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Musings and Meanderings
Monday, May 10, 2004
I think it is a given that the culture of a country deeply affects the mindsets of the people in it. No country is homogeneous of course. But certain cultural conceits will filter through to the everyday people. This is especially true of a country that places strong emphasis on it's Government.
Many Americans scoff at European Government, but so do many Europeans. They hold their leaders in less of a revered role than we do on this side of the Atlantic. This explains the reactions on this and that side of the Atlantic to President Bill Clinton's peccadilloes. Europeans could not for the life of them figure out what the buzz was all about. Americans on the other hand were absolutely aghast that a married sitting President would do the dirty with a younger woman in the White House. Let alone lie about it.
No matter that a small but sizeable minority of Americans have affairs and lie.
I use this as an illustration not as the point of this piece.
We now have a Government whose cultural basis is one of Extreme Arrogance & Self Pride. I'll tick off just a few examples. The dropping of the Kyoto Accords. The refusal of this Administration to be a signatory to the World Courts. The nearly Unilateral war against Iraq. These are just a few examples of the consistent position the present Administration has taken on the World Stage. It is the Hubris of "Yes we Can".
These are external examples of the new American Hubris. The prime internal example is of course the Patriot Act (which I call "Alien and Sedition Acts redux"). In this we see the an example of the Arrogance of elected officials who would stomp on the civil rights of their own citizens in order to stop a future threat of terrorism. No matter that it abrogates certain rights laid down by the framers of this Government. Rights that were laid down specifically to avoid the very types of civil abuses that this act allows.
One thing that America has learned from the Indochina conflicts of the late 60's and 70's is that the men and women in uniform deserve an honored place in society, regardless (to a point) of what their Civilian Leaders order them to do. It has been heartening to see that whether Americans are for or against the present conflict the soldiers have been treated by their fellow citizens with honor and respect.
And these soldiers are indeed an extension of the civilian authority that is vested in the Constitution. They follow chain of command and risk their lives in dangerous places to carry out the will of the duly elected government of their Nation. In this conflict, they are however, woefully under manned and under armed.
Again the hubris of our present leaders has created a very tricky situation. Our Secretary of defense has put just about all his political capital into the notion of a certain troop level, and contrary to the actual military minds who counseled for more support, he has stuck to his position and frankly damn the consequences. And as a unbelievable conceit and "cheat" he has indeed beefed up the number of Americans on the ground in Iraq with so called Security Companies. Civilians with little or no training being asked to conduct parts of the operation they are woefully under prepared for.
So what we have today, is an American Government populated at the top by men and women who have shown in their actions and words a new cultural ideology. First that they know best, and the rest of the country and the world need to take notice of their opinions because they are "correct". Second, that in order to fight a perceived threat to the National Security interally or without, certain human rights can be.. shall we say .. overlooked, for their perceived good of the Nation or the World. Thirdly this is an ideology of us vs. them. You are either with us or against, this ideology preaches. There is no middle ground and no moderate stance.
So, in this atmosphere, how can anyone be completely surprised by the abuses that have happened in Iraq? Can you say that the common soldier had not been affected by the ideology of this Administration? Can you blame the common soldier when they are under staffed and under fire from not just the insurgents but their own government to "get results".
I do NOT condone what has happened. It is abhorrent to EVERYTHING that America used to stand for. But do I understand the cultural basis by which something like this could be viewed by the Military as acceptable? Yes I believe I do.
As the weeks go by it will become abundantly clear that this situation is widespread and was condoned by the upper echelons of the Military and Civilian government. It is a direct result of this new Ideology that this present Government has brought to Washington DC.
And who will suffer? Will the Secretary of defense resign? No. The Under Secretary? No. The people who will suffer the most are the soldiers who were doing what they were told by their superiors.
Because this is the Administration of Deny and Deflect, find the scapegoat, and bury them.