What the World Thinks of this Empire
By Mumia Abu-Jamal
The announcement, and the subsequent retraction, of the news that U.S. Secretary of State, Colin Powell would, and then would not attend the closing ceremonies of the Olympics in Athens gives U.S. some idea of what millions of people think, not just in Greece, but all around the world, about the world’s sole superpower.
It also shows that the administration is leery of showing what the world thinks, and this, with perhaps the most popular member of the administration. The world is angry at the U.S. for its imperial invasion of Iraq on the now-faded pretext, of “weapons of mass destruction.” This may be seen at the chorus of boos showered on American athletes in Athens, something that is quite rare.
If we believe the corporate media, we see the world in sharp, binary shades; much like Bush suggested after September 11, 2001: “... they’re either for us, or against us.”
Military dictatorships and quasi-democracies the world over, are using this simplistic ‘for us or against us’ formula to target a slew of domestic political opponents, in much the same way that they used it during the Cold War. Today, their opponents aren’t called “communists,” or “subversives”— they’re called “terrorists.” Thus trade unionists, human rights activists, and various representatives of nationalist, cultural, and ethnic movements are targeted by their governments, often with the support of the U.S. government, as the newest enemy: “terrorists.”
A recent book on the dark and dangerous ties between Colombia and the U.S. shows the latest features of this trend. Written by scholar and veteran journalist, Mario A. Murillo, a Colombian-American who teaches at Hofstra and NYU, the picture that emerges of Colombia is of rampant corruption and sheer opportunism. Murillo is especially critical of the press, which, as it has done in the opening of the Iraq War, routinely serves as an important ally of the government, often without question.
Murillo has written Colombia and the United States: War, Unrest and Destabilization (New York: Seven Stories Press/Open Media, 2004), which, among other things, shows us how the major media serves the power elites (both in the U.S. and Colombia!) by misrepresenting radical, and nationalist movements, and indeed, by ignoring history in support of a series of myths.
They do this by the formula of appearing to be fair and objective, while using the journalistic technique of slant, to favor the established, state forces, against those who oppose that state.
One example of this may be shown quickly in a reference to the guerrilla movement known as FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). While Murillo is critical of FARC’s shortcomings and errors (especially where peasants and workers were hurt), he points out that rightist paramilitaries, like the much lesser-known AUC (Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia) were responsible for over 75 percent of civilian casualties, torture and rapes. It also goes largely unreported that they are quite close to the State, and often work hand-in-glove with them.
Also virtually unreported is the racial composition of the Colombian people. Murillo writes: “Colombia has a large black population, ranging anywhere between 20 and 45 percent of the total, depending on which figures you read and how you interpret them.” [p. 40] Afro-Colombians, many of whom dwell in the rural and coastal areas, are among the poorest, and most violently repressed people of the country, both by the state and the paramilitaries.
While most of us who read, hear, or watch major media may have a skewed perspective of Colombia, and how the Colombian people view the U.S., and their political leaders, Murillo tells of one occasion when a Colombian politician sent a powerful, public message to the president, Uribe, that leapt the translation barrier. On the floor of the chamber of representatives, an independent politician presented Uribe and his ministers with a pair of knee pads, emblazoned with American flags on them.
No one, it seems, loves an Empire.
Prof. Murillo’s book is available from:
Seven Stories Press, 140 Watts St., NY, NY 10013.
On the web: www.sevenstories.com.
Seven Stories has also published some of the writings of Mr. Jamal.
—Copyright Mumia Abu-Jamal, August 28, 2004