Nelson Mandela: A life in pictures
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Topics: Politics News
The New York Times yesterday conveyed important and exciting evidence of American progress in Afghanistan which I believe we can and should all find inspiring; it concerns the reasons the protests in Afghanistan over the slaughter of 16 villagers by a U.S. soldier were not as intense as feared:
Many observers say, the Americans have had a lot of practice at apologizing for carnage, accidental and otherwise, and have gotten better at doing it quickly and convincingly.
I don’t mind admitting that I beamed with nationalistic pride when I learned of our country’s impressive evolution: our nation’s government is so practiced in “apologizing for carnage” that it’s becoming a perfected art. This pride become particularly bountiful when I heard NPR’s Morning Edition host Steve Inskeep yesterday talk to The Washington Post‘s Rajiv Chandrasekaran about the same topic and I learned how much worse the Afghans are by comparison (h/t dubo6254). First, Chandrasekaran observed that the level of anger in Afghanistan over their dead civilians isn’t nearly as intense and widespread as it is among Americans:
INSKEEP: Rajiv, you were noticing that the response to this in Afghanistan has been a little bit less than with the Quran burnings, say, in which no one was killed.
CHANDRASEKARAN: Yes. At least in the first few days, the level of protests have been far lower over there than there have been in the immediate wake of that. And it poses an interesting question. Obviously, over at home here in the United States I think people’s sense of revulsion at this act, the shooting, has been far greater. And you’re wondering why aren’t we seeing that same sort of reaction in the streets of Kabul, for instance.
Yes, “obviously”: the angry protests in American streets over the killing of these Afghan civilians were scary indeed. Unlike in Afghanistan, where they really don’t seem to mind, almost every American city was engulfed this week by turmoil and disruption as infuriated Americans took to the streets to rail against the ongoing slaughter by their government of civilians in Afghanistan. Indeed, “people’s sense of revulsion at this act” in civilized, life-cherishing America is “far greater” than in Afghanistan: Americans are just up in arms about it, besides themselves with rage, just like they always are when their government yet again extinguishes the lives of innocent civilians. The unrest sweeping America this week over this incident is probably the most tumultuous since that dark week of frightening protests back in December, 2009, when violent anti-war marches broke out in American cities over Obama’s cluster bomb and Tomahawk missile attack in Yemen that killed dozens of women and children. Kevin Drum this week accurately recalled the levels of American rage over the ending of that innocent human life:
Obama has suffered, as near as I can tell, literally zero embarrassment from this episode. The al Majala attack got a small bit of media attention when it happened and has been completely forgotten since [in the U.S., that is; it caused intense rage in Yemen and is still very well-remembered there].
So as we can see, while Afghans don’t seem to mind civilian slaughter — as evidenced by the less-than-robust street protests in Kabul — Americans actually cherish human life and thus will simply not tolerate it. Indeed, many Americans still suffer nightmares over the society-threatening disruptions that resulted in their country from the news that a U.S. drone attack killed 16-year-old, Denver-born, American citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki and his teenage cousin in Yemen a mere two weeks after another drone killed his American father. The citizen fury over the killing of that innocent American teenager, incited by wall-to-wall coverage of Abdulrahman’s death on MSNBC and CNN righteously denouncing the attack, raged for weeks on end, shutting down U.S. businesses and threatening oil routes.
NPR’s Inskeep explained the underlying reason why Afghans, in contrast to Americans, appear to care more about the mere burning of Korans than these heinous deaths:
INSKEEP: Human life is already cheap, is what you’re saying and religion is something that’s a little more intense.
Totally: to those primitive, excessively religious Afghans, “human life is cheap,” in contrast to Americans, who “have a lot of practice at apologizing for carnage.” Chandrasekaran, a good reporter, did explain that Afghans have “become accustomed to news of Afghan civilians dying at the hands of American forces in the middle of the night” and that this most recent massacre is therefore nothing aberrational for them. But that’s the point: there is a country here whose government is continuously extinguishing innocent human life, whose policies are grounded in the belief that “human life is already cheap,” and whose population is largely indifferent when it happens. That country is not Afghanistan.
Nelson Mandela and his wife Winnie in this undated file picture.
Mandela is accompanied by his former wife Winnie, moments after his release from prison February 11, 1990 after serving 27 years in jail. (Reuters)
In this February, 1990 photo, shortly after his release from 27 years in prison, Nelson Mandela, gives the black power salute to the 120,000 supporters packing Soccer City stadium in Soweto, near Johannesburg. (AP Photo)
Nelson Mandela showed his passport in February 19, 1990, shortly after his release from prison. The South African government authorized an application for himself and his wife Winnie - (Juda Ngwenya / Reuters)
In this July 27, 1991 photo, Cuban President Fidel Castro, and Nelson Mandela gesture during the celebration of the "Day of the Revolution" in Matanzas, Cuba. (AP Photo)
In this July 4, 1993 photo, President Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela listen during Fourth of July ceremonies in Philadelphia during which Clinton presented the Philadelphia Liberty Medal to the African National Congress president and South African President F.W. de Klerk. (AP Photo/Greg Gibson)
President of the African National Congress Nelson Mandela acknowledges cheers from the crowd as he prepares to unveil the ANC's official election platform in 1994. (AP Photo/David Brauchli)
African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela greeted residents of Mmabatho in March 1994, during a visit after the nominal homeland came under South African control following the ousting of the former President Lucas Mangope. (Reuters/Howard Burditt)
South African President Nelson Mandela smiles with actor Sidney Poitier at a press conference in Cape Town in 1996. Poitier played Mandela in the film "One Man, One Vote" (AP Photo / Sasa Kralj)
South African President Nelson Mandela waves to crowds as he sits next to Queen Elizabeth II in a an open carriage on the way to Buckingham Palace.(AP/Louisa Buller)
Chairman of the Constitutional Assembly Cyril Ramaphosa, left, holds up a copy of the country's constitution which was signed by President Nelson Mandela, in December 1996. (AP Photo / Adil Bradlow / POOL)
Nelson Mandela at a news conference in Johannesburg in February 2000. (AP Photo / Denis Farrell)
South African rugby captain Francois Pienaar, right, received the Rugby World Cup trophy from President Nelson Mandela also wearing a South African rugby shirt, after South Africa defeated New Zealand in the Rugby World Cup , in 1995. (AP Photo / Ross Setford)
Glenn Greenwald (email: GGreenwald@salon.com) is a former Constitutional and civil rights litigator and is the author of three New York Times Bestselling books: two on the Bush administration's executive power and foreign policy abuses, and his latest book, With Liberty and Justice for Some, an indictment of America's
two-tiered system of justice. Greenwald was named by The Atlantic as one of the 25 most influential political commentators in the nation. He is the recipient of the first annual I.F. Stone Award for Independent Journalism, and is the winner of the 2010 Online Journalism Association Award for his investigative work on the arrest and oppressive detention of Bradley Manning.