Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Our Twisted Politics of Grief

In the "endless war," some kinds of grief are more useful than others
by Norman Solomon               Common Dreams                   May 27, 2013

Killed in a bombing by the US military in eastern Afghanistan on April 7, 2013, the lifeless bodies of Afghan children lay on the ground before their funeral ceremony. (AP Photo / Filtered)
The politicizing of grief exploded in the wake of 9/11. When so much pain, rage and fear set the U.S. cauldron to boil, national leaders promised their alchemy would bring unalloyed security. The fool’s gold standard included degrading civil liberties and pursuing a global war effort that promised to be ceaseless. From the political outset, some of the dead and bereaved were vastly important, others insignificant. Such routine assumptions have remained implicit and intact.
The “war on terror” was built on two tiers of grief. Momentous and meaningless. Ours and theirs. From the political outset, some of the dead and bereaved were vastly important, others insignificant. Let’s face it: in the American political culture of our day, all grief is not created equal. Not even close.
However facile or ephemeral the tributes may be at times, American casualties of war and their grieving families receive some public affirmation from government officials and news media. The suffering had real meaning. They mattered. That’s our grief. But at the other end of American weaponry, their grief is a world of difference.  
In U.S. politics, American sorrow is profoundly important; the contrast with sorrow caused by the American military could hardly be greater. What is not ignored or dismissed as mere propaganda is just another unfortunate instance of good intentions gone awry. No harm intended, no foul. Yet consider these words from a Pakistani photographer, Noor Behram, describing the aftermath of a U.S. drone attack: “There are just pieces of flesh lying around after a strike. You can’t find bodies. So the locals pick up the flesh and curse America. They say that America is killing us inside our own country, inside our own homes, and only because we are Muslims.”
A superpower cannot promote terror in one place and reasonably expect to discourage terrorism in another place.  It won’t work in this shrunken world. To be killed is bad enough.  But to be killed with impunity? To be killed by a machine, from the sky, a missile fired by persons unseen who do not see who they’re killing from hundreds or thousands of miles away? To be left to mourn for loved ones killed in this way?
Presidents have always been wary of red-white-and-blue coffins at Andrews Air Force Base. [But}if the only grief that matters much is American, then just getting Americans out of harm’s way is the ticket. The demand—like empathy for the war-torn grief of Americans—is vital. And grievously incomplete.   [Extracts only, from a long article.] .

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