Tuesday, June 07, 2005

No really, I'm Canadian

I have been moving, then traveling, then de-jetlagging so I have been a little out of the news loop, but I haven't missed the confirmation from the Pentagon that Koran abuse did indeed occur. This follows just three weeks after the White House dared to slam Newsweek for publishing such an allegation. Oh dear, how embarassing.

I have also managed not to miss the fallout after the release of the Downing Street minutes. This has been seriously under-reported in much of the American mainstream media, but you can check it out here and if you outraged by the deceit of our "elected" officials, you can sign the petition for acountability on the web site of John Conyers Jr., a Democratic senator from Detroit.

The main thrust can be summed up with this quote:
It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided. But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran.

The memo seems to support what many us us have suspected since the first talk of invading Iraq: there was no immediate threat; intelligence was being mainpulated; Bush and company had plans to invade Iraq long before September 11.

I had a long conversation the other day with my dissertation advisor, a politically outspoken applied linguist orginally from France, specializing in German, and living more than 30 years in the U.S. Regarding my approaching travels abroad, she posed the question, "How do you explain the U.S. to people when you are in Europe?" When pushed for clarification, she elaborated, "What kinds of principles do you ascribe to Americans?" I told her about my last stay in Germany, which followed immediately the Monica Lewinsky scandel and Clinton's call for impeachment. I had a twofold strategy in discussions concerning U.S. policy and American politics: first, I would distance myself ("Well, my views really aren't in line with the majority of Americans."); then I would try to take the role of expert informant ("What you don't understand about people in the U.S. is..."). I often tried to explain the size of the country and the nuances of American politics, which was missed in the foreign presss. I also emphasized America's isolated position relative to much of the world. Most Americans are more concerned with feeding their families than tuning in to world news, I would argue. They don't know that they are uninformed. The media doesn't show it, so people don't know to look for it. It's a vicious cycle. Although I agreed with my interlocutors' critiques of U.S. politics, I felt driven to expand their view of American people. Ignorant? Yes. But not bad all around.

Following the 2004 elections I am less able to makes excuses for my countrymen. All of the discussions around the Iraq war. The loss of the sympathies from around the world that poured in after the bombing of the World Trade Center lost in the you're-with-us-or-against-us rhetoric of the Bush administration. All of the public outcries against the war as it became more and more clear that WMDs were nowhere to be found. And still Bush takes the vote.

Even as more and more evidence surfaces that the bad judgements of this administration were not incompetence, but blatant lies and manipulations, many people remain complacent and the government yet to be held acocuntable for its many crimes against victims of war, the people of America and the world.

I am starting to think the little passport cover my sister gave me for my birthday this year which converts my blue and gold booklet into an inocuous aqua-marine, may be the most useful item in my travel bag.


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