Issues in the American Elections

As the elections to American Senate and the House of Representatives are drawing nearer, more and more heat is getting generated. The Republicans are defending their crusade against worldwide terrorism by pointing out that the punitive actions against Afghanistan and Iraq and the threats of punishment to Iran, North Korea, Syria, and others have made the world in general and America in particular safer. Since 9/11 no untoward incident has occurred on American soil. Sooner and later terrorists will be completely eliminated from Iraq and Afghanistan and the ground will be prepared for true democracy and economic development, leading to prosperity. Meantime, there may be enormous deaths and destruction and America and its allies will have to make tremendous sacrifices. However, there is no escaping that. Thus George Bush, his lieutenants and the GOP want people to have patience and give their all out unflinching support to the ongoing war against terrorism and not develop cold feet by moving towards the Democrats and other skeptics.

It seems others, whose number is increasing with every passing day, is not convinced. They point out that Afghanistan of the Talibans and Osama bin-Laden was the creation of the American administration and if it became a Frankenstein, the onus should fall on its shoulders.

Second, the arms with which they are waging terrorist wars have come mostly from America and its allies. The efforts by the UN to control the proliferation of these arms have come to a naught because America and its allies dare not harm the interests of their private arms manufacturers whose sole aim has always been to earn as much profits as possible without giving a damn to peace and fight against terrorism. Only recently, a conference called by the UN to devise ways and means to control the proliferation of such weapons ended in an utter failure in spite of a worldwide campaign by Oxfam and other civil society organizations and a strong support by the Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and others. The UN Secretary General expressed his anguish and frustration.

Third, now, it is beyond dispute that the very pretext of the invasion of Iraq was totally false. Saddam Hussein had neither weapons of mass destruction nor any connections with any terrorist gangs. Notwithstanding the complaints of internal oppressions of Shias and Kurds, his was a secular modern government unlike many allies of America in the Arab world.

Mounting casualties in these unending ventures by the Bush administration have given rise to serious doubts whether they are going to do any good to America and its people’s interests. The latest estimates indicate that the military adventure in Iraq has cost $332,565,306,492 in financial resources to America. In the days and months to come this sum is going to increase enormously. As many as 2,741 American military personnel have lost their lives. More than 250,000 Iraqi civilians have perished. No accurate estimate of non-Iraqi civilian casualties is available. One may legitimately ask: what have been the tangible gains as a result of all this? The establishment of western-style democratic polity is not more than a chimera. Studies show that the US record of rebuilding economies of the nations invaded by it is dismal. The only exceptions have been Germany and Japan, which could rebuild their economies because they had human infrastructure.  It appears that President Bush himself is suffering from diffidence notwithstanding all the brave words uttered by him. In one of his speeches, he has admitted: “Victory in Iraq will be difficult and it will require more sacrifice.”

A number of scholars and journalists have come out expressing their doubts about accomplishing the stated tasks by the US administration. They include Peter Galbraith, Bob Woodward, Thomas E. Ricks, and Rajiv Chandrasekaran among others. Commenting on some of these, The Washington Post (Oct. 4) says: “It may be that much of the trouble the United States now faces in Iraq was the inevitable result of the decision to crack open a complex society…. The fierce unwillingness of many Sunnis to accept minority status; the uncompromising drive of Shiites and Kurds for power so long denied them; the relative absence of competent or inspiring leaders: All this and more meant that the reconstruction of Iraq could not have been simple, short or entirely peaceful.” It goes on to add: “the Bush team” has “turned a difficult mission into a near impossible one.”

The veteran journalist Bob Woodward in his book State of Denial underlines that the war in Iraq is going the Vietnam way and the position of Rumsfeld as Secretary of Defence has become utterly untenable, yet, he will not emulate McNamara and resign. Whether Rumsfeld remains or goes, the position of Bush is becoming weaker with every passing day. This is sure to tell upon the prospects of the GOP in ensuing elections.

While enormous resources are being wasted with no perceptible return in sight, the common people find their cost of living increasing and the incidence of unemployment for the unskilled and semi-skilled rising. A new study by two scholars from the Penn State Harrisburg – Prof. Shaum L. Gabbidon and Prof. Steven A. Peterson – underlines that even almost after one and a half centuries of the abolition of slavery, the Blacks have a lower life expectancy than Whites. They are more likely to be victims of violent crime, and suffer from higher rates of diseases such as diabetes and hypertension.

These researchers have developed a Living While Black Index that combines the impact of economic, social and health factors affecting African Americans. They have raised the question whether being black in America exacts a “ ‘social cost’ by being exposed to several stresses that can affect the quality of life among Black Americans.” The Index takes into account comparative figures for poverty rates, the number of prisoners, the lack of access to health care, homicide rate, infant mortality rate, business earnings of African-American-owned firms, and the percentage of non-elderly who are uninsured. It has also given attention to life expectancy at birth, suicide rate, chronic drinking problem, and mental health.

They have concluded that Blacks’ quality of life is negatively affected by the economic factors and death factors. The Black-owned businesses have survival problem and the incidence of poverty among the Blacks is relatively much higher than other segments of the American population. The same is the case as regards infant mortality rate and the frequency of suicides. One may legitimately ask: whether wasting resources and trained manpower in Iraq is in America’s interest or using them to uplifting the quality of 13 per cent of the population that has been suffering for so long.

The economic inequalities in American society have widened more in recent years. This, according to Tony Judt, signifies the death of liberal America. To quote him, “ the pay ratio of an American CEO to that of a skilled worker is 412:1 and a corrupted Congress is awash in lobbies and favors, the place of the liberal intellectual has been largely taken over by an admirable cohort of ‘muck-raking’ investigative journalists.”

Obviously, all these will figure in the consideration of voters when they make their choices next month.

Girish Mishra,
E-mail: [email protected]

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