Monday, February 15, 2010, Safar 30, 1431 A.H   ISSN 1563-9479
 Group Chairman: Mir Javed Rahman Founded by: Mir Khalil-ur-Rahman Editor-in-Chief: Mir Shakil-ur-Rahman 
    News on Sunday
    Health Body & Mind
    Investor's J.
    Viewers' Forum
    Today's Cartoon
    Business & Finance Review
    MAG Fashion
   Opinion Archive
   Fashion Archive
   Magazine Archive
   Style Archive

   Currency Rates
   KSE Index
   Bullion Rates
   Prize Bonds

Opinion Archive
The News International Pakistan

 Is America irrelevant?
By Ayesha Ijaz Khan
?America is an empire on an irresistible decline. It is increasingly irrelevant in the world.? Had the statement come from Osama bin Laden or one of his key deputies, I may have summarily dismissed it. But these are the words of Gore Vidal, Jacqueline Kennedy?s stepbrother and one of America?s most eminent writer/historians.

After living in Italy for the last thirty years, Mr Vidal has returned to his native United States of America at the ripe old age of 82 to salvage, in his words, ?whatever little is left of the republic.? A strict constitutionalist and a severe critic of President Bush and the warmongering Republican machinery, Mr Vidal casts serious doubt on the legitimacy of George Bush?s presidency when he says that ?he was never elected by the people. He was anointed by the Supreme Court most illegally and re-elected due to a stolen election in 2004.?

Outspoken Vidal laments that the current US administration has ?shredded the Constitution and dispensed with habeas corpus and Magna Carta,? cornerstones of the American justice system. Bemoaning aberrations in the legal system resonates potently with Pakistanis like me, given the judicial crisis in our own country. Unlike in the US, however, Pakistani civil society decided not to go down without a fight and was supported by a by and large objective media, unlike the ?entirely corrupted US media,? as Gore Vidal refers to it.

When Stephen Sackur of BBC?s famous show Hard Talk suggests that Mr Vidal?s views may only appeal to a small section of society, the writer immediately dismisses the insinuation by saying, ?Don?t be confused. I am immensely popular.?

Although BBC America is too sanitised to air Vidal?s virulent words, many Americans are hungry for information and thirsty for change. Apart from the 15-odd percent who refuse to vote for Obama simply because they take FOX News at face value and thus mistakenly believe that he is Muslim, there are those who are actively searching the internet for alternative, truth-bearing sources, shunning the Wall Street Journal and New York Times for publications like CounterPunch and preferring eyewitness blogs from Iraq to reports of embedded journalists.

Certainly, emails I receive in response to articles I write seem to support the idea that Americans are tired of being fed the same old one-sided lies. If I write about America?s illicit designs on Iran, for example, I receive emails from several Americans thanking me for bringing out another perspective, one that their media fails to bring to them. And if I write about America?s dubious role in Pakistan?s judicial crisis, then I receive even more sympathetic emails from yet more Americans, warning me about how terrible their own government is and how helpless and cheated they feel.

While it has been quite common in Pakistan to doubt the government?s motives and competence for several years now, this attitude on the part of the Americans is new and not one that I remember to have encountered previously. In Pakistan, the government?s performance has often been less than satisfactory, leaving much to be desired by the average person, hence the lack of trust. But in the US, historically, there was a high level of expectation and confidence in their government. The fact that this has changed so radically under Mr Bush is indicative of how utterly unhappy many Americans are with the state of affairs in their country.

In order to be a superpower that effectively influences policy globally, it would, in my view, be quite imperative that the superpower in question should have its own people behind its administration in large numbers. But this is definitely not the case. And thus, perhaps Mr Vidal is perceptive when he states that ?America is increasingly irrelevant.?

Yet this essential information seems to have passed Pakistanis by. I am stunned in conversations with other Pakistanis by how incredibly relevant they find America to be. Just last week, an ex-government minister was a guest at my home. Once again, we argued, as I rarely agree with him on domestic or international affairs, and once again he insisted that no government in Pakistan would be able to take any measures in opposition to the Bush administration?s dictates.

Of course, the connected and powerful are most guilty of perpetuating this view in Pakistan. But the delusion does not stop there. It is also encouraged by other segments of society, including the largely middle-class media. I was stunned, for instance, when a few months ago I read an investigative report on the tribal areas in this newspaper (a newspaper that I ordinarily hold in high regard) quoting at length from the Boston-based Christian Science Monitor. It would have made plenty sense had the situation been reversed?i.e., the American newspaper quoting The News on developments in Pakistan?s tribal areas. But to have our investigative reporters look to America for current information on what is going on in our tribal belt was, to say the least, emasculating. Even if done inadvertently, such oversights go a long way in cultivating a culture of powerlessness and resignation to America?s grand designs, of which it may know precious little, for if one is to believe Mr Vidal, America is stuck with a ?sleepwalker? for president and ?Mr Magoo? as the Republican heir apparent.

?The Republican Party is not a party,? clarifies Mr Vidal, ?it is a mindset.? That mindset seems to have gripped onto the minds of Pakistanis more powerfully than those of the Americans themselves. Americans, and perhaps the Western world in general, have a policy of providing platforms and according laurels to aberrant voices from the Muslim world. The Salman Rushdies and Irshad Manjis of this world are listened to attentively although they may represent an almost insignificant minority. Yet, we make little effort to seek out or celebrate alternative American voices, the Gore Vidals, Ralph Naders, and the like, to speak and inform us of their attempts to resuscitate America?s once awe-inspiring, but more recently, tainted democracy.

The writer is a London-based lawyer and can be contacted via her website:

Back     |    Send this story to Friend    |     Print Version
The News Home  |  Jang Group Online  |  Jang Multimedia  |  Jang Searchable  |  Ad Tariff / Enquiry |  Editor Internet  |  Webmaster