Raznor's Rants

Costarring Raznor's reality-based friends!

Thursday, January 23, 2003

Finally someone's pointing out the obvious

Russell Mokhiber, a White House correspondent, is finally the one to make the important point to Ari Fleischer:

Mokhiber: You and the President have repeatedly said that Saddam Hussein gassed his own people. The biggest such attack was in Halabja in March 1988, where some 6,800 Kurds were killed. Last week, in an article in the International Herald Tribune, Joost Hiltermann writes that while it was Iraq that carried out the attack, the United States at the time, fully aware that it was Iraq, accused Iran. This was apparently part of the U.S. tilt toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war. The tilt included billions of dollars in loan guarantees. Sensing he had carte blanche, Saddam escalated his resort to gas warfare -- graduating to ever more lethal agents. So, you and the President have said that Saddam has repeatedly gassed his own people. Why do you leave out the part that the United States in effect gave Saddam the green light?

Ari, unsurprisingly, gave a brilliant non-answer:

Ari Fleischer: Russell, I speak for President George W. Bush in the year 2003. If you have a question about statements that were purportedly made by the administration in 1988, you need to address those somewhere other than this White House. I can't speak for that. I don't know if it is accurate, inaccurate, but you have all the means to ask those questions yourself.


In 1983, Donald Rumsfeld was a special envoy to Saddam in order to normalize trade relations. Cheney, if he does in fact exist, was Secretary of Defense for Bush the Elder before it stopped being politically expedient to cuddle up with Saddam, The list likely goes on, but I don't quite have the info right now.

Besides, the question isn't, "why did we give Saddam the green light to gas his own people?" It's, "Why are we leaving that fact out?" Frankly, the cry for war has been based on historical inaccuracies and taking advantage of the ignorance of American citizens, and bery little else. Why else call Iran, a relatively progressive Arab nation with a blossoming democracy movement, part of the Axis of Evil? Simple, Americans think Iran, and they think hostages and towel heads.

Ted Rall has a very good column related to this, and I recommend you read it, but in part he says:

[O]nly seven percent of Americans own a passport--fewer than 20 million people--and only a fraction of those ever use one. Citizens of the United States, whose military and culture exert more international influence than those of every other nation combined, are among the planet's least-traveled homebodies. We're love to tell other folks what to do, but we never see where or how they live, much less get to know who they are.

So here's the problem, Americans are ignorant, the news media is helping to perpetuate that ignorance, and very few are getting a new perspective on things. I don't blame Americans for never leaving the country, America is huge. I was in Budapest for 4 and a half months, and it's a 6 hour train ride to get to a country where they speak Czech and a 2 hour train ride to a country where they speak German. In contrast, from anywhere in Continental US, you could drive in a straight line for days and never leave the country (depending on where you are, you'd have to apply some cleverness in choosing a direction). There are slight cultural changes between, say, Arizona and New Jersey, but nothing as compared to say, Hungary and Germany.

But that doesn't mean it's not a problem. America is the most global nation on earth, and ignorance on international perspectives makes it pretty damn hard to understand American policy. But America is still a democracy, and in a democracy it is the duty of its citizenry to do their damnedest to understand, criticize, and recommend government policy.

I don't want to say that we should blame people for ignorance. That gets us nowhere. But dammit, we need to find a way to eliminate the ignorance. Because until we do that, Bush will keep on doing whatever he wants.


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