About the Name of this blog

This blog's title refers to a Dani fable recounted by Robert Gardner. The Dani live in the highlands of New Guinea, and at the the time he studied them, they lived in one of the only remaining areas in the world un-colonized by Europeans.

The Dani, who Gardner identifies only as a "Mountain People," in the film "The Dead Birds," have a myth that states there was once a great race between a bird and a snake to determine the lives of human beings. The question that would be decided in this race was, "Should men shed their skins and live forever like snakes, or die like birds?" According to the mythology, the bird won the race, and therefore man must die.

In the spirit of ethnographic analysis, this blog will examine myth, society, culture and architecture, and hopefully examine issues that make us human. As with any ethnography, some of the analysis may be uncomfortable to read, some of it may challenge your preconceptions about the world, but hopefully, all of it will enlighten and inform.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What Do You Think Will Happen?


The publisher for the Atlanta Jewish Times recently wrote an op-ed suggesting that, for its own national security, Israel should consider assassinating President Obama. (Click here for a link to the original document.  Please follow the link to show that I am not quoting out of context.)

In the article he recommended:

"Give the go ahead for U.S. based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcibly dictate that the United States policy include its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies."

If it wasn't clear in that statement, a few sentences later he states:

"Order a hit on a president in order to preserve Israel's existence. Think about it. If I have thought of this Tom Clancy-type scenario, don't you think that this almost unfathomable idea has been discussed in Israel's most inner circles?"

In other words, he is calling on the Israeli secret police to instigate regime change in America.  He is also, as an American citizen, calling on a foreign country to dictate policy to the United States.

 I do believe that both of these action rise to the level of treason. 

And unfortunately, since it is Obama that he is suggesting assassinating he will never be punished.  I also do not doubt that any publisher that said that about Bush would currently have a lifetime suite at the Gitmo Hilton.  (On a similar note, a Kansas Republican Assembly member sent the President a note hoping that "His days would be few in number."  That is from Psalm 109:8, which continues "may his children be orphans and his wife a widow.  I should note that he did not include the second verse of the Psalm, but anyone who knows the Bible pretty well will likely know the other part.)

However, this article is not about either the treasonous actions of a publisher of a small newspaper, not is it about how, for the first time in American history, it seems to be almost heroic to call for the assassination of our own president.

No, this article is about blowback.

Blowback is the unintended violent consequences of a given military or covert operation without a discernable direct cause.  (Thank you Wikipedia for the definition)

The chickens of American foreign policy are coming home to roost.  How many leaders of other countries has the United States removed?  I would like to say that this is a problem of the new millennium, that Bush started this policy of regime change, because if he had, it might possible to repudiate the policy and change course.

Unfortunately, this has been going on for the past fifty years.  Here is a partial list of the countries where we have removed a government in order to "forcibly dictate" their internal governance;  Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Cambodia, Korea, the Philippines, Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Granada, Panama, Nicaragua, Haiti, Somalia, the Congo, Bosnia, Kosovo.  We also unsuccessfully tried it in Cuba and Libya

This has been a long standing American policy, and because of that, it will be hard to change.  Already, there is much saber rattling among the Republicans for regime change in Iran, again.  That would be our second intervention in that country, third if you count our abandonment of the Shah, who we put in power after removing a somewhat socialist democratically elected government there.

But as long as we continue to march around the world, knocking off foreign leaders and replacing them, we stand a strong chance of other countries doing the same to us.  In the 1930's, a group of Fascist leaning Americans (including the father of Bush the first) planned on to staging a coup in this country and install Smedley Butler as the new "President."  There is still speculation as to the involvement of European Fascists in this plot.  The Businessman's Plot could happen again.  We have established the precedent.

Anytime that America opens the door to violations of law, it invites the rest of the world to follow along.  We have long been the shining example to other countries; the exhortation for them to listen to the angels of their better natures.  When we do so, we set the bar for creating a better world.  But when we fall to the seduction of the demons of our lesser nature, we greenlight the rest of the world to do so as well.  And given that the road to evil is wide and easy, we open the door to horror.

We also open the door for that horror to be brought home.

Waterboarding, the tortures at Abu Ghraib, urinating on dead bodies in Afghanistan, these actions have consequences.  When our soldiers commit atrocities, we open the door for our soldiers to be treated atrociously.  When we attack another country unprovoked, we invite unprovoked attack on our country.  When we remove democratically elected leaders because we don't like them, we face the possibility of our leaders being removed because some other country doesn't like them.

Every time America violates international law, we don't just lose a little bit of our prestige, we shift the behavior bar down.  We justify other people atrocities and, further, we make it almost impossible to condemn those actions without looking like hypocritical parents.

The hardest thing in the world is to rise above the evil around us, to say that, we are going to be better than that, that we are going to be the good example.  But we must.  That is not to say that we turn the other cheek, although, sometimes we must.  What I am saying is that, no matter what is done to us, me must respond with thoughtfulness, with care, and with an eye to how those actions will be perceived.

America, for good or bad, has always led by example.  We must ensure that that example is positive; that we show the world the right way to take action.  Whether we like it or not, we are the role model.  We need to do good things in the world, and behave in an ethical manner.

Otherwise, we will continue to suffer blowback, with increasingly tragic consequences.

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