Children of a Lesser God
All men may well be born equal but their deaths certainly betray huge inequalities. A month or so ago (24 June, to be precise), Michael Tomasky, GuardianAmerica’s editor at large, wrote that the chances were that Obama’s military strategy in
How easily are such sentiments expressed. Tens of thousands of Afghans have been killed in the past decade of the ‘war on terror’, waged in pursuit of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. So what are a few thousand more? They’re just Afghans, after all, and who’s really counting their casualties anyway? There are plenty more where they came from. And this from Tomasky, a liberal critic.
Around about 1983, the eminent Marxist scholar, EP Thompson, wrote an article in The Guardian about the relative worth of lives according to race and ethnicity. I don’t recall the details but its import was that if you are black or brown or, at least, NOT white, casualty numbers and deaths hardly matter, because such lives are cheap. He was employing irony and wit, long gone from the pens of ‘serious’ columnists on foreign affairs today.
Some neo-conservatives (remember them?) argue that the 1990s were a holiday from history – responsible leaders just weren’t taking seriously the threats that were emerging in the post-Cold War World, especially Islamic fundamentalism. What they failed to recognise then, and what liberal commentators fail to recognise today, is that those threats resulted from America’s history of doing the ‘decent thing’ in backing the Mujaheddin against Soviet troops in Afghanistan, paying the Pakistani military regime to fund, arm and train Osama bin Laden, stationing a garrison in Saudi Arabia, and steadfastly supporting Israel against the Palestinians, incubating long-term resentment and outright hatred of American double standards in the Middle East. Is it too much to expect Great Powers to learn the lessons of the past?