Saturday, May 26, 2012

Protesting Veterans Overshadow NATO Summit

Protesting Veterans Overshadow NATO Summit

                                                                          Saeed Naqvi

The phase in life when we admired America, suddenly came alive: US veterans of Iraq and Afghan wars heroically throwing away their medals outside the venue in Chicago where the NATO Summit on Afghanistan was held last week.

Continuing a tradition, no Indian journalist was present at the venue to cover the 28 NATO leaders and 10 smaller countries focus on a region of singular interest to India. In hindsight it turned out to be not the earthshaking event President Obama had expected preparatory to his re election campaign. Yet, the protest of the veterans brought out all that is good about America.

Nothing has done the US more harm than the spin put on the collapse of the Soviet Union: that it was a license for Dick Cheyney, Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz to seek full spectrum dominance. 9/11 provided the occasion for the global war on terror. In this project Afghanistan and Iraq have faced destruction from which Pakistan too will not escape.

War on terror was the rationale for the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq. What was the rationale for the destruction of Libya and now persistent destabilization of Syria?

French, Turkish, Qatari officers caught in Syria is old story. But how is the cause of democracy advanced if the United States and Ayman Mohammed Zawahiri seek support for the same side, the rebels splintered into more groups than have yet been counted?

These are unfortunate days for the idea of America some of us grew up on. I remember reading everything I could on Clarence Darrow, the very essence of American enlightenment. Faint hearts would not have fought and won the Monkey Trial in the midst of Southern bigotry.

The manner in which the system allowed Ed Murrow to almost single handedly terminate Joseph McCarthy’s witch hunt. Arthur Miller found a remarkable metaphor in the Salem Witchhunt to cleanse the American soul.

Why, more recently David Hare’s spoof “Stuff Happens”, based on Rumsfeld’s shameful explanation for Abu Ghraib, created ripples in the theatre world even as the events were unfolding in Iraq.

I saw Guantanamo Bay off Broadway and a brilliant production of “Enron” in the West End. It says something about us that nobody has had the courage to produce these plays in India. This, when most of the Enron drama pertains to the debacle in Maharashtra.

These nuggets prove that Western conscience was not dead. It pegged away at a nagging length whether in the form of Noam Chomsky and his cohorts, in the world of Arts and literature, or more recently, the Occupy Movement.

All of these are very American/western happenings. Sadly, it is the meaner streaks in western capitalism, that received an extraordinary boost after the Soviet collapse. The victory of Democracy, as the West sees it, was made subservient to the triumph of rampaging capitalism. The project was placed on the wings of the likes of Rupert Murdoch.

And now that Murdoch’s wings are being clipped (hacked?) with great diligence, the project is in danger of losing height rapidly.

Put it down to my perversity, I do not see all of this as necessarily an unhappy outcome. In fact it strengthens the resolve of exactly the sort of people who came out on the streets in Chicago.

Read what Bernard Harcourt says in the Guardian of London.
“It was one of the most moving experiences many of us had witnessed in our lives. It is hard to describe in words. I couldn't get the lump out of my throat. Their words, their voices, crackling under the emotion of their courageous act, breaking under the weight of the pain, the trauma, their anger, sadness, and hope – theirs was a heroic and beautiful act, a moving ceremony. It was a privilege to be there with these women and men who served in our wars.”

The NATO summit meanwhile was a kind of mirror in which the member countries and their cohorts saw themselves as one composition and were reassured. Obama has little room for maneuver until his re-election.

Should he be re-elected, it is the pain and anguish of the veterans he will have to internalize to touch the soul of America.

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