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Kow-Towing To Clinton
EAMONN McCANN casts a critical eye over the record of the US president, and the claims made on behalf of the man who wants to succeed him.
Eamonn McCann, 30 Mar 2000
How can we believe him when he tells us that he loves us when we know he's been a liar all his life? Pink face pudgily arranged into an appearance of concern, voice husky with seeming compassion, Bill Clinton stood at a lectern inscribed with the legend "American Fund for Ireland" and said, "I am a friend".
Friends, he went on, had to speak the truth. The truth was that, whatever differences remained between the people of Ireland, 'They aren't worth a single life".
He paused, smiled wanly, and repeated: "Not worth one life".
This is the guy who had the life of a brain-damaged man snuffed out in the death chamber to show he could be trusted to crack down on crime; whose gung-ho enthusiasm for denying medicine to Iraq has ensured thousands of child-deaths every year for the past decade; who rejoiced as Nato rained down death on Kosovo every day for sixty days running in 1999.
In the last 22 months, his planes have flown 24,000 "combat missions" in southern Iraq. Over the whole of Iraq, the total is likely double. When it was pointed out to his spokeswoman Madelaine Albright that thousands of uninvolved civilians were being killed by US action, she replied: "We believe it's a price worth paying".
How can any rational person affect to believe Clinton for an instant when, putting his palm across his heart to emphasise sincerity, he tells us he's personally distressed at the loss of even a single life in Ireland?
Does Bill Clinton condone the killing of innocent people for political purposes?
Is water wet? Is fire hot?
But Bertie Ahern, David Trimble, John Hume and Gerry Adams, all of whom were in the immediate vicinity of Clinton's Patrick's Day address, couldn't find a word between them to hint at awareness of being in the presence of huge hypocrisy.
Instead, they took turns to kow-tow to Clinton, each more consumed with anxiety than the other lest he fail to favour them personally with an audience, a handshake, a photo opportunity.
This is what the representatives of Ireland are reduced to on what's called "our national day".
Have the Aherns, Trimbles, Humes and Adamses no sense of shame? I suppose not.
Are their followers at home in Ireland even faintly embarrassed?
Not so you'd notice.
Next up, Al Gore. I've been reading a new biography of Gore, from which he emerges as a very suitable successor to Clinton. Much of what's in Bill Turque's Inventing Al Gore is unremarkable stuff. But then, that's what Al Gore was made from.
The son of a Tennessee senator who prepared him from childhood for national office, Gore is unusually conscious for an American politician of being a member of a definable ruling class. His robotic aspect may well be the result of never in his life having felt driven to question anything.
His attachment to the institutions of the American State and to the interests of its economic system is not a matter of conviction, but is marbled through the marrow of his bones.
We do learn that he was an "enthusiastic recreational user" of cannabis in his 20s, which might vaguely endear him to us even now, were it not that he lies through his teeth every time the subject crops up.
Turque claims that Gore believed the Vietnam War was wrong but joined the army anyway so as not to damage his dad's or his own future career.
In his first forays into politics, he opposed new gun control laws and rejected the idea of a woman's right to choose. Later, bidding for centre-ground support, he declared himself in favour of limited gun control and on the pro-choice side in the abortion debate.
Turque reckons that Gore's "turnabout on abortion remains the most dramatic shift of position in his career." He was "a reliable 'pro-life' vote in the House" with "an 84 percent rating from the National Right to Life Committee". He backed the Hyde Amendment, cutting off federal funds from abortions in cases of rape or incest. He voted to deny women working for the government health insurance which would cover abortion in any circumstances whatsoever.
Now he does a fine line in rhetorical denunciation of Bush Jr. for wanting to end federal funding of abortion.
Turque suggests that Gore's much-vaunted interest in environmental issues is a myth conjured up by campaign strategists out to corall the "green" vote.
He reckons that over the past eight years Gore has been even more ready than Clinton to use military violence to secure US aims overseas.
Gore is an unquestioning servant of the system he was born into, with no personal moral views on any of the sharp issues of the day and no ambition other than to win high office for himself, to attain which there is nothing so morally repulsive he won't do it.
One of the reasons Clinton and Gore continue to kill Iraqi children is fear of being outflanked on the right by the Republicans. George Dubbya making ground with the centre-Right? Let's kill more kids today.
And there's dorks on radio and television telling us it's important "for Ireland" that Al Gore becomes president of the US in November.
What an insanitary lot we Irish are. Not. It's said we leave litter, dump dirt, befoul the landscape everywhere we go. Pictures of burst bin-liners billowing crud, or refuse-bins in beauty-spots brimming over with filled diapers and scrunched cans, have become stock stand-bys for slow news days.
Tales of cars casually strewing their detritus behind them as they roar through areas of natural beauty regularly feature on phone-in programmes.
But in fact, we Irish are as neat and clean and well-advised on environmental matters as people anywhere else.
True, "we" disgorge 42 million tonnes of waste every year. But only 1.85million tonnes is household or personal waste. Industry spews out 8million tonnes, agriculture more than 31 million tonnes.
The record of the State agencies tasked to deal with this mountain of toxicity is very poor. Only Russia dumps more in landfill sites.
If the country looks and smells dirty it's mainly down to institutions and agencies over which the plain people have no control.
By and large, the tang in the air and the blotches on the landscape are crimes committed against us, not by us. (This is not to deny that there's bowsies everywhere - lawyers, property developers, journalists on Ireland On Sunday and the like - who despoil the environment by being in it.)
Every day there are more reasons to be cheerful. A recent poll in the US suggests that fewer than 40% of people are opposed to an immediate moratorium on executions. This follows the release of more than 20 people, the majority in Illinois, who had been awaiting execution but have now been shown to be innocent.
Illinois figures so prominently because a Chicago journalism class, set the task of reinvestigating cases of capital murder, came up with example after example of people, too poor to hire their own lawyers, who had been railroaded onto death row. Millions of Americans readily understood that it's unlikely things are different elsewhere in the country, and swung against the death penalty, at least to the extent of wanting pending executions put on hold.
Not a clear-cut victory for opponents of judicial killing, but far removed from the standard picture of the US as a vengeful society lacking in pity for people labelled as outside the law.
Again, read the racist propaganda of the Mail or the Sun, or listen to the weasel words of Home Secretary Jack Straw, and you might think that most white British people hate blacks. But the results of a survey at the beginning of March suggest that 53% of British people think that most whites wouldn't mind if a close relative married a black person.
That's more than double the figure for five years ago. It confirms the finding of all recent polls that Britain is becoming steadily less racist.
And more people turned out in Austria to demonstrate against Jorg Haider than had voted for his Freedom Party in the first place, as a result of which the odious apologist for Hitler has slunk away from the national scene. In the biggest single demonstrtation, in Vienna, a city just half as big again as Dublin, 300,000 turned out.
Maybe Haider will be back. But the idea that creeps of this sort can't be driven away by direct action has been dealt a significant blow.
And by Austrians. Who'd have