Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Off The Radar Near And Far

With the 2012 U.S. presidential election increasingly capturing the
attention of the American public, as well as the gyrating stock market
(with its impact on virtually every adult's pension plans and net worth),
the Green Bay Packers so-far undefeated march to the Super Bowl, the
probable (and indefensible) cancellation of the the whole pro basketball
season, the "Occupy" phenomenon by small numbers of protesters who
are a rebuke to Procter & Gamble's soap products, and the usual celebrity
suspects filling up the pages of gossip columns and magazines seen at
every grocery check-out counter, it is understandable that some
important events and stories, near and far, are off the American media
radar as we head into the Thanksgiving holiday of 2011.

In Washington, DC a few days ago, I attended a program at the
distinguished Heritage Foundation think tank at which the deliberate
ignoring by the U.S. media of recent intensification of human rights abuse
in Cuba was discussed. Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen, the powerful
chair of the House Foreign Affairs committee (she also represents
the south Florida district where so many Cuban refugees have settled)
was the main speaker, along with an impressive panel of Latin America
experts. Their assertion? That the Obama administration, in its hurry to
re-establish U.S. relations with a hostile Marxist regime in Cuba, is silent
about these human rights abuses, and that the uncritical U.S. liberal
media are going along by not reporting what is happening, even as U.S.
sanctions are being relaxed. To be fair, the repressive conditions are not
being much more widely reported by many in the conservative media as
well, even though these media are normally critical of the Castro brothers
totalitarian regime. (Do I need to point out that Cuba is less than 10o
miles from Florida, and was almost responsible for setting off a world
war in 1962 when it invited the Soviet Union to place missiles in Cuba
with nuclear weapons aimed at the U.S.?)

Getting media attention, but not much public attention, is the continued
quest, apparently near completion, of Iran to begin making nuclear
weapons with which to threaten Israel, its own Arab neighbors and
Europe. (They already have long-range missiles with which to deliver
them.) The Obama administration, to its credit, has been consistently
opposed verbally, and with sanctions, to this development, but it is
increasingly evident that the Iranian dictatorship will not stop unless it
is physically prevented from doing so. This leaves the tiny state of Israel,
explicitly threatened with extinction by Iran, to take risky unilateral
action to protect its citizens from a new Holocaust. Israeli officials have
in recent weeks and months been warning that such action is inevitable,
with or without U.S. or European support. Is anyone paying attention?

Most dramatic of all, however, is the velocity of the break-up of the
European Union and its unitary currency, the euro. Using the word
"contagion" (a word usually reserved for a deadly pandemic of disease),
European media is filled with horrific stories of imminent collapse of its
various member states, punctuated by temporary (and superficial)
efforts to rescue the post-World War II experiment to avert the historic
conflicts and violence between that nations of Europe. U.S. media
attention has made focus on the problems of the smaller European
states such as Greece, Portugal, Spain and even Italy, while the
underlying vulnerability of the major European nations, including
Germany, France and Great Britain is passed over. I might point out
that it is not only a failure of U.S. media to adequately cover and
explain the European crisis, but also the political leaders of both
major U.S. parties. I might ask the question: Which of the GOP
presidential candidates, including the frontrunners and "experts" on
foreign policy, have bothered to address seriously the European crisis
and its likely impact on the U.S. economy? I realize that the crisis in
the U.S. economy is a priority, and is being addressed, but can it be
adequately discussed without understanding the impact of the
European and worldwide crisis being taken into account?

Recent political and natural crises in the Korean peninsula, Japan
and Central America also impact the United States, and continue to
unfold quietly (and disturbingly), but public attention to them is

Some of this is normal, of course, in the sense that most Americans
are not naturally preoccupied with world affairs and far-away events,
nor, in more ordinary times, should they be. But these are not ordinary
times, and any one of these crises, near or far, that I have mentioned,
and perhaps some I have not listed, could explode into a catastrophe
of dimensions not experienced in the (relatively brief) history of our
human civilization. That is the destination to which the explosion of
human global population and that the uncontrolled growth of human
technology seems to be taking us to.

It would not take a big event to set one of these crises off into something
much bigger. One hundred years ago, an open carriage carrying some
celebrity passengers on a sunny summer day in the Balkans took a
last-minute and unplanned detour in the narrow streets of the Serbian
capital city, and a single deranged person by chance happened to be on
the route of the detour. What he then did set off a worldwide conflict
which has, in real terms, lasted (with brief periods of respite) since that
time, costing literally more than a hundred million lives and unspeakable

Copyright (c) 2011 by Barry Casselman
All rights reserved.

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