We can do better than either Kerry or Bush
We can do better than either Kerry or Bush
By Mazin B. Qumsiyeh, PhD*
One aid to a senator told me that 'until you (meaning those concerned with the plight of Palestinians) can come up with more money and power than those who support Israel, don't come talk to me.' Perhaps this is why 50% of eligible voters never even bother to register let alone vote. Perhaps it also explains why both Kerry and Bush still support a war that the majority of Americans oppose. But perhaps there is also a deeper lesson in this.
Ex-labor secretary Robert Reich commented to NPR that the most powerful political institution in America is the Federal Reserve Board. This was a rather rare instance where such crucial issues sneaked into the mainstream media discourse. Indeed, Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan and this board can lift or tank the economy with small decisions they take on interest rates (or even words they utter). A few days later, Greenspan stated that Congress should raise the retirement age and take other measures to curb expenditure on social security and other entitlements! Elected officials and many in the media listen in reverence as if they are students of an immortal guru who knows eternal answers. The Reich comments, like the report on increasing poverty in the US, are swept under the carpet while the machine of power and spin keeps churning. A machine that includes powerful individuals who move easily between think tanks, the government that makes policy that directly benefits them, and corporations that fund these same think tanks. To keep the system going, knowledge is key (both in terms of having access to it and denying it to the people).
Political conventions and speeches illustrate a key feature of how this production works. Just like any commercials for gadgets we really do not need, sound-bites and images are market tested for emotional appeal while staying away from logic or real discussion. Kerry or Bush are molded into competing products/brands that give a good 'feeling'. Money buys marketing and brings more money and more power. Few dare to ask the tough questions. How is it that Bloomberg becomes mayor of New York and Mr. Terminator governor of California? Why did the 'bipartisan' 9/11 commission whitewash the investigation into 9/11? Why, with massive deficits, do we give $340 billion per year to a bloated military (more than that spent by the following 20 countries combined) whose major mission now seems to be growing corporate profits of Haliburton, DynCorp, CACI, and GE? Why did we spend $250 billion to support Israeli apartheid and $130 billion on a war on Iraq when both are not in US public interest.
We are at a critical juncture: US military power is peaking while its moral power hit rock bottom. 150 countries stood for justice with only the US, Israel, Australia, and three tiny island nations voted against a resolution recognizing the ruling by the International Court of Justice on the illegality of Israel's apartheid and racist wall. Bush and Kerry both pledge continued financial and diplomatic support of racist policies of denying the right of refugees to return while caging the remaining Palestinians (Christians and Muslims) behind moats, fences and walls. Violence generated by this policy is used to justify more of the same disastrous policies. Similarly, the war on Iraq generated more violence and killed more people (Iraqis and Americas) and this violence is used to justify 'staying the course.'
Examples abound of past superpowers with strong military stretched thin, a nation increasingly dependent on imports, increasing gulf between rich and poor, and citizens kept intoxicated by talk of foreign threats. The empires of Greece, Rome, Spain, and Britain provide fascinating examples. Unlike these ancient empires, we will not be replaced by another Empire (BinLadenism?) because we now live in a dependent, overpopulated and fragile world. The US population consumes nearly 50% of world natural resources while representing 5% of world population. Our government further obstructs progress on environmental issues, human rights, and justice around the world. Rather than the 'special interests' of corporate greed and outdated philosophies (BinLadenism, Zionism, social Darwinism, two party systems, etc), we must choose the common interest of sustainable life on this planet, fair and equitable sharing of resources, and basic and common human rights. The power of those insisting on being citizens not mere consumers was already illustrated in Brazil and Venezuela. On the streets of New York Sunday, 400,000 demonstrators echoed the same call.
* Prof. Qumsiyeh is currently Associate Professor at Yale and is author of 'Sharing the Land of Canaan: Human Rights and the Israeli-Palestinian Struggle'