $7 billion. How Could This Happen
In the US the dichotomy between the people and their elected representatives grows deeper and more formidable with every election. The sense of powerlessness felt by millions of otherwise moral and hardworking Americans-as evidenced in an ever-dwindling voter turnout and general lack of civic engagement-is understandable. Survival, for many, is a full-time job. But it is an ominous sign for what remains of a disintegrating and perilously fragile western democracy
On the domestic front, the "American people" (as the rest of us are snidely referred to by politicians and talk show pundits) want to put the "Lewinsky matter" behind them. The American people, the same pundits observe nightly, are concerned with more important issues-social security, health care, education, the ECONOMY. The American people they inform us, are horrified by Clinton's rapacious sexual appetite, and the lies. In fact, they say, parents in this country can barely face their own children. The Cokie Roberts crowd clucks publicly to one another about the unenviable plight of Americans faced with explaining to their young how the rabid impulses of a sex-starved meglomaniacal and possibly sociopathic president have brought a once noble institution to its knees-and catapulted an entire nation into a frenzy of salacious punditry and, oh yes, a constitutional crisis.
It is too bad that when the lights go down and the cameras are tucked away for the night, the American people are left sitting in the dark. It is a tragic blow to democracy when the "American public" is considered by the corporate class to be nothing more than a bunch of consumers in a corporation-eat-consumer world. And, as the attitude goes-to hell with all of them, as long as they keep buying the goods.
The corrosive effects of American citizens abdicating responsibility in such critical times are self-evident. Small farmers, businesses and the working class hang on by a thread. The corporate class, for now, enjoys an era of corporate growth and cynical consumerism unprecedented in human history. But, buoyed as they are by the pandemic of political apathy in the US, corporate classes have made some serious miscalculations. Those miscalculations have resulted in the dismal failure of global market forces to deliver on that which was promised. That failure, as manifested in the so-called Asian flu and the near-collapse of the Asian banking system, a phenomenon also seen in Mexico, Brazil and even Russia, is giving rise to severe outbreaks of violence and eco-terrorism around the world.
In Nigeria, patience with the likes of Shell and Chevron, has worn thin. Angered by the desecration of their environment in the name of pumping oil for western consumption, and frustrated by the blatant disregard for the health of their communities, citizens there have taken to the streets in protest Their impassioned, often eloquent cries for social justice and minimal compensation have gone unheeded. One community asked that Shell build a small school. Shell refused. Sabotage is becoming commonplace. Nicaragua, Bolivia, South Africa, Columbia, Indonesia, East Timor and others whose citizens are outraged by the ravages of corporate neoliberalism, have long since lost their patience. Human misery is rapidly reaching a threshold that threatens to disrupt whatever order remains in the "New World Order." Nowhere is the wrath of corporate fascism more keenly felt than in Iraq. Genocide As Photo Op For US Military-Industrial Complex (AKA NBC, CBS, ABC)
In Iraq, where US imposed economic sanctions fail to wear down a defiant dictator, death and destruction in the community at large have reached Genocidal proportions. Bill Clinton, beleaguered by faltering markets abroad and frustrated by his failure to dodge Republican congressional pit bulls at home, needs a boost. He knows the "right war" would earn him huge political points, would make him "presidential. "
Besides, he has grown weary of Saddam Hussein's refusal to cooperate with international laws selectively enforced by UNSCOM at his behest-laws that are routinely violated by the US, Israel and the UK. It is time to strike a blow for corporate democracy. The corporate propaganda machine, long since in place, is poised to deliver, "Showdown in the Gulf-the Sequel," to unsuspecting citizens-turned-consumers. Iraq is in no position to present much of a public relations or military problem. Iraq is a sitting duck.
Oh well. You get what you pay for. Americans aren't really that stupid. We knew Bill Clinton was bought and paid for by the corporate block. Didn't we? After all, if the US was really a functioning democracy-that is, by the people, for the people and of the people-would its citizens sit passively by and watch, as a tiny nation of real people-men, women and children-gets blown to bits and burned alive by not-so-smart bombs that, contrary to popular belief, destroyed a lot more civilian than military targets, i.e. hospitals, schools, major infrastructures, water mains and electric utilities. In a real democracy, "moral standards," would not be defined by fundamentalists and political cronies. In a real democracy, Bill Clinton would still be impeached, but not for sex and lies.
In a functional democracy, surely citizens would realize the awesome responsibility that comes with the privilege of living in such a state. Surely they would stand up and fight, not only for their own rights, but for those of people not so blessed. Most certainly they would understand the implications of looking the other way while their government imposes economic sanctions on an entire nation that amount to nothing less than a death sentence. They would know that Iraq was once home to a huge middle class-teachers, doctors, scientists, writers and artists, now forced to drink feces-contaminated water and sell their clothing and furniture on the streets to buy medicine for their children who die needlessly of dysentery and malnutrition because of US imposed sanctions. They would be literate and intelligent and compassionate enough to penetrate the facade of corporate television owned by the same CEOs who produce and export for world consumption the very weapons they so proudly advertise. They would understand that the glitter and gloss of "Operation Desert Storm" and "Showdown with Iraq" are brought to them courtesy of same. They would know that the imposition of sanctions on a country like Iraq that imports nearly seventy percent of its food and is dependent on its oil exports for revenue is Genocide. That it is not Saddam Hussein who is impacted, but the people, especially the very old and the very young, who are, according to UN and humanitarian sources, dying by the thousands every month for lack of basic food and medicine. Participants in a real democracy would not only understand, they would take advantage of their right to organize, and rise up in mass protest, aware of the implications of abdicating that awesome responsibility.
Participants in a real democracy would further understand that eight years of sanctions in Iraq has nothing to do with "weapons of mass destruction," and everything to do with hegemony, greed and political opportunism. They would be well-informed enough to know what citizens in many (more enlightened?) countries already understand that Saddam Hussein is no better or worse than other dictators who have been and continue to be customers in the world arms market of which the US is a major supplier. That weapons of mass destruction or WMDs, are routinely exported by US weapons manufacturers to the very regimes the US purports to "deplore." That the very documents UNSCOM now demands from Iraq at gun point, pertain to technology sold to Iraq by the US during the Iran-lraq war That Iraq's WMOs make up about two percent (and by now probably less) of the world market.
That President Clinton is currently committing Genocide in Iraq by continuing sanctions, and that the Pentagon, fronted by the US government, and lead by Bill Clinton & Co. are at this very moment poised to commit still another mass murder, in the name of a good photo op for the debut of their new line. In a real democracy, that wouldn't be called presidential. That would be called genocidal
Then again, if citizens of the "greatest democracy on earth," allow themselves to be lulled and coddled into a state of complacency and utter passivity-if we have resigned ourselves-either through ignorance or conscious choice-to the role of consumer-onlookers, God help us all, for we are all guilty of Genocide and we deserve what we get.
Sandy Leon is a freelance journalist and reporter. She is currently a producer in the news department at KPFA, Radio Pacifica. She welcomes email and will gladly provide information on what citizens can do today to STOP THE GENOCIDE OF IRAQI PEOPLE. She can be contacted at [email protected]
At the time of this writing US and British militaries are in a state of "hair trigger" alert, poised to attack Iraq. You may' contact the author at [email protected] to find out what you can do. In the meantime' pray, and be very thankful this Thanksgiving that you do not live in Iraq.