The Boston Marathon Bombing: Our Wake-Up Call

Pakistan Drone Victims

Last Tuesday I shocked some of my blog readers by observing that the carnage of the Boston Marathon bombing paled in comparison with the mayhem the U.S. inflicts daily on anyone who happens to be near designated enemies in places like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere. My observations were dismissed by some as “incredibly insensitive” and as the “garbage” comments of an armchair philosopher unacquainted with the brutality of “those Jihadists.” One former army chaplain accused me of having a screw loose somewhere.

Be that as it may, I was in reality simply trying to highlight the double standard most of us have internalized concerning our own victimhood when tragedy strikes close to home. We wring our hands and ask “Why us?” Meanwhile we exhibit little compassion for those our country’s policies punish with the equivalents of Boston Marathon bombings virtually every day. Our media regularly ignore those tragedies and so insult our country’s victims with the mainstream media’s (and our) own brand of incredible insensitivity.

The implication of ignoring the suffering of the victims of U.S. policy is that “American” lives and children are more valuable than the lives and offspring of “those others.” We seem convinced that our “holy wars” are somehow different from their jihads. Any fool, we imply (and sometimes state) would see that we are good and they are evil. We are, after all, the exceptional, indispensable nation.

That conviction of American exceptionalism seems impervious to fact and memory. It allows U.S. perpetrators of human rights abuses such as wars of aggression, death squads, drone killings, torture, imprisonment-without-charge, voter suppression, and incarceration of whistle-blowers to pontificate about those same human rights violations when they occur in other countries.

Consider the following:

• The Obama administration is currently withholding its recognition of the results of last week’s election of Nicolas Maduro as president of Venezuela. Maduro was the personal choice of U.S. bête noir, Hugo Chavez. Standing alone in its refusal to recognize his electoral victory (except for the arch-conservative Spanish administration) and despite assurances of international election observers and the Venezuelan National Election Commission, the United States solemnly insists that Venezuelans deserve a complete recount of every single vote.

Apparently, the Obama folks have forgotten the 2000 election of George W. Bush when its country’s own government refused to perform a recount, even though the eventual loser had verifiably received more votes than the winner. That victor was finally selected not by popular vote but by the Supreme Court dominated by his cronies.

In the light of such irregularities, not to mention gerrymandering, legalized vote-buying sanctioned by “Citizens United,” voter suppression of minorities, and refusal to set up the paper trail the Venezuelan system has so firmly established, wouldn’t you think our government would recognize that it’s lost all moral ground to lecture others about or adjudicate “free and fair” elections? No – not when inconvenient truths can be successfully flushed down George Orwell’s memory hole. Despite evidence to the contrary, Americans are still convinced their election system is the world’s gold standard. Go figure.

• The week before last Beyonce and Jay-Z decided to celebrate their 5th wedding anniversary in Cuba. Their decision drew immediate response from Miami expatriates of Cuba who descried the couple’s implied support for such an egregious violator of human rights as Cuba.

Apparently, the objectors had forgotten that the U.S. has a higher percentage of its population in prison than Cuba or any other nation in the world for that matter. Additionally, the “Americans” maintain a world-wide system of secret jails for political prisoners. Practically all of the 166 incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are currently on hunger strike protesting their inhuman treatment there. The “American” torture and even murder of its political prisoners is better documented than any alleged mistreatment of prisoners in Cuba or anywhere else you might care to name.

And yet, U.S. patriots somehow feel free to lecture Cuba about respect for human rights. Can you say “denial;” can you say “1984” or “memory hole?” Once again, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Americans are still convinced that the United States is somehow the world’s leading defender and observer of human rights.

• Last week the Obama administration’s press secretary, Jay Carney sanctimoniously justified (with a straight face) the refusal of visas to 18 Russian citizens. The banned individuals were all linked to the case of Sergei Magnitsky, a whistle-blower lawyer who had exposed widespread corruption and theft of national resources by high officials in the Russian government. Magnitsky had died in prison while awaiting trial. His death sparked congressional passage of the “Magnitsky Act” to protect whistle-blowers – in Russia.

Carney intoned,

“This administration is committed to working with the Congress to advance universally recognized human rights worldwide, and we will use the tools in the Magnitsky Act and other available legal authorities to ensure that persons responsible for the maltreatment and death of Mr. Magnitsky are barred from traveling to the United States and doing business here.”

Apparently, Carney wants us to forget the fact that untold (literally) numbers of incarcerated individuals have died in U.S. political prisons – many of them directly under torture. He wants us to forget that the Obama administration has virtually transformed whistle-blowing (i.e. the exposure of government and military crimes) from an act of virtue to a felony.

More specifically, Carney’s consigned to the memory hole the fact that the Obama administration has indicted more whistle-blowers than all previous administrations combined. In doing so he has criminalized the prophetic act of speaking truth to power. This is best illustrated in the case of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army whistle-blower who obeyed his conscience and Army regulations by going public with the war crimes he observed. His reward? Imprisonment without charge, torture, and a possible life sentence. Here again we’re expected to believe that the United States respects “universally recognized human rights worldwide.” We really respect them universally only in places like Russia.

You see, it’s not just that official hand-wringing over the Boston Marathon Bombing highlights U.S. hypocrisy concerning the injuries and deaths of the innocent people it’s responsible for killing; it’s that such hypocrisy has become a way of life. It has blinded U.S. citizens to the fact that their country is not at all exceptional except in its disregard for universal human rights and international law.

It’s time for “Americans” to realize that their country long ago lost any moral ground they once believed it occupied. It’s time for politicians to observe humble and repentant silence about human rights, election validity, and whistle-blowers.

As it turns out, the Marathon Bombing is only a faint “retail” reflection of the wholesale mayhem the United States routinely wreaks in every corner of the planet. Cuba is a paragon of virtue compared to the U.S. Nicolas Maduro owns far more legitimacy than did George Bush who committed those war crimes Bradley Manning has been punished for exposing.

The Marathon Bombing was a wake-up call.

Published by

Mike Rivage-Seul's Blog

Emeritus professor of Peace & Social Justice Studies. Liberation theologian. Activist. Former R.C. priest. Married for 40 years. Three grown children. Four grandchildren.

9 thoughts on “The Boston Marathon Bombing: Our Wake-Up Call”

  1. I applaud your courage. I also know what was done to the Old Testament prophets. Our country doesn’t stone whistle blowers. As you have pointed our so vividly here, they have much more sinister ways of dealing with them. I will include you in my daily prayer. Do not stop printing the truth!

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    1. Thank you, Aliceny. I’m struggling to figure out how best to express the truth you refer to. There are definite “limits of perception” that our culture imposes on us. Expression of truth about what the United States is actually doing in the world often meets with outright denial and hostility. And yet if one understates, the message goes unheard. I’m not sure how to proceed.

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      1. With your heart, and as the Holy Spirit leads you. Saying the beatiful prayer of Michael the Archangel wouldn’t hurt. I’m going to try to send you something from Ephesians 6.

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  2. It’s very revealing to this reader that you persist in trying to exploit the horrific terrorist attack in Boston to advance your own, far reaching political agenda –however unrelated it might be to the attack. This latest entry strikes me as little more than a wondering (at times) manifesto of everything you seem to think is wrong with the United States government.

    Fortunately, as an American, you live in a country where this sort of dissent and criticism is not only tolerated, but encouraged. I’m doubt very much you’d have the same experience in Cuba or Venezuela or any communist/socialist state you might classify as a “paragon of virtue.”

    I counted at least two dozen errors and false premises advanced in this piece. I didn’t have the time, energy or patience to address all of them, but I did address several. Here they are from start to finish:

    1. “Last Tuesday I shocked some of my blog readers by observing that the carnage of the Boston Marathon bombing paled in comparison with the mayhem the U.S. inflicts daily on anyone who happens to be near designated enemies.”

    In fact, the U.S. military calls off strikes all the time because there are too many civilians in a strike area. And, do the terrorist targets themselves bear no responsibility for hiding among civilians when they know they are being targeted? And what about the so-called civilians who hide those terrorists? Are they completely innocent?

    2. “I was in reality simply trying to highlight the double standard most of us have internalized concerning our own victimhood when tragedy strikes close to home. We wring our hands and ask ‘Why us?'”

    By “wring our hands” do you mean that we find the people who were responsible for the savage acts of terrorism and bring them to justice (e.g. Timothy McVeigh, Osama bin Laden, the Christmas underwear bomber, and the two young Russians suspected of the Boston attack)?

    3. “The implication of ignoring the suffering of the victims of U.S. policy is that ‘American’ lives and children are more valuable than the lives and offspring of ‘those others.'”

    Though maybe regrettable, MOST people believe this –and not just in the United States. It’s called Nationalism.

    4. “The United States solemnly insists that Venezuelans deserve a complete recount of every single vote.”

    It was a very close election and we want to be sure that the result is accurate. No one is stopping the Venezuelans from swearing in their president. No one is threatening a coup. Our response to Venezuela today is very similar to what we did after the presidential elections in Mexico in 2006 and in Kenya in 2007.

    5. “Apparently, the Obama folks have forgotten the 2000 election of George W. Bush when its country’s own government refused to perform a recount, even though the eventual loser had verifiably received more votes than the winner.”

    A couple things are misleading and wrong about this. First, even the Gore campaign didn’t ask for a full, state-wide recount in Florida. They only wanted a recount of four Democratic leaning counties. Also, Gore DID NOT receive “verifiably” more votes than George W. Bush in Florida. Had he, there wouldn’t have been an issue and he would have been president. This comment also brushes over an important concept called the Electoral College and a little document called the U.S. Constitution.

    6. “Despite evidence to the contrary, Americans are still convinced their election system is the world’s gold standard.”

    I don’t know anyone who thinks this. We obviously have room to improve in many of the areas you’ve mentioned. But – unlike countries like Cuba – at least we actually have elections. For a nation of our size and with our history of federalism and respect for state’s rights, it’s also pretty amazing that we’ve be able to have peaceful and universally recognized transfers of power (save for the Civil War) for almost 230 years.

    7. “Apparently, the objectors had forgotten that the U.S. has a higher percentage of its population in prison than Cuba or any other nation in the world for that matter.”

    Do you think this might have something to do with Cuba emptying its prisons in 1980 and sending all of their convicts to Miami? Am I the only one who remembers Al Pacino in Scarface?

    8. “Practically all of the 166 incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba are currently on hunger strike protesting their inhuman treatment there. The “American” torture and even murder of its political prisoners is better documented than any alleged mistreatment of prisoners in Cuba or anywhere else you might care to name.”

    This is simply wrong. Read any human rights report about prisoner mistreatment in Saudi Arabia, China, Syria, Russia or any number of other countries with authoritarian leaders. There’s simply no comparison. And, since when are those incarcerated at Guantanamo Bay “political prisoners?” Nelson Mandela was a political prisoner. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. were political prisoners. The enemy combatants housed in Guantanamo Bay are, for all intents and purposes, prisoners of war and international terrorists.

    9. “And yet, U.S. patriots somehow feel free to lecture Cuba about respect for human rights.”

    When was the last time Cuba had a “free and fair election?” And, do you really think that if you were Cuban that you would be able to write a blog that were this critical of the Cuban government?

    10. “Once again, despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Americans are still convinced that the United States is somehow the world’s leading defender and observer of human rights.”

    Other than maybe a small handful of small, Western European countries, who does a better job than the U.S. of promoting human rights and calling out abuses where we see them? Please don’t say Cuba or Venezuela.

    11. “Apparently, Carney wants us to forget the fact that untold (literally) numbers of incarcerated individuals have died in U.S. political prisons – many of them directly under torture.”

    I am not aware of a SINGLE instance of when an individual has died in a “U.S. political prison…directly under torture.” Can you name one?

    12. “This is best illustrated in the case of Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army whistle-blower who obeyed his conscience and Army regulations by going public with the war crimes he observed. His reward? Imprisonment without charge, torture, and a possible life sentence.”

    This is factually inaccurate. Manning has been charged with 22 different felonies and violations of the Code of Military Justice. Incidentally, he has also pleaded guilty to 10 of those charges.

    13. “It has blinded U.S. citizens to the fact that their country is not at all exceptional (my emphasis) except in its disregard for universal human rights and international law.”

    We’re the wealthiest nation –and have most powerful military— in the history of human civilization. Immigrants flock to our shores and across deserts and mountains from “ever corner of the planet” with nothing but the shirts on their back for a chance to become part of our cultural melting pot and pursue the American Dream. Nothing exceptional about that though right?

    14. “It’s time for politicians to observe humble and repentant silence about human rights, election validity, and whistle-blowers.”

    Good idea. We’ll just leave the job of calling out these injustices to countries like Cuba, China, Russia, Venezuela, Pakistan, North Korea, Libya, Yemen, Iraq, Afghanistan and other “paragons of virtue” on concepts like human rights, elections and government whistle blowing. What could go wrong?

    15. “As it turns out, the Marathon Bombing is only a faint “retail” reflection of the wholesale mayhem the United States routinely wreaks in every corner of the planet.”

    “Every corner of the planet?” Really? You wrote this in the present tense so please enlighten us when and how has the U.S. (recently) “wreaked havoc” in North America, Europe, Central or South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia Oceana or East Asia Pacific? And no Howard Zinn or Eduardo Galeano historical reflections please. Again, you wrote this in the present tense. It seems to me that our so called “mayhem” is limited to the Middle East and Central Asia.

    16. “Cuba is a paragon of virtue compared to the U.S.”

    Maybe I missed something but I did not find one single example or shred of evidence among your 1,165 words to support this claim.

    17. “Nicolas Maduro owns far more legitimacy than did George Bush who committed those war crimes Bradley Manning has been punished for exposing.”

    Whether George W. Bush committed war crimes or not is not at all related to his “legitimacy” as president. And, say what you want about the 2000 presidential election, but Bush won by more than 3.5 million votes in 2004, irregularities in Ohio notwithstanding.

    18. “The Marathon Bombing was a wake-up call.”

    Here I think we agree. The Boston Marathon attack was a wake-up call, but I’m afraid our take-aways from it are quite different. For me, the attack is a reminder that, nearly a dozen years after 9-11, the threat of terrorism is real and that we need to continue to do our level-best to manage that threat. It’s worth noting that Boston was the first successful act of domestic terrorism since 9-11. That’s not just attributable to luck. We have been vigilent and proactive. And while it may feel good for you to compare civilians killed by the U.S. in drone strikes to the victims of savage acts of terrorism like what we saw in Boston, let’s be very clear that the intent is quite different. The terrorists on 9-11 and in Boston were trying to harm and kill as many civilians as they could in as spectacular and symbolic a way as possible. The U.S. military targets terrorists as responsibly as it can and, unfortunately, often kills civilians who are in close proximity to those individuals. That’s very different, which is not to say I’m excusing it. It’s worth pointing out though (if you need further convincing) that if the American objective were the same as that of the terrorists i.e. kill as many civilians as possible and in the most horrifying and spectacular ways possible, we’d be approaching things much differently. Remember, we have nuclear weapons. If, impossibly, killing as many civilians as possible were our objective, there probably wouldn’t be too many civilians left in the countries you mentioned that harbor and export terrorism.

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  3. Pardon this mailing if you have already seen this latest addition to Mike’s blog.

    I wonder too, why Americans act surprised that blow-back is coming our way after how we acted in Iraq, Gitmo and the Middle East in general. It surprises me we haven’t seen more of this.

    Nick Galaday

    headshot2 1109 Roseview Heights Ave.

    Vernonia, OR 97064-1180

    Home: (503) 429-8910

    Cell: (503) 886-9086

    Energy conservation–

    saves more than energy!

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  4. I agree with what you say in this blog. It is loud and clear for anyone with ears and eyes. Luckily your message is understood and we should move on to doing something about it. Thanks for the reality update.
    I once served for two years as a Sunday morning chaplain in a huge US airbase near Tokyo. Forgive me! I knew not what I did! Its in the past.
    Chambers Johnson originally in the CIA in the Tokyo Embassy around 1970 and very much an insider wrote the seminal book on Blowback. One of the great US scholars of the lat 50 years. The book is called just Blowback.
    However the problem is not simply “Empire US” or an American product. But a small cabal of mega-billionaire individuals, avaricious bandits from the Beltway, Wall street, The City in London and more recently EU Fascist-inclined and mainly German lead – yes, as Livy predicted, they are back taking a new run at it.
    Some call it the Virtual (non-elected world) Senate. Massive investors, and supportive lenders throwing dice over bank-holiday week-ends for “ownership” of national currencies. Oligarchs. We are talking of maybe less than hundreds but with charlatans and legislators at every corner and most governments in the Western, mainly white world we live in, who legislate on their behalf. Glass-Steagall in 1993 is where the recent rot began. Then followed by NAFTA always supported by not easily identified bodies like the World Banks and the IMF who now decide on how the poor of most of the world sink or swim. They are daily on the news and ask ten people who they are and you get ten different answers. No one really knows. Groups like Bildinberg are not totally fanciful. The Trilateral Commission sets many of lift-off preparatory stages. And now the legislators are continuing with the enslavement in the Pacific with TPP! Free Trade we are told. Which as we know is neither free or trade.
    Ownership or leadership if you wish is with the people with the most war-heads. In Demnow.org I sent you the other day they identified the type of doctrine the School of the Americas was/is teaching , not just how to use and service US helicopters and in Guatemala’s case, Israel supplied hand help daisey-cutters(!) but therapy on how to overcome ones natural abhorrence to killing innocent babies, children and women. Based on the principle if you don’t kill them now you will have to do it all over again in 20 years. Our colleagues Noel Dunne and Marianne have protested at the gates on may occasions.
    Of course the military, industrial financial – and political complex is at its heart.
    The 4th Reich is not like any other. It has no boundaries except other than the Level of Greed. 99% of Americans know nothing about it and when you don’t have a free press, and you don’t! they will be on the front lines in no time defending “American vital Interests” which is more money for the mega-rich and cohorts. They rest like you and us will wait with the bowl out for what might, just might trickle down.
    If you think this is just rant you can find most of it in The Project for the New American Century, all signed sealed and promulgated and read by..1% of us.!

    jim

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    1. Thanks for the detailed elaboration, Jim. I couldn’t agree more. As you say, the information is out there. And yet many highly educated people find it impossible to recognize the documented facts, and to draw practical conclusions. Instead, they marshal the familiar cliches: “Love it or leave it;” “But America does so much good in the world;” “It was unintended ‘collateral damage;” “The United States doesn’t do torture;” “We have our faults, but show me a better country;” etc. Such bromides are simply impervious to contrary argument. There’s something very “religious” about them. Confusing.

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