Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Great ol' U.S. of A

This is an issue I have wanted to write about for a long time, but it becomes increasingly more difficult.

There was a point in my life where I was extremely proud to be an American. Times have changed, though. It's difficult to be an Arab in the United States; contrary to popular belief, it has always been difficult -- not just post 9/11. Nonetheless, the current administration has waged war on "terror" -- an intangible ideology that applies to any country and religion at whatever time they deem appropriate. The countries and people that have suffered the most are ones that hit close to home -- sometimes too close, sometimes it hits the apartment next door.

Unjust and unconstitutional legislation has been passed; innocent Arab-Americans are awaiting charges in jail, and Iraqi's are dying by the hundreds everyday. It is difficult to be a proud American. Many of my friends and family members find themselves juggling their identities in this point in history. A sense of guilt hangs over our heads as the United States has just pledged another $30 billion to Israel over the next 10 years. I also find myself lost in thought when staring at "Support the troops" stickers. I am not sure how people define 'support.' I wish for their safe return home, but I do not support the destruction and occupation. Occupation is never justified.

A cloud of ignorance hangs over this country, and there is little understanding of anything outside the scope of an individual's intermediate life. However, the profusion of international news available on the Internet has made it increasingly difficult for the average American to ignore the rest of the world, a trend that threatens Americans' long, proud history of disregarding anything not about them. This is scaring most Americans, as they realize they are acquiring knowledge regarding other countries then their own.

Facetious, I know. Nonetheless, I want to be proud. I yearn for that sense of community here, but it's hard. I want to be thankful for the prosperity and opportunity without reservation -- without feeling guilty about why I am so fortunate to begin with. My parents worked long and hard, and this country gave them the opportunity to not only survive, but thrive. I think there are some great things to be proud of here. I think that Americans are polite, sweet people. I love softball, fireworks, and bbq on a summer day. I love the great American cities, the top notch education, and capitalism. I hope that the United States finds itself content one day; I hope that the imperialistic nature dies; I hope that Americans strive to understand the world as it is, and not how lobbying groups portray it. I am waiting until I can firmly say, I am PROUD to be an American.


Zack said...

"A sense of guilt hangs over our heads as the United States has just pledged another $30 billion to Israel over the next 10 years."

S--I, for one, am damn proud that the United States is continuing to pledge its support for Israel. This is not to say that I agree or align with everything Israel, but no sense of guilt hangs over my head regarding US support for Israel. Who exactly are you referring to when you say "our head?"

Sirene said...

Zack, see the very sentence before it: "Many of my friends and family members find themselves juggling their identities in this point in history."

-- "our head" is referring to "many of my friends and family", not Americans in general.

I know you are proud of that donation, and although I am not, I am glad you feel you can express that to me. This is the very thing I talked about in a previous post when I said I learn the most when people constructively ask questions and hear the other side out.

I do have to point something you said out though -- in regards to not agreeing or aligning with "everything Israel", I am not sure that's the case for most. I think a prime example of that is that t-shirt I used to see around campus: "Wherever I stand, I stand with Israel". I think blind allegiance is too common, and I think our campus takes it to another level. I have not spent much time in Israel, the West Bank, or Gaza, but I do not claim to know and understand all the politics. I simply comment on humanitarian crises and international law violations. People I have met on campus are adamant about their pride for a country they know little about. Examining Israel from the lens of a Birthright trip hardly does it justice, either.

I can refer back to our conversation in which you said that you didn't believe Israel ever targeted civilians intentionally. I quickly sent you an excerpt from an article detailing the Israeli use of cluster bombs during the war last summer in which the majority of people that died in that region were civilians (facts below).

I think this is one example of how many people are 'damn proud' when they should probably be 'damn skeptical.'

Sirene said...

* The United Nations and Human Rights Watch accuse Israel of dropping as many as four million cluster bomblets during the war.
* After the war, United Nations officials estimated that up to one million unexploded bomblets littered the earth of southern Lebanon—significantly outnumbering the number of people in the region.
* Perhaps the most troubling fact of all is that Israel dropped 90 percent of the cluster munitions during the last 72 hours of the war—when it knew that a UN resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities was imminent.
* Over two months after the August 14 cessation of hsotilities -- cluster bombs claimed the lives of 20 Lebanese civilians and wounded 120 more.

(I have the complete article and it's sources, ranging from BBC to The State Department.)

Sirene said...

Article by Mahmoud Fadlallah, "Finding Justice for the Victims of the 2006 Hizbullah-Israel War"

Stuart Blair said...

Well Zack beat me to the punch on commenting, and I don't want you to think that an Asaba (Arabic for Cabal) of American Jews are conspiring to attack what you wrote, but I do take offense with your comment on occupation - forget Israel for a second.

"Occupation is never justified."

While it is true that occupation is not ideal for the occupier or occupied, sometimes nationalism, injustice, and inabilities of nations to fairly serve their citizens requires other nations yearning to serve humanity and save lives to act.

I'll bring up two quick examples in which the United States had a responsibilities to act in their own self-defense and service to other nations.

In the case of imperial Japan during WW2, evidence indicates this regime, which engaged in an unprovoked attack on the United States and murdered hundreds of thousands of Chinese in the rape of Naking, was a serious threat to the world. The allied forces remained there for seven years, creating special limitations on Japan's military after the occupation ended and fundamentally altered the country - I would argue of rhte better.

It goes unsaid that the Third Reich similarly was pure evil - killing 6 million Jews, 11 million people, a dictatorship which brought the world into a World War. The country was occupied by the allied forces after WW2, with parts being more successful than others, though all occupations successfully preventing the Nazis from rising again.

Intervention in Darfur may also require occupation, as the quintessential problem there is rooted in intolerance - a problem difficult to solve simply through a military victory. There are more examples, but I think this proves my point.

Andrew said...

While I do see some merit to the notion that Allied military occupation of Germany was the only way to completely eradicate the Nazi party, I still maintain that military occupation is an inappropriate and inhumane way to solve problems. For example, the firebombing in Dresden, Germany, which killed more civilians than the bombing of Hiroshima or Nagasaki, occurred after the death of Hitler and after Nazi Germany surrendered, and was arguably a direct consequence of a continued Allied military presence throughout the country. The reason that military occupation worked out so "well" in both Germany and Japan is because the citizens of both countries were completely demoralized from the war and no longer had a functional government and military. The Nazi party (which derived all of its power from a gigantic military) literally fell to pieces after the draining experience that was Operation Barbarossa and the invasion of Russia. I think it is safe to say that the Nazi party was effectively defeated after the war was over and after the Nuremberg trials, and that there was a minuscule chance it would ever regain its former glory. Germany's civilian population, which had just withstood a second World War within two decades, realized that it needed to change and that it needed to embrace the economic, political, and societal practices of the United States and its allies. However, because both the United States and the Soviet Union continued to occupy both West and East Berlin respectively, civilian populations in both areas suffered tremendously and the tensions of the Cold War were unnecessarily exacerbated. I agree with your original statement Sirene; military occupation is never justified. I can understand why war is necessary under some circumstances, but occupying a civilian population with armed forces is never acceptable.

Sirene said...

I have already gotten a comment about this. The above writer is Andrew Dalack, not to be mistaken with any other opinionated Andrews ;)

Andrew said...

Looks like I got my dates mixed up in regards to the firebombing of Dresden. It is known as a tragedy of sorts because it marked the first time that Allied forces openly admitted to firing upon a predominantly civilian population. In spite of this, my point regarding the unacceptable and unnecessary nature of general military occupation still remains, and I look forward to having more intelligent discussions ;).

Stuart Blair said...

Andrew, it appears in your fastidious analysis of the Nazi regime and allied action during the time, you missed my point.

I never argued that occupation doesn't result in problems, deviation from goals, and war crimes - in fact I said it is less than favorable for both parties. The same problems occur in many occupations, though some problems are bigger than others. The main issue in that respect is that not everyone in a military carries out orders to the letter, or intentionally breaks them. Abu Ghraib, Sabra and Shatilla, and Deir Yassin are among the cases in which military forces failed to uphold the ideals to their respective countries.

Yet these atrocities do not disprove my argument that military occupation can be justified to prevent imperial regimes from consistently destabilizing the world, or from genocide. Your example simply leads one to conclude that during occupation, or in case of dresden (during war), potential war crimes and/or suffering can occur.