Economics, Literature and Scepticism

Powered by Blogger.

About Me

My photo
I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo) and other Abuses

Posted by Simon Halliday | Monday, June 12, 2006 | Category: |

I wonder. I wonder long and stringently on the role that the United States paints for itself in terms of world politics, trade and overall attempts at control. After wondering, I generally end up worrying. That seems to be the sequence of events.

For example, the buildup to the suicides in Gitmo are indicative of much of the rot that is extant in the US. The process that developed towards this point was deeply problematic. From the first, many people have been imprisoned in Gitmo simply on suspicion of being terrorists, or of having been involved in groups that were against the US. Cases which have attempted to move towards the US Supreme Court have been “thwarted by claims of National Security” (NYTimes, 12.06.06). Moreover, new laws, which some argue should be applied retroactively, may deprive individuals' rights to challenge their imprisonment. Hmm... Land of the Free... Hmm...Combine this with force-feeding programs to combat the hunger strikes, the use of restraint chairs, etc and the record becomes on which is easier to challenge.

What worries me even more is when I read the Washington Post and get told of 110 Million who have joined the “Ranks of the Free” in Afghanistan and Iraq. Ok, yes some people are now free to die at the whim of US generals, to starve to death and to suffer the death of their kinsmen because the US decided that it was 'threatened'. What does this mean? Well, it means that the US felt that Al-Qaeda (that panacea-like defence claim) or 'Terrorist Islamists' (ooh another original one) have impacted on their way of life, on their liberties. Anyway, I am moving away from my initial point - in order to join the ranks of the free (to die of unknown causes maybe) you will be reconstructed in the image of the American 'democratic' state. Joy!

Combine this with the probable, if not inevitable overturning of Roe v. Wade, and with the possible dissolution of the statutes which separate Church from State in the US and we have a path for righteousness which may just indicate for us what a lot of this is about. The US believes intrinsically that its way of life is The Best, not only that, but it is The Right one. In addition, as a result of this, it can do whatever it wants to defend this righteous cause. Great.

Some recent stats on life in the third world: since the Gleneagles G8 conference at least 11 Million children of poor families have died. Many of these countries are ranked amongst 'The Free', but what's the issue? Well the US isn't that interested in dying kids of they aren't located in the US of A or unless their country has access to oil (movements by Goldman-Sachs and others notwithstanding). A response to this could be that world aid is meant to 'increase'. Valid point, but lets look at how we measure that: some $35 Billion of Nigeria's debt has been 'forgiven' and the debt of Saddam Hussein's 'illegitimate' government in Iraq has also been forgiven (OxFam 2006). Now, maybe I am a bit of a cynic when it comes to this, but there is one stark similarity between these two countries: Oil Deposits. Joy! Let's forgive debt, get rid of old governments and then we'll be able to satisfy our oil-consuming frenzy.

Ok. Then there's the AIDS issue. The UNAIDS program had a project called 3 by 5. This was meant to obtain access to ARVs for 3 million of the World's HIV positive and AIDS suffering individuals by September 2005. As a planet we hit the 1 million mark. Although 33% is judged as a fail at most educational institutions, this was still lauded as an 'improvement' (which it was by the way, I don't begrudge that). BUT so much of the progress is blunted by AIDS denialism (for which our own President, Mr Mbeki, is renowned) which seems to be gaining a foothold in the US, combined with which we have the Reagen Gag Rule, and further rules from PEPFAR which stipulate what can and can't be done with aid money (you aren't allowed to talk about abortion). Moreover, condom use is often downplayed. Abstention is the way forward (learn your ABCs). Once more, I don't mean to discredit the effectiveness of Abstention as a way not to contract HIV/AIDS, but the problem with this is that most people will simply ignore you. Most people want to have sex and they believe that they as an individual are not at risk. One of the best policy options which has been advocated by other (slightly more liberal groups I may add) is that individuals should use condoms for at least the first three months of a relationship (after which you can find out whether someone is HIV+ or not) and from then on maybe stop using them. People could conceivably do this. But would the US allow this to be adopted? Nope. Na huh. Sowwy.

Now, the reason I write this is because I am frustrated. I get annoyed because a number of people are Anti-American. I don't put myself in that camp. I want to go and study in the US, I think that in general the US has done a number of incredible and important things. However, I believe that a lot of their current policy is misguided and jeopardises the possibility of peace in any global sense, or of moving towards a world where we as individuals can narrow the gap of income inequality worldwide, and diminish the levels of poverty. I believe in Making Poverty History (but maybe not in the same way as Sir Bob). I agree that, in most senses, freedom and liberty are important, but killing thousands of innocent people in other countries to 'free' them without the assent of the UN? Less sure about that one. Thankfully for me at least, the poll ratings of Mr Bush are down. Much is being speculated about whether the Democrats will be able to Win Back Congress (Clines, NYTimes, 07.06.06). I hope that they do. Oh yes, I realise that I haven't commented that much on world trade. I don't believe that I have to except for the fact that the US (and the EU) need to come to the party there, otherwise all is lost (sorry Coldplay).

So let's keep thinking. Let's keep reading and trying to talk about whether there are going to be movements forward in the US to a state that more adequately reflects the will of a people. With 71 journalists dead in the war in Iraq, thousands of innocents dead in a few months time the US would have been involved in a war in Iraq almost as long as they were involved in WWII. Good to know. Sad to point out. I hope that things move away from the conservatism which seems to have pervaded US policy in recent years. They need to calm their xenophobia (Rivlin, 2006 and Rich, 2006, both NY Times). They need to think about alternative solutions to HIV/AIDS. They need to think of less self-interested ways that they can go about genuinely campaigning for the interests of the world's poor. America is still a powerhouse. They have the machinery to make the world move. I just hope that their momentum gets redirected and that they move in a direction that may better for the overall populace of the planet, rather than a select few in the USA. Hope, pray, think and speak. Maybe we'll get something done.

Currently have 1 comments:

  1. And indeed maybe we will. Let us hope so.