August 5, 2002 - New York Times: The Three Faces America shows the World: the Peace Corps, the Multinationals, and the Military

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By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, August 05, 2002 - 1:56 pm: Edit Post

The Three Faces America shows the World: the Peace Corps, the Multinationals, and the Military

Read and comment on this op-ed piece from the New York Times by Thomas Friedman, author of the Lexus and the Olive Tree, on the three faces that America shows the world - the face of the Peace Corps, the face of multinationals and the face of American military power and his sense that lately the balance has gone wrong and the only face of America we see now is the one of military power and it really frightens the world. Read the op-ed at:

Bush's Shame*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Bush's Shame

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka. Watching the pathetic, mealy-mouthed response of President Bush and his State Department to Egypt's decision to sentence the leading Egyptian democracy advocate to seven years in prison leaves one wondering whether the whole Bush foreign policy team isn't just a big bunch of phonies. Shame on all of them.

Since Sept. 11 all we've heard out of this Bush team is how illegitimate violence is as a tool of diplomacy or politics, and how critical it is to oust Saddam Hussein in order to bring democracy to the Arab world. Yet last week, when a kangaroo court in Egypt, apparently acting on orders from President Hosni Mubarak, sentenced an ill, 63-year-old Saad Eddin Ibrahim to seven years at "hard labor" for promoting democracy for promoting the peaceful alternative to fundamentalist violence the Bush-Cheney team sat on its hands.

The State Department, in a real profile in courage, said it was "deeply disappointed" by the conviction of Mr. Ibrahim, who holds a U.S. passport. "Disappointed"? I'm disappointed when the Baltimore Orioles lose. When an Egyptian president we give $2 billion a year to jails a pro-American democracy advocate, I'm "outraged" and expect America to do something about it.

I'm also frightened, because if there is no space in Egypt for democratic voices for change, then Egyptians will only be left with the mosque. If there is no room in Egypt for Saad Ibrahims, then we will only get more Mohamed Attas coming again to a theater near you.

Mr. Ibrahim's "crime" was that his institute at the American University in Cairo was helping to teach Egyptians how to register to vote, how to fill out a ballot and how to monitor elections. The Egyptian court accused him of embezzling funds from the European Union, which supported his efforts. The outraged E.U. said no such thing ever happened.

This monkey trial was really about an insecure, isolated Mr. Mubarak quashing any dissenters, and it is much more important than it looks because so many more people are watching than we think. The other day, I interviewed a leading Sri Lankan human rights activist, Radhika Coomaraswamy, director of the International Center for Ethnic Studies. We started out talking about Sri Lanka but ended up talking about Mr. Ibrahim, whom she knew, and America.

"What is the nonviolent alternative for expressing discontent [and promoting change]?" she asked me. "It's democracy. When you remove any democratic alternative, the only route left in many countries for expressing discontent is religious fundamentalism. Saad is the alternative democratic voice, and if we don't protect it we're just inviting more violence."

This ties in with a larger concern that human rights activists share toward America today a concern that post-9/11 America is not interested anymore in law and order, just order, and it's not interested in peace and quiet, but just quiet. I am struck by how many Sri Lankans, who are as pro-American as they come, have made some version of this observation to me: America as an idea, as a source of optimism and as a beacon of liberty is critical to the world but you Americans seem to have forgotten that since 9/11. You've stopped talking about who you are, and are only talking now about who you're going to invade, oust or sanction.

These days, said Mrs. Coomaraswamy, "none of us in the human rights community would think of appealing to the U.S. for support for upholding a human rights case maybe to Canada, to Norway or to Sweden but not to the U.S. Before there were always three faces of America out in the world the face of the Peace Corps, the America that helps others, the face of multinationals and the face of American military power.

"My sense is that the balance has gone wrong lately and that the only face of America we see now is the one of military power, and it really frightens the world. . . . I understand that there is always a tension between security concerns and holding governments accountable for human rights. But if you focus on security alone and allow basic human rights violations in the name of security, then, well, as someone who grew up in America and went to law school there, I find that heartbreaking."

So do I. How about before we go trying to liberate a whole country Iraq we first liberate just one man, one good man, who is now sitting in an Egyptian jail for pursuing the very democratic ideals that we profess to stand for.

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By Char on Sunday, September 08, 2002 - 10:57 am: Edit Post

Good story ---- I very much agree.

By Kaye Mitchell ( - on Thursday, June 10, 2004 - 9:53 pm: Edit Post

How does one get to be in the Peace Corps? I have many credentials - tell me more. I was a VISTA Volunteer in the 70's.

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