Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Commerce of Violence

Is the title of a June 2013 article in  The Progressive, by author Wendell Berry, arguably one of our best living writers and consciences.

        To learn to meet our needs without continuous violence against one another and our only world would require an immense intellectual and practical effort, requiring the help of every human being perhaps to the end of human time.

This would be work worthy of the name "human." It would be fascinating and lovely.

Unfortunately, President Obama, seems aloof from such reflections as he ramps up the militaristic jargon to appear strong and executive. But as Guardian columnist Gary Younge notes today, that isn't cutting it with most of the world.

       The problem for America in all of this is that its capacity to impact diplomatic negotiations is limited by the fact that its record of asserting its military power stands squarely at odds with its pretensions of moral authority. For all America's condemnations of chemical weapons, the people of Falluja in Iraq are experiencing the birth defects and deformities in children and increases in early-life cancer that may be linked to the use of depleted uranium during the US bombardment of the town. It also used white phosphorus against combatants in Falluja.
      Its chief ally in the region, Israel, holds the record for ignoring UN resolutions, and the US is not a participant in the international criminal court – which is charged with bringing perpetrators of war crimes to justice – because it refuses to allow its own citizens to be charged. On the very day Obama lectured the world on international norms he launched a drone strike in Yemen that killed six people.

Peter Drier, the E.P. Clapp Distinguished Professor of Politics, and director of the Urban & Environmental Policy program, at Occidental College writes in a blog for Common Dreams today that makes the linkage between Syria  and Walmart and asks some legitimate questions.

     Over 1,000 innocent Syrians were killed by poison gas.  Over 1,000 innocent Bangladesh garment workers were killed when a huge factory building collapsed in April.
      The Syrian government is responsible for the first mass killing. Wal-Mart, which (according to the New York Times) knew about the dangerous conditions in the Bangladesh factories that make its clothes, and did nothing, is responsible for the second mass killing. Wal-Mart actually blocked efforts to upgrade factory conditions in Bangladesh.
Why all the outrage about the first murders but not the second?
Why is the U.S. government ready to go to war against Syria but not even punish or pressure Wal-Mart?

     For a person who received the Nobel Peace Prize in hopes of what he might do, President Obama's rhetoric and proposed actions belie the choice the Nobel Committee made. Perhaps he will be the first to have it rescinded. And no doubt he has the NSA collecting every public comment we make.