In the first part, I reviewed the reason for the question in the first place, and the foreign and human rights policies that have brought us to this moment. Obviously, we have been far from the knights in shining armor we pretend to be. The continued disaster in Haiti is just one more piece of evidence on just how skewed and messed up we have become as a nation. The poorest country in the Hemisphere is hit with the worst natural disaster in 200 years which causes the deaths of 200,000 people. The entire country of 9 million is devastated. Every minute counts a new death. Rescue from the rubble and humanitarian and medicinal aid is of the utmost urgency. So what does the US do? It sends in 20,000 troops first and decides to build a green zone at the airport before beginning to help the citizenry. That is the epitome of international disconnect with reality. I guess the old adage is true even today, if all you have is a hammer, all your problems start looking like nails.
Flawed Domestic Policy
Our problems on the international stage are also reflected in our ever increasing surveillance-based domestic policy. As Naomi Klein so aptly points out in Shock Doctrine, the events of September 11, 2001, were exactly what the doctor ordered in order to strip away many of the freedoms we thought were guaranteed to us by the constitution. The Patriot Act was shoved through Congress when it was most vulnerable and susceptible to change. While the country and its lawmakers were dazed and confused about how to prevent a recurrence of events, the Bush Administration wasted no time at all in enacting those very measures that only exist in the most ruthless of totalitarian regimes.
As stated in the February 1, 2005, Baltimore Chronicle, in their article, "Freedoms lost under George W. Bush," This is but a partial end result of our rush to thwart terrorism in the US:
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION: Government may monitor religious and political institutions without suspecting criminal activity to assist terror investigations.
FREEDOM OF INFORMATION: Government has closed once-public immigration hearings, has secretly detained hundreds of people without charges, and has encouraged bureaucrats to resist public records questions.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH: Government may prosecute librarians or keepers of any other records if they tell anyone that the government subpoenaed information related to a terror investigation.
RIGHT TO LEGAL REPRESENTATION: Government may monitor federal prison jailhouse conversations between attorneys and clients, and deny lawyers to Americans accused of crimes.
FREEDOM FROM UNREASONABLE SEARCHES: Government may search and seize Americans' papers and effects without probable cause to assist terror investigation.
RIGHT TO A SPEEDY AND PUBLIC TRIAL: Government may jail Americans indefinitely without a trial.
RIGHT TO LIBERTY: Americans may be jailed without being charged or being able to confront witnesses against them.
The most egregious of errors, however, is the fact that most Americans aren't even aware of this. There is almost no protest whatsoever anywhere inside the US to publicly condemn this new, fascistic curtailing of our freedoms. Americans seem quite content with losing this and more without worrying what that means to them and their children in the coming years.
The US has the largest prison population in the world. Even though China and India are four times the size of the US, their prison population is much smaller. In China, there are 500,000 fewer inmates, yet we consider China an evil Communist country with extremely curtailed civil liberties. What really bothers me is the fact that the few Americans who are aware of our prison population scoff at its meaning, stating, "Yeah, but most of those are for drug possession." Somehow I don't think that those inmates who have met jail time for drug use and/or possession look at their incarceration as a mere asterisk in their life that has absolutely no effect on them whatsoever. From job applications to personal horror stories, jail time affects a person for the rest of their lives and is not something to scoff at as if it were just another trip to the dentist or something.
Americans don't seem to want universal health care. It has become increasingly obvious that Americans don't care about improved health care services, universal coverage, or the cost savings. In 2000, The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked the US as 37th in the world in health care, just two places above Cuba. At that time we did not have 50 million people who were without health care. We did not have 10% unemployment where nearly all those suffering from the lack of a job also suffer from the lack of health care. Then, as now, the US health care system, for all its problems and injustices, is BY FAR the most expensive system on the planet in total and PER CAPITA. Americans have been spending more than anyone else for decades and have been receiving fewer and fewer benefits. Yet, most don't seem to be able to knowingly discuss any other system on Earth. Very often I find retorts like, "Yeah, but one person once had to wait four hours (or three weeks, depending on the country) for service. That's intolerable." Yet what seems perfectly tolerable is the fact that, at any given moment, there are 50 million without any health care. It's almost as if they are saying, "if you lose health care, it's your own damn fault." And the fact that an estimated 45,000 Americans die every year from treatable diseases doesn't seem to affect these Americans at all. Let them die, it's the thinning of the herd that's important, seems to be the current motto.
In President Obama's State of The Union speech, he proposed a spending freeze, except for the military and the two untouchables, Medicare and Social Security. I can agree completely with Medicare and Social Security and would even propose an expansion of those systems, but to take 50% of our discretionary budget and make it off limits to any freeze is ludicrous. Once again we see the US ensuring the Military-Industrial Complex while cutting more and more spending on Health and Human Services, Transportation, Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Education, Homeland Security, Energy, Agriculture, Justice, NASA, Commerce, Labor, Treasury, Interior, EPA, SS Admin, Science, Infrastructure, SBA, GSA, and any other assistance that the public needs. We don't mind spending money on illegal wars, new and super-sophisticated military technology that has little, if any, possible use in the future, and a continued, growing and ridiculous arsenal of space weaponry that will most likely become obsolete before it's ever used. The hammer/nail adage is at work once again. We are spending trillions of dollars on a useless war on terror that only attracts more terror, and the president's solution is to spend even more.
How did we ever get here?
Our current status in the world is a combination of many events over decades of an ever changing international landscape.
Our obsession with "Wars on (fill in major political topic du jour)" started in the 60s. Johnson declared a, "War on Poverty," followed by sweeping legislation originally designed to help some of those with the least ability to improve their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Nixon gave us the "War on Drugs," and Reagan helped popularize the term, "Just say No." Now we have a "War on Terror," which is supposed to be to stop global terrorism, especially that part which reaches our shores. But what can we really say about the results of these wars?
are more people below the poverty line today than when President
Johnson first coined the phrase. The War on Poverty has
done practically nothing to improve life for the nations poorest and
most needy. Homelessness has steadily risen and their newest growing
segment - veterans from our two latest wars - demonstrates just how out
of touch the citizens are with what is really going on. I find it
unconscionable for any nation to ask its citizenry to go and fight in a
distant land, then turn its collective back on those same persons when
they return home. For all the "support the troops" rhetoric out there,
I see very little that addresses this horrific outcome. As prisons
everywhere are a physical portrayal of their society's most defenseless
and most discriminated against, we find drug offenders and minorities,
especially African-Americans and Latinos, in greater percentage behind
on Drugs has been a similar disaster. The only difference between
today's drug war and that of Nixon's, is the fact that he started
out investing our tax dollars in treatment of the worst drug addicts,
today we merely incarcerate them for years and then release them back
into society where they are no longer able to look for a regular job,
due to their incarceration, but still have the same, craving mindset to pursue their drug addiction. We've just added more people to
the ranks of criminals, nothing more. Not everyone from any group
returns to a life of crime, but the more you have of any group behind
bars, the greater number will do so.
The War on Terror is by far the worst, however. Since September 11, 2001, the US has ensured that the eradicated opium fields of Afghanistan, the ones the Taliban destroyed, are all back up and running at full steam. Afghanistan kept doubling its opium/heroin output for years under Bush and only recently has it slowed down its growth rate. The US has also ensured that the worldwide sympathy we garnered right after those tragic events was quickly removed from every corner on the globe. By 2003, the world, in numbers never before seen, was marching against the US military aggression and new wars.But Americans didn't seem to care. Now, seven years later, the world has stopped protesting and just accepted the fact that the US will strike anyone, anywhere, anytime and for any lie that happens to be convenient. And given that Americans now overwhelmingly concede that they were lied to, yet refuse to hold anyone responsible for the lies, demonstrates to the rest of the world that Americans just don't seem to care if they start illegal military operations anywhere in the world. Americans just don't care about killing others around the world for any trumped up reason that's at hand, regardless of its veracity or lack thereof.
But even before this latest debacle, the US was known as the most belligerent nation on the planet. We invaded Somalia in 1993, Panama in 1989, Grenada in 1983, Cambodia in 1969-75, Vietnam 1964-75, Cuba 1961, and the list goes on. We've overthrown democratically elected governments in Iran, Guatemala, Indonesia, Chile, Haiti (twice), and elsewhere. We have helped terrorists in Honduras in the 1980s (called "freedom-fighting Contras" by Reagan at the time) attack and kill peasants and farmers in neighboring Nicaragua. We backed the death squads in El Salvador during the same period. There is no other nation on planet Earth that even comes close to the amount of US military intervention since the end of WWII. We have backed some of the worst dictators and on many occasions, we actually removed the democratically elected head of state in order to replace him with our ruthless, but every so Americanized, dictator puppet.