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Pay No Attention To the Man Behind the Curtain

By       Message John Grant     Permalink
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It is the climactic scene. Dorothy and her friends stand before the great Wizard of Oz. Toto wanders off and yanks back a curtain to reveal a man busy manipulating levers. Whistles and smoke bombs go off, and the great Oz thunders: "Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!"

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The federal government, the military and the Library of Congress have all ordered those under their power not to look at the material published on the WikiLeaks website because it is illegal and looking would make them criminals. Meanwhile, Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks founder, is still jailed in Britain because his condom "malfunctioned" while having sex in Sweden with a woman who has connections to anti-Castro Cubans and US intelligence.

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This raises a very real question: How is the US approach to WikiLeaks any different from the tyrannical Chinese government's crack down on websites publishing things Chinese leaders fear and want to control?

Despite all the "leader of the free world" propaganda hammered into us since first grade, are we really any different? As my dad liked to say, the Chinese were civilized when our WASP ancestors were living in trees. Is it time we stopped letting ourselves be deluded that we're "exceptional" in the world?

The US government campaign to close down WikiLeaks uses the same tactics as the campaign by the Chinese to thwart its website enemies. They both rely on the intimidation of funding sources, they both publicly smear leaders of the criminalized website and they both use their nation's legal system, since, in both China and the United States, the legal system has been designed by the powerful class of people most likely to be embarrassed by the revelations on "subversive" websites.

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Here's a novel idea: To make up for the undeserved Nobel Peace Prize given last year to Barack Obama and in line with the more appropriate Peace Prize given out this year to Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo, next year maybe the Nobel Committee should give the Peace Prize to Julian Assange. Especially if he's in prison.

Samuel Huntington and US Decline

I've generally disdained historians like Bernard Lewis and Samuel Huntington, since both of them were used ad nauseum to bolster the imperial Bush Doctrine of preemptive military violence.


Turkish cartoonist Mustafa Bilgin's take on The Clash Of Civilizations
(Image by Mustafa Bilgin)
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But the other day for 35-cents at a thrift shop I picked up Huntington's 1996 magnum opus, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order . While it has a testimonial on the back from the devil himself, Henry Kissinger, the book is important and more politically neutral than the list of its right-wing militarist worshippers suggest.

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Huntington's thesis -- that the post-Cold War world is shaking out to be a "clash of civilizations" -- rests firmly on the fact the United States is a nation/empire in decline. He says it has been in decline since around 1920, when productive US industrial might was at its pinnacle in the world.

Since then, European colonialism has been closed out. Flush with its post World War Two legacy and following the bankruptcy of the Soviet Union, the US was the undisputed top dog in the world. All Americans know this only too well. As a baby-boomer born of a World War Two PT boat captain, it has been my, and my generation's, legacy.

Americans know this so deeply that most Americans, Huntington concedes, are consumed with deep-seated feelings of exceptionalism. He refers (a bit ironically) to western "arrogance." He even agrees with Palestinian scholar Edward Said that the ideational separation of "West" and "East" is a western-created myth. And, he says, that myth should be criticized, in Said's words, "for assuming the inherent superiority of the former to the latter."

This American feeling of exceptionalism is based on an imperial machine composed of economic, cultural and military power. The trouble is, that machine is running low on gas.

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I'm a 68-year-old American who served in Vietnam as a naive 19-year-old kid. From that moment on, I've been studying and re-thinking what US counter-insurgency war means. I live outside of Philadelphia, where I'm a writer, photographer and (more...)
 

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