'The Earth is my ball'
THE WORLD ACCORDING TO WASHINGTON An Asian View: Patwant Singh; Rupa & Co., 7/16, Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi-110002. Rs. 395.
TWENTY YEARS ago, a cartoon headed "The World According to Ronald Reagan" showed, for example, Canada as "Acidrainia: a wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary", a reference to the U.S. economic dominance and to its unchecked air pollution which was destroying Canadian forests to the advantage of the U.S. timber producers.
Patwant Singh shows the truth behind the cartoon, but starts earlier. The European empires left their former subjects with a permanent sense of cultural and racial inferiority. This was no accident; the fabled wealth of India attracted European commercial adventurers whose technical sophistication, fixity of purpose and ruthless instrumentality enabled them to exploit the internecine hatreds in an ossified, caste-ridden Indian society devoid of national feeling or loyalty.
Although China suffered too the contracts forced upon it by Britain and Tsarist Russia could have been templates for the contracts forced upon Iraq by the U.S. it stands up to bullying "better than India does." In South Asia, however, India and Pakistan "cripple themselves" with military spending while their arms suppliers laugh "all the way to the bank."
The U.S. enters after the World War II, destroying the Indonesian President Sukarno's independent-minded social democracy and renewing what one Dutch governor-general had called 300 years of the whip and the club.
In the next 30 years, President Suharto's dictatorship killed a million people in Indonesia and the U.S. corporations got their hands on Indonesia's immense natural resources, including oil. Today, Indonesia, one of the world's poorest countries, even imports rice; all its major economic activities are under foreign control. Similar things were induced and engineered by the U.S. in Iran and mainland South-East Asia.
The motivation amounted to outright racism; even a pro-western Japanese journalist wrote of American helicopter gunships in Vietnam that they fired "for fun, using the farmers for targets... They are hunting Asians."
The rhetoric is bewildering. The bombing of North Korea in the 1950s was called an expression of sympathy and support for the people of Korea; the way to help Vietnam was to bomb it "back into the Stone Age."
Today, the way to liberate Iraqis from the monster who had been armed and supported by most of the world's major powers is for those same powers to saturate Iraq with what even the Pentagon says is 320 tonnes of depleted uranium, which remains radioactive for 4.5 billion years.
Even the imperium realises that these are not justifications, so it arrogates to itself the right to do wrong, and propagates its wrongs through corrupt elites and vicious dictators.
Donald Rumsfeld, when in the Reagan cabinet, lavished praise on Saddam Hussein; the U.S. sold Saddam anthrax and the U.K. sold him botulinum. This would be more widely known if the media corporations were not so powerful. War coverage but not of wounded and dying civilians boosts TV audiences.
Secondly, many journalists are staggeringly ignorant; one, told that he was on the Tigris and not the Ganges, "Yeah, one of those biblical rivers." Thirdly, many journalists readily internalise politicians' thinking.
Although the author is right to contrast the BBC's Iraq coverage favourably with much of the American coverage, we must remember that a senior BBC correspondent said, live on TV, that the war had been "clean", with very few casualties.
He ignored the thousands of dead Iraqis. Further, the New York Times and the Washington Post have publicly admitted that they were mistaken in advocating invasion at the expense of informed evaluation.
The U.S. that emerges from the analysis has a puppet government controlled by a handful of oil and arms corporations, a population ignorant of most of the world and a political culture convinced of its right to exploit the planet and to destroy anyone or anything by any means it chooses.
Small wonder then, that the U.S. Government squandered the sympathy expressed for the country throughout the Islamic world after the September 2001 attacks on it.
Fortunately, that is not the whole picture, and the author shows both that the truth does emerge in the U.S. and that there is substantial dissent there.
President Eisenhower, in his valedictory address in 1961, explicitly warned against the military-industrial complex and other eminent politicians have cautioned against global instability caused by arms sales. Sharp criticism of Israel comes from those Jewish Americans who support justice for the Palestinians and opposition to the continuing occupation of Iraq increases daily.
There are signs too, that the Democrat presidential candidate, John Kerry, knows that the U.S. has to share the planet with everyone else.
Nevertheless, until the U.S. voters make their decision in November and possibly thereafter the attitude described by the author will hold; the Earth is my ball, and if I can't do what I want with it, then nobody else can have it either.
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