[From the diaries by susanhu.]

Well I’m in Romania where it’s a normal day… but like most Americans, my holidays are mobile.  Therefore, from me to you, Happy Thanksgiving.

I’m reminded of a line in the movie “Sweet November” where a friend of the principle female actress says “Happy We Stole Your Land and Killed You Day”.  That’s actually a little tongue in cheek but the truth is that the holiday is based on a friendship post-harvest meal between recent Puritan immigrants and Native Americans.  It’s since been modified to serve as a symbol of multiculturalistic harmony as well as to promote more shopping for the Christmas season (signed into law 1940 – yep).

Last year I wrote a piece about a tragedy that occurred in my life several years ago.  It was a piece which frankly horrified and sickened a lot of people, and therefore I won’t repeat it.

But as one of the portable traditions on this day is to give thanks, and to look back at the past year, I can’t help but reflect how shocking it is to look through the window of the media at what my country has become.
I’ve often tried to imagine in my mind that I was a supporter for the ridiculous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, that I think the President is just a gosh-darn super charmingly nice guy, and that the commercial media is somehow “biased” or “slanted” against “us”.  That gosh darnit, Saddam Hussein was Hitler’s third cousin and was a great threat to American and British security.

Yet even if I was such a person, I think I’d be deeply disappointed.  There’s not much to give thanks for on that account, is there?  Let’s have a look…

WMD – Yes, we all know there were no illegal WMD in Iraq.  Not even a single outlawed missile.  Not a gram of enriched uranium.  I can think of about a billion other places with illegal WMD, if we define “illegal WMD” as functioning nuclear weapons in countries with no international oversight.  Israel, North Korea, Pakistan and India for starters.

And if you had to pick four of the least stable countries, those four would be right up there.  Israel has a de facto civil war ongoing between its different populations, not to mention extremely hostile relations with several of its neighbors (particularly Iran and Syria).  Is this really where I want functioning nuclear weapons, especially those hidden away from any kind of international oversight or regulatory body?  No not really.  And North Korea is run by a military dictatorship which pounds out blistering propaganda against its neighbors on a daily basis, particularly Japan.  And of course Kashmir continues to be the worldwide leader in terrorism attacks, being the principle “thorn” between Pakistan and India, and the cause of 3 of their 4 previous wars.

So yeah when I think about it, it seems like even if Saddam Hussein had illegal WMD, he was a heck of a lot less of a threat to American and British security and peace than North Korea or Pakistan and India duking it out or god forbid Israel and Iran.

Then when it turned out Saddam didn’t have any WMD, well then what does that say about our intelligence capabilities?  Does the USA have the best intelligence agencies in the world or not?  And if they got tricked on something like WMD, which you can look at and count and photograph, how can we be sure they have accurate information about anything?  You know, something important like “will North Korea ever fire off one of those missiles at Tokyo”?  Stuff like that.

And then when I realize how utterly tricked and bamboozled the world’s greatest intelligence agencies were, I wonder why nobody’s ever been fired or demoted or reprimanded.  Instead I see people getting medals, including “slam dunk” George Tenet.  That’s kind of counter-productive isn’t it? To award medals to people and say they’re doing a “superb job” when they got shamrocked over non-existant ghost weapons?

Saddam Removed From Power – Well at first this seemed like a success.  Old Saddam was a’hidin’ in his spidey hole and the blessed American military smoked him out.  Not only that, but most of his top aides and deviant war criminal government were arrested and are now sitting in the dock.  The people of Iraq are now free of his dictatorship!

The only problem is that the new Iraqi government doesn’t seem to be one whit better.  Not one whit.  I can’t find a shred of evidence that the new guys are any better than the old.  If you look at everything bad ever said about Saddam, from the fact he rigged elections, tortured people, had a vile secret police, repressed free speech, used violence against political opponents and had a network of brutal cronies in positions of power, well gosh that’s pretty much what’s going on in Iraq today.

Maybe it’s time for a chart:

Iraq Under Saddam Iraq Today
Torture? Yes Yes
Illegal detentions? Yes Yes
Ba’athist thugs in power? Yes Yes
Rigged elections? Yes Yes
Censorship of media? Yes Yes
Use of chemical weapons against civilians? Yes No*
Functioning economy? Yes No
Religious fundamentalism including sha’ria law? No Yes
Repression of women’s rights? No Yes
Functioning basic services like water, electricity? Yes No
Exporting oil to earn revenue? Yes Somewhat
Engaged in war with neighboring states? Yes No
Home base for terrorism and Al-Qaeda? No Yes
Children dying of malnutrition and dehydration? Yes Yes
Americans and British being killed? No Yes

Well it looks like except for engaging in a war with its neighbors, the new Iraqi government is actually worse than under Saddam Hussein.  Who ever wanted that to happen?

I put an asterisk next to “NO” for the current government using chemical weapons against civilians.  As far as I know only the American military has done that in Iraq.

While everyone hopes that next month or next year or in the next decade that things are better under non-Saddam rule, so far it’s hard to see how anything’s improved whatsoever for the Iraq people.

Things are slightly better in Afghanistan.  But only slightly.  Women’s rights are the same or worse and heroin cultivation is at an all-time high and warlords still run most of the country.

Terrorism – 9/11 was awful and just about the entire world was sympathetic to the losses the United States suffered that day.  Yet since then most of the free world has increased its anti-American sentiments.  Talk about a public relations disaster.  My country had a perfect opportunity to build up alliances in a cooperative effort to defeat terrorism.  Now the world increasingly dislikes the United States, which reduces the level of cooperation and combined efforts to stop it.

Even worse, the levels of terrorist incidents worldwide have increased dramatically since 9/11.  In fact, it’s gotten so bad that the U.S. State Department quit publishing statistics about them.  Of course that doesn’t stop other organizations and governments from doing so and the numbers keep getting worse.

The man behind the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains uncaptured and unprosecuted.  His ally in the Taliban government, Mullah Omar, also remains uncaught and unprosecuted.  Other major terrorists including Abu Masab al-Zarqawi and Ayman al-Zawahiri have been reported dead several times, yet they (or their) organizations continue to strike.  Some Al-Qaeda leaders have been caught but their organizations are flourishing.  The same is true for other terrorist organizations like JI and the MILF and the PKK and Abu Sayyaf and the FARC and Lashkar-e-Taiba and many others from Saudi Arabia to Yemen to Pakistan to Indonesia to Spain to Morocco.  And of course in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Over 80,000 people have been arrested worldwide (or “detained”) by the USA in the name of the “war on terror”.  Yet this has led to only a handful of convictions, nearly all of them for relatively minor crimes such as fundraising for terrorist attacks.  People who have actually participated in terrorist crimes that have hurt or killed people have not been convicted.

Even worse, some of the people arrested and kept in Guantanamo Bay for years have been released, only to continue being terrorists and injure and kill people.

Human Rights – Torture is now an accepted practice of my government, yet it’s completely useless as an interrogation technique.  All it does is anger the people who have been tortured and inspire people to hate America more.

The whole justification for the United States’ actions overseas, especially as part of a military occupation, is to spread democracy and freedom.  But abrogating human rights, keeping hundreds of people in secret jails, killing, beating and torturing prisoners and violating the Geneva Conventions is the exact opposite of spreading freedom and democracy.

Not only that, but a number of laws restricting the rights of American citizens have been passed.  It’s really hard to find any evidence that this has made anyone safer.  Millions of dollars have been spent on Homeland Security yet much of this has been wasted or stolen.

Safety of Americans

Billions of dollars have been spent on domestic security, the wars around the world, the military, reconstruction contracts and other costs of occupation.  Yet are Americans any safer than before 9/11?

Terrorism is up.  Homeland Security is a joke that can’t even protect a major city from a natural disaster.  Human rights have been abrogated.  Americans are dying every single week in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And most of the world is increasingly anti-American.  Almost nobody has been convicted on terrorism charges.  People don’t even feel safer.

The world isn’t any safer.  The threat of terrorism hasn’t been reduced – it has increased.  Billions of dollars and thousands of lives are gone.  The lives of people in Iraq aren’t any better and are probably worse.  The same in Afghanistan.

All in all, even as a hypothetical supporter of Bush and his wars, I can’t see much to be thankful for except that I’m alive and have enough food to eat on this special day.

For the real me, I hate all that is being done in my name as an American citizen by this government.  I am thankful I live in a country where presidents are elected in a popular vote, where health care is available for everyone, where there is no death penalty, where the education and social services budget is not a fraction of the military’s budget, where gun violence is not an everyday affair and where new mothers are paid their salaries for 2 years after a child is born.  But then again I live in Romania, not my home country, and I’m very thankful I live here.

Does that mean I “hate America”?  No of course not.  It just means that with all the incredible resources of the United States, from its vast wealth to the shining courage of so many of its citizens, I wish that it could become the shining beacon of hope, liberty and freedom that it used to be…


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