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Howard Zinn | Patriotism and the Fourth of July

Tuesday, 04 July 2006 21:21 by: Anonymous

Also see below:     
Jim Lobe | "Decent Respect" Might Help Image Woes Abroad    [

    Patriotism and the Fourth of July
    By Howard Zinn
    AlterNet

    Tuesday 04 July 2006

The Declaration of Independence gives us the true meaning of a patriot, someone who supports a country's ideals, not necessarily its government.


    In celebration of the Fourth of July there will be many speeches about the young people who "died for their country." But those who gave their lives did not, as they were led to believe, die for their country; they died for their government. The distinction between country and government is at the heart of the Declaration of Independence, which will be referred to again and again on July 4, but without attention to its meaning.

    The Declaration of Independence is the fundamental document of democracy. It says governments are artificial creations, established by the people, "deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed," and charged by the people to ensure the equal right of all to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Furthermore, as the Declaration says, "whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it." It is the country that is primary-the people, the ideals of the sanctity of human life and the promotion of liberty.

    When a government recklessly expends the lives of its young for crass motives of profit and power, while claiming that its motives are pure and moral, ("Operation Just Cause" was the invasion of Panama and "Operation Iraqi Freedom" in the present instance), it is violating its promise to the country. War is almost always a breaking of that promise. It does not enable the pursuit of happiness but brings despair and grief.

    Mark Twain, having been called a "traitor" for criticizing the U.S. invasion of the Philippines, derided what he called "monarchical patriotism." He said: "The gospel of the monarchical patriotism is: 'The King can do no wrong.' We have adopted it with all its servility, with an unimportant change in the wording: 'Our country, right or wrong!' We have thrown away the most valuable asset we had - the individual's right to oppose both flag and country when he believed them to be in the wrong. We have thrown it away; and with it, all that was really respectable about that grotesque and laughable word, Patriotism."

    If patriotism in the best sense (not in the monarchical sense) is loyalty to the principles of democracy, then who was the true patriot? Theodore Roosevelt, who applauded a massacre by American soldiers of 600 Filipino men, women and children on a remote Philippine island, or Mark Twain, who denounced it? Today, U.S. soldiers who are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan are not dying for their country; they are dying for Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld. They are dying for the greed of the oil cartels, for the expansion of the American empire, for the political ambitions of the president. They are dying to cover up the theft of the nation's wealth to pay for the machines of death. As of July 4, 2006, more than 2,500 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq, more than 8,500 maimed or injured. With the war in Iraq long declared a "Mission Accomplished," shall we revel in American military power and insist that the American empire will be beneficent?

    Our own history is enough to make one wary. Empire begins with what was called, in our high school history classes, "westward expansion,"a euphemism for the annihilation or expulsion of the Indian tribes inhabiting the continent, in the name of "progress" and "civilization." It continues with the expansion of American power into the Caribbean at the turn of the 20th century, then into the Philippines, and then repeated Marine invasions of Central America and long military occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. After World War II, Henry Luce, owner of Time, LIFE, and Fortune, spoke of "the American Century," in which this country would organize the world "as we see fit." Indeed, the expansion of American power continued, too often supporting military dictatorships in Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Middle East, because they were friendly to American corporations and the American government. The record does not justify confidence in Bush's boast that the United States will bring democracy to Iraq.

    Should Americans welcome the expansion of the nation's power, with the anger this has generated among so many people in the world? Should we welcome the huge growth of the military budget at the expense of health, education, the needs of children, one fifth of whom grow up in poverty? Instead of being feared for our military prowess, we should want to be respected for our dedication to human rights. I suggest that a patriotic American who cares for her or his country might act on behalf of a different vision. Should we not begin to redefine patriotism? We need to expand it beyond that narrow nationalism that has caused so much death and suffering. If national boundaries should not be obstacles to trade- some call it "globalization"-should they also not be obstacles to compassion and generosity? Should we not begin to consider all children, everywhere, as our own? In that case, war, which in our time is always an assault on children, would be unacceptable as a solution to the problems of the world. Human ingenuity would have to search for other ways.

    --------

    Howard Zinn is a veteran of World War II and author of the bestselling book, A People's History of the United States. The preceding essay is an excerpt from Zinn's forthcoming book, A Power Governments Cannot Suppress.

 


    Go to Original

    "Decent Respect" Might Help Image Woes Abroad
    By Jim Lobe
    Inter Press Service

    Tuesday 04 July 2006

    Washington - It was in 1776 that a group of British colonists living along the Atlantic seaboard of North America felt compelled to offer a public justification for their "Declaration of Independence" from their mother country out of "a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind".

    That justification, a bill of particulars against King George II for a host of offences, including violations of what would come to be called human rights, was designed to rally British and European public opinion behind the colonists' cause.

    As the nation marks that occasion exactly 230 years ago Tuesday, a series of surveys from around the world over the past three years makes clear that contemporary "Mankind" believes that the United States no longer accords its opinions the "decent respect" that those who founded the country believe was its due.

    Those surveys suggest that the image of the U.S. as a benign hegemon that takes account of the interests and opinions of the peoples of other nations - consciously cultivated by Washington for more than a century - has been effectively shattered by the unilateralism of the administration of President George W. Bush and particularly its invasion of Iraq.

    "One of the reasons that people around the world are so upset with the U.S. is the perception that in the post-World War II era, the U.S. was the champion and leader of an international order based on international law and mutual constraints, when it could have created a form of great-power domination," said Steven Kull, director of the University of Marylands Programme on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA).

    "As the leader and promoter of such a system, the U.S. was expected to set the example for all the rest, but Washington is now perceived as violating the same rules it did so much to establish," according to Kull, who cited Bush's decisions to ignore the United Nations in going to war and the Geneva Conventions in treating detainees in its "global war on terror" as key moves that both defied and outraged public opinion abroad.

    Even after 16 months of vigorous efforts by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to reassure U.S. allies and potential rivals, such as Russia and China, that Washington cares about their views and is committed to multilateralism, public opinion abroad has remained stubbornly sceptical, according to former Foreign Affairs editor, Fareed Zakaria.

    Rice, he wrote in a Newsweek column coincidentally entitled "Why We Don't Get No Respect", has "engineered a broad shift in American diplomacy over the last year, moving policy toward greater multilateralism, cooperation, and common sense on Iran, North Korea and Iraq, and several other issues."

    "And yet it hasn't produced a change in attitudes towards the United States," he went on, citing surveys by the Pew Global Attitudes Project and the Financial Times (FT) released just last month.

    The FT poll found that the U.S. under Bush is considered by European public opinion to be more dangerous than either North Korea or Iran.

    The Pew survey of 14 foreign countries found that strong pluralities or majorities in all but two nations said that the Iraq war had made the world "more dangerous" and that the U.S. presence in Iraq was "more dangerous" to world peace than the alleged nuclear-arms ambitions of North Korea and Iran.

    These findings were broadly consistent with previous surveys, including a Globescan-PIPA poll of 35 countries released in February, and a Pew poll released in June 2005 that found a sharp drop in the belief by respondents in Europe and the Islamic world that Washington took into account the interests of their countries in making its foreign policy decisions compared to the period before the Iraq war.

    In yet another poll Globescan-PIPA poll released in January 2005, large pluralities and majorities of respondents in 18 of 21 countries said they believed Bush's re-election to office would have a negative impact on global peace and security.

    What was particularly surprising about the latest Pew poll was the degree to which Washington's image, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, had slipped since the year before, when Rice's campaign to put diplomacy and consultation first had just gotten underway.

    In May 2005, Pew had found a rebound in foreign attitudes toward the U.S. compared to its findings in surveys conducted in the year following the Iraq war when foreign views of Washington, and particularly Bush, plunged to the lowest level ever recorded. Most analysts had expected continued, if modest, improvement between 2005 and 2006.

    In fact, however, U.S. favourability ratings, as well as support for Washington's "global war on terror", resumed their post-Iraq war decline in both Western Europe and the Islamic world, with particularly steep declines found in Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Jordan, and Turkey.

    Zakaria blamed this on a number of factors, including a lag between the general public, particularly in Europe, and governments which, he insisted, have been very appreciative of Rice's - and Bush's - efforts.

    Other important factors, he noted, included the continuing presence in the administration of arch-hawks, including Vice President Dick Cheney and Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld, who may be able to constrain Rice's flexibility, especially on Iran and North Korea.

    Moreoever, according to Zakaria, U.N. Amb. John Bolton's confrontational style has been particularly destructive and has contributed to the perception that the administration remains deeply divided and that its new emphasis on diplomacy and multilateralism has been dictated more by necessity than conviction. "In five minutes of posturing in front of a microphone, Bolton undoes five months of careful work by his boss, the secretary of State," he wrote.

    In fact, however, the problem lies much deeper - in the belief that the U.S., especially under Bush, still does not accord a decent respect to the views and opinions of other nations, whether it involves the invasion of Iraq and the refusal to apply the Geneva Conventions in the "war on terror" - for which Bush remains unapologetic - or global warming, the International Criminal Court, or the administration's doctrine of pre-emption.

    "An America that does not understand - and makes little effort to understand - why it has become so unpopular abroad is almost certain to find itself both disliked and ineffective in many parts of the world," noted political commentator David Rieff in a reflection on the latest Pew poll and U.S. "exceptionalism" that appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine this weekend.

Last modified on Monday, 21 April 2008 15:33