(cont. from “The Manifest Doctrine”)
The second half of Jeremy Scahill’s Dirty Wars presents the consequences of the U.S. escalating war on terror. Focusing mostly on the efforts of the young and generally popular administration of President Barack Obama, Scahill narrates how in such a short time the president’s circle managed to successfully “constitutionalize” the expanding extralegal efforts of government, secret intelligence, and military personnel used to combat terrorism. As a result of these new rounds of punitive measures, the U.S. war on terror has transformed all actors involved. It has radicalized the minds of those leading campaigns to eliminate terrorist threats, and also the actions of a world at war with a legacy of interventionist U.S. foreign policies.
The dirty war that Scahill speaks of is the fundamental shift in our moral capacity to uphold our image as an unshakeable fortress of the rule of law, regardless of the circumstances that oppose it. The dirty war Scahill dissects is the actions we’ve taken as a collective nation-state since 9/11 to keep our hands clear of the fire. It is like a fire blanket we all coward under, and that Cherrie Moraga in her article “From Inside the 1st World: On 9/11 and Women-of-Color Feminism” alludes to as blind patriotism after September 11, 2001, to save face and bury our complicity in a legacy of U.S. foreign interventions that brewed the attitudes we see today. Moraga calls for the nation to step out from its bubble and ask the tough questions no one wishes to ask: who is really responsible for the violence that is shaping up our lives? In his 1967 speech “A Time to Break Silence,” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. cemented his stand against the U.S. war in Vietnam and the policies behind its creation and continued execution. Dr. King, like Moraga, beckoned the people to look into the mirror and confront who they were, and realize that the path the world was going down could be averted and changed if we spoke our fears, cried our minds, and walk the walk. Peace and understanding is possible.
The election of Barack Obama was only a superficial change. El pueblo spoke in 2008, but unfortunately, the dinosaur remains in the room. The corporate, ethnocentric institution that runs the country has not changed. It has evolved, adapted. The same leaders that orchestrated and presided over the policies that ripped the America out of America, from original intent in the founding fathers and all the way to the neoliberal epoch we live today, it is all part of the fabric of the U.S. These are people still hanging around D.C. They play merry-go-round with titles, offices, and responsibilities. They continue to whisper blindly into the ear of our elected officials. Even the most down-to-earth, connected-to-the-people like Obama (circa-2008), can be perverted by the writing on the wall. Scahill’s narrative does not attack Obama personally. His portrayal of the 44th commander-in-chief, his drone policy, and the counterterrorist measures carried out in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan, among others, represent an analysis of a president that has slowly unraveled from his convictions and has yielded, reluctantly, to the sweet temptation of the apple from the forbidden tree.
I came to realize that our government has been shadowing the Tarkin doctrine from Star Wars, and has been carrying it out at home. The idea of “rule through the fear of force than the use of force itself” has worked abroad and inside our borders as well, discouraging civil dissidence from the ethnic groups most affected by the state’s monolithic rhetoric. We can’t continue to live in a bubble called “American citizenship” and pretend that nothing unlawful, illegal, and inhumane is happening, even when what is being done is branded and sold to us as necessary to save our way of life.
Our way of life? As Moraga points out in “From Inside the 1st World,” that way of life, the freedoms we enjoy as citizens of the free world, are possible only through the suffering, anguish, tears, and exploitations of other groups; a claim history can back. At home we preach our commitment to the constitutional heritage and yet we completely disregard these basic principles abroad. Its time we look at the mirror. In reading roll call on the radicalization of the world, the U.S. has plenty of cola que le pisen.
We must face the music, come into the light, step out of the shadows. I can dish out a whole list of sayings with similar messages, but the bottom line is we must commit to speak the truth. I am not unpatriotic, and because I believe in the inherent good of this nation, I ask for sincerity and clarity. We don’t need a new voice to repackage our nation; we need that raspy, old voice of history to come clean. More often than not we speak softly and carry a big stick a-la Teddy Roosevelt, but our twigs are broken time and time again. It has demoralized countless movements for social reform and justice, but the fight carries on. We don’t need or want our leaders to ascribe us as good, honest, decent people, and then allow a single-minded leadership to act as it sees fit to keep that “societal greatness” intact. Those who have taken the lives of others in name of their beliefs, and the people whose interest-driven views fueled this state of perpetual war in the first place, created the problems that plague us today.
We take for granted the idea that history, if not learned, returns with a vengeance. We don’t seem to care at all about our mistakes in the past. We assume that with greater might and power, bigger than all previous imperial, free, or stateless communities combined, we will overcome the trials of a world gone ape-shit. Millions of Americans and millions across the globe are crying, what is happening in our world? ¿A donde iremos a parar?