Recently released video clips of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama's longtime pastor, have generated a political firestorm with the revelation of his unabashed denunciations of America, starting with: "The government...wants us to sing God Bless America. No, no, no. God damn America...for treating our citizens as less than human."
Then there are the Reverend's inflammatory comments after 9/11: "We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye. We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
The voice shaping these turbo-charged tirades is zealous at best, caught up in the urgency of its own saying, but the views being expressed are hardly unique. When in doubt, however, strike up the band: it turns out the Reverend has some high-minded fellow travelers.
When he was 93, world-famous British philosopher Bertrand Russell attended an ill-fated attempt by Europe to put America on trial for war crimes in Vietnam in 1967 in Copenhagen and Stockholm.
"In every part of the world the source of war and suffering lies at the door of US imperialism," Russell declared. "Wherever there is hunger, wherever there is exploitative tyranny, wherever people are tortured and masses left to rot under the weight of disease and starvation, the force which holds down the people stems from Washington."
Now check out these observations by the well-known British playwright, Harold Pinter: "The United States has, in fact, since the end of the Second World War...exercised a sustained, systematic, remorseless and quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide, while masquerading as a force for universal good. But at least now...the US has come out of its closet. The smile is still there of course...[but] the 'rogue state' has--without thought, without pause for reflection, without a moment of doubt, let alone shame--confirmed that it is a fully-fledged, award-winning, gold-plated monster. It has effectively declared war on the world. It knows only one language--bombs and death. And still they smiled and still the horror grew."
No amount of incense or air freshener can clear the air of Pinter's outrage. These days it is hard not to conclude that the US is viewed, even by certain members of the foreign policy elite or prominent political analysts like Samuel Huntington, as "a rogue superpower" that not only does not honor its international obligations but has also become the biggest threat to world peace. Obama himself has argued in an article in "Foreign Affairs" magazine last summer that many around the world associate Bush's freedom talk with "war, torture and forcibly imposed regime change."
The media have done their best to give Obama a huge negative spin based on his association with Reverend Wright, but the fact is if we plumb deep enough, it's turtles all the way down. Opinions like Wright's are as ubiquitous and commonplace as refrigerator magnets wherever you look. So I'll end my current list with some thoughts by a lowly anonymous blogger this week, who was responding to an essay on the Huffington Post:
"And I will hazard a terrible guess: that we have lost Afghanistan as surely as we have lost Iraq and as surely as we are going to "lose" Pakistan. It is our presence, our power, our arrogance, our refusal to learn from history and our terror " yes, our terror " of Islam that is leading us into the abyss. And until we learn to leave these Muslim peoples alone, our catastrophe in the Middle East will only become graver. There is no connection between Islam and "terror". But there is a connection between our occupation of Muslim lands and "terror". It's not too complicated an equation. And we don't need a public inquiry to get it right."