By Roberto Rodriguez
January 08, 2009
"Commondreams" -- Obama's first challenge will not be the unresolved Middle East crisis. Nor will it be Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo or the economy. His primary challenge will come in coming face to face with the Bush/Cheney doctrine of permanent worldwide war. Unless Obama renounces it on inauguration day, this doctrine will continue to be U.S. policy.
Beyond that, an even larger challenge - one which he may not ever be able to meet - is healing a nation that for too long has been sickened by what American Indian historian, Jack Forbes terms in Columbus and other Cannibals: soul-sickness. It is a disease that historically has allowed a majority of EuroAmericans to believe that God has chosen them lead the rest of the world into the light, permitting the United States to employ massive military might in achieving that so-called mandate.
Over the past eight years, it is the Bush-Cheney doctrine that has drawn the particular ire of the entire world - because it permits the United States to unilaterally attack any nation with massive force or to attack any target within any nation, regardless of civilian casualties. This doctrine has also permitted this outgoing administration to assert and amass extraordinary powers that have virtually rendered the U.S. Constitution meaningless. This doctrine includes the assertion that the executive branch and its extraordinary powers can not be questioned or hindered by Congress or the courts during times of war, thus the assertion of permanent war (the war on terror).
Yet, even if Obama were to reject this Bush-Cheney doctrine, the soul sickness would remain.
That notwithstanding, the president's first order of business has to be the rejection of the Bush-Cheney doctrine. Failure to do so immediately, will cause the promise of change [to the United States, the world and the future] to fall on deaf ears.
It will not be enough to wind down the Iraq War if it means that the president will simply shift resources to broaden the war in Afghanistan and to also continue the Bush-Cheney endless worldwide war against undefined enemies into the foreseeable future.
Eradicating that soul-sickness is probably not possible; it is what sustains the myths of this nation. It is what defines this nation. The secular equivalent of believing that God has chosen the United States for a special mission is the belief that being a superpower is an elected position and that with that title, the United States and its allies are entitled to invade, topple or occupy any nation they see fit. And it is not something that began with Bush and Cheney.
It can be no irony that those that initiated the invasion and occupation of Iraq - in defiance of the UN - were the United States, Britain & Spain... on Portuguese territory. In the past 500 years, these are the world's leading imperialists and colonialist nations. Essentially, they have been the world's architects of the policies of dehumanization - feeling entitled by God and blinded by greed to trample over the lands, bodies and rights of peoples [of color] worldwide.
Despite this imperial club, there's a reason the U.S. government is particularly despised by most of the world. It isn't just the Bush-Cheney regime, though they have certainly put a face to the "ugly American." It's that smug soul-sickness that permits Americans to believe that they indeed know what's best for the rest of the world.
When Obama was elected president, it was the hope of the world - evidenced by massive celebrations worldwide - that he would indeed reverse the arrogance of the Bush/Cheney doctrine. Though for those expecting president-elect Obama to bring about radical change to the world, all signs indicate that we are all in for a very rude awakening.
But it's a sleep or dream that many Americans don't want to wake from. To be sure, being elected U.S. president is not the same thing as being elected high commissioner for human rights or prince of peace. Since WWII, the United States has become the most powerful military empire in the history of the planet. In the path of this machine, millions of casualties are strewn about in Asia, Africa and Central America. Some have been the result of secret, proxy, unnecessary, foolish and illegal wars - such as Iraq - but truly, which war or military action by the United States since WWII has been necessary and legal and not foolish?
This is what Obama is inheriting; not just a permanent war and a soul sickness, but also the reins to a voracious military-industrial complex that needs to be constantly fed. There's little indication that he will starve this machine. But there is always hope.
Our Nation's Soul Sickness - Part II
By Roberto Rodriguez
In Columbus and other Cannibals, American Indian scholar, Jack Forbes writes about a disease that afflicts the West, an illness he refers to as: soul sickness. It's the belief that God has especially chosen Westerners to bring civilization and enlightenment to the rest of the world. While it permeates all of Western society, it appears to manifest most poignantly in the United States.
With Obama soon to be at the helm, many people are seemingly not clear about what this means vis a vis this sickness.
Under this superstitious belief system, Westerners have been authorized by God to eliminate infidels and heathens if they don't convert (because if they don't, the unbelievers may wipe out the civilized world). This traditionally has meant the right to take lands, colonize and enslave peoples and the right to invade, occupy and destroy nations. It matters little if one innocent person dies or a million, because they are not truly human. Conversely, the death of one Westerner or the threat to one, is "just cause" for war. Since Westerners believe God has anointed them to spread Judeo-Christian values, democracy & capitalism, all their military incursions are justified. This is why war is constantly waged, always obviating the need for laws and trials
Under this belief system, Westerners are always combating evil, terrorists and disciples of the devil. Yet, this delusional belief system sometimes comes face to face with reality. For instance, most religious/spiritual leaders worldwide do not believe that the invasion of Iraq has constituted a "just war." This has led to cognitive dissonance – a contradictory mental and spiritual state.
None of this has affected president Bush who actually believes that God specifically chose him to lead the United States and to wage war against Iraq. Yes. The Prince of Peace chose him to bring peace – via war – to Arab/Muslim infidels, and eventually, to the entire world.
Bush's beliefs best exemplify that soul sickness that Forbes writes about. It is a combination of sickness and delusion – the spiritual/political belief that the United States and its allies are entitled – by divine birthright – to wage permanent war against any and all nations – to bring civilization to the uncivilized. This belief did not begin with Bush-Cheney. Reagan-Bush took these same ideas to Africa and Central America. Johnson & Nixon previously took them to Asia. As Forbes points out, it is the same ideas – steeped in the Dark Ages – that were brought to this continent by the conquistadors.
Accompanying these delusional ideas is the belief in the eternal right – with impunity – to freely exploit these nations, their peoples and resources.
All of this also is combined with the belief that Euroamericans were especially chosen to build a heaven on earth in the Americas – a place reserved for God's chosen few (dark people not welcome here). Ironically, this belief system – as exemplified by the idea of Providence, Manifest Destiny and the religio-secular idea of American exceptionalism – has never believed in borders. Quite the contrary. The very idea of a United States has been an expansionist belief: the original idea was that Euroamericans would one day take over the entire Americas – from sea to shining sea. Yet, now, heaven on earth seemingly constitutes the entire planet.
But there is still the land mass called the United States – the New Promised Land – especially designated for the chosen few. While these chosen few seek global domination, adherents of this philosophy insist upon a form of racial/political and cultural purity for these United States. This is why we have "culture" or "civilizational" wars.
This is why these chosen few insist upon English Only and walls along the southern, but not the northern, border. This is the reason for massive immigration raids against red-brown peoples; to communicate the message of who belongs, who is legitimate and who merits rights and who doesn't. It's all predicated on a 500-year idea on this continent of who is human and who is entitled to live – and who isn't.
The majority of the world has diagnosed this sickness and thoroughly rejects it. It is highly likely, based on the 2008 presidential elections, that most Americans have also diagnosed this sickness, and many also reject it.
The idea of Barack Obama in the White House also causes cognitive dissonance. It may be counter-intuitive, but it is not at all certain that a Black Man – or this Black Man – will combat this centuries-old soul sickness and the barbaric policies that emanate from it.
Roberto Rodriguez, formerly of Madison and now a research associate at the University of Arizona in Tucson, offers a Latino/indigenous perspective on the Americas.