Something is rotten in the United States of Amerikkka
The attempted assassination of Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was a terrible and cowardly act of homegrown American terrorism which is rightly sending shockwaves throughout the civilised world. It brings to mind the high-profile assassinations of the Kennedy brothers, Martin Luther King Jnr, Malcolm X and many others who opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
Giffords was a high-profile supporter of President Obama’s healthcare reforms and a hate figure of the Republican offshoot Tea Party movement. Giffords was speaking in Tucson at a street meeting. Six others have been reported dead after a 22-year old gunman opended fire into the crowd, including a nine year old girl.
Yesterday’s shootings cannot be glibly dismissed as the actions of a one-off nutjob or an isolated gunfreak. Those who have suggested this in the last 24 hours are either naive beyond belief or haven’t been paying attention.
American politics is currently under siege from trigger happy voices in the media and in elected office. A few years ago Pat Robertson infamously called for the assassination of Hugo Chavez – the democratically elected head of a sovereign nation. It was only last month that Tom Flanagan, political advisor to the Canadian Prime Minister, was openly calling for the assassination of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange. Yet influential people like these have been treated with kid gloves by the authorities. If either had been from a leftist or Islamic background they’d have had the feds round, armed to the teeth, and kicking in their front doors.
No one at the Justice Department bats an eyelid these days when Republican journalists call for political assassinations. All you have to do is spray the T-word at a political opponent and they become fair game.
“We should treat Mr Assange the same way as other high-value terrorist targets: Kill him,” wrote conservative columnist Jeffrey T Kuhner in the Washington Times on 2nd December. The Washington Times, as can be seen here, helpfully carried a picture of Julian Assange with targetted crosshairs on it.
“I’d like to ask a simple question” wrote pundit Jonah Goldberg in the Chicago Times . “: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?” And in case you missed it the first time: “Why wasn’t Assange garroted in his hotel room years ago? It’s a serious question.” No, it’s a serious example of how low American newspapers have sunk in recent times.
“The CIA should kill Julian Assange,” was the headline over an article by John Hawkins on the Right Wing News website. Ominously this website has as its homepage strapline: “Kneecapping Obama at every opportunity.”
Political figures have joined in. William Kristol, former Chief of Staff to Vice President Dan Quayle, asked: “Why can’t we use our various assets to harass, snatch or neutralize Julian Assange and his collaborators, wherever they are?” In his 30th November entry ‘Whack Wikileaks’ on the Weekly Standard blog, editor Kristol questioned why WikiLeaks cannot be destroyed, both in cyberspace and in physical space.
Even more sinister, Rick Santorum, a potential presidential contender, has accused Assange of “terrorism”. And he’s not the only politician with eyes on the Whitehouse who thinks violence is acceptable so long as it’s sugar-coated inside a bogus ‘anti-terrorist’ pill.
This is the political climate in America today. The lunatics are hammering away at their keyboards demanding violent retribution against opponents, while the self-appointed champions of freedom and democracy look the other way. Political observers must be seriously wondering when the first assassination attempt will take place on President Obama. Politicians like Sarah Palin have prepared the ground.
It will be interesting and illuminating to see how the American justice system treats Sarah Palin over this. The former Governor of Alaska has become the pin up girl of the nutty right and she is surely aware of the intellectual chasm that divides sentient homo sapiens and some of her more deranged gun-toting supporters. Yet she still published a campaign photo on September 24th last year with crosshairs aimed at twenty elected representatives who supported Obama’s healthcare reforms. Giffords, as we now know, was one of them.
It is disingenuous of Palin through her aide Rebecca Mansour to claim today that these weren’t meant to be taken literally. Yet Palin’s Facebook page had twenty targets under the headline: “We’ve diagnosed the problem. …Help us prescribe the solution.” Her most famous catchline is: “Don’t retreat: RELOAD.” Given what has now happened it is difficult to read this as anything other than an exhortation to violence or murder. Will an arrest warrant now be issued?
Palin is a nasty piece of work and has form when it comes to death threats. She compared Assange with the usual suspects and wanted to know “Why was he not pursued with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders?”
It’s increasingly evident that the USA is going through a bitter social crisis following a decade of war, banking bailouts, rampant home re-possessions, growing social discontent, and a widening gap between super-rich corporations and the people. Many people there, grown indiscrimately angry, simply cannot stomach the idea of a caring democratic society. Violence as a solution is a growing cancer in America.
Yes it is scary and yes there are parallels with the political violence that preceded events in Germany in 1933. But there are still many voices of sanity and calm in the USA. Keith Olberman writing for MNBC is one of them. From this side of the Atlantic we can ony hope such voices are heard.