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Archive for February, 2011

Hoping to have an exclusive as he had with his “The Runaway General” article that led to General Stanley McChrystal, commander of United States forces in Afghanistan,  to  resign, Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings has written his new scoop, “Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators.”

The article exposes a “Psychological Operations” military team ordered by Lt. General William Caldwell, commander of Afghanistan’s NATO Training Mission, to influence visiting dignitaries, diplomats and American Senators into providing more resources for the war.  The team was lead by Lt. Colonel Michael Holmes responsible for Information Operations (IO), a component of psychological operations (PSYOP).  IO makes use of technology, focusing on human-related aspects of information use, including social network analysis, decision analysis and the human aspects of Command and Control.

Lt. Colonel Holmes accuses Lt. General Caldwell of illegally (allegedly a violation of the Smith-Mundt Act ) ordering him to use his unit’s capabilities to compile profiles of visiting dignitaries.  He told Fox News, Caldwell wanted to know what visiting Senators, Representatives and others wanted from him.  “What is it that we can tell them that will get them to give us more resources, more people, more money … make them vote our way in Congress.”  Holmes said that the General wanted to know how to shape his presentations and how best to “refine our messaging”; “… to find out what dignitaries ‘did for us’ and what ‘we need to do next time in order to make things better.’”

However, basic public relations do not become PSYCOPs simply because the officer assigned to perform that task is from IO.

What developed is because of his exaggerated role perception Holmes became discontent.  As Holmes told Rolling Stone reporter Hastings, “[his] job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave.”

Furthermore, Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan said that Holmes assignment was not illegal.  IO officers do not have any “special firewalls.”

And, it seems, Holmes evidently isn’t familiar with the common business practice of profiling your client.  Or, that it’s not unusual in business, politics, or the military to direct professionals to perform duties and special projects that may be outside of their job description.  Caldwell assigned Holmes to perform duties that were essentially public relations, but not perceived as dignified as PSYOP and therefore played on his ego.

Without a doubt, it would be unacceptably irresponsible of Lt. General Caldwell not to know all that it was ethically possible to know about the person with whom he was to have an interview.  He does need background assessments in order to know” how to shape his presentations” …this is not an uncommon prerequisite.  It would be surprising if dignitaries in anticipation of meeting with General Caldwell did not expect him to be prepared, which means he would need their profiles and other information to make a persuasive and enlightened presentation.

This seems to be a story where Lt. Colonel Holmes had an ax to grind, and a reporter, Michael Hastings, motivated to repeat his previous success with a like article, both exploiting each other’s  circumstances to enhance their own self-interest.  However, in this case, the reporter failed to be skeptical, to check his source by using multiple sources, to make sure he understood his sources bias before publishing.

Sources:

Michael Hastings, The Runaway General, RollingStone.com

Michael Hastings, Another Runaway General: Army Deploys Psy-Ops on U.S. Senators, RollingStone.com

Wikipedia contributors. Psychological Operations (United States). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. February 25, 2011, 06:42 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Psychological_Operations_(United_States)&oldid=415824630. Accessed February 26, 2011.

Jennifer Griffin and Justin Fishel contributed to this report, Military Officials Dispute Claim Army Unit Was Directed to Manipulate Senators, FoxNews.com

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Really, is there anyone in America who actually believes that we would have lost our freedom if we did not go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan?

Well, yes!  Unfortunately, there are many who do. They believe that war is necessary and unavoidable; that our government would not send Americans into harm’s way if it were not necessary for the security of the United States and protection of our way of life; that America’s motives are noble.

The fact is that war is avoidable.  The fact is that our elected officials will lie in order to create a fear that Americans will lose their sovereignty if we don’t take military action.  The fact is our government does not take us into war to protect our freedoms. The fact is that America’s motives are not always noble.

The assertion that American warriors are put into harm’s way to keep America free is one of the many lies disseminated by government, corporate interlocutors, and news media.  Rather, our motives are initiated by greed/economic incentives, profit seekers who use war to enrich themselves, and by those who seek power, domination and empire.  What our government does is prevaricate, by fudging, obfuscating and misrepresenting the truth, the revelation of which is crystal clear in the Downing Street memo regarding the Iraq war.  A disclosure that makes it evident that our government has little concern for the harm or death to innocent civilians or to the warriors we send into harm’s way that their decision will cause.  “Behind the fear-mongering, flag-waving and lies of George W. Bush and the blandishments of Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama lies the ugly reality that our leaders have been seduced by political ambition, delusions of military superiority, and the promise of secrecy and impunity to commit otherwise unthinkable crimes.”  [1]

This is not new or particular to our current conflicts.  From The Idler, 1758, Samuel Johnson recognized this ultimate failure of truth, wherein he said, “Among the calamities of war may be justly numbered the diminution of the love of truth, by the falsehoods which interest dictates, and credulity encourages,” [3]   prompting US senator, Hiram Johnson in 1918, regarding World War I, to truncate that quote by saying, “The first casualty when war comes is truth.”   And, he said, “the war warps us, distorts our judgment, and destroys our sense of justice, and our ideals.”  [4]

History is replete with accounts of lies, deceit, and misinformation by our government in order to motivate Americans to accept war as the only alternative.  Here are some examples:

Abraham Lincoln’s motive behind the Civil War was not to free the slaves; instead, his concern was solely the secession of the South from the Union.  [5] When Lincoln said, “Freedom is the last, best hope of earth,” he meant freedom for white people, not for the poor or people of color.

Most Americans are under the mistaken impression that without provocation the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.  However, the fact is that through increasing stringent economic sanctions, and other measures, and dismissing Japanese diplomatic overtures to repair relations, the United States intentionally provoked the Japanese.  It put Japan in an untenable position, which the United States hoped would cause an incident that would bring the United States into Europe’s war with Germany, with whom Japan was an ally.  It worked, and as a result of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and our consequential declaration of war on Japan, on December 11, 1941, Hitler declared war on the United States.  [6]

The Vietnam War’s “Tonkin incident,” and “Operation Menu: the secret bombing of Cambodia and Laos”; the infamous “Five O’clock Follies” at the Rex Hotel, in what was then Saigon, where in press conference briefings reporters were given inflated enemy body counts [7], as well as other fudging, obfuscations and misrepresentations throughout the war.

In John Nichols review of David Swanson’s book “War Is A Lie” he ends with two footnotes:

“War comes because of the lies that are told to prepare for and justify it”;

“War (make that ‘wars’) ends when we the people stop accepting those lies from war presidents, war publicists and war profiteers.”

The title of the last chapter of “War Is A Lie” is “War Is Over If You Want It.”  Many of us want it, but our bump in the road is American gullibility.

Sources:

[1] David Swanson, “War Is A Lie,” DavidSwanson.org

[2] John Nichols, War Is A Lie, TheNation.com

[3] Wikipedia contributors. The Idler (1758–1760). Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. March 30, 2010, 15:37 UTC. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=The_Idler_(1758%E2%80%931760)&oldid=352967154. Accessed February 21, 2011.

[4] Lawrence W. Levine, The “Diary” of Hiram Johnson, AmericanHeritage.com

[5] Thomas J. DiLorenzo, The Lincoln Cult’s Latest Cover-Up, LewRockwell.com

[6] Robert Higgs, How U.S. Economic Warfare Provoked Japan’s Attack on Pearl Harbor, TheFreemanOnline.org

[7] Tom Engelhardt, Tomgram: Engelhardt, Epitaph from the Imperial Graveyard, TomDispatch.com

Other related material:

The Real News, War is a Lie, video: YouTube.com

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On that fateful September morning of 2001, the terrorist attack on New York City, the Pentagon, and a failed attack that took one of the hijacked planes down into a Pennsylvania countryside claimed 2,977 lives.  The attacks put the lives of victim’s families, first responders, and many other folks in shambles.  It also stirred America’s propensity for belligerence and retribution, stirring their bigotry, taking hostility and reprisal against Muslims has become common fare because Americans believe they have the moral authority to get even.  This means that Americans perceive they have justification to kill Muslims in their proclaimed war against terror, to torture Muslim prisoners taken in the war or withheld on suspicion of being a terrorist, and, evidently, that they have indisputable justification to abhor all of Islam.

All of this in a nation who claims pride in itself for being diverse and tolerant;  In a nation whose Constitution expressly guarantees freedom which in essence assures diversity and tolerance; In the United States of which its Great Seal reads, “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, one).

Yet Americans continue to blame all of Islam on the actions of a few who so happen to represent an Islamic minority, a militant Islam.

It manifest itself in the hate speech directed at Muslims who are to build an Islamic Community Center, named “Park51,” two blocks from Ground Zero.  The haters overlook the fact that the World Trade Center neighborhood houses a string of bars, betting parlors, and fast-food restaurants, two strip clubs, the New York Dolls Gentleman’s Club, the Pussycat Lounge, Thunder Lingerie, and a sex shop with a peep show.  “Why are they treated with a live-and-let-live tolerance that doesn’t extend to an Islamic center?  How, as a practical matter, are pole dancers less of an affront to the memory of the 9/11 dead than a community center that will have prayer space, a 500-seat auditorium, and a bookstore?”[1]

It manifests itself in that many Americans condemn President Obama for stating that America is not a Christian nation.  At a press conference in Turkey, President Obama said, “One of the great strengths of the United States is … we have a very large Christian population — we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation.  We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values.”[2]

It manifest itself in those who tirelessly challenge Barack Obama’s qualifications to be President, claimed by birthers that he was not born in the United States.  And in those who declare he is not a Christian but a Muslim.

It manifests itself in the hate speech of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck and some of the other political, especially conservative, talk show host.  And, in the works of literary shock jocks such as in Mark Steyn’s “America Alone.”  And, in the works of writers such as Andrew C McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, in his recent article, “Death to Apostates: Not a Perversion of Islam, but Islam,” and in his January article, “Fear the Muslim Brotherhood,” and in his book, “The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

Andrew C McCarthy “has been everywhere in the media making the most grossly inaccurate claims about the Muslim Brotherhood and demonstrating a profundity of ignorance about Egypt ….  McCarthy alleged that the Brotherhood assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, that Ayman al-Zawahri of al-Qaida is in this group, and that the fundamentalist party Hamas in the Gaza Strip is under the control of the Egyptian Brotherhood.  Everything he said [McCarthy] to millions of Americans was a laughable falsehood.”[3]

And so now, the Muslim Brotherhood, catapulted from its latency, apparently is taking the hit of hate and fear, which has emanated from the recent revolutionary overthrow of Egypt’s Mubarak.

Along with September 11, 2001 and the casualties of the war on terror, diversity and tolerance have, also, become an American casualty.  Americans apparently don’t feel bound by the ideals and set of values that they so fervently extol.

Sources:

[1] Nicolaus Millse, Sex shop and strip clubs near ground zero show double standard over Park51, CSMonitor.com/Commentary/Opinion

Erin Einhorn, Mosque gets all the press, but area near Ground Zero full of bars, porn, liquor stores, salons, NYDailyNews.com

[2] Arthur Delaney, Arthur Delaney, Obama: U.S. “Not A Christian Nation Or A Jewish Nation Or A Muslim Nation,”

[3] Juan Cole, Fear Not the Muslim Brotherhood Boogeyman, TruthDig.com

Other Reading:

Mark Steyn’s “America Alone”
A Look At The Youth Of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood
Neocons Exploit Fear of Muslim Brotherhood to Push War

 

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House Republicans are in the process of that which they believe is the mandate of their November 2010 victory.  That process starts with the 2011 continuing resolution in order to fund the government beyond March 4 when its spending authority expires.  Next on the Republican agenda is to put in place a budget resolution for FY 2012 that will reduce the size of government by cutting domestic spending but, on the other hand, increase spending on defense.

Americans want government to tighten their belts, as Main Street must.  But responsible people do not want immediate drastic cuts in government spending by doing overnight what should have been their work for decades; certainly not to fulfill their campaign promise to reduce 2011 spending by $100 billion, especially over the eight months or so remaining in this year.

Regardless, House Republicans are proposing cuts in education, health, science, and safety-net programs for the poor.  Other than a second look at the recent healthcare legislation to tweak it, and perhaps some cuts in funding scientific research grants, Americans fundamentally don’t want slashes in education and programs for the poor beyond reducing fraud, waste, duplication of services, and inefficiencies in these programs.

Leadership requires leaders to set the best possible example.  Good leaders are not those who sit in an office and armchair their decisions, but rather are out front leading the charge.  That means Congress themselves need to make sacrifices, just as the folks on Main Street.  They need to take salary cuts just like those in the private sector.  They need to look at their salaries and benefit package, making cuts there before cutting spending for education, health, and programs for the poor.  It sure wouldn’t impair House Speaker John Boehner’s personal finances at a salary of $223,500 a year, or impair House and Senate leadership at salaries of $193,400, and neither would it impair rank-and-file members of the House and Senate at their salaries of $174,000.  By the way, in 2009 the median personal wealth of all members of Congress equaled $911,510.  It’s fair to say that they along with the wealthiest of Americans have not suffered any consequences of this recession for which each were partially responsible.

Following their win in November, in December of 2010, Republicans forced a compromise with President Obama.  In order to continue with an extension of unemployment benefits, and preserve the middle-class tax cuts, the Administration would have to allow the tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans legislated during the Bush Administration to continue for two more years and not expire.  Included in the compromise was an agreement to levy a 35% tax on the inheritance of estates worth more than $5 million.  That’s because on January 1, 2011, estate inheritance taxes would rise to 55% on estates worth $1 million and more.

As proclaimed, Americans have a fundamental mistrust in government.  If political leaders really want to restore that trust in their leadership, they would take a salary and benefit hit first before any other budget cuts in domestic spending are even entertained.

The Obama-Boehner compromise is very telling.  In essence, it says that the Republican House lead by John Boehner does not give a hoot about those Americans who live on Main Street.  Instead of increasing taxes on those who certainly can afford those increases, they chose to reduce government benefits to those who can least afford to lose them.  It’s an example of poor leadership, because American political leadership must speak for and carry out legislation that benefits all Americans equally.  To do otherwise is not part of what they perceive as their mandate.

Sources:

Gary Schmitt and Thomas Donnelly,  A Limited Government— and a Strong Defense, WeeklyStandard.com

Scott Lilly, Heading for a Deficit Dustup: Are House Republicans Putting Together a Reasonable Approach for Cutting Government Spending?, Center for American Progress

Contact: Dave Levinthal, Congressional Members’ Personal Wealth Expands Despite Sour National Economy, OpenSecretsBlog.org

Charles Wallace, Obama Takes Liberal Heat for His Tax-Cut Compromise, DailyFinance.com

 

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Today, a friend said, “Twitter and Facebook brought Egypt’s Mubarak dictatorship to its knees.”  An article I read opened with “Social networking played a crucial role in Egypt’s revolution.”  Another stated, “It is the first major revolution that was initiated and coordinated using social networks (most notably Twitter and Facebook).”

No question about it, social networking played a role in getting the news out to the world.  Social networks, blogs, cellular phones and  text messaging,  contributed to alerting demonstrators of hotspots and coordinating events by communicating place and time of  demonstrations. And, all of this was instrumental in gaining international support for their cause.  But we should not neither overplay nor downplay their importance.  Other than those who were on the frontlines, social network users and bloggers were not on the street amongst the fury and anarchy.  They took no risks.  They only informed the outside world of what was happening on the street inside of Egypt.

Social networkers and bloggers became cheerleaders and fans, but cheerleaders and fans do not win ballgames.  The athletes on the field or on the court win the games for their fans.  Some of us express thoughtless praise and adulation, particularly in the case of the social networking hyperbole.  Social networking did not bring the “Mubarak dictatorship to its knees”; it played a role, but arguably not a “crucial role,” and it was, “coordinated – yes, but certainly not initiated by these networks.

It’s vital that the world give the Egyptians themselves the credit for their success in forcing Mubarak to step down.  They are the ones that deserve praise.  They are the ones who put themselves in the line of fire.  They are the ones that have to live with the consequences of their actions, hopefully it will be beneficial and viable. However, they would have accomplished this victory without Twitter or Facebook.

Egyptians and activist like Wael Ghonim, Head of Marketing of Google Middle East and North Africa, and others, who contributed to bringing people, especially young people, into the streets for those momentous protests of January 25, 2011, are the heroes,.   These folks were risking their lives, jobs, imprisonment and possibly torture to bring into being a better life for all Egyptians.

Sources:
Samuel Goldsmith, Twitter, Facebook amplified street protests in Egypt, allowing for growth of community support, NYDailyNews.com

John Palfrey, Twitter and Facebook, step up: Egypt protests raise bar on corporate responsibility, NYDailyNews.com

Jeff Tomczek, Enough with the fluff: Meaningless updates on Facebook, Twitter obscure social networks’ potential, NYDailyNews.com

Catharine Smith,  Egypt’s Facebook Revolution: Wael Ghonim Thanks The Social Network, The Huffington Post

Rebecca MacKinnon, Internet wasn’t real hero of Egypt, CNN.com/2011/opinion

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Ronald Reagan’s image and demeanor was that of a folksy, soft-spoken cowboy.  He wasn’t born a cowboy but decided to take on that persona.  His speeches imparted American exceptionalism, and conveyed his perception of American values.  He was witty and a master storyteller.  He had an endearing personality that captured the American imagination.

On February 10, 2011, the U.S. Postal Service revealed its commemorative stamp honoring Ronald Reagan who would have been 100 yrs. old on February 6 .  To honor this occasion, on the floors of the Senate and House members praised his presidency.  As their standard-bearer, Republicans speak of him and of his conservatism with reverence, bestowing to him unrelenting ideological devotion.

Republicans have worshiped Reagan much in the same way many Americans have worshiped his friend John Wayne.  And, of course, John Wayne all by himself won the war in the pacific, just as Ronald Reagan all by himself won the cold war, telling Mr. Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”  Ironically, a plaque inscription on Reagan’s desk reads, “There is no limit to what a man can do, or where he can go, if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

The mass media, the entertainment industry, and popular culture have inculcated in Americans an illusion of how the quintessential American should look, act, speak, and even what values to embrace.  In Reagan’s biography of John Wayne he quotes Elizabeth Taylor who said, “He gave the whole world the image of what an American should be.”  Ronald Reagan, too, gave Americans the image of what an American should be.  The hero status that Americans have given to John Wayne and Ronald Reagan are exemplary of that indoctrination.

However, Reagan rarely attended church.  His relationship with his children was distant and broken.  He was the first U.S. President to have been divorced.  Yet, then as now, Americans perceive him as someone who had exceptional family values.

Ronald Reagan’s tax cuts, defense buildup, and turning a bad economy into a thriving economy are the main accomplishments attributed to his presidency.  However, those who revere his memory conveniently forget the egregious policy choices of his presidency.

On Reagan’s watch, record deficits raised the national debt from $997 billion to $2.85 trillion

His pursuit of government deregulation resulted in the 1980s Savings and loan crisis.  Seven hundred and forty seven institutions failed, and rescued with $160 billion of taxpayer monies.

The Iran-Contra affair was the largest political scandal in the 1980s.  The Reagan administration illegally used proceeds from secret arms sales to Iran in order to fund the Contras in Nicaragua.  In 1986, the International Court of Justice found the United States guilty of war crimes against Nicaragua.

During his political career, Ronald Reagan also revealed his egregious beliefs on the environment and social issues:

Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying, “I favor the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and it must be enforced at gunpoint if necessary.”  He opposed the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Reagan described Medicaid recipients as “…a faceless mass, waiting for handouts.”

Reagan also told the story of a woman from Chicago’s South Side arrested for welfare fraud: “She has eighty names, thirty addresses, twelve Social Security cards and is collecting veteran’s benefits on four non-existing deceased husbands.  And she is collecting Social Security on her cards.  She’s got Medicaid, getting food stamps, and she is collecting welfare under each of her names.  Her tax-free cash income is over $150,000.”  To cite a case hyperbolically of extraordinary welfare fraud as if it were representative of all Medicaid recipients is unacceptable at best.

And, he had said at one time or another:

“If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, it is his right to do so.”

“We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry every night.  Well, that was probably true.  They were all on a diet.”

“Unemployment insurance is a pre-paid vacation for freeloaders.”

“Approximately 80 percent of our air pollution stems from hydrocarbons released by vegetation.  So let’s not go overboard in setting and enforcing tough emission standards for man-made sources.”

“What we have found in this country, and maybe we’re more aware of it now, is one problem that we’ve had, even in the best of times, and that is the people who are sleeping on the grates, the homeless who are homeless, you might say, by choice.”

“It’s silly talking about how many years we will have to spend in the jungles of Vietnam when we could pave the whole country and put parking stripes on it and still be home by Christmas.”

So, folks, for those who are inclined to give Republicans their vote in 2012, you should really think twice about that decision.

Sources:

Ronald Reagan. (2011, February 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:44, February 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Ronald_Reagan&oldid=413054025

Reagan administration scandals. (2011, February 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:46, February 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Reagan_administration_scandals&oldid=412030728

Reagan administration scandals. (2011, February 4). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:47, February 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Reagan_administration_scandals&oldid=412030728

Iran hostage crisis. (2011, February 10). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:48, February 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Iran_hostage_crisis&oldid=413040384

Iran–Contra affair. (2011, February 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:51, February 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Iran%E2%80%93Contra_affair&oldid=412730439

Domestic policy of the Ronald Reagan administration. (2011, February 8). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 20:51, February 10, 2011, from http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Domestic_policy_of_the_Ronald_Reagan_administration&oldid=412668423

Ronald Reagan, Unforgettable John Wayne, jwplace.com

Ronald Reagan Quotes, Brainy Quotes, http://www.brainyquote.com

Richard Norton Smith, Reagan Revelation: At 100, Why He Still Matters, Time.com

Jonathan Martin & James Hohmann, Palin, GOP reach for Reagan again, Politico.com

Jonathan Martin & James Hohmann, GOP frets over Reagan mythmaking, Politico.com

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San Francisco Solidarity with Revolt in Egypt, 26 January 2011.

On the morning of Friday, December 17, 2010, a twenty-six-year-old Tunisian, Mohamed Bouazizi, purchased $200 in fruits and vegetables and sets up his street cart in the city of Sidi Bouzid.  Police, who had harassed Bouazizi all of his life, allegedly attempted to extort money from him for permission to sell fruit and vegetables on the street.  Bouazizi could not pay the bribe, so police confiscated his cart and produce.  After attempting to make a complaint with the governor, who refused to see him, Bouazizi doused himself with combustible fuel and immolated himself.  Eighteen days later Mohamed Bouazizi died.

As a result of Bouazizi’s act of self-sacrifice, Tunisia rapidly descended into anarchy.  After 23 years as Tunisia’s President, protesters ousted Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, forcing him to flee to Saudi Arabia.  The will of Tunisians have put the task on a new temporary government to put in place Tunisia’s first free election since its independence from France in 1956.

Bouazizi’s self-immolation inspired others in Algeria, Egypt, Mauritania, and Yemen also to turn themselves “into human torches of protest.”  When one is powerless, lacking education, money, social status, armies, or weapons, without any expectation of a satisfactory future quality of life, not having any way of gaining the bully pulpit to initiate change, they, out of a sense of helplessness and desperation, will take other courses of acton.  So, in hopes of giving a voice to their cause, some will commit suicide.  And self-immolation seems to be the weapon of choice for the powerless against economic and governmental oppression.

The repercussion from this one act of Mohamed Bouazizi is far and wide, not only manifested in the revolution taking place in Egypt, but also has had an effect on the entire region.

Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle Eastern policy and international relations, London school of economics, states, “Tunisia provided the spark, the spark that has ignited political fires in Egypt and Algeria and Jordan and Sudan.  And the reason why Egypt is so significant, Egypt is the most pivotal Arab state.  It’s the most populous Arab state.  It holds the key to the Arab world.  It used to be the capital of its cultural production.  If Egypt goes, the saying, we teach our students in the classroom, if Egypt goes, the entire region goes.”

The media, pundits, and our politicians expressed their view that the United States must take a balanced approach in respect to its support of Mubarak or its people.  However, America’s stance must be fundamental to its ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Americans must not support any response that does not hold to America’s proclaimed values.

The basis of our First Amendment Constitutional ideals of inalienable rights and personal liberty come from political theorist and philosopher John Locke, who developed the theory that “government derives its power and authority from the consent of the governed.”  Lockean thought justifies the right of revolution in that “When the government … becomes an enemy to property, the duty to obey is superseded by a right of revolution, whereby the power and authority conveyed to the government revert to the people (or their representatives) who may then establish a new government.”

I do know that this is a complex issue that requires a delicate and sophisticated diplomatic response.  But I also know that the United States should never support strongmen, warlords, tyrants or dictators, whatever one wants to label them, no matter what the strategical, geopolitical or national political reasoning might be.  America must always be on the side of the people, whether here at home or in another country.  That is what is in our best interest.  That’s the only response that supports our ideals and who we say we are.

Economic, political, and/or social change, whether here at home or abroad, belongs to a nation’s inhabitants.  It’s up-to them to initiate, make the change, and to maintain it.  And, it’s up-to Americans to demand that their government support and be in solidarity with the people first; not governments.

Sources:

Mohamed Bouazizi, Wikipedia

James Carroll, A human life — too valuable to burn, The Boston Globe

Becky Anderson, Connect The World: Protests Continue in Egypt, CNN.com transcripts, Aired January 31, 2011

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