Argentina’s Dirty War: ‘The Official Story’

‘The Official Story’ is a masterfully crafted film that presents an alternative perspective to the Argentine military junta’s ‘Dirty War’ that began in the 1970s and left 30,000 people ‘disappeared’. Those people are los desaparecidos, taken from their homes by the military government and their death squads because they were viewed as subversives or terrorists. While there were small terrorist groups such as Montoneros, the vast majority of victims were simply students, workers or other relatively harmless citizens who disagreed with the regime. Unlike other films, such as ‘Imagining Argentina’, this film’s main focus is not the victim of state-sponsored terror, nor is it the oppressor. Instead we follow the heart wrenching story of Alicia, a member of the privileged bourgeoisie in Buenos Aires, who learns that her adopted daughter is the offspring of los desaparecidos. Alicia is symbolic of one element of society that is often overlooked when examining the effects of terrorism on a nation. The dead and missing did not die at her hands but Alicia represents the moral dilemma of those who chose to believe the ‘official story’ fed to them by their government and who are now compelled to question their complicity in allowing the situation to occur.

In the context of a high school History class, Alicia is challenged by her inquisitive students to reexamine her traditional approach to History and authority. One of her more radical students tells her “History is written by assassins.” While she is hesitant at first to listen to her students, the film follows Alicia as she undergoes a political awakening. It is difficult to believe that someone could live in Argentina during this time and not be aware of the violence and corruption happening around them. As the story unfolds, it becomes clear to Alicia that her own husband, Roberto is somehow linked to the government through his business dealings and has benefited from the military junta. It appears also she inadvertently benefited from her husbands connections, when he brings home baby Gabi for them to adopt. As the military regime unravels and there is protesting in the streets, she is forced to choose whether to remain ignorant or discover the truth about her daughter and the injustice that delivered young Gabi to her.

Alicia’s ethical turmoil surfaces alongside the political turmoil of Argentina with the protestors in the street and the fading power of the military junta. The film’s universal message is that state-sponsored terror permeates society at all levels, from the children and protestors to the wealthy families linked to the government, placing them in the moral position of challenging their own government. Unlike terrorist organizations, such as Peruvian Sendero Luminoso, terror perpetrated by the state carries an air of authority and thus can be more efficiently imposed. Kidnapping, torture, beatings and murder left thousands of Argentines devastated. However, director Puenzo delves further into the situation by exposing a moral dilemma facing those, like Alicia, who were not directly exposed to the violence or guilty of terror themselves. The dilemma of whether or not we have a duty to seek the truth and right previous wrongs even if we are not the one directly responsible for the wrongs.

This dilemma has resurfaced in American society since the administration of Bush and Cheney began it’s ‘war on terror’. Just this month, Binyam Mohamed, a Guantanamo Bay detainee, was returned to Britain and is claiming he was tortured by the US Government in collusion with British intelligence services. There were those in the administration who argued that domestic and international laws prohibiting torture, illegal detention, extraordinary rendition, domestic spying and the suspension of habeas corpus were permissible if a country is at war. In effect, they suspended the Geneva Convention dealing with the treatment of prisoners of war, and although Bush and Cheney would likely disagree, effectively meant carrying out human rights abuses comparable to those that occurred in the Dirty War in Argentina. However, the target in the latest war is not leftists but rather Islamic extremists who are labeled as terrorists fighting to bring harm to the US. While there are differences between the two wars, the main similarity is that both governments felt it was justifiable to defy international law in pursuit of their specific goals; even if it meant sacrificing people’s dignity and justice along the way.

The question now is whether or not the Bush administration will be held accountable for it’s actions. In Argentina it was recognized that the military was responsible for the illegal kidnapping, torture, murder and disappearances of thousands of innocent people. However, immediately following the fall of the junta, amnesty laws were established by the democratically elected government to protect those below the rank of colonel who were simply carrying out orders. These laws were not overturned until 2005 and so it has taken more than 20 years for families left without their loved ones to seek proper justice for crimes committed by their government during the Dirty War. It is interesting to see the reaction of the new Obama administration and American society now that Bush and Cheney are out of the White House. Obama has stated emphatically that he believes we need to “look forward as opposed to looking backwards” and Americans in general appear to agree with him, illustrated by the lack of protest and commentary on the issue. Perhaps past cases of torture and abuse of human rights will go unpunished as they did in Argentina.

Despite the age of ‘The Official Story’ and the situation that occurred in Argentina, these contemporary issues we are now facing make it more relevant than ever. There were 30,000 los desaparecidos and thousands more affected by the Dirty War, a number far higher than is suspected as tortured under the Bush administration. However, torture is still torture and remains highly deplorable when condoned by any government. Puenzo has chosen one tragic period in history and used it to illustrate the danger of an authoritarian government. Alicia’s character forces us to question the rhetoric and propaganda of our leaders and hold them accountable for actions taken. The government is supposed to represent the people and therefore they have a duty to carry out the will of the people rather than to suppress it.

Film Review: The Dancer Upstairs

‘The Dancer Upstairs’ is primarily a love story amidst the violent and complex political climate of a Latin American country. Although the specific country where the film is set is not stated, there are clear similarities between the film and the Marxist group Sendero Luminoso’s (Shining Path) attempt at a Maoist revolution in Peru. The film’s revolutionary leader Ezekiel suffered from psoriasis, was captured in a ballet studio after a police search through the household trash and was displayed to the public in a cage and prison garb just as Sendero’s leader Abimael Guzmán was in 1992. While the director, Malkovich modeled the story on Peru’s political history, the film is not a strictly historical depiction of the events surrounding the revolution. Rather than getting caught up in details Malkovich decided to focus on individual people and how the dynamics and violence of the revolution affected them in their day to day lives. The main love story between Augustin and Yolanda serves to illustrate how two people with ideologies at polar opposites are still able to fall in love.

Perhaps the main element missing from the film is a background into the Sendero Luminoso movement and how it developed among Peruvian politics. Like Ezekiel, Guzmán was the group’s inspirational leader whose origins were as a left-wing philosophy lecturer in the city of Ayacucho. The Sendero movement emerged after an ideological split occurred in the Peruvian Communist Party. Guzmán advocated a pro-Chinese rather than pro-Soviet line and moved into the countryside to develop a revolution led by the peasants. While planning began in the 1960s, Sendero did not evolve into a violent revolutionary group until 1980. The violence of the group is represented well in the film, being graphic and indiscriminate in its targets. During Sendero’s peak, actual figures for deaths have been placed at around 70,000 but this includes deaths caused by government forces and the other revolutionary group Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Those affected by the violence spanned from government officials and soldiers to young peasant children, such as the small boy who became a suicide bomber for Ezekiel in the film.

It is clear from the film that the violence of this time in Peru did not only spring from Sendero fighters. The military and government is portrayed as corrupt and ruling with an iron fist and while Augustin works as a public employee he too harbors feelings of anger towards the military for confiscating his father’s farm. Government involvement in violence is hinted at in the film and we now know that the Fujimori regime in the 1990s was responsible for various human rights abuses. Ironically, Guzmán is now serving his prison term concurrently with President Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos, the head of the intelligence service under Fujimori. The film’s story does not focus on these specific details but instead serves to illustrate the tone and oppression felt under an autocratic and authoritarian rule. At times it almost feels that Augustin is working at cross purposes to the government and indeed this is probably how some law enforcement officials felt when combating Sendero violence.

One of the less accurate depictions in the film appears to be the native Indian involvement and participation in Sendero’s revolution. On Augustin’s trip to his hometown, he discusses Sendero with local Indian peasants, who describe Ezekiel as “the wind in every tree”. It is true the movement was based on a Maoist idea of peasant revolution and in many cases Sendero established viable communities and worked to protect local Indian populations. In reality the Indian and peasant population were often taken advantage of and manipulated into joining the ranks of their terrorist group. It has been reported that children were forced into guerilla combat and ultimately the Truth and Reconciliation Commission investigating Peru’s internal conflict reported that 75 percent of those killed spoke Quecha as their mother tongue. It was also reported that not all died at the hands of Sendero with many deaths attributed to the Peruvian military and government sponsored death squads in their counter insurgency efforts. Unfortunately it was the peasants that suffered most as they struggled to maintain a delicate equilibrium in which they could satisfy the demands of both Sendero and Fujimori’s government. Massacres were carried out in Barrios Altos, La Cantuta, Lucanamarca and Hauyllo by both sides and resulted in the deaths of many innocent Indians and peasants. As is too often the case it was those ordinary people that the extreme Communist party was attempting to liberate that ultimately lost their lives in the revolution.

While the film may have romanticized peasant perception of the revolution, through the love story and character of Augustin we are able to see how penetrating the revolutionary conflict was in Peruvian society. Augustin is determined to end Sendero’s violent campaign but he is also clearly not in agreement with the government and how the military is dealing with the crisis. His village priest was murdered by Sendero but his father’s farm was also taken by the military. He is affected by both parties and faces an internal struggle to follow the law of a corrupt government while at the same time wanting to end the violence of Ezekiel’s group. By focusing on the love story, the film is also able to illustrate how illogical the ideology and motivation of terrorists can be. Both Augustin and Yolanda fall in love without knowing the background of one another. The fact that these two were able to fall in love despite clear ideological differences shows the absurdity of the situation. Yolanda’s final rejection of Augustin does also illustrate how passionate she and her comrades were. Unfortunately Sendero was so determined in their revolution that in the end their war against the establishment crippled the economy and infrastructure of Peru and left thousands of innocent people displaced and dead.

Gay Marriage and the Bible

In December 2008, Newsweek published a cover article on how the bible does not outlaw gay marriage and how it cannot be used by conservatives to oppose gay marriage. While Newsweek should be commended for running such a high profile article defending gay marriage and the bible I think it really misses the point on gay marriage.

America likes to hold itself up as a model democracy that separates religion from politics and protects the rights of all regardless of their faith. So why should we listen when Christians, or even Muslims for that matter, hold up their holy book as the reason gay marriage should not be legal. I do not adhere to a purely Christian lifestyle, nor do I follow teachings from the Old or New Testament, so why should the law that I follow have to meet the criteria of a scripture that means little to me?

Regardless of this, if we look at the law now there are many already in existence that defy Christian scriptures. For example, slavery, divorce, equality for women and abortion. There are some conservative Christians who would even do away with these laws if they had the choice. And that is exactly what it is about. CHOICE. Even if someone does not believe in abortion or gay marriage everyone should have the freedom to decide whether or not they will take advantage of the laws made available to them. I myself would not opt for an abortion but that doesn’t mean I would force other women to follow my thinking, especially if the circumstances in which a woman became pregnant was through rape.

If Christians are adamant in keeping gay marriage illegal then they need to come up with something other than the teachings of their faith to defend their argument. If we are able to set aside such teachings, really what it comes down to is that these people are uncomfortable with gay marriage. The very thought of homosexual relations disgusts them. If this is the case, then they have no excuse attacking gay rights. I do not believe in the right to bare arms simply to hunt animals, but that doesn’t mean I would take that right away from someone who does. When it comes down to it we are all people and we are all individuals, with our own beliefs and identities. While it may be difficult, the law should attempt to reflect all our beliefs and needs. Whether we choose to take advantage of the opportunities presented to us comes down to the individual.

War on Drugs in Columbia

In ‘Plan Columbia: Cashing in on the Drug War Failure’, directors Ungerman and Brohy present a poignant and well-rounded documentary dealing with the United States’ involvement in the drug problem in Columbia. Through interviews with various parties in Columbia and the United States they are quite successful in portraying the political climate in Columbia, and the complex situation surrounding the drug trade. While it is clear that the directors are not advocates of Plan Columbia they were careful to include all concerned parties including government officials from Columbia and the US, military and paramilitary commanders, FARC-ELN guerilla fighters, and most importantly local Columbians. Through the questioning of interested intellectuals and experts, they were also able to present a possibly viable and long lasting alternative in ending the ‘war on drugs’.

The documentary opens with an intense look at ‘alternative development’, an incentive program in which farmers growing coca would be offered government finance to move into other legal crops. By intertwining the interviews of US ambassadors and the State Department with local mayors and farmers, the film is able to illustrate a clear distinction between official rhetoric and the reality of a grassroots Columbian economy. Realistically the compensation package for farmers is far from sufficient and switching to alternative crops like fruit is an unattractive option when considering transport problems, limited access to markets and competition in a global economy. The plan is also aimed at reducing coca crops through the extensive use of a chemical defoliant program funded by the US. The film highlights that defoliant spraying is responsible for environmental and health problems, destruction of legal crops and increasing profits of US chemical companies like Dyncorp. Despite these two programs, drug production has actually increased and so now more than ever intellectuals and think tanks are advocating drug treatment programs as more cost effective and longer lasting. With such strong support for a domestic plan against drugs the question is raised as to exactly why the US would pursue its plan in Columbia over more effective local measures.

The answer to this question becomes clearer as the film moves into the military component of Plan Columbia. The real essence of the plan appears to be militarizing Columbia to fight against guerilla groups such as the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Columbia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN). According to the State Department and the Columbian Government, FARC and ELN are terrorist organizations heavily involved in drug trafficking and therefore must be eliminated. However, the documentary questions this assessment through interviews with guerilla fighters claiming they simply are taxing local farmers in return for protection. These groups originally sprang from student leftist movements in the 1960s, unhappy with the Columbian establishment. While the documentary tends to be sympathetic towards FARC-ELN it is careful to present the US and Columbian Government’s assessment of the guerilla threat. A balanced and largely unbiased portrayal is probably the main strength of the film and allows the audience to reach their own conclusions about the Columbian political climate by drawing on a variety of sources.

However, being comprehensive also meant that much of the complex history of FARC-ELN and its encounters with the US were glossed over. For this we must turn to other academics such as James Petras for a deeper analysis of the situation. Petras analyzes the history of US policy towards terrorist groups in greater depth, tracing the organized effort by the US against FARC-ELN back to the Kennedy administration in the early 1960s. He believes the main difference between the US counter-insurgency plan then and now is the ‘scale and scope of intervention’ and puts this down to the evolving political climate in Columbia and across the globe. Official ideological justification has transitioned through anti-Communism, anti-drugs and most recently anti-terrorism. However, he maintains that US intentions actually revolve around other ‘geopolitical issues’. Such as the perceived threat of Venezuelan President Chavez’s independent policy, access to oil supplies, preserving a strong conservative Columbian government allied to the US and more generally in maintaining US hegemony. This aspect is briefly touched on in ‘Plan Columbia’ and it is difficult to disagree with Petras, Ungerman and Brohy that a ‘war on drugs’ is simply a front for a greater US economic and political strategy in Latin America.

While the film ‘Plan Columbia’ provides a general survey of underlying US policy in Columbia it examines paramilitary forces carefully, the group that by far poses the greatest threat to peace and security in the region. The government denies coordination between the military and paramilitary groups, but there is clearly a connection through funding and training. While the US target FARC-ELN members relentlessly, these right leaning paramilitary groups are passing under the radar of Columbian military. The scale of violence perpetrated by such groups is evident in the huge population of internally displaced refugees, the third largest population in the world. While they are targeting FARC-ELN, paramilitary are also killing civilians with links to leftist groups or those simply living in FARC-ELN controlled areas. Thousands of civilians are dead and thousands more are leaving their homes, attempting to escape the violence. Despite deaths by paramilitary, the US continues to target leftist terrorist groups and the audience questions government policy and exactly what makes FARC-ELN terrorists and not right-wing paramilitaries.

It is clear that there are many inconsistencies and problems with Plan Columbia but less discussed is the long-term consequences of the plan. Pouring billions of dollars into defoliants and military buildup has created environmental problems and a large military force acting legally and illegally. If the war on drugs and by extension a war against left-wing FARC-ELN is ultimately successful, Columbia will still be left with thousands of soldiers and militia with weapons in their hands and no income. Petras discusses a possible ‘blowback consequence’ where Washington’s allies and sponsored military betray the US and become enemies. This occurred in Afghanistan after the CIA gave military support to warlords battling Soviet forces and the US is now fighting those they originally supported. This is a very real danger and when placed against a discontented population left ravaged by civil war, could create a Columbia armed and hostile to the US. It is difficult to disagree with the suggestion by Petras’ and ‘Plan Columbia’ that alternative programs like drug treatment would not only be more cost effective but would also mean a long-term, stable Columbia allied with the US. It is not just an emotional choice to end this long campaign against FARC-ELN it also makes economic and strategic sense.

Honestly . . . Who Throws a Shoe?

As I’m sure you are all very aware of by now, George W. Bush was the latest victim of a shoe throwing attack. This incident occurred at a press conference held in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday evening as President Bush said farewell to Iraq. As the President was speaking, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush who successfully ducked for cover. It was an obvious statement from one unhappy Iraqi to the Bush administration.

The reaction from Bush was nothing out of the ordinary. He laughed it off with his usual smug expression and tried to joke about the incident. The reaction of Americans back home was varied, but it does appear many saw it as embarrassing and ‘childish’. Both Bush and some Americans seem to miss the whole point in the Iraqi throwing his shoe. Bush tried to dismiss the incident and asked the question:

“So what if a guy threw his shoe at me?” – President Bush 12/14/2008

Can we really expect President Bush after all his years in office to look beyond his simple concept of the action and analyze the cultural significance of an Iraqi civilian throwing a shoe at him? The media has bombarded us with stories and articles describing exactly what this means in the Muslim world. It is an obvious sign of contempt and it was meant as a sign of defiance as Bush leaves the White House. Whether Americans understood it or not is irrelevant. The journalist Muntadar al-Zeidi who threw his shoes is now a national hero in Iraq and thousands took to the streets to protest against President Bush, inspired by this man’s actions.

What I find really ironic is that we are now seeing old pictures and footage of Iraqi civilians defacing Saddam’s fallen statue with their shoes. This happened back in 2003 when America invaded Iraq. The difference is that Saddam Hussein was President of Iraq from 1979 until 2003, for more than 20 years. It only took President Bush about 5 years to get the same shoe treatment.

Response to Mumbai Attacks – Invade New Zealand???

After the Mumbai attacks in India, local Indians came out in protest last week. They protested against the Indian Government’s mismanagement of the terrorist attacks and called for war against Pakistan. While the Indian Government has not openly blamed the Pakistani Government for the terrorist attacks they have certainly hinted at it, calling for swift action to curb terrorist violence. Whatever the official stance of the Indian Government it would seem the Indian public has already made up it’s mind as to who is responsible.

The history between India and Pakistan has been long and turbulent since the violent split in 1947. Three wars have been fought in 60 years and they were able to avoid another war as recently as 2001. However, for the last few years they had been able to rebuild some semblance of friendly relations and even increased trade across disputed borders in the Kashmir province.

Considering both nations are nuclear armed, war would seem like the least favorable option at the moment. While the Indian Government may have suspicions, is it not more sensible for the two countries to work through this diplomatically. According to most reports and evidence that India has collected, the Mumbai attacks seem to be the work of terrorist organizations. Regardless of where they are from I do not think it is a good idea to be pointing fingers at potentially hostile neighbors such as Pakistan.

This is a terrorist attack and that means the terrorists had a purpose in carrying it out. Maybe it was to kill as many Western tourists and business people as possible. Perhaps it was to provoke war between these long time rivals. If that was their intention then it may come to fruition. Do we really want to give the terrorists what they want? The clearer and more noble message to convey would seem to be a protest against religious extremism and acts of terrorism. To reject all violence and call for peace. Another war is not what we need.

The War in Iraq should have taught us this lesson. If the number one military and economic power in the world cannot defeat terrorism outright, then how will a war between India and Pakistan solve anything. But then there wasn’t much logic in invading Iraq. Perhaps we should take Stephen Colbert’s advice:

I say India should respond to this attack from Pakistan the same way we did when we were attacked … invade an unrelated country! Let’s say … New Zealand. Colbert Report 12/04/08

A Neverending Debt – Satisfying the Minorities

The latest addition to Obama’s future cabinet this week was New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, who will be the next Secretary of Commerce. This seems to be a wise choice and I believe he will be a strong and loyal ally of Obama, as exhibited by Richardson when he publicly switched his support from Hillary Clinton to Obama in the primary campaign.

What alarmed me when this hit the news was the reaction from the Hispanic community. They believed that after the support given by Hispanics in ensuring Obama’s election to President, that there should be a strong representation of Hispanics in Obama’s senior staff, particularly the role of Secretary of State. According to some Hispanics he possessed far higher qualifications than actual nominee Clinton and felt they were owed something for getting Obama into the White House.

This seems utterly ridiculous considering the current climate. Since arriving in America I have observed that the whole country is divided up into different races, colors, minorities, sub-cultures, parties and various other useful labels, despite the emphasis on being truly ‘American’. Everyone is ‘owed’ something and it is not because of their skills or competency but rather from the group they originate from. It seems the debt owed to these various groups far exceeds the more than one trillion dollars of debt America now has.

I would think that with the desperate economy being the way it is, Obama should choose the best candidate for the job and not someone from a special interest group in Obama’s campaign. We need talented people in government at all times, but particularly now. If only Americans were able to put aside their vested interests then we might be able to get some actual work done.

Respect Your Elders

Does this look like the face of a criminal? A thief, pickpocket or embezzler? Well according to latest reports, crime is on the increase among the elderly in Japan. Since 2002, the crime rate among Japanese people over the age of 65 has doubled. While the crimes being committed are generally not too serious, it is a surprising and alarming finding. About one fifth of the Japanese population are aged over 65 and with the baby boomer generation entering this group within the next five years, a further rise in crime is expected.

Why are these usually harmless folk turning to crime more regularly? Probably the most obvious answer is the economic downturn. The Japanese government has been cutting back significantly on welfare payments in the last few years and so their elderly cannot even afford daily necessities. Their pensions and welfare payments are simply not enough to survive on.

However, there is also a social issue here. Traditionally in Japan, the children take on the responsibility of caring for their parents. This social norm has slowly been disappearing and so the elderly are forced to look after themselves and survive on government payments. Society is not setup to deal with this problem. Aged care facilities are inadequate and the government seems incapable of finding a solution.

Of course, such problems lead to a feeling of isolation and helplessness. One homeless 79 year old woman slashed two people in the hope she would be arrested and that the police would take care of her. Other men who lose their wives and are incapable of looking after themselves turn to crime so that they may be fed three times a day.

As the population in Japan grows older and the birth rate declines there will be less people contributing taxes and more turning to the government for help. This is a very serious problem and the Japanese government needs to do something drastic if they are going to fix it. Perhaps even Japanese society will need to take a good hard look at themselves. Maybe the tradition of caring for parents needs to be revived and god forbid we even suggest increasing immigration to bring in younger, skilled workers. Pride can be a wonderful thing but sometimes we need to put aside our pride and be willing to change to help those in our communities who need help.

A Truly Black, Black Friday

The exact origin of the term ‘Black Friday’ appears unclear. One theory refers to the excessive traffic and overcrowding that occurs as consumers flock to the stores to catch the bargains in stores that follow Thanksgiving, creating traffic jams and congestion. The other theory draws on traditional accounting methods which use the color black to report profits in the clear, which is what usually happens to stores in the holiday season. Whatever the origin, what is clear is that Black Friday is truly a day that pays homage to the American ideal of exorbitant consumerism.

Nowhere was this Black Friday excess more evident than at a Walmart in Long Island at a 5am ‘doorbuster sale’. Indeed, the doors of this particular Walmart were burst from its hinges as 2000 frenzied shoppers ‘busted’ through the entrance. In the process Jdimytai Damour, a 34 year old Walmart employee was crushed to death. According to news reports, the people pushed past the fallen man and when the announcement was made that the store would be closed due to a few injuries (including a pregnant woman) and a DEATH, people raised their voices in protest. They were upset that they had too wait so long in the lines over the last day and now they were being forced out of the store before they could secure the elusive bargain. This is the real tragedy of the situation. That people were willing to prioritize their shopping needs above a dying man.

Of course, it is not really surprising that this incident occurred at a Walmart store. Walmart is the very epitome of American consumerism. It is known for overworking and underpaying employees, skimping on benefits and creating marketing strategies that target lower socio-economic neighborhoods. So it is not surprising that one of their employees perished in their endless pursuit to make a buck.

The question now is what is to become of Jdimytai Damour’s family and friends? Will they be compensated or receive any sort of recognition that what happened to their beloved was pointless and tragic. What did this man die for? It was not to defend the freedom of the American people nor any other noble agenda. Perhaps we could say that it was defending the freedom of Americans to consume. However, does anyone really believe that the death of any single person can be justified by this reasoning?

When the Walmart death comes up in conversation it is clear that Americans are upset and horrified. However, the fact that there were those who pushed passed paramedics trying to save Damour’s life is indicative of the apathy of Americans in matters such as this. Yes, they are horrified but still they turn out in record numbers every year and take on a new, savage persona as they rip through stores seeking out bargains. If anything, one would have hoped the flailing economy could have quenched their insatiable need.

Now Americans and indeed other consumers around the world need to question what are the really important things in life. Certainly not the latest Wii or flat screen TV. Life is far more important then anything we can find in a store and we must learn to respect the life and liberty of others and not just our own.

The Bush Philosophy – Living By One’s Principles

“The thing that’s important for me is to get home and look in that mirror and say, I did not compromise my principles. And I didn’t.” – ABC News Interview with Charlie Gibson 12/01/08

One begs to ask the question, what if your principles included raping and murdering young children? Or more realistically, invading a country using false intelligence and justifying the resulting deaths of over 4000 US soldiers and 90,000 Iraqi civilians as necessary in the defense of democracy and safety of American citizens.

Of course, principles sound like a wonderful concept and indeed everyone should strive to both have them and live by them. What is in question here though, is not whether President Bush has his own prescribed principles and abides by them but exactly what standard he uses to set them. If his one goal throughout the presidency was to live by his principles then well done because it appears he has done so successfully. We are now embroiled in war in Afghanistan and Iraq, have the USA PATRIOT Act impinging on civil liberties and perhaps the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression in 1929. This is not a list of achievements I would proudly hold up as my own.

Probably the thing that irks me most about Bush not compromising his principles is that he emphasised that they were his principles. As President, it is his duty to serve the American people and the principles they hold to be true. His statement really should have run more along the lines of “I did not compromise the principles of the American people.” But this is all unneccessary talk as we all know we are rid of him come January 20th. Still at least it appears he is acknowledging the fact that it was his principles that got us into the mess we’re all in now.