Thursday, September 13, 2012

Glenn Greenwald: diplomatically on point -- on both sides of The Pond

I can't say what caused the attacks on the American embassies in both Libya and Cairo.  Was it the  film?  Was it the, "I'm mad as hell and I won't take it anymore!" response to the destruction of a sovereign nation and the decimation of its people by America and the "usual suspects?"  No one can say definitively.  But, Glenn Greenwald has, as Brother Asa over at AfroSpear said to me once, "hit the nail right on the head and through the wall" with his, The tragic consulate killings in Libya and America's hierarchy of human life.

3) It is hard not to notice, and be disturbed by, the vastly different reactions whenever innocent Americans are killed, as opposed to when Americans are doing the killing of innocents. All the rage and denunciations of these murders in Benghazi are fully justified, but one wishes that even a fraction of that rage would be expressed when the US kills innocent men, women and children in the Muslim world, as it frequently does. Typically, though, those deaths are ignored, or at best justified with amoral bureaucratic phrases ("collateral damage") or self-justifying cliches ("war is hell"), which Americans have been trained to recite.

It is understandable that the senseless killing of an ambassador is bigger news than the senseless killing of an unknown, obscure Yemeni or Pakistani child. But it's anything but understandable to regard the former as more tragic than the latter. Yet there's no denying that the same people today most vocally condemning the Benghazi killings are quick and eager to find justification when the killing of innocents is done by their government, rather than aimed at it.

It's as though there are two types of crimes: killing, and then the killing of Americans. The way in which that latter phrase is so often invoked, with such intensity, emotion and scorn, reveals that it is viewed as the supreme crime: this is not just the tragic deaths of individuals, but a blow against the Empire; it therefore sparks particular offense. It is redolent of those in conquered lands being told they will be severely punished because they have raised their hand against a citizen of Rome.

Just compare the way in which the deaths of Americans on 9/11, even more than a decade later, are commemorated with borderline religious solemnity, as opposed to the deaths of the hundreds of thousands of foreign Muslims caused by the US, which are barely ever acknowledged. There is a clear hierarchy of human life being constantly reinforced by this mentality, and it is deeply consequential. (emphasis mine)

Just as we can hardly deny the callousness of Qur'an-burning enthusiast, Terry Jones, nor Hilary Clinton's smirking, "We came, we saw, he died" (I must say again, I can't even believe how stupid I was, to lend any credence to the idea that this woman gave two shits about the rightness or wrongness of anything) -- we've no choice but to accept Glenn's dead-on observation about the killing of Americans being considered a "supreme crime" (with the exception of the murder of Rachel Corrie in Gaza by those who believe that, "America is a thing you can move very easily..."  The U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv declined to comment on Israel's "accidental" verdict, and her courageous stand for the Palestinian "Other" has been all but forgotten, except by maybe her family and the true humanitarians among us).

Greenwald is, for the most part, good at peeling away the most partisan of scales.  Here, he points out the sick folly of both Democrat and Republican supporters:

4) The two political parties in the US wasted no time in displaying their vulgar attributes by rushing to squeeze these events for political gain. Democratic partisans immediately announced that "exploiting US deaths" – by which they mean criticizing President Obama – "is ugly, unwise".

That standard is as ludicrous as it is hypocritical. Democrats routinely "exploited US deaths" – in Iraq, Afghanistan, and from 9/11 – in order to attack President Bush and the Republican party, and they were perfectly within their rights to do so. When bad things happen involving US foreign policy, it is perfectly legitimate to speak out against the president and to identify his actions or inaction that one believes are to blame for those outcomes. These are political events, and they are inherently and necessarily "politicized".

It's one thing to object to specific criticisms of Obama here as illegitimate and ugly, as some of those criticisms undoubtedly were (see below). But trying to impose some sort of general prohibition on criticizing Obama – on the ground that Americans have died and this is a crisis – smacks of the worst debate-suppressing tactics of the GOP circa 2003...

But in this case, what the GOP and Mitt Romney did is substantially worse. As the attacks unfolded, Romney quickly issued a statement, based on the response of the US embassy in Egypt, accusing Obama of "sympathiz[ing] with those who waged the attacks" (the Obama White House repudiated the statement from the embassy in Cairo)....

These accusations were all pure fiction and self-evidently ugly; they prompted incredulous condemnations even from media figures who pride themselves on their own neutrality.

But this is the story of the GOP.  Faced with a president whose record is inept and horrible in many key respects, they somehow find a way to be even more inept and horrible themselves. Here, they had a real political opportunity to attack Obama – if US diplomats are killed and embassies stormed, it makes the president appear weak and ineffectual – but they are so drowning in their own blinding extremism and hate-driven bile, so wedded to their tired and moronic political attacks (unpatriotic Democrats love America's Muslim enemies!), that they cannot avoid instantly self-destructing. Within a matter of hours, they managed to turn a politically dangerous situation for Obama into yet more evidence of their unhinged, undisciplined radicalism. (emphasis mine)

Can't disagree with any of that! Nor, any of this:

In sum, one should by all means condemn and mourn the tragic deaths of these Americans in Benghazi. But the deaths would not be in vain if they caused us to pause and reflect much more than we normally do on the impact of the deaths of innocents which America itself routinely causes. (emphasis mine)

IMHO, Salon's loss was The Guardian's gain in Glenn Greenwald.  Hopefully those across The Pond will listen to what he has to say.


UPDATE: In this discussion on Al-Jazeera's Inside Story, Greenwald, along with former National Security Council official Hillary Mann Levitt and the Muslim scholar at Georgetown, Jonathan Brown is worth watching (at least this "Hillary" has some damned sense!):

- “The Quiet American”: the death of J. Christopher Stevens
- US deploying warships to Libyan coast (Hmmm)

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