, Salem, MA

May 6, 2014

A look at what others are saying

The Salem News

---- — Last month, Afghanistan conducted an encouraging presidential election. Iraq, the other nation America became involved in following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, will hold national elections Wednesday. In both countries, the U.S. has obligations to the people there and to the U.S. soldiers who fought there. In both countries, the actions of ostensible allies weaken what little is left of Americans’ patience and compassion.

In the latest and perhaps most reprehensible of a spate of bloody attacks against foreign civilians in Afghanistan this year, three American doctors were killed by a gunman at Cure International Hospital in western Kabul. The gunman, an Afghan government security officer, was wounded in the attack, and the selfless colleagues of the murdered doctors operated on him to save his life. It is unclear if the Taliban was involved, but the group has bragged that the “insider” attacks against civilians and U.S. and NATO soldiers are evidence of its success in infiltrating allied security forces.

The violence at Cure International Hospital took the edge off presidential elections in which the chosen candidate of outgoing president Hamid Karzai took a thumping, an evident expression of Afghan disgust with the corrupt and two-faced leader. Karzai, who probably survived his last presidential election only through vote-rigging, is a phony who has enriched himself and his colleagues while accusing the United States of sympathizing with the Taliban. His refusal to sign a long-term security pact with the United States was the last straw for the overly patient Obama administration.

The apparent winner is former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, a long-time foe of Karzai who would more than likely have won a fair election in 2009. A member of the Northern Alliance movement that fought the Taliban in the 1990s, he is more likely than the weak-willed Karzai was to confront the religious fanatics who terrorize the nation.

The U.S. is finally winding down its long war in Afghanistan, but the Pentagon insists that 10,000 soldiers must remain to prevent the country from collapsing. The disintegration of Afghanistan, like one in Iraq, would render meaningless lost American blood and treasure, but the Cure International attack suggests that attempts to bring and maintain peace in Afghanistan are futile. Afghanistan’s new president will have to make a strong case that keeping a U.S. troop presence will result in progress, not in more bloodshed.

— The Berkshire Eagle of Pittsfield

The racism yardstick is always imprecise. Yes, we no longer have separate drinking fountains, and we have elected our first black president. That’s clearly major progress and worth recognizing.

But what’s far harder to measure is the level of racism that usually goes unspoken, but which we know remains buried in the hearts of many Americans.

And, in some cases, not so deeply buried, as was remarkably apparent twice recently.

Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy first gained the spotlight for refusing for two decades to pay fees for grazing his cattle on federal land.

No honest logger would expect to cut timber in the White Mountains National Forest — or for that matter on a neighbor’s land — without paying for the privilege.

Be that as it may, Bundy was embraced by the far right and several high profile conservative politicians for his stand.

Then, apparently believing himself a sage, Bundy began offering views on other matters, including wondering aloud whether black people were better off picking cotton as slaves.

That, apparently, was just too crazy for any politician to support, and Bundy was condemned from all angles.

Last week, the cameras moved to a totally different arena, big city basketball, with the release of a secret tape recording of Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling apparently urging his girlfriend not to be seen in public with blacks.

She, by the way, is a black Hispanic, while 70 percent of the players in his basketball league are black.

One NBA player likened his attitude to a plantation owner who makes money from the work of blacks, and sleeps with black women, but just doesn’t want anyone to know about it.

Sterling was banned for life from the NBA and fined $2.5 million, which is certainly punishment but seems unlikely to change the man’s beliefs.

So, by the ML King yardstick we can clearly see that there is work to be done to erase, extinguish or simply outlive racism in the U.S.

Today, Bundy and Sterling simply look like two fools stuck in the wrong century.

And that’s a measure of progress.

— The Sun Journal of Lewiston (Maine), April 30, 2014