Putting Things in Perspective
To be sure the shooting in Tucson, Arizona a couple of weeks ago was a horrific incident. A U.S. Congresswoman and many of her constituents shot in broad daylight at essentially point blank range is enough to make many wonder just how ill American society has become. Certainly, as a nation we should mourn the loss of human life especially the loss of child innocence – the tragic death of eleven year old Christina Taylor Green.
The reaction of America to the shootings from the President to the media to ordinary Americans has been predictable especially as it pertains to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. On a daily basis the media informs us about her improving condition. We are updated on the ever expanding memorial of well wishes located outside of her hospital room window. The President and her colleagues in Congress are forever telling us that she is a person of strong will, a hero, and someone who is dedicated to public service. Many, including President Obama, have called the shooting a “national tragedy”.
The problem with this overindulgence day after day is that it lacks perspective. Congresswoman Giffords was the victim of an act that through her votes in Congress she has helped perpetrate on others. Since being sworn into the House of Representatives in 2007 Giffords has fully supported funding for the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and wherever else our military adventurers have taken their road show. The result of this funding has been carnage and chaos for millions in those war zones.
According to Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh who I heard speak in Doha this week, the U.S. war machine has not lightened up and its violations of the Geneva Conventions have not lessened during the Obama Administration. Hersh claims that we continue to torture prisoners at secret prisons in North Africa. Assassinations through unmanned drone attacks in Pakistan have doubled causing increased innocent civilian casualties. And those prisoners that are lucky enough not to be held and tortured are usually released only to be shot in the back as they leave the site of their captivity. Ms. Giffords votes fund these activities.
Additionally, Hersh explained how the U.S spreads even more misery on local populations by supporting tyrannical rulers in the Middle East. The U.S. gets natural resources and support in fighting the War on Terror and in exchange the autocrats are allowed to continue their despotic ways with the backing of our government. Again, Congresswoman Gifford’s support of the War on Terror contributes to the agony of the millions living under dictators in the region.
Hersh wrapped up his speech in Doha by talking about Obama’s speech in Tucson. He said, “I wish he (Obama) had the same compassion for civilians and the military on both sides in Afghanistan that he had for the slain in Tucson”. And that is really the point of this article. While the victims in Tucson should be mourned, Americans should reconsider our international crusade to rid the world of terrorism. Do our policies encourage the same behavior they are meant to eradicate? Are we any better than the terrorists if we perpetuate the same atrocities? Is it just to kill and mistreat literally millions of innocent people in an effort to bolster our own security? After all, they too were children, the elderly, and people who left behind others that miss them very much. Personally, I believe President Obama was wrong. The shooting of Congresswoman Giffords in Tucson, Arizona was not a “national tragedy”. The national tragedy is the military actions of our federal government at the behest of the American people. As a country, we need a perspective change.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina