Col. Writ. 9-27-2003
The worst ever?
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
There is a tendency among the American elite, in the interest of stability, to strive to "play nice" with whichever party is in the nation's capital. You will hear many suggest that it is in the "national interest" to "respect the office" (if not the man), and to "be constructive" if one dares to venture criticism, at all costs.
This is seen as "professional" behavior, and not without coincidence, this "professional manner" protects one's access, and perhaps one's future opportunities as well.
That's why it was striking to read recently of the somewhat blunt criticisms offered by University of California economist George A. Akerlof, a 2001 Nobel Prize laureate. In a recent interview, the Berkeley-based economist offered the following assessment of the presidency of George W. Bush:
"I think this is the worst government the U.S. has ever had in its more than 200 years of history. It has engaged in extraordinarily irresponsible policies not only in foreign and economic but also in social and environmental policy. This is not normal governmental policy. Now is the time for people to engage in civil disobedience." (Dollars and Sense magazine, Sept./Oct. 2003)
Clearly, this isn't the usual stuff one expects from Nobel Prize-winning economists. It is extraordinary. But the essential message from Professor Akerlof was unmistakable: Protest. When asked what kind, he replied: "I don't know yet. But I think it's time to protest--as much as possible."
Millions of Americans, many for the first time in their lives, did just that in the spring, as they tried to make the administration re-think the looming Iraq adventure, but to no avail. The Bush administration, like some hard-hearted Herod, vowed to "shock and awe" the Iraqi state into submission, and delivered almost unprecedented bombing on a major city in recent years. It bombed Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities for days, each bigger than the last. In order to do so, it slapped the UN senseless, and using the prostrate American media, vowed to remake the face of the Middle East.
The bombs have burst. Armies have scattered. A satrap of U.S.-approved and chosen puppets have been seated and given titles that seem to mean they have power. Yet this body, this so-called "Iraqi Governing Council" has less power than the meanest borough in the tiniest burg in America. Power, backed by U.S. military death threats, resides in the Supreme Commander, Paul Bremer, who says what goes and doesn't go in the allegedly "free Iraq." The U.S., which brought its boots, guns and bombs onto Iraqi soil ostensibly to "bring democracy," is none too willing to allow the Iraqis to rule themselves.
The U.S. is both hated and feared worldwide. In the councils of the United Nations it is seen as a rogue elephant, huge, powerful, dangerous and unpredictable. When the U.S. speaks of "freedom," "democracy," and "human rights," many diplomats politely cover their snickers for fear of outraging the elephant, who might--who knows?--announce yet another self-proclaimed "War against Whatever."
In polls throughout Europe, when citizens are asked to name a country that poses the greatest threat to world peace, the U.S. is indeed--number one. Meanwhile, George III manages to threaten and sneer against other nations that threaten his version of "world stability." It is like the elephant threatening the grass for being trampled.
The worst ever? I wonder what some historians might say about that. They might have a better perspective than economists. Yet, with the nation experiencing a "jobless recovery", with over 3 million people fired since March, with over 34 million people living in dire poverty, with a war sucking up billions of dollars in a dangerous economy, with fear stalking the U.S. heart like a lip-smacking lion spying an antelope on the veldt, with over 2 million men, women and children in U.S. prisons, these are not the best of times.
It's time for serious change. If you agree, protest!
Copyright 2003 Mumia Abu-Jamal
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Mumia Abu-Jamal is the author of three books:
'Live from Death Row',
'Death Blossoms', and
'All Things Censored'.
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