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Archive for the ‘International’ Category

msnbc_hln_fnc_cnnThis past week, a news anchor for the Russian owned television station, RT News, heroically resigned on air after stating that she would not whitewash the stories on Ukraine to defend Putin and his actions. The video went viral, and many in the U.S., including the U.S. media, took this as a sign of the biased reporting which RT News produces.

There is no doubt that RT News tells a particularly narrative, one that is very favorable to the Russian ideas and cause. It is easy for those in the United States to identify this as propaganda. However, what is more difficult for many to see is the biased narrative that almost all major U.S. media, both on the “right” and “left”, have given to the story on Ukraine and give to all U.S. foreign policy.

What would happen if the same situation which transpired at RT News occurred on Fox News or CNN? What would happen if an anchor got on and said that the people of Crimea deserve to have a referendum and join Russia? What would happen if an anchor stated that Russia was justified in going into Crimea to restore the will of the people after an unconstitutional coup? How long would it be before the anchor was dismissed?

We have this idea in the U.S. that we have an open and free media. The reality is that most major media sources are controlled by a few powerful corporations who have special interests they want to see fulfilled. They also usually have corrupt ties with the U.S. government which causes over nationalistic narratives to always win out. Instead of the press holding the government accountable as Jefferson hoped for, the press has largely become a mouthpiece for the U.S. government, particularly on foreign policy issues.

We should cheer the anchor at RT sticking it to Putin; however, we should not be blinded to the propaganda in our own system. The reality is that on most issues with U.S. foreign policy (whether drones, Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, etc.)  RT News is probably more accurate than Fox, CNN, or MSNBC since they do not have answer to powerful American corporations. In this very complicated situation with Ukraine, let’s be aware of the propaganda that the Russians are telling their people, but let’s also be aware of the biased narrative that we are receiving at the same time.

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I volunteered on the campaign for Invisible Children in 2006 in Anderson, South Carolina. We slept outside in the streets to raise awareness. I definitively think the people behind this organization have great intentions. I have shown the Invisible Children to my students for the last 3 years, and I think the passion that is growing especially among the young people is so laudable and exciting.

However, there are some precautions that should be taken. Many people have come out, including people on the ground in Uganda, saying that the strategy that Invisible Children are pushing could actually make the situation worse. And many things are not clear, such as the fact that the Ugandan Army itself has been accused of war crimes and that the Lord’s Resistance Army is not even in Uganda anymore. Here are a couple of articles with this perspective-

http://blog.foreignpolicy.com/posts/2012/03/07/guest_post_joseph_kony_is_not_in_uganda_and_other_complicated_things

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/uganda/9131469/Joseph-Kony-2012-growing-outrage-in-Uganda-over-film.html

Here is a response from one of the bloggers,

“Suggesting that the answer is more military action is just wrong,” said Javie Ssozi, an influential Ugandan blogger.

“Have they thought of the consequences? Making Kony ‘famous’ could make him stronger. Arguing for more US troops could make him scared, and make him abduct more children, or go on the offensive.”

Taylor Marvin put it this way,

“Just because a cause is fashionable doesn’t make it wise. Invisible Children’s efforts to raise awareness is laudable, but its faith in military solutions isn’t.”

At the end of the day if Joseph Kony is killed, would the Lord’s Resistance Army really die out, or would someone else just take the place? We like to focus on villains, whether it was Osama Bin Laden, the Iranian Ayatollah, or Joseph Kony, but at the end, will taking them out really change the underlying issues and problems?

I am torn as a teacher as my student come and talk about the film. On one hand, I am overjoyed that they are involved and passionate about the issues of suffering and injustice in the world. On the other hand, I am afraid that they could be getting the message once again that we could rid all the world’s problems with more military action, an attitude that is especially dangerous as more talk is growing to attack Iran. In the end, I am still very torn on this issue and would love to hear your feedback.

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As Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing allies move closer and closer to war with Iran, many in the U.S. Christian community still equate supporting Israeli policy with supporting the Kingdom of God. And here is one of the greatest tragedies not only on a spiritual level, but also on a social, political, and a military level.

Jesus preached a message of peace, turning the other cheek, and loving one’s enemies. He warned the Jewish community of his day about the dangers in pursuing war and violence and how it would lead to their own destruction. He told his followers that those who live by the sword will die by the sword. Jesus had the opportunity to pursue Israel’s political objectives during his time on earth, but he chose not to. His goal was the Kingdom of God, not the Kingdom of Israel, even when Israel was facing a real enemy in the Romans (compared with the fabricated enemy of Iran).

Somehow over the years, the mind of many in the church (particularly the U.S. church) has become very skewed towards the Israeli state. “Supporting Israel means supporting Jesus”. Perhaps, it is in part a reaction to the horrible way that the church has often treated Jews throughout history. However, it is also pushed by a literalist reading of Revelation and a new end-times philosophy that was never seen before in church history, an eschatology that really reflects a lack of scholarship. Of course, this type of “Left Behind” philosophy is pushed in the Christian community by popular books, movies, and TV preachers.

For those Christians who are afraid to call out Israel on their militaristic ways in the fear of offending God, just look at the life of Jesus. Most of my Jesus’s life was a fight against the political and religious leaders of Israel. I believe if Jesus was here today, he would have no problem being the first to call out Netanyahu on his militarism and his appeal to trust military might over God. We have a choice. We can choose the way of Jesus, refuse to fall for the fear and propaganda which is seeking to lead to another war, and try to be peacemakers. Or we can blindly follow the Israeli government, a government led by right-wing leaders that many in Israel itself find dangerous, and abandon the teachings and message of Jesus.

The Kingdom of God’s purpose is for us to love all people and seek justice and peace for all people-Israeli, Palestinian, and Iranian. Let’s let the message of Jesus take over the message of Netanyahu and the pro-war factions of the U.S. and Israel. In the end we have a choice, follow the teachings of the Prince of Peace or a militaristic government hungry for another conflict.

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In my classes, we have been discussing the Mexican-American War in the mid 19th Century. If you had to pick the most unjustified war in U.S. History, this conflict would certainly rank at the very top. It was a war that was waged by the U.S. for more land while they attempted to keep the illusion  of being the victim.

Essentially, many in the U.S, especially President James K. Polk, wanted to expand U.S. territory in the modern day southwest, and they were going to find whatever possible way to do so. However, it would look bad to just blatantly and unjustifiably strike another country. So, Polk decided that the U.S. would provoke Mexico into firing the first shot to make them seem like the aggressors. They sent troops into land that was still “disputed” after the Texas Revolution (where Texas was essentially stolen from the Mexican government), but which Mexico considered their own land. They tried setting up a military fort. Polk knew this was a move that would provoke the Mexican government. Some American troops were killed by the Mexican army, and Polk came to the Congress with the message that the U.S. had been attacked, and war was the only option.

In reality, it was a war solely to spread land; the hope of many southerners was that it would give more land for the expansion of slavery. Though some resisted the war, especially in the North, in the end most of the country walked in step out of fear of not appearing patriotic and fought a greedy and unjustified fight for the lands which are now the southwestern United States.

Here is how one of the U.S. Colonel’s, Colonel Hitchcock, put it,

“ I have said from the first that the United States are the aggressors..We have not one particle of right to be here…It looks as if the government sent a small force on purpose to bring on a war, so as to have a pretext for taking California and as much of this country as it chooses.”

I think there is a deep relation between what happened with Mexico and what is happening with Iran. The U.S. has Iran surrounded on all sides, especially with the strong presence in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are putting sanctions on Iran and convincing other nations to do the same. U.S. politicians are making startling remarks about attacking Iran. We are spying on them and flying over their airspace. In short…we are provoking them. Many are hoping that Iran will attack some U.S. or Israeli vessel, thus giving justification for the war on the grounds of us “defending ourselves”.

To paint Iran as the aggressor is simply mind blowing, but when that day comes and war begins, I fear many will simply drink the Kool-Aid of the media and support a war, all the while willfully ignorant of the steps that led to the war. We look back on history and say how dishonest Polk was in his dealings with Mexico and with the American public. However, it seems we have not learned from our mistakes. We are heading to another unjustified war, where though we are the aggressors, we will be able to paint ourselves as the innocent victims.

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It seems we are in a national state of déjà vu with our new obsession with Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Usually you do not get to see history repeat itself within your own lifetime and certainly not in the course of only 8 years, but that seems to be the case with the new calls for war against Iran. This case, like all cases of war, starts with fear. Iran has become the new enemy, the modern version of the Soviet Empire, the thing we are to fear. It is pushed in the nightly news by government agencies and those who stand to profit from another war.

It was only a few years when Saddam Hussein was the scary boogey man that was going to destroy western civilization. If we didn’t act fast, he was going to wipe us off the face of the earth; he was going to launch biological attacks of anthrax and smallpox into our biggest cities and make our most awful nightmares a reality. We had to act, to use any type of caution or restraint was bringing us one day closer to our demise.

Looking back we realize that we feel victim to a media created paranoia. The war was never necessary; there were no weapons of mass destruction, and those who pushed that story were never held accountable for pushing us into war under false pretenses. Now Iran is our new target. While there is a general public that is more skeptical after 10 years of the War on Terror, there is unfortunately still a large percentage of the population which has no problem going in to another foolish and expensive war.

As the calls for war began expanding against Iran, it is time for us to think rationally instead of relying on our worst fears and paranoia. We need to learn the simple truth that we could destroy ourselves faster by “preventing” a hypothetical attack than if an actual foreign strike occurred. Let’s not waste thousands upon thousands of lives, billions upon billions of dollars, only to realize that once again we have played the part of the fool.

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Today in my English class, I was talking with one of my students, who is a lawyer here in Costa Rica in his early fifties. He was explaining how so much of the younger generation has lost all visions of political and social action. When he was younger, in the seventies, there was much more of an awareness among the youth about how government and politics affected their lives, and in return they were much more active in social change.

In the United States, this fact is especially frustrating, as so many young people do not even go out and vote. There are many who love to complain, or just talk about how the whole system is messed up, but it seems that fewer and fewer are actually going to take the time and effort to actually to go out and fight for change. We have been walked all over in the last couple of decades by a small group of the rich and powerful, and for the most part we have just taken it.

However, perhaps change is on the horizon. This past week, as Greece and Great Britain look to take care of their financial problems by cutting the pensions and benefits of their public employees, many people are fighting back. There is a realization that the working and middle class have been completely trampled on for the interests and the wealth of a few. There is a realization that unless a strong cry of resistance is actually made, the rich and powerful will not stop until they have won over all the goods in the society.

Perhaps, what is happening in Greece and England can spread across the Atlantic. I know this coming July 4th, there is going to be a large rally at the Washington Monument to protest the corporate corruption that is destroying our system of democracy. If the masses actually rose up and refused to let the few continue to fight for their interest at the expense of the entire nation, there would be massive change. If the people actually would actually go out and take a stand against cutting health care and education to keep tax breaks for a huge wealthy, those in power would be defenseless to stop it. Their plans and ideas would be exposed for the foolishness, selfishness, and greed which they are. We need a little more anger, a little more action, a little more passion. Not until, we actually start paying attention and demanding a just system will the situations that are facing us change.

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I was talking to one of my fellow teachers today. She was born in Iraq and grew up in Pakistan. We were talking about her mother’s response to the killing of Bin Laden. Her mother, like many others from the Middle East, have a much different perspective than we might in the West. While most do not like Bin Laden, or even disdain him, they see him as a product of the United States, both in the U.S. direct training and arming of Bin Laden and the Taliban in the late 70’s and 80’s, and in the indirect way in which U.S. policy has led to the rise in terrorism.

I think we should take this to heart. It is easy to paint ourselves as good and our enemies as evil, but deep down we know that things are not so black and white. The terrorists have chosen to do terrible acts out of their hatred towards the United States. While their actions are horrific and never should be justified, we would be foolish to not take into account or own role in the creation of terrorism.

Jimmy Carter warned the U.S. people in 1980 about the dangers that we would face if we did not wean off our addiction to oil; he warned that we would be forced to engage in conflicts and situations that we never would have if oil was not an issue. His prophetic warning mainly fell on deaf ears, and Ronald Reagan was elected the next president. 30 years later, we now realize the wisdom in Carter’s words. Our entrenchment in the politics and power struggles of the Middle East have cost us dearly, have help lead to the rise of terrorism, and undermined our own security. If we want to move forward into a more peaceful world, we have to reduce our tendency to get involved in conflicts that we should stay out of which causes us to have many enemies in the process.

If we really want to stop terrorism; we cannot pretend that we are not partially responsible. It may make us feel good about ourselves, but it will not address and solve the underlying issues. With the death of Bin Laden, we have a choice- we can either see him as pure evil or we can understand the hatred and our own actions that led him to do evil and horrific things. While we need to pursue justice to go against terrorist, we also need to understand the actions we are doing that are creating them in the first place.

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