May Day!


What gives them the right?

I heard the news of our latest murderous bombing strike in Somalia on Public Radio this morning, just after the network had reminded me today was May Day. Almost in the same breath which described the massacre of at least eleven people (and perhaps many more) in a home in Dusamareb as a part of the war on terrorism, there was this interesting attachment [quoting here from the BBC story on line]:

In its annual report on terrorism published on Wednesday, the US said al-Shabab militants in Somalia, along with al-Qaeda militants in east Africa, posed "the most serious threat to American and allied interests in the region".
So which is it? Are we fighting terrorists without portfolios (i.e., non-governmental terrorists) or people who threaten our "interests"? Is it about another Red Scare or another United Fruit?

While I thank the BBC for including this information in their report, I think they might have made more of the difference between the two explanations for our rogue state's latest atrocity, especially since the dumbed-down American public knows nothing about events which happened the day before yesterday and is notoriously incapable of making simple rational connections between facts and statements without serious outside help.

But even aside from its clear immorality, this American obsession with bombing people and things we don't understand and in normal circumstances would prefer not to have anything to deal with is ineffective, and much worse. Reasonable people can see it's not in our true interest, and it accomplishes the opposite of what we intend (or at least what we are being told we intend). How are what the government's report calls our "interests" being served by these kinds of horrors? Before we try to answer that question maybe our perpetual-war shoot-em-up government should explain to us just what those interests are. I won't even bring up the question of interests of a million dead Iraqis, but are our own lives, liberties and pursuits of happiness more secure today than they were before we had our armed forces stationed on the soil of most of the nations on earth?

Almost my first thought after hearing about the overnight raid was to put it into a more objective context [very unAmerican, that]. In my mind I decided to deny for a moment my status as a privileged U.S. citizen and I threw out the (temporary) reality of American superiority in conventional arms. The somebodies in charge in Washington think they have the right to bomb people on the other side of the world whenever they decide it's the appropriate thing to do - to protect our "interests". What's to argue against the right of the somebodies in charge somewhere on the other side of the world to bomb us here? We are even more obviously a serious threat to the interests of most of the people in the world than any of them are to ours.

I believe some of them have already told us this, and I expect that bombings in Somalia and a series of aggressive wars initiated in poor countries on the other side of the planet will only persuade them of the truth of their position: That their interests are not those of the mad somebodies who author these atrocities. We can expect they will continue to remind us of this.

In 1787 Benjamin Franklin addressed the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in these words which were read to the assembly by a friend:

I agree to this Constitution with all its faults, if they are such; because I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other.
I had read this passage long ago, but I came upon it again yesterday while reading Gore Vidal's erudite and extremely entertaining little 2004 volume, "Inventing a Nation: Washington, Adams, Jefferson". In the next paragraphs Vidal looks ahead, and back, at the government left to us today:
Now, two centuries and sixteen years later, Franklin's blunt dark prophecy has come true: popular corruption has indeed given birth to that Despotic Government which he foresaw as inevitable at our birth. Unsurprisingly, [the current edition of a popular biography of Franklin] is now on sale with, significantly - inevitably?, Frankin's somber prediction cut out, thus silencing our only great ancestral voice to predict Enron et seq., not to mention November 2000, and, following that, despotism whose traditional activity, war, now hedges us all around.
Happy May Day.

ADDENDUM: For me one of the most painful parts of the continuing nightmare of our post-2000 world has been the deathly (literally) silence of most of the people of this country. We may repeatedly have been proven powerless, our opinions irrelevant to the conduct of the state, even when polls and balloting have finally revealed clear opposition to what is being done in our names, but how can so many still remain silent?

This bombing raid will go almost totally unnoticed, and unremarked.

[image of Howard Fast's pamphlet, with Rockwell Kent illustration, from]