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Reigns of Terror

 I think I spent a good chunk of the last eight years writing letters to W, to his secretary of state, and to my senators, protesting everything from  W’s dismemberment of the environment, to the war in Iraq, the war on women, and the constant threat of attacking Iran.  We Americans have killed a lot of people in Iraq and Afghanistan; we’ve left behind uranium-tipped bullets and other appalling agents of destruction.  

As a direct result of 8 years of W’s iron-fisted Global Gag rule, 43 million women in Asia, Africa and eastern Europe are dead or seriously ill because U. S. policy forced the closure of medical clinics, including not only abortions but pre-natal care and general health care.

I say all this not just because the cloud is beginning to lift with Barack, but because from time to time, someone will write demanding to know why I don’t denounce Israeli behavior in Gaza, the West Bank or elsewhere.  No one ever asks me to denounce any other behavior, not even American.  Only Israeli.

So let me say here: I denounce all slaughter.  I denounce U.S. slaughter in the Middle East and Central Asia.  I denounce Robert Mgabe for the genocide he is committing in Zimbabwe: he is actively allowing cholera to run rampant through his country, on top of the dire starvation he has engineered.  

I denounce honor killings.  I denounce the slaughter of women who have been raped.  I denounce Israeli destruction of families and homes in Gaza.  I denounce Nigerian atrocities, and those committed in China.  I denounce Pakistani atrocities.  I denounce enslavement of girls and women in the brothels of Thailand, and I abhor those men who rape girls.  I denounce throwing acid on girls trying to go to school in Afghanistan. I denounce the enslavement of women and the refusal to allow us to freely choose when and if we will become pregnant.  I denounce Nicaragua for imprisoning women who’ve had abortions.  

 I denounce U.S. torture of suspects.  I denounce those who fire rockets into Israel. I denounce the Chechniyan atrocities, and those in Georgia, and those in Uzbekhistan, and those in Congo.  I denounce those who seduce people into becoming suicide bombers, while hiding safe and sound somewhere else.  And the ongoing genocide in Darfur, which no longer even rates a line on the evening news.

Now, do we all feel better?

What exactly have I accomplished, except to show that I’m another chardonnay, or in my case, cappuccino liberal.  I was at a bookfair in Europe 2 years ago, having dinner with a Lebanese bookseller.  W and Cheney were once again ramping up their war rhetoric against Iran and I was terrified that we would do the unspeakable.  The Lebanese bookseller said that until you have lived through war you have no idea how terrible it is, and I’m sure she’s right, but we were sitting in a private home overlooking a private lake, drinking lovely burgundy–both of us: “This is terrible,” she said, sip.  “Horrible,” I agreed, sip.  I felt nauseated with myself–a parody of a John LeCarre novel.

 My acts are puny and singularly ineffectual: letters, op-ed pieces, lectures.  The occasional useless outraged phone call to W’s White House, or to a foreign envoy.  I’m not sure what else I could do, except I know I should do it more.  And turning Israel, or any other country, into the Only Demon, is a convenient way of forgetting what may be happening in one’s own backyard.  Just look at America, the demonization of Iraq–and the 43 million dead women we’ve left in our wake.

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  • corkhead

    I agree, Sara. There’s no use looking for the “chicken or the egg” philosophy when it comes to the middle east. All violence is wrong and, as usual, it’s women and children who suffer. I would hope that the Obama would have the vision and ability to get all parties (including Iran, Syria et al) around the table to TALK about what it is they want and work out how that might be achievable.

    A huge task and maybe not possible because of all the vested interests.

    And writing letters, marching, even thoughts are valid when it comes to being against wrong deeds. Mostly it’s all the power most of us have.

  • With your letter-writing you’ve done far more than most of us. I myself have become so cynical that I no longer bother with anything. In my teens I thought we were getting somewhere. Now I just see things I feel I’ve seen lots of times already.

    In early 2003 my then ten-year-old daughter, terrified of the prospect of war, wrote to Tony Blair and asked him not to start it. I admire her belief that he could and would. She did have a lovely letter back, so I’ve had a little soft spot for a leader that could see the point in writing a friendly letter. But that’s all.

  • ab

    I agree with every word – including the terrible feeling of not being able to DO anything. Except protest and talk.

    But people in America who did protest and talk – like you – helped the election of Barack Obama possible. Without the communicators, people don’t know they share an opinion and a strong feeling, and they become disencouraged. Communicators are the blood vessels.

  • genny

    Sara, I think your book “Writing in the Age of Silence” was an incredible contribution to the cause.

  • Thanks, everyone, but most of the time I just huddled bewildered under my covers with my dog. The W-C group was formidable in its ability to make us feel helpless. I love what Barack has done so far, lifting the gag rule, demanding transparency, and closing Guantanamo. Econ pundits say his plan is too cautious, but–except for Paul Krugman–they were all clueless when the Neocons were pouring gasoline on the house and lighting the match, so I’m hoping for the best.

  • mostlyanecdotal

    You write: Only Israeli. So let me say here: I denounce all slaughter. I denounce U.S. slaughter

    Even now you fail to make it specific. I denounce Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Instead you denounce all slaughter. You may want to ask yourself why that is, why you are willing to make the charges specific in other cases but not Israel.

    No one is asking that turn anyone into the “Only Demon,” but that you don’t turn them into the Only Exception.

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