This invigorating moment should act as renewed proof that we can make our society whatever we want it to be. And it should not and will not end here. The victory should inspire not only further “domestic” efforts, but spur those of us who tend to limit ourselves to awareness of domestic issues to become more involved in what is commonly called “foreign policy” – our official interactions with almost 100% of the world’s people (the US consists of about 4%).
In fact, foreign policy is a domestic issue. The policies are conceived, approved, ordered, and implemented by US citizens. But when US citizens as a whole pay too little attention or fail to push until we reach our goals, we leave our relations with the rest of the world up to people with major conflicts of interest, who get what they want largely through cronyism and bribery, a practice so common in our society that, to avoid embarrassment, we replaced the word “bribery” with “lobbying”, and then declared it legal (though we still consider it illegal in the private sector, as the US reminded when it recently raided FIFA, though we allow our own biggest offenders to continue their operations).
Whether we take charge of our “foreign policy” or leave it up to a few interested elites, it reflects on us. Thus, at the end of 2013/beginning of 2014, in a Swiss-conducted poll of over 65 countries scattered around the world, with an equal number of people polled in each, the US was voted as the greatest obstacle standing in the way of world peace, receiving 24% of the vote. The runner-up, US-ally Pakistan, received three times fewer votes at 8%, and Russia, several slots further down, received 12 times fewer votes than the US. (The polling agency decided not to ask that question again the next year.)
The illegal invasion of Iraq, the dire consequences of which we see every day, was a US domestic choice, and the invaders came from the US, with some followers from allied countries, though no population in the world other than ours supported the invasion. People operating and coming from the US destabilized Iraq, and killed or caused the death or disablement of millions of people, including gay people who have since been executed by non-state groups that arose after the invasion, inspired and empowered by the cauldron of violence and chaos it created. Aggressively invading another country is illegal. Many decades ago it was declared the highest international crime and was decided that the aggressive party is responsible for “all the evil that follows.”
A recent comprehensive study by Nobel-winning group Physicians for Social Responsibility has found that ten years of US attacks on Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone have directly and indirectly, by creating deadly conditions, caused the deaths of 1.3 million people – and that is their conservative figure. They say the true figure may be higher than two million.
Even as he supports gay rights, Barack Obama has, for example, also given massive support to longtime US ally, the wicked Saudi dictatorship, which persecutes and executes homosexuals and has become increasingly more repressive over the last several years, publicly beheading and then crucifying the headless bodies of hundreds of people, and even lashing raped women and journalists, just since the beginning of 2015.
The United States is the world’s biggest arms trafficker, and in 2010, Obama approved the biggest weapons sale in US history – 60 billion dollars worth of lethal hardware – to none other than the Saudi dictator. In addition, in 2013 he sold the despot almost a billion dollars of internationally banned cluster bombs, which his successor, the current dictator, Salman Abdulaziz, later used in a war of aggression against Yemen, assisted by the US. While rescuing downed Saudi pilots, the US refuses to rescue the thousands of US citizens trapped in the Yemen war zone, while eight other countries, including India, Russia, and China, have all carried out risky missions to rescue their own citizens and even foreign nationals.
In addition to these and many other “foreign policy” issues, there are also many “domestic” issues that remain to be solved.
Every member of the United Nations is a party to the UN Convention on the Rights of Children (effective 1990), “except Somalia and the United States”, and “Somalia’s domestic ratification has finished”, it just hasn’t “deposited the instrument of ratification with the United Nations.”
Shocking numbers of US citizens are killed by state forces, averaging about a thousand people per year (a federally determined statistic acknowledged to probably represent less than half of the total) while police in commonly compared countries often kill no one or only a few people.
The US, which even under slavery constantly touted itself as uniquely free, has the highest prison population in history, higher than the numbers of people kept in Stalin’s gulags. And to quote the US’s leading human rights group, Amnesty International, the US “stands virtually alone in the world in incarcerating thousands of prisoners in longterm or indefinite solitary confinement, a form of torture” that causes “psychological harm”; psychological torture is deemed “as bad as physical torture” by scientific studies and worse than physical torture by Sen. John McCain, who has endured both. And of course, this is all largely focused on the poor and minorities traditionally repressed and exploited in the US: “There is no other country on the planet that locks up a racial minority group at remotely near the rate the United States does with African Americans. Even under the notorious racism of the apartheid regime in South Africa, blacks were not imprisoned nearly as much as in the United States”, while Native peoples remain the group killed most often per capita by US forces. As a Native person commented:
“There are no white or black faces rallying around us, marching with us, protesting with us over this injustice. Why? Because we are a forgotten people.”
As we celebrate the advent of marriage equality in the US, we should be invigorated and galvanized not only to redouble our efforts on what we typically call “domestic” issues, but to deepen our dedication and involvement to “foreign policy”, which is really just another branch of domestic policy, especially when we think of ourselves as an “international community”. People outside the US are every bit as important as people inside. There is no value difference, and we should study and respect actual world opinion.
The nationalization of marriage equality is just the latest illustration that, when enough pressure is applied and hard work put in, we can change as a culture and achieve our goals. In the case of marriage equality, the issues noted above, and many others, partial victory or negotiated settlement is unacceptable. As a great scholar of social change, Gene Sharp, notes (ch. 2), “On some basic issues there should be no compromise.”
From Glenn Greenwald’s piece on this topic:
Author is an independent researcher focusing on force dynamics, national and global. On Twitter @_DirtyTruths.