Who am I?Where am I?

13 September 2008

Americans and the election

Last December while white-water rafting on the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe, I heard a joke. The joke went something like, "Thabo Mbeki, Robert Mugabe, Tony Blair, and boy scout were all on a plane. The pilot came to the back of the plane and said that the plane was going down but there were only four parachutes. He took one, wished the others good luck and jumped out. Tony Blair said, 'I am the leader of the country that built the biggest empire in history,' took a parachute and jumped out. Robert Mugabe said, 'I'm the smartest leader in the world.' He took a parachute and jumped out. Thabo Mbeki says to the boy scout, 'I've lived a long time so you can have the last parachute.' The boy scout turned to Mbeki and said, 'No worries. You know that last guy...he took my napsack'."

I think that American public could similarly be lumped together, at least the part of the public that has now come out in droves to voice their support of Republican candidate John McCain after he announced Sarah Palin as his choice to be the Vice-President. Having lived abroad for the past 6.5 years and not having to view American politics through the monocle that is the American media, I simply cannot fathom how a considerable number of Americans are really too studpid to see the mossback policies of Karl Rove and Bush in the rhetoric of McCain. For 6.5 years, I have defended America, if not always American policy, in many debates. If McCain is elected, I will seriously not defend the USA for a considerable amount of time. His election would simply be indefensible. As I watch McCain surge in the polls after picking someone to the right of BUSH as his running mate, I have realized...I don't understand Americans.

I don't understand our policies from an American view. What I do understand after having been here in this particular part of the world for less than a month: the anger at American foreign policy, the stupidity of an apparent majority of voting Americans due to our lack of travel, the lack of understanding about Islam, etc.

American foreign policy makers routinely bloviate about exporting democracy, freedom, and liberty to the rest of the world. A close examination of the US track record here in the Middle East paints a less than sterling picture. The US supports an oppressive royal family in Saudi Arabia that does not have the support of the majority of the people. Sadam Hussein was supported by the Americans in the late 1970s and through the 1980s. Even in the first Gulf War, he was deemed preferable to a Shiite majority ruled government, which is why he was left in power after that war by Bush I. Then, he was toppled a decade later for supposedly having weapons of mass destruction, which he never possessed. Furthermore, after watching a CNN report from Iraq on Thursday, I realized that most American soliders do not even know why we are in Iraq. It has nothing to do with September 11 and it never did. The idea of Sadam alligning himself with AlQaeda is simply abusurd. The brand of Islam practiced by Osama bin-Laden is not a brand that the majority of Sunni Mulims (who comprise the majority of the world's Islamic population) deems as being real Islam. Thus, it would be impossible for Sadam and Osama to agree to fight a jihad against the West. They don't think each other holy in the first place so no holy war could be fought with them on the same side. Is it any wonder, that Sadam must have been sitting in Baghdad in the lead up to the 2nd Gulf War chortling to himself about how ludicrous it was to try to link him to 9/11 and to think he had weapons, which he clearly knew he did not have?

In addition, the US has blindly supported Israel (the merits of which I will not debate here), mistakenly attacked a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan in response to the bombings of our embassies in East Africa, and supported a corrupt Shah in Iran. Our record in this region is not good.

Americans hold a monolithic view of the world. Until 9/11, fewer than 10% owned a passport. Now that number is up just under 50% because one now needs a passport to travel to the Caribbean and Canada. However, most Americans do not go out and see the world. During my various travels, I rarely encounter fellow Americans. This is disconcerting because only by seeing the world can one hope to understand it. I am safer walking around Al-Ain, the town where I currently am working, as an American in an Islamic country than I was at any point in time in South Africa. I'm safer than I was walking around DC streets as a Howard student. Yet, I have been asked numerous times by people at home if I am safe here?

I just do not get it. I do no understand how Americans, who have a failing economy, a falling dollar, losing 84,000 jobs last month alone, etc., can even consider voting for any Republican in this campaign. Anyone earning less than $250,000 per annum is voting against their own pocket book if they vote for a Republican administration.

What is really interesting to me is that John McCain loves to quote Theodore Roosevelt, who by the way would be branded an anti-corporate far left-liberal in today's political environment. On January 1, 1908, Teddy Roosevelt wrote a letter to George Otto Trevelyan. In this letter, Roosevelt described the "typical American multimillionaire" as an "unlovely being with little resemblance to George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and other heroes who founded this government, conquered this continent, and fought to a finish the great war for Union and for liberty." Roosevelt would turn over in his grave if he knew that McCain was using his name and legacy for political gain. McCain is pro-big business which does not help the fundamental plight of the failed economic policies of the Regan-Bush-Bush era.

On the War on Terror...this is an unwinnable war. We need to security, but unlike Theordore Roosevelt's Big Stick policy, we need to protect ourselves but utilize a big carrot. The world does not hate us. The world is simply tired of being bullied by us. Sure there will always be crazy fanatics (the only difference between ours and theirs is that we elect ours to the White House). But the world can generally deal with these groups. During the late 1930s, a Gallup Poll asked Americans why the United States had entered World War I. The most frequent reponse was that the United States had been the "victim of propaganda and selfish interests." Does this sound familiar? The war in Iraq is not about terror. It has only increased terrorist activities. It is about the selfish interests of the ruling elite and the propaganda promulgated by these same elites to deceive the masses...and it has worked! A friend and confidant of President John Adams, Elbridge Gerry thought that a large standing Army was "like a swollen penis, providing an excellent assurance of domestic tranquility, but a dangerous temptation to foreign adventure." Alas, we the American public have allowed ourselves to be deceived by the media and the Republicans. We have engaged in foreign adventure and it has ruined our domestic tranquility.

One can only hope that Americans are smarter than the current polls suggest and they see through the hype and smokescreen of the Republican machine and elect Barack Obama. It is our only hope of restoring the greatest country in the world to the top of the pedestal from which it should stand.


Yve said...

I agree with this. Its a high time Americans took some time out to understand the rest of the world especially the Islamic world. I care less for Islam but with the kind of work am doing I've been forced to understand this way of life. When Mogadishu was in a state of chaos pre-2006 and the warlords were sharing power in Nairobi, the Islamic Courts Union rose up and brought some sense of law and order in Mog and business flourished like never before. More so, cases of piracy along the Red Sea reduced considerably! But what did Bush do? He used the little boy, Ethiopia to pursue her interests in that country and within no time the ICU leaders had been flushed out. Ethiopia has a very poor record of human rights and comes only second to Zimbabwe but Bush never sees that so long as America's policies are being realized in this part of the world. Its funny that the Northern part of Somalia is much safer than Nairobi. Cases of crime, petty theft etc are close to nil. Let me talk a bit about piracy along the Red Sea. The media is not telling the whole story. There is more to it than meets the eye - there are alot of issues surrounding piracy and its emergence in Somalia that the world does not want to talk about and address....I can write on and on about this but let me stop here.


Yve said...

Today I would like to talk abit about the US and her allies' foreign policies. For me, this is an evolving topic and I would like to carry on from the Nomad's lines "I don't understand our policies from an American view. What I do understand after having been here in this particular part of the world for less than a month: the anger at American foreign policy, the stupidity of an apparent majority of voting Americans due to our lack of travel, the lack of understanding about Islam, etc……………..However, most Americans do not go out and see the world...."

Mr. Nomad, I cannot match your eloquent Obama-like English but I will attempt to rationalize on one or two issues and share my reflections. I should also add that your thoughts and reflections supersede the average American’s view of the world. There could be a few other voices of reason whose views we may probably not get to hear but for now I’ll respond to what I have “heard-read”. Now, there are different ways in which we view and approach the world we live in. Some choose to listen to and act on well-crafted academic, think-tank endorsed theories (or whatever you may want to call it) while others choose to listen to “simple” words from “simple” minds and try to make sense and meaning out of this world. Others do both; while others just live, they neither listen nor sense…are they safer or plain ignorant? Whatever lens we choose to adopt plays an important role in shaping our perceptions and/or misperceptions of the world around us. More importantly, when we learn to listen (not hear), see (not look), feel (not touch), the world would probably be a better place to live in. But we all know that’s plain idealistic.

To cut to the chase, take the example of the recent developments in the Somali waters. “Gun totting Somali pirates have hijacked a Ukrainian ship carrying “Kenyan” tanks”. That’s quite some headline! Flashy and hot from the oven just like the press/media likes to serve it. Let me try and unpack the issues from my own viewpoint. First, any fool paying close attention and in touch with his world can tell that those are not Kenyan tanks. Secondly any kid can guess (this is my really wild guess) that the Americans are as much culprits as their dependable ally, Kenya in arming Southern Sudan (that will come in part 2 or 3 of this series). Thirdly, not a single media house, and quite disappointingly Aljazeera, a station I consider to be independent, objective and authoritative has attempted to unearth or at least give the inside story of the secrets of this sea (not unless of course they covered the story when I was asleep in which case they shall be excused). The world had turned a blind eye on the Somali crisis over the recent past until the pirates once again brought it to the international platform. Ordinary Somalis will tell you the hijack is a plus coz at least momentarily, international attention has shifted to the miseries of that part of the world………………………to be continued…………………………….

Richard the Nomad said...

Yve, check on AlJazeera.com. They had a story on last week that tried to unpack the issues surrounding Somaliland and the "pirates". It dealt with fishing rights being violated since 1991 when the Somali government collapsed, etc. The pirates see themselves as Somali patriots. It brings to mind the saying that one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Thanks for commenting and I look forward to hearing more of your views. Richard the Nomad

Yve said...

Thanks Nom for drawing this to my attention. I will look out for it. In the meantime, I'll be posting some more comments soon. It is said that a book is as good as its writer but I also think its as good as its reader. We interpret things in different ways and yes one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter.