Held in contempt

The New York Times published an article on May 21 that should have been on the front page of Australia’s leading broadsheets. It told the real face behind America’s “War on Terror” (WOT):

“For many Muslims, Guantánamo stands as a confirmation of the low regard in which they believe the United States holds them. For many non-Muslims, regardless of their feelings toward the United States, it has emerged as a symbol of American hypocrisy. “The cages, the orange suits, the shackles – it’s as if they’re dealing with something that’s like a germ they don’t want to touch,” said Daoud Kuttab, director of the Institute of Modern Media at Al Quds University in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “That’s the nastiness of it.”

Expressing skepticism towards America is healthy, especially in light of so many scandals involving US forces around the world. Showing contempt, however, is a more worrying trend. Being against the policies of George W. Bush is one thing but harboring deep-seated hatred for what America now stands for suggests a world community fundamentally at odds with the radical agenda of Bush’s neo-cons. The long-term effects of such sentiments are patently clear.

Human Rights Watch released a report last week that revealed the smokescreen of the Newsweek scandal:

“U.S. forces in Afghanistan were involved in killings, torture and other abuses of prisoners even before the Iraq war started. These crimes, known to senior officials in the military and Central Intelligence Agency, have not still been adequately investigated or prosecuted.”

Blind defenders of American and Australian foreign policy, and tacit acceptance of abuses by the US military and their bureaucratic masters, are contributing to a rising hatred of all things American. How can the US be taken seriously in world affairs when it refuses to fully investigate systemic issues at the core of the WOT?

Let it be understood that I am not defending American government policy. Far from it. I’m not a believer in America being the only superpower able to implement positive change. I’m constantly amazed at the cultural amnesia in our mainstream society on this matter. Take today’s editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald. The issue is America’s relationship with the Uzbek dictator and the contradiction between Bush’s stated belief in freedom and democracy and reality in the Central Asian country. The final line is priceless: “Mr Bush’s own claim to global moral leadership is at stake.” Implicit in such a statement is that America under Bush is capable of delivering on such lofty promises, despite vast evidence suggesting otherwise. This delusion, common in much allegedly progressive commentary, is part of a simliar problem with viewing America’s role in the world. Is it not time to assume that America is simply incapable of delivering moral leadership on any issue? Blood stains its hands in virtually every corner of the globe.

Attitudes towards the US in the Muslim world are becoming so toxic that issues like Guantanamo Bay are proving to be the ultimate recruitment tool for extremists. And guess whom we have to blame?

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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