Monday, August 14, 2006

Fundamentalism in U.S. Foreign Policy

Fundamentalism in U.S. Foreign Policy

One thing that is particularly wrong with the direction the Bush administration has taken on foreign policy is that, if our government's leaders do not like what another nation is doing, they refuse to talk to any representative of that nation. There is little to be gained by such an approach.

In his book "Our Endangered Values - America's Moral Crisis," President Jimmy Carter mentions that his next book will cover developments in the Middle East, particularly Israel and Palestine. He talks about a trip he’d arranged to observe the Palestinian elections in 2005, and on that same trip he would have planned to visit Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. He had especially wanted to encourage the peace process between Israel and Palestine. When he notified the State Department and the White House of his plans, the president’s national security advisor called him and said that, because Syria had not been cooperative with certain issues involving the Iraq war, the U.S. policy was to restrict all visits to Damascus. There was what President Carter called a “heated discussion” between the two of them, and the final request was that, on behalf of President Bush, the trip was to be cancelled. A policy of not communicating with potential adversaries is an indication of a fundamentalist policy.

President Carter believes that the political right-wing has been influenced by a religious fundamentalist way of thinking: 'We don't deal with those who don't agree with us'; 'We don't talk with inferiors.' It is clear that a war in Iraq was planned long before George W. Bush was ever elected and that it was a coalition of right wing ideologues who have implemented the strategy that has the underlying premise: "A fundamentalist is never wrong." Religious fundamentalism is characterized by rigidity, domination, and exclusion. They are convinced that they are right and anyone who contradicts them is evil. The fundamentalist feels that they have a unique relationship with God - and that they actually speak for God. When there are serious differences between the U.S. and other nations, we cannot brand those who differ as pariahs or inferiors worthy of despise - yet fundamentalism in foreign policy tends to do just that. It leaves no room for discussing of ideas or for compromise.

The American people must redirect our government’s legal, religious, and political commitments to our long-held and unchanging principles.

As The One Year Anniversaryof Katrina Approaches

As The One Year Anniversary
of Katrina Approaches

Marc H. Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League doesn't have to use intellectual phrasings or fancy rhetoric to impress upon you what he's learned from Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath:

I could rattle off tomes of statistics about disparity. I could talk about the wealth gap, the job gap, the wage gap and the health gap. I could speak in erudite and intellectual terms about income, health and equality in America. But I don't have to: Katrina did that for me through images of people suffering. It was through reality's lens that Americans witnessed the tragedy not through a full-length movie or cheap sound byte. But the images seen on most Americans' television sets nearly a year ago were not just pictures of my hometown. They represented people in poverty in urban areas all over the nation.

Last September, after seeing the face of poverty that Hurricane Katrina had revealed, I'd said,
A moral wake-up call to America is indicated by these recent events. If we saw the faces of our frightened and needy American brothers and sisters living in the kind of poverty that had trapped them in their city of ruins this week, and if it touched something deep inside of us, I believe that we need to make a commitment to not only call for their imminent basic needs to be met, but to call upon government to take every step possible to help them – and other Americans - to move out of their poverty.

In an article titled Bush's Poverty Talk Is Now All but Silent, the Washington Post's Michael Fletcher pointed out that aiding the poor seems to have been only a brief priority for President Bush after Katrina, and it soon dropped off the Republican radar. It took the GOP only nine months to wait out the disturbing images of New Orleans, and once they felt that the shocking poverty that Bush had paid lip service to after Katrina had faded enough from the national consciousness, they brought back their push for the estate tax repeal and used it as a double-cross against Democrats who wanted to raise the federal minimum wage for the common good.

A year after Katrina, the GAO reports that the Department of Homeland Security and National Disaster Medical System (NDMS) cannot say how they will meet the needs of nursing home residents during evacuations or how the federal government will assist state and local governments with transporting residents and patients from nursing homes and hospitals to NDMS mobilization centers.

Louisiana's state and local governments, already hit hard these past five years by shortfalls in federal funding, have taken the economic brunt of the troubled times on the Gulf Coast. Their problems with the federal government began with the woefully inadequate response to Hurricane Katrina by FEMA, which had been downgraded from a cabinet-level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security under President Bush. Kevin Drum of Washington Monthly called the four years preceding Hurricane Katrina "four years of deliberate Republican policy and budget choices that favor ideology and partisan loyalty at the expense of operational competence." Last fall, in the face of all of the federal government's post-Katrina failures, U.S. House representative Tom Tancredo (R-Co) had the nerve to say that he didn't trust federal funds for rebuilding New Orleans in the hands of local governments. In light of the Jack Abramoff scandal that subsequently haunted so many Republicans and blew the lid off the hidden corruption in Washington, D.C., Congressman Tancredo's statement now looks even more hypocritical.