Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Reality of Reality

As the cameras moved along one of the cell blocks, a prisoner with a thick Arabic accent said sarcastically:
Al Qaida used to be only 50 people, now it is about half a million! Thank you America!
This was the scene in a recent National Geographic Channel Explorer episode entitled, “Inside Guantanamo.” The documentary provides an eye opening look at the United States government's unlawful detention camps at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. While the episode makes a valiant effort to validate America's need for the prison, it also gives the prisoners a voice – a voice that America should listen to. Why, though, do so many Americans fail to hear these warnings?

During the Republican primary debates, prior to the 2008 election, Congressman Ron Paul regularly and correctly cited the CIA's “blow-back” theory as an explanation for the escalation of the threat of terrorist activity against the United States. However, every time Dr. Paul reiterated that argument, it was met with the inevitable rhetoric, “Are you suggesting that we invited the attacks of September 11th?” Well, the short answer is, yes! The ignorance that our nation's leaders exhibit towards the adverse effects of our interventionist foreign policy undoubtedly perpetuates the hatred and contempt that Al Qaida and other terrorist groups around the world display towards the West. While Americans did not invite the attacks of September 11th – nor were the thousands of deaths justified – America's policies over several decades provided the terrorists with ample motivation to carry out their attack.

Many Americans are unaware of the history of our involvement in the politics of Middle Eastern states. Since the end of World War II, America and its allies have found themselves engaged in the affairs of several Middle Eastern countries - the CIA's coup to overthrow the democratically elected Shah of Iran, US Marines in Lebanon and Beirut, and America's current involvement in Afghanistan and Pakistan only represent a small portion of the extensive list of military and political involvements by the US and its allies in the Middle East Region. And all of this in an effort to “protect American interests” - in other words, to protect big oil and other corporate concerns. Although I, in no way, wish to validate the arguments of radical Muslims, what is essential to their position is that these are countries that are on land that is often regarded as sacred by the Muslims that inhabit the area.

For another perspective, let's look at what is happening in Iraq and consider what we Americans may think if we were in their position: What would we do if another country kicked in America's door, wiped out our military, and occupied us so that they could set up a government that better serves their interests. Would anyone expect Americans to accept this scenario? Why then should we expect these middle eastern nations to accept the United States frequently meddling in their affairs?

This prisoner at Guantanamo Bay offered a unique perspective to which Americans should pay much attention. Unfortunately, rather than heed their warnings, the leaders of our country have repeatedly ignored the words of our enemies. The current US foreign policy will only continue to intensify the threat of violence on our citizens unless we promptly reverse our course. To reverse course is not to give in to the demands of our enemies, it is to abide by our nation's commitment to freedom from tyranny and government coercion - freedom for its own people and the people of all nations. If we are to be respected around the world again, the era of American imperialism must end. We must halt our interventionist foreign policy and return to the foreign policy of Thomas Jefferson – a policy of “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations – entangling alliances with none” – for these are the principles on which this great republic was founded.