Creating a better world through words and images

Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

[Before reading today’s blog, please devote a few minutes to the following brief excerpts from today’s broadcast of DemocracyNow! featuring two impressive candidates for the U.S. presidency, the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein and the Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson, each responding to last night’s presidential debate — in real time, thanks to Amy Goodman’s innovative “expanded” coverage.  Discussing the economy, the two MSM-arginalized (and corporate debate commission-barred) candidates both strongly endorsed the single most obvious approach to ending America’s deficit woes: adopting a Medicare-for-All/single-payer healthcare system (saving nearly $300 billion annually per a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine and in all likelihood dramatically improving health outcomes for Americans).]

Excerpt #1: The Green Party’s Jill Stein

Excerpt #2, The Justice Party’s Rocky Anderson

And now you know why these two outstanding candidates were prohibited from participating in the “presidential debates” controlled (more rigidly than ever, it seems) by a corporate commission created and run by the national Democratic and Republican parties.

Unlike Romney and Obama, Jill Stein and Rocky Anderson are not actually on board with the .01%’s program to privatize, outsource, and break the United States and its middle class with “austerity” over the next decade, needlessly slashing entitlements and deliberately sabotaging public institutions like the Postal Service and America’s public school system (with so-called “education reform” a Trojan horse for union-busting privatization that has broad bipartisan support across our pay-to-play government).  Unlike Romney and Obama, Stein and Anderson do not ignore sensible, proven approaches to resolving the crises in employment, education, and our crumbling infrastructure.  Nor do they share the establishment candidates’ zeal for economically suicidal trade deals that decimate American jobs and erode national sovereignty.

But sadly, all indications are that either Mitt Romney or Barack Obama is going to be president for the next four years: the Ultimate Soulless/Predatory “Trust Me” Charlatan or the Ultimate Wall St. Pawn/Middle Class-Civil Liberties Sell-Out.  Either prospect is genuinely terrifying and deeply depressing, representing a profound failure on the part of the American people to perceive and forcefully resist the near-total corruption of our politics and leading institutions by those who are clearly working against our interests (those trying to deftly manage/manufacture the permanent contraction of the American middle class while they shrink/eliminate/privatize public services and reduce consumer/worker/citizen protections under the law in order to further the already ludicrous advantages enjoyed by rapacious corporations, hedge funds, and the insanely wealthy, generally).

Obama and Romney have both amply demonstrated their intent to continue thinning America’s middle class with SHOCK DOCTRINE “austerity” and creating new generations of American poor while the gravy train rolls on for the MIC and Wall St. (with Obama growing the defense budget every year he’s been in office, while millions lost their jobs and homes — with his administration still bailing out the banksters, to the tune of $85 billion/month, four years after the 2008 crash).  And the economic fleecing America has endured over the last four years has been compounded with an endless assault on our civil liberties and the rule of law — all on behalf of the .01%, the corporatocracy that America helped create, but which no longer serves its interests… if indeed it ever did.

Like many a plutocrat (see Mitt Romney), nominally American corporations are starving the U.S. of revenue in myriad ways, but particularly by keeping some $2 trillion in wealth offshore (no patriots, these).  A recent study reported in Forbes indicates that some $21-31 trillion has been offshored by wealthy tax evaders the world over, depriving revenue to governments from America to Europe and beyond, even while the West’s economies are facing historic challenges (again, where are the patriotic plutocrats?).  Our government’s owners are also aggressively promoting the aforementioned trade deals that have hemorrhaged millions of American jobs.  And they are stifling (through the establishment media and politicians they control) practically all discussion of the painfully obvious solutions to America’s economic woes: KEYNESIAN investment in infrastructure, FDR-style; and transitioning to MEDICARE-FOR-ALL (not to mention revising those trade pacts and taxing the rich in a manner that comports with America’s history of fair, reasonably progressive taxation).

These remedies should be no-brainers. Only in America we are no longer allowed to discuss in establishment circles the policies most likely to actually help our economy recover in a meaningful way — because today’s discussion is focused almost entirely on AUSTERITY (which has done wonders for Europe, no?).  The establishment has clearly decided that it is time for America to recede; the country’s true owners will not tolerate any national discussion of long overdue banking reforms or non-industry-authored healthcare reforms.  With four presidential debates behind us, neither the moderators nor the candidates dared broach such topics; nor did they touch on America’s cruel, counterproductive, and fundamentally racist Drug War (so profitable for so few, so costly for the rest of us); nor did they discuss the virtual slave labor taking place in America’s prisons, making a mockery of our proclaimed values.  And they did not begin to question the wisdom of America’s grotesquely stupid national security strategy, no matter how much evidence accrues that the post-9/11 U.S. approach to fighting terrorism — global, boundless war, with ever-diminishing civil liberties (the Romney-endorsed Bush-Obama approach) — has been absolutely bankrupt, intellectually and morally, since its inception, metastasizing global terrorism and damaging America’s reputation and national interests from the very start (something that most of the nation’s voting citizenry soon realized and articulated strongly in consecutive national elections in 2006 and 2008, voting largely against torture and the Bush/Cheney approach to war, including the assault on our civil liberties… which President Obama proceeded unnecessarily to cement and expand).

…and that’s enough bitching about the status quo for now, I suppose.

NEXT: Part II, Practical Election Advice & an Endorsement!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been finishing up an art project I began in July, after my wife and I returned from the first ever Johnston summer seminar: Ovid’s Metamorphoses (my post-seminar blog can be read here).  The piece features caricatures of seminar participants transformed into characters from Ovid’s ~2,000 year-old masterpiece, and I hope my readers will enjoy this quick break from politics…

Art project completed: a seminar transformed!

Last week delivered another grim marker in the decline of a once great nation: the first of the 2012 presidential debates (if my response is a tad belated, please note that I had to wait until I stopped vomiting).

I have listened to Debate #1 in its entirety — twice: once in the standard format, and again with Amy Goodman’s expanded, “sound barrier-breaking” format, inserting the responses of presidential candidates from the Green and Justice parties (the Libertarian Party’s candidate was also invited to participate in the DemocracyNow! forum, but declined that invitation).  I’ve also read the transcript of the Romney-Obama debate, just to make sure I’d heard what I thought I’d heard (unfortunately, I had – urp.).  Lastly, I’ve poured over several post-game dissections of this ghastly mess, including Glenn Greenwald’s latest, which I recommend highly.   And after doing all of these things (and taking something to settle my tummy), I think I have my response/analysis together, so here goes!

1. Poor Player, the First: Jim Lehrer (The Empty Chair) — The cartoon on the cover of The New Yorker, depicting Romney debating the empty “Obama chair” that Clint Eastwood made famous, actually gets it wrong (as does most of the coverage that says Obama “failed to show up” or was “unprepared”).  The truth is the empty chair was Jim Lehrer’s.  The venerable PBS mainstay, the absurdly deferential dud, Mr. Lehrer, has been the subject of many scathing attacks — most of which have been pretty well-founded, actually (performing the most high-profile job he ever does, the man was invisible).  The only defense that Lehrer has offered is the tidbit that he and the candidates had decided beforehand that he would be more or less irrelevant to the proceedings.  That was the agreed-upon format: Lehrer would take a back seat and just let the two candidates engage in a conversation…  Great.  Only what does such an agreement do to the role of the JOURNALIST who is supposed to be present at these kinds of affairs? It obliterates it, obviously, leaving no moderator/referee to call fair balls and foul, resulting in a fact-free, free-for-all.  And that’s why, in my assessment, Jim Lehrer really screwed the pooch on this one.

2. Poor Player, the Second: Barack Obama (The Cautious/Ingratiating Wonky Doll, with Pull-string) — As I noted in the previous paragraph, the problem with the president’s performance isn’t that he failed to show up or prepare.  The problem was that Barack Obama showed up as himself: Mr. Conciliator, Mr. I’m One of You, Mr. I know policy like the back of my hand, if you’ll just give me a few more minutes to explain.  The president was well-prepared, dazzling even Romney with his knowledge of the details of his (Romney’s) policies — that is, when Romney wasn’t brazenly and FALSELY calling the president a liar, “not entitled to (his) own facts,” for accurately describing the Republican’s proposed policies.  The president clearly went into this debate intent on playing the Cautious Game: I’m winning, all I’ve gotta’ do is show up and not soil myself. The problem was decidedly not with his command of the facts/policy, but with his strategy, which is one-fold: try not to offend anyone. He professorially tried to correct Romney’s falsehoods in such a manner that no one would think he was being disagreeable.  It was “Rope a Dope,” I guess, but only if Ali had never thrown any punches and spent most of the fight trying to convince Foreman that he liked him and they had a lot in common (“Hey, guy, your Social Security position and mine are virtually identical, don’tcha’ think?  And my healthcare reform was really just conceived as an homage to your brilliance!  Love me!  Love me!  I bent Uncle Sam over for Wall Street!  I ended habeas corpus! I’m one of YOUUUUUU!!!”).

3. Poor Player, the Third, Mitt Romney (the Reprogrammable Man) — Actually, I think that the consensus opinion on Romney’s performance is about right: It was a triumph of style over substance.  Mr. “Etch-o-sketch” did just what his campaign promised and flipped another flop, “re-setting” his Etch-o-campaign’s message for the general election by driving hard back to the middle (why, he’ll even cover pre-existing conditions now, just like “Obamacare” does! …Only he won’t — that was one of several bona fide WHOPPERS that Romney told at the debate).  Romney has done just what his campaign telegraphed when his pollster asserted that it would not let the “fact-checkers” dictate their talking points (clearly, they have not).  Just as Cheney determined in George Bush’s first term that “deficits don’t matter” (when Republicans are in the White House), the Romney 2012 campaign has determined (accurately, unfortunately) that FACTS DON’T MATTER.

The result: a sham debate, where no hard questions were asked and many of the answers were 100% false (starkly contradicted in many cases by Mr. Romney’s own words, including core campaign promises made repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the debate) — with no adult on the scene to sort out the truth/mendacity of such claims for the audience of some 70 million viewers.  Such a “debate” represents an insult to the electorate and a canny nod/brazen F.U. (on the part of the Romney folks) to a broken and dysfunctional media elite, incapable of calling out the GOP ticket for the unprecedented and truly stunning level of contempt it has shown for facts in this U.S. presidential election season…  This conduct is very similar, I should note, to the canny nod/brazen F.U. (on the part of the Obama folks) to those same media losers, knowing that they’re too on-board with the .01%’s agenda to endanger it by pointing out that the “Democrat” in this race has already committed himself — with equal vigor — to draconian, totally unnecessary austerity and entitlement slashing!

The unavoidable conclusion: Now more than ever, American elections and debates amount only to empty theater, bereft of substance, subject only to critiques on style, body language, forcefulness, and zingers.  Facts and histories can be easily distorted (even inverted, as Romney proved last Wednesday) with none the wiser in our current funhouse of a political milieu.  Partisan news sources on the MSM’s faux margins (Fox and MSNBC) tell the faithful what they want to hear, and ever-equivocating ditherers at supposedly credible journalistic institutions (like Mr. Lehrer, Brokaw, Blitzer, etc.) assiduously muddy the controversies and toe the official line, eschewing all talk of $16 trillion bailouts and ongoing official U.S. rendition and torture.

Meanwhile, the country’s elites and oligarchs have offered us two nearly identical candidates whose policy prescriptions not only mirror each other’s (“I have the same advisors you do,” asserted the president last Wednesday, referring to a POLICY matter), but whose alleged “remedies” (GOP-Democrat) are tantamount to national economic suicide: a permanent contraction of the middle class with jobs continuing to move overseas while our infrastructure rots and tens of millions of people remain un-/underemployed, with millions more underwater or facing foreclosure from a bunch of unreformed, recidivist criminal banking giants…

IT’S AS IF OBAMA AND ROMNEY NEVER HEARD OF FDR, THE NEW DEAL, OR JOHN MAYNARD KEYNES (but of course they have — only it’s not time for America to recover from its economic woes, as it was in the late 1930s; it’s time, in 2012, for AUSTERITY, for America to recede and get outsourced to death, bound-up with “free” trade pacts, and chopped into little pieces for global corporations to devour, making way for booming China and India and the REAL “new world order” — the global Corporatocracy/surveillance-police state that America has helped create over the last few decades).

*          *          *

Finally, as promised, here’s PROOF THAT INTELLIGENT DEBATE EXISTS:

1. The aforementioned expanded debate on DemocracyNow! featuring presidential candidates Jill Stein (The Green Party) and Rocky Anderson (The Justice Party) — brace yourself for actual issues of significance to be broached (civil liberties, the global climate crisis, the soaring healthcare costs behind America’s projected deficits…);

2. The always excellent Prof. Mahmood Mamdani debating the militarist/colonialist agenda and propaganda of the “Save Darfur” organization with John Prendergast; and

3. A fascinating debate between Glenn Greenwald and former Bush speechwriter David Frum (the committed neocon who, along with Michael Gerson, coined the immensely stultifying phrase “Axis of Evil” in 2002, paving the way for Bush to invade Iraq).  This riveting debate features one man arguing for the principles of Western civilization (Greenwald) and another who is clearly battling monsters and wants to cheer unabashedly when the state murders one (Mr. Frum, clearly having failed to appreciate Nietzsche’s warning against turning one’s human enemies into “monsters,” thereby degrading one’s own humanity and increasing the likelihood that one will commit monstrous acts oneself — TORTURE, for instance — in the pursuit of conquering that “evil”).

Battle not with monsters lest ye become a monster; and if you gaze into the abyss, the abyss gazes into you.”Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

[The following comment was originally authored in response to a HuffingtonPost article about California’s Proposition 32, the Koch-funded proposition that masquerades as an initiative to get “special interest” money out of politics but is actually about crushing unions — decimating organized labor’s ability to raise funds while leaving unscathed the electioneering activities of corporations.]

What’s the matter with Kansas, indeed! I’m truly astonished at the gullibility of the American electorate: The .1% has completely corrupted our government and taken $16 TRILLION out of our pockets (per GAO’s audit of the Fed) and now they’ve got us arguing about unions and the “need” to slash entitlements!

WAKE UP, PEOPLE!!! Over the last decade, Wall Street criminals trashed our 401ks and bilked American polities and pension funds alike. Any honest examination of the 2008 collapse reveals FRAUD on a massive and systemic scale. Wall St. crooks created the fiscal mess that’s crippled governments across America — and now they’ve shifted the conversation to austerity and unions!

It’s a classic bait and switch, but HOW STUPID DO THEY THINK WE ARE? (They’re betting on VERY, and so far that’s paid off handsomely.)

The .1% have terminated the Bill of Rights — with habeas corpus GONE — and now they’re coming for what’s left of Americans’ ability to organize against a management class obsessed with achieving global slave/prison/sweatshop-labor costs (Foxconn/Wal-Mart style) — an obsession that explains why our middle class, like our infrastructure, is crumbling…

Meanwhile we’re hopelessly divided, mostly engaging in the fact-free arguments the .1% have spoon-fed us, populated by phantom “socialists” and an imaginary “Constitutionalist.” If we had any brains or gumption, NOT ONE Republican or Democrat would be elected/reelected; both parties have demonstrated beyond doubt that they work exclusively for those trying to break and enslave us.

The New York Times has been a staple of my daily news consumption for well over a decade.  During this period, the “Gray Lady” has printed a very high percentage of the comments I’ve submitted, however they have consistently censored my comments addressing the organization’s journalistic failures.

The following is the latest example of this tendency of the Times, regarding a comment I submitted observing that a recent NYT article — whatever distinctions it correctly drew between the two leading presidential candidates’ positions on waterboarding — mostly obscured their common positions on rendition and torture (while falsely denying the continued use of such tactics).

My NYT-censored comment:

The article is premised on a falsehood: “Mr. Obama has stuck to that strict no-torture policy.” (Here, Mr. Savage exemplifies that tendency in the MSM to forego journalistic rigor and emptily parrot official propaganda.)  As has been reported by Jeremy Scahill, Allan Nairn, Amy Goodman, Alfred McCoy, and others, OBAMA HAS CONTINUED THE TORTURE, albeit with some minor adjustments: www.democracynow.org/2012/9/21/as_italy_sentences_23_cia_agents

The new rules: NO torturing by military personnel in war zones (PERMITTED, however, in places America is NOT at war — have at it, special ops!); “NO more rendition”… (EXCEPT when necessary to transport prisoners to the CIA’s torturing partners, with CIA feeding questions and directing the torture from the next room). There’s also been a steady stream of reports of torture at the U.S.-operated prison in Bagram (documented by the ICRC and Afghan human rights organizations) — which is why our Canadian and European allies refuse to bring prisoners there.

In short, America has wholeheartedly embraced torture in the post-9/11 era, and none of our institutions seem willing to do anything about it, from the DOJ to Congress to the NYT. Meanwhile we continue to fuel the flames of rage (backing al Qaeda in Syria, targeting medics and funerals with our drones, funding terrorism in Iran…) — dramatically reducing our national security.

There you have it, the first comment I’ve submitted to the NYT in months and they refused to post it!

*          *          *

And now for part two of this sorry saga… I’ve also been comment-blocked this week by The HuffingtonPost. (Maybe I am the problem, after all.  You be the judge.)  I was feeling appalled at several HuffPo members’ comments responding to an article about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s (by all accounts subdued) speech at the United Nations this week.  The anti-Islamic, anti-Arab bigotry and neocon-propagated falsehoods were flying fast and furious on that comments board, so I decided to put out a little corrective pertinent to the discussion, as follows:

I’ve just read several pages of hate-filled and stunningly ignorant comments here, very few with any connection whatsoever to reality (yet more evidence that America has collapsed, morally and intellectually, in the wake of the 9/11 attacks).

Here are some FACTS:

1) In 1953, the CIA executed a violent coup in Iran, replacing an internationally celebrated democrat with a torturing, secret police-employing, resource-stealing puppet for the next quarter century;

2) In 1979, after the student-led Iranian Revolution, the West elevated Saddam in Iraq in order to use him as a proxy (he invaded Iran within months and one million people died as a result);

3) Iranians are not “Arab” but Persian (and they haven’t been militarily aggressive for centuries);

4) While Iran supports Hamas and Hezbollah, the vast majority of the world understands these organizations to be legitimate resistance groups, defying illegal occupation and a recidivist war criminal regime; even official Europe and Canada recognized these groups as freedom fighters prior to 9/11);

5) Neither the IAEA nor America’s 16 intelligence agencies have found ANY evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program since the abandoned effort in 2003;

6) The U.S. has been terrorizing Iran (mostly through proxies, like Saddam and the MEK) for decades — Iran has mostly responded with angry WORDS; and

7) Iran’s leaders have NEVER threatened to “wipe Israel off the map” (that is a deliberate mistranslation of a Khomeini speech once quoted by Ahmadinejad).

Now this comment (above) was posted on that comment board — not censored/lost/blocked — hooray!  And after its posting, the comment generated a small wave of fiery criticism, with some critics suggesting that I had been “brainwashed” and others suggesting that I am hostile to Israel (on what grounds, they didn’t say).  In responding to these attacks, I tried to add nuance to my position and clarify my feelings about Mr. Ahmadinejad:

While Iran’s leadership is highly flawed, you should know that you’re regurgitating some of the more common falsehoods about Iran (neocon propaganda, actually). The truth: Ahmadinejad is a pipsqueak populist, rarely aligned with the mullahs. His political opponents are mostly folks like Rafsanjani in the corrupt old business-political-religious establishment. That said, however much of a popular following he has — which is considerable; he’s not a “dictator” by any accepted definition — he’s WAY too prone to making ignorant comments (questioning the Holocaust and so forth) to be an effective leader. Iran can surely do better than this provincial, red meat-chumming math professor.

That said, here’s the vital corrective: No Iranian leader has EVER called for the “destruction of Israel” or anything like that. The original comment (Khomeini’s, quoted once by Ahmadinejad) expressed a hope that the REGIME in Israel would one day fade — just as the REGIME of the Shah eventually faded away (that was the specific context): www.fair.org/blog/2012/04/19/now-they-tell-us-iran-didnt-actually-threaten-to-wipe-israel-off-the-map/

America has been terrorizing Iran for over half a century now, leaving hundreds of thousands dead since the 1953 CIA coup. It’s no defense of Ahmadinejad to note the West’s history of terrorizing the region or that Iran has been the subject of a great deal of propaganda designed to build popular support in America for war.

So there I was, being reasonable and polite as peach pie in responding to those critical of my initial comment, when HuffPo apparently decided to shut me down.  When asked to present some facts demonstrating my sympathy with the Israeli people, I tried repeatedly to post the following two-part comment, both installments of which have been blocked, blocked, and blocked (with HuffPo’s support staff also refusing to respond to my request for an explanation) — just BLOCKED:

FACTS from the Israeli position:

After centuries of persecution at the hands of pharaohs, tsars, and Europeans — culminating in the Nazi Holocaust that killed at least 11 million people (a predominately Jewish holocaust, whatever Ahmadinejad thinks in his ignorance) — Zionists realized their dream of a Jewish homeland in 1948, courtesy of a U.N. resolution backed by strong Western support.

HOWEVER, thanks to Washington’s imperialist ambitions, the rightful founding of the state of Israel was achieved with unnecessary brutality and next to no consultation with Arabs (who had officially accepted the proposition of a Jewish state).

What followed was the ethnic cleansing of hundreds of thousands of Arabs (Muslims, Christians, and Jews) ensuring an environment of perpetual hostility to the state of Israel — one that has been assiduously nurtured by the Military Industrial Complex and Washington in the decades since. The abandoned British garrison had been successfully replaced with another armed, extraordinarily militarist polity, effectively providing a Middle Eastern toehold for Western colonialism (initially under the guise of fighting the Cold War — most of which consisted of thwarting democrats and elevating the thugs and terrorists who created the most favorable conditions for American corporations: in Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Middle East, Africa…).

Israeli Jews have suffered from decades of foreign manipulation and corrupt, inept, frequently terrorist leaders (much like their Palestinian counterparts on ALL counts) who do not remotely represent the majority of the state.

Israel can take pride in many institutions that function in a reasonably democratic way (including a Supreme Court that was willing to fault Sharon for the civilian massacres he unleashed and a Winograd Commission that honestly depicted the incompetence of Olmert’s botched, civilian-slaughtering war on Lebanon).

In sum, Israel has from the start suffered Western manipulation, hostility from their neighbors (including wars and chronic terrorist attacks), and corruption from within — but especially from the external forces that are in the BUSINESS of perpetual conflict.

Sadly, anti-Semitism is alive and well (particularly on the American right, where Jews are seen as the cannon fodder in their fundamentalist Christian war on Islam and also as the necessary precondition for their Rapture). Jews are STILL blamed for all kinds of things by bigots everywhere (from American right-wingers to the Arab dictators they support — and deranged lefties and nutters, too, some of whom think Israel had something to do with 9/11…).

European Jews and their descendants deserved better than to have their homeland conceived from the start as a Western military base. But with more good journalism (Haaretz) and more good leaders (like Rabin) possible in the future, maybe the Israeli warmongers (Netanyahu, Lieberman, and the racist settlers) can finally be restrained by the Israeli people — and a PEACE worthy of Israel and Palestine can finally be forged!

Now, whether or not you agree with my arguments, please ask yourself: have I been abusive?  Off-topic?  Did I engage in threats or hate speech?  I would say that the answer to those questions is a resounding “none of the above.”  In fact, I can’t figure out how I’ve violated the comment policies of either the New York Times or HuffingtonPost… and that’s why this feels like censorship to me.

But again, you be the judge.

And now we turn to a conversation between “American Joe” and “Middle Eastern Mo” exploring the question of “Muslim rage…”

JOE: Hey Mo, what is it with you people? Why so hypersensitive?

MO: Be riiiight with you, Joe; just helping my neighbor bury his wife and children…

JOE: Honor killing?

MO: Drone, actually…

JOE: No shit! Well let me look into that… If it turns out you’re right, my government might just have a few hundred dollars for your neighbor!

MO: Blood money?

JOE: Hey, it’s your fuckin’ tradition… But what about my question: Why the heck are Muslims so damn SENSITIVE about a little free speech?

MO: Well, there’s some problems with the premise of your question (like, we wish our grievances were limited to offensive speech), but to the extent that it’s true, you might begin your journey toward greater understanding by exploring a related question: why are African-Americans “so damn sensitive” about the N-word; or why are Jews “so damn sensitive” about the Holocaust; or why are Native Americans…

JOE: Whoa, whoa, whoa – we’re talking about Muslims, here! Not America and the West’s past, um…

MO: Victims?

JOE: No.

MO: Youthful indiscretions?

JOE: Exactly. That stuff isn’t about our values — it’s not who the West is, what America stands for today. It’s ancient history!

MO: Ah, then perhaps you would be more comfortable discussing the current period: Did America not invade Iraq on a pack of lies, in violation of the Nuremberg Principles, leaving hundreds of thousands of innocents dead (quite possibly over a million)? And didn’t that war follow a decade where needlessly draconian American sanctions resulted in the deaths of 500,000-800,000 Iraqi children under the age of five (and countless, uncounted others)? And didn’t those 1990s sanctions follow the decade in which America elevated Saddam Hussein in the first place, in order to launch a war of aggression against post-Revolution Iran, resulting in the deaths of an estimated one million people? And then there are the recent wars of aggression launched against the people of south Lebanon and Gaza, the apartheid-state reality of Palestinians, the West’s backing of dictators and terrorists across the region…

JOE: Whoa, whoa — again, whoa! Slow down, there, Mo. I’m not familiar with this history.

MO: Of course not. You are an American.

JOE: What the hell is that supposed to mean??

MO: It means that whenever your country commits crimes against humanity, you blame the victim and proceed to go to sleep. The people you torture and murder, their survivors, the people of the nations you devastate and subject to terrorism and despotic rule, those whose resources you plunder — they are denied any legal recourse and, more often, any form of justice whatsoever.

JOE: It’s called “American Exceptionalism.”

MO: It’s called lawless predation founded on a double standard, and it’s nothing new in the world. Colonialist emperors and tyrants have always found such “exceptionalism” useful.

JOE: But HEY, this wasn’t supposed to be about us! This was supposed to be about you people and your hypersensitivity! You guys really hate that YouTube film, right? And those pornographic Mohammed cartoons?

MO: What’s to like? That said, the protests in Cairo and Libya were planned before the video even came out. Besides, most of the protests — and yes, the attacks, too — are inspired by the West’s genocidal conduct toward Muslims over the last century; the bigoted European cartoons and American hate-films are just the icing on the cake.

JOE: The resentment cake? Shouldn’t that be a grievance falafel or something?

MO: Sigh… My bad. I meant to say “the last straw” or something; forget the cake.

JOE: Alright, but I still don’t think Muslims share our values.

MO: Why? Because we continue to resist foreign domination? Because so many of us are angry about the crimes against humanity we’ve suffered at your hands? Because we’re willing to fight for our right to self-determination?

JOE: Uhhhhh, no. Because you, uh, don’t share our passion for our cherished liberal, Western values, like free speech and the right to peaceful assembly. The rule of law…

MO: Ah, yes, the West’s proud history (I’m sincere, now) of exalting democratic, liberal-humanist laws and traditions: habeas corpus, the right to confront one’s accuser, the right to a speedy trial, freedom of association, a free press, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures, the right to be secure in one’s own person and effects, the rule of law…

JOE: Exactly! That stuff!

MO: Well, if you weren’t so busy mass-murdering Muslims and subsequently blaming the victim for his “hypersensitivity,” you might have noticed that America has spent the last decade obliterating all of those so-called “cherished values.” You might have protested as your last two presidents took a hatchet to the Bill of Rights and transformed America once and for all into some kind of Fourth Reich dictatorship of the .1%, with cameras everywhere, drones flying overhead, no more habeas corpus or Posse Comitatus, honest whistleblowers and journalists persecuted, peaceful protests violently dispersed, whole populations subject to unconstitutional targeting on the basis of their political affiliations or religious faith, and some Americans murdered outright (with no charges/trial) for exercising their right to free speech!

Now you tell me, which group of people seems more committed to self-determination, free speech/assembly, and the rule of law: the ones who scrapped their constitution at the first sign of trouble, or the ones who’ve been resisting the West’s despots for decades and have filled their streets with protest, sacrificing their lives (thousands snuffed out by the folks Washington backs) in order to fight for their right to self-determination?

JOE: …well, I’m maybe a little persuaded by your arguments — but did you have to go so rough on America? Your rhetoric is a tad sharp-elbowed, to say the least…

MO: Why so sensitive?