A: When he's the private citizen Pat Roberston!
Last week the extremely wealthy and highly influential former candidate for president Pat Robertson publicly called for the assasination of a popularly-elected leader of a sovereign democracy. Though Robertson--a Christian fundamentalist whose reach extends globally via both his cable programming and his influence on folks like George W. Bush--seemed to apologize two days later, claiming that his call for the United States government to "take out" Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could have had a number of interpretations (including "kidnapping"), there's really only one way to interpret this Robertson statement:
You know, I don't know about this doctrine of assassination, but if [Chavez] thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it.There has been minimal official reaction within the US halls of power to his inflammatory remarks. Yet Donald Rumsfeld, the war monger who is known as the Secretary of Defense, had this to say:
He's a private citizen. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.Which must be a relief to homicidal maniacs the world over. Now, anyone with a passport, greencard, or drivers licence can call for the assassination (or kidnapping) of any head of state. Private citizens say all kinds of things all the time.
Hey, Donny: what about all those kinds of things your man Osama Bin Laden says all the time? Osama has got to be the world's most private citizen, thanks in part to the horrendous misappropriation of funding and resources following 9/11, when we bashed (and continue to bash) Afghanistan deeper into the Stone Age while Osama and Co. use tactical akido to make the US look like what it is: the World's Dumbest Ever Empire.
Q: So is calling for a president's head on a platter "terrorism"?
A: Not when the president is either brown, or socialist, or both.
I mentioned Robertson's call for Chavez's assassination to someone the other day, who responded by asking me if "we" (the US) like or dislike Chavez. Tough question. Officially, the United States hates Chavez with a passion. When a coup of the Chavez government appeared successful in April 2002, the darling of the so-called liberal media The New York Times quickly and embarassingly congratulated the effort. For a few days, a minority of US-backed Venezuelan business and media elites held control, until Chavez was restored to power by the highly supportive population that elected him. Since then, Chavez has made no secret of his disdain for US foreign policy, while consistently distinguishing between the United States government and the American people. (Most recently, Chavez has offered poor Americans cheap fuel and free health care.) Chavez has called George W. Bush an asshole (who hasn't?), has helped to create Telesur, a South American counterweight to CNN, and has transformed the Venezuelan army in part into an agent for building schools and infrastructure in poor communities. Venezuela enjoys friendly relations with Cuba, Iran, and China, and supports moves toward socialism in Latin America.
Decide for yourself whether or not you like Chavez. There's much more to be said about him and his government. But the point here is that if we want to live in an interconnected world, in which we trade with each other, exchange facets of each other's culture, and treat people with decency and respect, we have to apply some kind of law of universality. Whether or not we like Chavez and his policies, I sure hope we despise political assassinations. Remember: what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
Q: Is it terrorism if the people we terrorize have, like, a shitload of oil?
The United States never terrorizes. Every political or military action of the United States, according to official accounts (which include those of the government and its sycophants in university and corporate media positions), is undertaken with only good intentions. Officially, only good intentions guide US interference in world affairs when billions of dollars and precious resources are at stake. That Venezuela is the fifth largest oil exporter in the world, that it is the fourth largest exporter to the United States, and that it's present political ideology clashes radically with the demonstrably anti-humanist gangsters in Washington cannot possibly have anything to do with the attitudes toward the enormously popular Hugo Chavez adopted by Pat Robertson and/or the Bush Administration.
Q: So how would our friends in the UK handle Private Citizen Roberston?
It just so happens that Robertson's faux apology appeared in the media on the same day as this little news item from America's main coalition partner in "The Global Struggle Against Extremism" (formerly known as "the War on Terror"):
LONDON (Reuters) - The government will on Wednesday unveil measures to rid the country of radical clerics who could inspire bombers like those who attacked London last month as part of a broad crackdown on Islamist preachers.Fact: Robertson has preached and published views which foster hatred. Apology or not, he sought to influence US foreign policy to "kidnap" or otherwise "take out" a political figure whose ideology does not match that of those currently installed in power positions in the United States. How would Tony Blair's government deal with Mr. Robertson? It wouldn't, silly; Robertson is a Christian fundamentalist, not a radical Muslim cleric.
Home Secretary Charles Clarke will publish a list of "unacceptable behaviours" which would prompt immediate action -- either deportation or a ban on entry. [...]
Behaviours likely to be pinpointed are inflammatory preaching and publishing views which foster hatred or foment terrorism.
"I will be publishing, then acting upon, new ways of dealing with preachers of intolerance and hatred who try to exploit the openness of our society to oppress others," Clarke wrote in Monday's Evening Standard.
In the August print edition of Harper's Magazine, Lewis H. Lapham writes in his Notebook entry Moving On
The infotainment to which we've become accustomed over the last thirty years, for the most part made with the machinery of the electronic media, replaces narrative with montage, substitutes for history the telling of fariy tales, grants authority to the actor, not the act.Further on, he writes
...it is the weight of publicity--face time in front of a camera, column inches in the magazines--that moves the tide of emotion and alters the geography of nations.Pat Robertson has scored a point just by being in the news. It doesn't matter what he said, it only matters that he said it.
In the interim, while some may have considered the implications of a hideously wealthy Christian fundamentalist with ties to the White House calling for an international political assassination without so much as a tap on the wrist from the terror-paranoid political elite, a hurricane rolled through the Gulf of Mexico, killed thousands, and destroyed cities. Never mind that the hurricane was caused by global warming, a grave danger that the same political elite not only denies the existence of, but--through its backward, ecocidal policies--actively worsens.
So here it is: Bush is on the job, gas prices will be "stabilized", the military will save the day. Yet, according to Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!:
...some 6,000 members of the Louisiana and Mississippi Guard have been forced to watch the catastrophe from 7,000 miles away in Iraq. 40 percent of Mississippi's National Guard force and 35 percent of Louisiana's is in Iraq.Watch the TV screen; what do you get? No actual message, just montage, and you can be sure you won't hear the Bush Administration mentioning an immediate pullout of those troops, or something like the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project. In Goodman's words:
Over the past decade the Army Corps of Engineers has spent $430 million on shoring up levees and building pumping stations. But another $250 million in work remained. According to press accounts, the federal funding largely froze up in 2003. Over the past two years the Times-Picayune paper has run at least nine articles that cite the cost of the Iraq invasion as a reason for the lack of hurricane and flood control funding. Earlier this year President Bush proposed significantly reducing the amount of federal money for the project. He proposed spending $10 million. Local officials said six times as much money was needed.Later in his article, Lewis Lapham notes:
Nothing necessarily follows from anything else, and the constant viewer is free to shop around for a reality matched to taste...Yes. If it suits you, you can shop around for a better reality than all of this. Better yet, we can be purveyors of a better reality. It is up to us to maintain reasonable standards of universality. It is up to us to remember. It is up to us to hold accountable our political actors, who make our bad worse, who turn us against each other, who poison everything and smile back at the camera and say "I'm taking care of it".
August 2005. Remember Cindy Sheehan?