Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Tutu on Terror

You may have read about suggestions by, amongst others, California’s senior senator, Dianne Feinstein to establish courts to review the killings-by-drone of people the U.S. deems a threat to its security.  In the version suggested, such a macabre judicial body would be charged with monitoring those instances in which a U.S. citizen was on the receiving end of the Obama Administration’s bloodthirsty war of terror.

Among those seeing a problem with such a mandate (and the real problems are with the war we are fighting in the first place) is former South African archbishop Desmond Tutu, who led peaceful efforts against the apartheid regime in South Africa at a time when the Reagan government was trying to bolster the wicked, fanatical regime.  Tutu thereafter presided over the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a brave effort to bring the perpetrators and victims of violence face to face in front of the nation to restore the humanity of all involved in the struggle against the grotesque system of inequality erected by the Nationalist government.

I’ll let the Arch speak for himself on the matter of drones, as he did in the New York Times in this morning’s paper:

“I am deeply, deeply disturbed at the suggestion in “A Court to Vet Kill Lists” (news analysis, from page, Feb 9) that possible judicial review of President Obama’s decisions to approve the targeted killing of suspected terrorists might be limited to the killings of American citizens.
 Do the United States and its people really want to tell those of us who live in the rest of the world that our lives are not of the same value as yours?  That President Obama can sign off on a decision to kill us with less worry about judicial scrutiny than if the target is an American?  Would your Supreme Court really want to tell humankind that we, like the slave Dred Scott in the 19th century, are not as human as you are?  I cannot believe it.
 I used to say of apartheid that it dehumanized its perpetrators as much as, if not more than, its victims.  Your response as a society to Osama bin Laden and his followers threatens to undermine your moral standards and your humanity”.

Tutu is right in his blistering attack on our immoral view of our place in the world.  But it’s nothing new.  The idea that American lives are worth more than those of people in other parts of the world was on full display when Bill Clinton decided not to acknowledge the Rwandan genocide.  It was equally apparent when George W Bush launched the War on Terror which, from the beginning, was more about an ugly quest for vengeance than it ever was about justice or the public interest.  It is expressed with great clarity when President Obama promotes gun control at home but shuts down international arms treaties that would protect people abroad from the merchants of death who comprise the global arms industry. 

The brutal impunity with which our intelligence agencies have operated in the past decade has been broadcast to the world in the last weeks as documents detailing our crimes have emerged into the public eye.  But our hubris is being broadcast at an ever-higher volume, as when GOP senators flay the President’s nominee to the Pentagon for questioning the premise of unchecked American power.  If our President and his national security apparatus—which have adopted the tools of terrorism to their ends—and the Senate are anything to go by, another century of American “leadership” will prove to be more than the world can take. 


  1. That's cool Desmond Tutu wrote his letter to the editor aboard the MV Explorer, near Hong Kong.

    1. Indeed. The people taking 'Semester at Sea' are certainly fortunate to have Tutu taking part in their program.