The Trajectory of 'Progress'
As the calender page turns, so does the nation's historical focus. Black History Month is history.
March is Women's History month -- that time of year when those so inclined reflect on the progressive contributions to society made by the females.
One of the most celebrated female figures in American history is, of course, Eleanor Roosevelt. And when I think of FDR's First Lady, I think of her leadership in helping to establish the United Nations, hoping to advance the cause of peace, mutual security and human rights.
How apropos then that Women's History Month would coincide with a U.N. spying scandal. Last week, Clare Short, a former British cabinet minister, acknowledged that Britain spied on U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan in the run up to last year's invasion of Iraq.
Short's confession came the day after the British government dropped its charges against Katharine Gun, a former British intelligence official who leaked a U.S. National Security memo a month before the war.
The memo described a U.S. effort to spy on U.N. security council diplomats, targeting the six "undecided" countries on the council. The aim was to influence the Security Council to pass a war resolution with help from the Brits.
The Gun story first broke in early March 2003 in the London Observer but was studiously ignored by our "liberal" media. A cursory look into the matter would have revealed that the NSA memo was dated January 31, 2003 -- a week before Colin Powell gave his "sexed up" Iraqi threat speech at the U.N. on Feb. 5.
Since the charges against Gun were dropped, the Institute for Public Accuracy released a statement last week just in time for Women's History Month, heralding Gun as a "genuine heroine."
"She courageously exposed what the Blair and Bush governments sought to keep from the light of day -- the spying on U.N. diplomats at a crucial time when the Security Council was considering a resolution for war on Iraq."
An interesting contrast to Condi Rice, who is now refusing to testify before the 9/11 investigation commission.
Remember when GOP-die hards, with a copy of the Federalist Papers tucked in their back pocket, used to fret about the alleged erosion of American sovereignty under the growing authority of the United Nations?
In fact, fretting Federalists used this exact argument to justify why the U.S. should not be a party of the International Criminal Court, which ironically was set up by western legal experts to try dictators like Sadaam Hussein in accordance with international law.
Phyllis Bennis, a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and author of "Calling the Shots: How Washington Dominates Today's U.N.," points out that "for an extraordinary eight months, the U.N. stood defiant of the U.S. demand that the world body authorize Washington's war. That defiance eventually collapsed when, under extraordinary U.S. pressure, the Security Council passed resolution 1583, more or less authorizing the post-war U.S. occupation."
Bennis also provides a bit of historical perspective on U.S.-U.N. relations. At the 1945 U.N. planning conference in San Francisco, "U.S. intelligence agencies were bugging the offices and rooms of the other delegations, and intercepting and breaking coded diplomatic messages -- including those of Washington's closest allies -- in an operation known as 'Ultra.' The U.S. used the knowledge obtained from the illegal bugs to craft the U.N.'s agenda, draft the U.N. Charter, and pressure other countries to accept Washington's positions on such issues as the veto and permanent Security Council seats for itself and its allies."
Meanwhile, Haiti is in turmoil and the U.N. is virtually silent. The Bush administration and the French are calling for Aristide, a priest turned president, to step down before his term ends.
Bill Fletcher, executive director of TransAfrica, offers more scathing remarks. "The revelations regarding the alleged spying deepen our dismay and anger over how the Bush administration has chosen to treat any nation or institution over which it does not have total control."
Fletcher is calling on Congress to investigate the illegal U.N. spying effort, which cannot be separated from the present turmoil in Haiti, he says. "We are witnessing a threat to the sovereignty of Haiti, where a democratically elected government is being undermined by an external military force. Thus, the world sits and waits in anticipation of whether the United Nations will take a stand in favor of Haitian democracy and sovereignty, or will cave before the U.S. and France -- and turn a blind eye to the horror unfolding."
And according to Eugenia Charles-Mathurin, co-director of the Haiti Reborn/Quixote Center, the U.S. has had a hand in creating the mess in Haiti, given the CIA links to Haitian death squads who are credited with killing over 5,000 Haitian civilians from 1991 to 1994.
"President Aristide, the constitutional president, has pledged to step down from power when his term comes to a close. In accordance with the Haitian Constitution, he cannot run again," she added. Yet, the Bush administration is calling for Aristide to leave office now.
Call me a wimp or a man with an Oedipus complex but I believe the feminine spirit, which we celebrate this month, is the world's salvation. Unfortunately, our political and opinion leaders are calling for more machismo.
I suppose all progress is made by taking two steps forward and one step back. But unless we stem the rising tide of macho Machiavellism, progress will be redefined as one step forward and two steps back.
Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columnist.