Before Hurricane Katrina exposed the rotten core of the U.S. Federal Government in such a dramatic way this week, I had been mulling over an article I had read on CommonDreams.org a couple of weeks ago. The article stayed with me because it discussed what it called "The Seven Political Blasphemies of contemporary America," complex political issues that have been reduced to undebatable blasphemies.
These undebatable blasphemies are:
• Not every deployment of U.S. troops is, by definition, a noble exercise.
Premise: Commanders-in-chief make mistakes (and, sometimes, mislead). "Support the troops" is not, as clever neo-con partisans imply, the equivalent of "don't question the president."
• It is overly simplistic to dismiss all those who resist the American presence in Iraq as "terrorists."
Premise: As long as the militants targeting U.S. troops and allied Iraqis are lumped together as "terrorists" -- a step or two below "roaches" -- there is nothing to debate; they must be crushed. But doing so closes off discussion of their true motivations (which would help us understand what we're up against), as well as the possibility that the U.S. presence in Iraq is provoking the resistance.
• It can be argued that the world is not better off without Saddam Hussein.
Premise: Nobody likes a dictator, but sometimes, there is a short-term geopolitical benefit in the presence of a tyrant who keeps rival factions from colliding -- Tito in the old Yugoslavia, for example. This doesn't have to undermine the long-run goal of eliminating all despots.
• Not every society is ready for American-style capitalism and democracy.
Premise: Such transitions need time, planning and patience to work. Moving too quickly can create a politically volatile mess, such as in the old Soviet Union.
• The word of God is what one chooses to believe, not a universal truth that unerringly applies to all people.
Premise: Your belief in your particular version of God is not sufficient justification for you to impose your will on others.
• The American social model may not be every reasonable person's idea of a perfect society.
Premise: Other cultures are not necessarily inferior to ours simply because they are different. We, as Americans, should proudly promote our values, but our aim should be to persuade, not compel, others to embrace them.
• Criticizing the U.S. government is not synonymous with criticizing America.
Premise: Nonviolent dissent can be both patriotic and healthy for the nation.
-From Daring to Ask Blasphemous Questions by Robert Steinback, August 17, 2005. Originally published in the Miami Herald.
To this list, I would add an eighth undebatable blasphemy I have noticed:
• Criticizing the Israeli government is not synonymous with anti-Semitism.
Premise: Pro-Israeli pundits have successfully tarred almost all criticism of Israel's policies towards the Palestinians and its neighbours (as well as U.S. support of Israel) with the brush of anti-Jewish bias. In a culture highly sensitized towards discussions of racism in general, the politically correct crowd is afraid of speaking out frankly against Israeli policies for fear of being equated with the Nazis.
All eight of these non-debates are at the core of our presence in Iraq. Yet almost none of them have had much exposure in the sphere of public debate. I happen to agree that all eight undebatable maxims are, on some level, correct.
I believe that:
Sometimes U.S. troops are deployed inappropriately.
Not everyone fighting us in Iraq are terrorists.
The world may have indeed been better off with Saddam Hussein in power.
Some people are not ready for Western-style capitalism and republicanism (I don't like the phrase "Western-style democracy", because it's inaccurate).
Truth is probably not universal (I'm agnostic on the question of "God," a blasphemy in itself).
The U.S. societal model is not "The Best" (Personally, I hold Canada's to be better than ours).
Criticizing the U.S. government doesn't make one unpatriotic.
Criticizing Israel does not make one anti-Semitic.
There, I've said it.
Maybe someday this post will get me thrown in a reeducation camp or shot when (if) a totalitarian theocracy takes over the U.S. Government (read Margaret Atwood's "The Handmaid's Tale" for the germ of this idea in my paranoid consciousness).
But at least I will not have been silent, suppressing these memes.