Friday, August 15, 2008

From the Books: On Olympic Protests, Oil, and America

I have been watching as much of the Olympics as I can, simply because is streaming a ton of it online. Not having cable means I don't get to watch too many sports so this is a glorious opportunity. Seriously, go check out, 9 channels of streamed Olympics.... though some of the channels the video quality is so-so.

Leading up to the Olympics there was a lot of talk about boycotting the Opening Ceremonies due to China's lack of human rights in 2 areas (primarily): Darfur, Sudan and in Nepal. George Lucas pulled out of aiding production due to Darfur connections that China had. Bush condemned China on his way to attending. And all this made me think...

How many times has the USA been involved with or had business dealings with corrupt, human rights smashing governments in Africa? The answer is: too many to count. From the DRC to Angola to Equatorial Guinea to Nigeria to Congo/Brazzaville to Ethiopia.... the list goes on. What a double standard! They are just upset that someone else has figured out their tricks and is using them to battle them for power! (also see: Georgian conflict)

The Chinese in Sudan have invested large sums in drilling for oil and this money goes to fund the militias, etc... that perpetrate the killings. The US has done similar, or just plain gave the money, to more than a handful of equally dastardly governments in Africa. And often for the same reason: oil. I just finished reading Untapped: The Scramble for Africa's Oil and I highly reccomend it, even if you aren't into current events reading it is a highly enjoyable, easy reading. My From the Books doesn't actually come from this book but from one by the great Orientalist Edward Said. It's rather lengthy, so now that you've ready my rant, you can safely scroll through without hurting my feelings.

"The United States is in fact repeating the practices employed by the British and the French in the nineteenth century. The big differences are, first, that today we [the US] are capable of much greater destruction than they were, and, second, they we are unable to state openly and candidly our engagement in the business of empire, and damn the results. The counter to this anachronistic and dishonest line is.... starting immediately to dismantle the imperialist mission that the United States has set itself from the beginning as a nation....

The first step is to remove the taboo that forbids Americans to regard their country's actions as imperialist. Then what we must do is learn to live like other people.... since ours is a precariously balanced world, with ecological, economic, and social pressures that are barely containable,

it is sheer folly to suggest that we are naturally entitled to cheap oil or to a
better way of life than anyone else. Or that we can survey the world and
decide whom "we" regard as punishable or not.

That we have military power to enforce these often petulant, not to say narcissistic, desires makes things a great deal worse. The Gulf [or Africa] is not merely an empty desert with a large pool of "our" oil underneath and a whole bunch of sheiks, terrorists, or Hitlers on top, but a place with living people, traditions, and societies whose aspirations and values have to be viewed as having merit independent of our needs and attitudes.

The history of American interventions over the years has not been salutary, to say the least.... We are insulated by our wealth and our immense power."

Edward Said - "Politics of Dispossession"

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