KEEN: In Decency We Trust

KEEN: In Decency We Trust

Postby Oscar » Thu Jun 19, 2008 10:21 am

In Decency We Trust

June 28, 2007

Ongoing events in Iraq and Afghanistan have reminded me of all the chatter before the last US election. About the sort of President the USA (and the rest of us) would wind up with. Most of the talk consisted of “We want Bush" or "We don’t want Bush”. I don’t remember anyone ordering a particular type of President. So here is the kind of person I wanted …and who possibly exists somewhere...in another time …in another place….

Most importantly, a decent person. Sound silly? Maybe. But we desperately need somebody who will say, “I’m sorry.” Sorry for what? “Sorry for the failure of the United States to lead the world to a better life.”

Mind you, we sanctimonious Canadians could also use a push in that direction. We joined the US in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, in Iraq. That qualifies us as war criminals. A few years ago, I suggested to our recently retired Minister of External Affairs (on Canada wide radio) that we should go to the World Court and asked to be tried. He went ballistic. But every nation in NATO is by legal definition a war criminal. And has engaged in terrorist activities. So let’s all confess.

There was a lot of talk during that election campaign about alternatives in Iraq. Forget it. There are only two. Quit, or grow more brutal. If the soldiers who are there haven’t already quit fighting, they soon will. I was in Korea and I saw American draftees who had made a rational decision to keep their heads down. They were not going to die on foreign soil. I didn’t blame them, after all, many of the U.N. forces, (including we Canadians) were there as volunteers. They (the Americans) had not asked to be there. The same decision not to die abroad is being made today in Iraq. Soldiers who started as volunteers are rapidly becoming draftees, as their enlistments are unilaterally extended. Who can blame them for not wanting to die far from home in an illegal cause?

Every day the memory of Vietnam grows stronger. The troops in Iraq and Afghanistan see the same progression taking place. Poor people (military and civilian) are being killed to make the world safe for rich people. Just as in Vietnam, the forces are learning they have been lied to. Just as in Vietnam they will soon refuse to fight and start fragging their gung-ho officers. (Using fragmentation grenades on officers to temper their enthusiasm for combat). When that happens things become really plain. Pull out, or hire even more mercenaries to do even more killing.

There has to be another way. Here is the road map.

Every new president should go back and read Eisenhower’s “Cross of Iron” speech. Then read his speech warning of the military industrial complex. When the new President has learned what one of the United States most famous soldiers thought about war, he will be able to legitimately defend his decision to halt the practice of terrorism by his country.

Some people will protest that being decent somehow implies cowardice. Armchair warriors who have never seen or smelled the results of bombing, shelling and napalm will claim that fighting is necessary to bring peace. They can go somewhere and fight among themselves to their hearts content. Meanwhile, let’s take a look at the kind of world a little good will from the world’s most powerful leader might bring about. We will use a time honoured device from science fiction.

The Alternate Universe.

It is now 1959 and John Kennedy has just been elected. Like Eisenhower, Kennedy had experienced war. John Kennedy was no angel, but we will pretend he was.

After his inauguration he flies to Cuba, puts his arm around Castro’s shoulder and says “Good for you, Fidel, you got rid of those gangsters. How can we help you?” Consider what might have followed. No Bay of Pigs. No Cuban missile crisis. No fifty years of bullying, sanctions and intimidation.

That same generosity of spirit (assuming it did exist) might have led Kennedy to Vietnam. Not North or South Vietnam but Vietnam. And again he speaks “Congratulations on winning your independence. We did the same thing a long time ago. If we can be of help, just ask.”

Just think. No bombing in Vietnam, in Laos, or Cambodia. (No Canadian sales of Agent Orange or napalm.) No massacre in Mai Lai. No tens of thousands of American dead, no millions of Asians dead. No guilt ridden veterans committing suicide.

We could go on and on and on. No upheaval in Chile, or Nicaragua, no Iraq, no Guatemala, no Grenada, no Kosovo. Maybe even an uneasy calm in Palestine and Israel. Maybe peace in Yugoslavia, Hungary and Chechnya, being nice is catching. No war in Iraq and Afghanistan might mean those misspent billions could heal Africa.

Somewhere back there, in that other universe, being decent became normal. The USA supports the UN. The rule of law determines international conduct. As Winston Churchill said “Better jaw, jaw, than war, war.”

Imagine living in a world where the most powerful country is looked on as a friend, not cursed. Imagine living in a world where poverty is rare and hunger unknown. Imagine a world where a whole lot more money is spent on teaching and caring for children than on killing children. Imagine living in a world where fear is not ever present. and is not one of the main determinants in how we vote.

All this is possible. It only requires the good people in the USA to vote for a good person. And for the rest of the world to support those good people and the good leader they choose.

John Keen
Riceton, SK
jkeen@sasktel.net
www.dnpp.ca
Oscar
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