Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Roosting of U.S. Foreign Policy Chickens

In a thoughtful commentary on March 24, the author of books on contemporary world affairs Rajul Mahajan made the following effort to put in their proper context the remark by Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama’s pastor, about “chickens coming home to roost:”


Most important, the United States’ heartless and cynical manipulations in Afghanistan , in which 1.5 million Afghans died as a casual byblow of an attempt to “kill Russians” and bleed the Soviet Union for free, of course lead to 9/11. That anyone can think otherwise about an enterprise that caused the creation of al-Qaeda (which originated as a database set up to organize information about the huge stream of Islamic extremists sent with the aid of the Saudi government
to fight in Afghanistan) is just ridiculous. Now, people’s revulsion toward this analysis is not based on factual claims, but rather on the emotive content of the words. Call it “blowback” and nobody with any sense will disagree or be offended; call it “chickens coming home to roost,” which means exactly the same thing, and everyone will be up in arms. The real thing that bothers people about these arguments is a perception that someone is claiming that the horror of 9/11 was deserved….

9/11 was not some transcendent evil to which normal rules of analysis and logic or normal rules of reasonable response don’t apply; after all, we have done worse to others

As Gary Kamiya put it in a refreshingly open-minded Salon piece,
Maybe we really are doomed to elect John McCain, remain in Iraq
forever and nuke Iran. Nations that forget history may not be doomed to repeat it, but those that never even recognize reality in the first place definitely are. Last week's ridiculous uproar over Rev. Jeremiah Wright's sermons proves yet again that America has still not come to terms with the most rudimentary facts about race, 9/11 -- or itself.


The roosting chickens remark should have provoked a serious public debate about the morality, effectiveness, and logic of American foreign policy rather than the superficial and emotional attacks on Wright and Obama that have been so common over the last few days. Whether one’s taste is satire or theoretical analysis , this topic is far too important to be trivialized.

Abstract diagrams of the cycle of hostility may seem to some far removed from saying that 9/11 amounted to chickens coming home to roost. They are not. The subtle slide down the slippery slope of increasingly hostile, emotional, and barbaric actions (each, at the time, seemingly justified by the hostile, emotional, barbaric action just taken by the opponent) is precisely the point of belaboring the cyclical nature of the dynamic – the difference between one step and the next may be minor, but the end point is very, very far from the start.

The links between--on the one hand--U.S. behavior in Afghanistan at the time of the Soviet invasion, U.S. support for Israeli oppression of Palestinians, the decade-long U.S. war against Iraq, U.S. support for Arab dictators in return for cheap Arab oil, and--on the other hand--9/11 have been laid out in detail by book after book—many of them short and easy to read. (See, for example, the books in the "Global Affairs Readings" section in the righthand column of this blog by Everest, Johnson, and Prestowitz.) There is no longer any excuse whatsoever for anyone failing to get this message.

  • Could we have, at the time, made better choices?
  • Can we make up for past mistakes?
  • Can we learn from past mistakes and reverse this cycle before something much worse than 9/11 happens?
Those are some of the questions that Reverend Wright’s remark should be provoking Americans to think about.

1 comment:

Gary Moller said...

Thanks for your article, William, about the roasting of the chickens. What a wonderful refreshing website!

Here in the relative isolation of New Zealand, I have been following US politics since the mid 1960's. And what I have seen is a steady slide of the US into corporate fascism. It certainly is not a democracy. Whether it is Obama or McCain, certain things have been set in place that will not be reversed, including the domination of the US by unfettered capitalism. Caoitalism without social constraints is nothing more than a sociopathic institution. The people are slaves to the machine and this sure is the case in the US. War and unfettered capitalism are synonymous.

Fail to conform and you are either tazered or imprisoned (News report tonight that one in every 100 American adults is doing prison time).

Give me the Scandinavian form of social democracy anytime!

If there is a threat to world peace, it is the United States of America. Not Iran. Not Cuba. Not Chavez. Not Bin Laden and definitely not Kim Il-sung.

Our family watched with horror and disbelief as the planes slammed into the twin towers. Like the majority of humanity, we were there to support the US. Here was the opportunity for leadership - the opportunity to unite the world for GOOD. Instead, we got the bombing of Afghanistan. We mumbled and grumbled about that a bit and allowed the US to do that. It was a bit like a distraught child lashing out. Understandable - to a degree.

Carpet bombing a country back into the stone age. Look where that got America in Vietnam.

What was not acceptable was the invasion of Iraq. 90% of the people of the world disapproved. I for one long to see the US fail in Iraq. It deserves to fail and to fail badly. It went into Iraq on a string of blatant lies. What right does it have to bully and blunder its way across this precious planet, causing mayhem, destruction, suffering and death?

Here in New Zealand we have been dismayed to see Americans meekly give away their freedoms for the sake of security. Fear sells more than duct tape. It sells everything from cruise missiles to Prozac. It is great for business.

As a matter of interest, we had an influx of North Americans following the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 60's. Post 9-11 we have had another influx of North Americans buying up NZ land. I would prefer they stay put in America. After all, what happens if the moderates all leave? Yes, the war-mongers have free reign of the most powerful country on the planet!