There Is a Choice in the U.S. Election

by John Keen
Riceton, SK


There has been a lot of chatter about what sort of President the USA (and the rest of us) will wind up with after the November 2004 election. Most of the talk consists of "We want Bush" or "We don't want Bush." I don't remember anyone ordering any particular type of President. So here is the kind I want.

Most important, a decent person. Sound silly? But we desperately need somebody who will say "I'm sorry." Sorry for what? "Sorry for the failure of the United States to lead the developed world to a better life."

Mind you, we sanctimonious Canadians also could use a push in that direction. We joined the U.S. in Kosovo, Afghanistan and, to a lesser degree, in Iraq. That qualifies us as war criminals. A couple of years ago I suggested to our recently retired Minister of External Affairs that we should go to the World Court and asked to be tried. He went ballistic. But every nation in NATO is by legal definition a war criminal and has engaged in terrorist activities. So let's all confess.

There has been a lot of talk in this campaign about alternatives in Iraq. Forget it. There is only one. Quit or grow more brutal. If the soldiers who are there haven't quit fighting yet, they soon will. I was in Korea and I saw American draftees who had made a rational decision to keep their heads down. They were not going to die on foreign soil. I didn't blame them, after all, we Canadians were there as volunteers. They (the Americans) had not asked to be there. The same decision not to die abroad is being made in Iraq by soldiers who may have started as volunteers, but are rapidly becoming draftees. Who can blame them?

Every day the memory of Vietnam grows stronger. The troops in Iraq see the same progression taking place there. Poor people, (American and Iraqi) are being killed to make the world safe for rich people. Just as in Vietnam, the forces are learning they have been lied to. Just as in Vietnam they will soon refuse to fight and start fragging their gung-ho officers. (Using fragmentation grenades to temper the enthusiasm for combat of your leaders). When that happens things become plain: pull out or hire even more mercenaries to do even more killing.

There has to be another way Here is the road map.

The new president should go back and read Eisenhower's "Cross of Iron" speech. Then read his speech warning of the military industrial complex. When he has learned what the United States' foremost soldier thought about war, he can legitimately defend the decision to halt the practice of terrorism.

Some people will protest that being decent somehow implies cowardice. Armchair warriors who have never seen or smelled the results of bombing, shelling and napalm will claim that fighting is necessary to bring peace.

They can go somewhere and fight to their hearts content. Meanwhile, let's take a look at the society a little good will from the world's most powerful leader might bring about.We will use a time honoured device from science fiction: The Alternate Universe.

It is now 1960 and John Kennedy has just been elected President. Like Eisenhower, Kennedy had experienced war. John Kennedy was no angel, but we will pretend he was.

After his inauguration he flies to Cuba, puts his arm around Castro's shoulder and says "Good for you, Fidel, you got rid of those gangsters. How can we help you?" Consider what might have followed. No Bay of Pigs. No Cuban missile crisis.

The same generosity of spirit might have led Kennedy to Vietnam. Not North or South Vietnam but Vietnam. And again he speaks: "Congratulations on winning your independence. We did the same thing a long time ago. If we can help, just ask."

Just think. No bombing. No Laos, no Cambodia, no Mai Lai. No tens of thousands of American dead, no millions of Asians dead. No thousands of veterans committing suicide.

We could go on and on and on. No upheaval in Chile, or Nicaragua, no Iraq, no Grenada, no Kosovo. Maybe even an uneasy peace in Palestine and Israel.

Somewhere back there, in this Alternate Universe, being decent became normal. The USA now supports the UN. The rule of law determines international conduct. As Winston Churchill said: "Better jaw, jaw, than war, war."

Imagine living in a world where the most powerful country is looked at as a friend, not cursed. Imagine living in a world where poverty is rare and hunger unknown. Imagine a world where a whole lot more money is spent on teaching and caring for children than on killing children. Imagine living in a world where fear is not ever present and is not one of the main determinants in how we vote.

All this is possible. It only requires the good people in the USA to vote for a good person. And for the rest of us to support those good people.

October 15, 2021