[Host's Note: I came across this interesting message from John Graham,
former US Diplomat, and decided to post it on learning-org. ..Rick]
In the long years of the Giraffe Heroes Project, the Project has never
taken a position on an issue-we've even published stories about people
sticking their necks out on opposing sides of the same issue. The only
thing that has mattered is that they must be acting with courage and
compassion, for the common good. That's been our way of doing our job.But
now, everything has changed. We are looking anew at everything we do here,
weighing its significance for these deeply challenging times. And as our
government considers the actions it will take in the name of the American
people, we offer these words from the Project's Executive Director, a
former US diplomat.
-Ann Medlock, President, The Giraffe Heroes Project
Policies as Good as Our People
How can anyone be that angry at us, the good people of America?
We hear repeatedly that our attackers were just crazed fanatics, lashing
out at America because they hate our freedoms and envy our success. That
makes our response simple-"Us" against "Them"-a confrontation in which
American strength and resolve will sooner or later destroy those who
attacked us. But it's not that simple. The U.S. will not defeat terrorism
unless and until we understand these new, elusive enemies and the reasons
so many people support them.
Terrorist cells cannot exist without many people who shelter them, give
them information, resources and recruits, or just cheer them on. It won't
be enough just to hunt down the terrorists; as long as their support
network exists, others will take their places. To end the attacks, our
government needs to eliminate the basis for that support.
I have some practical experience in the Third World that can be useful. I
offer it as a patriot who has repeatedly faced danger for his country,
including revolutionary mobs in Libya, bullets and car bombs in Vietnam,
and hit-men in Havana.
In the late 70's, I was assigned by the Carter Administration to be the
U.S. Government's liaison to the Nonaligned Movement-a loose association
of Third World states. I was a junior Foreign Service Officer, but I was
the sole American diplomat assigned full-time to deal with the only
official body representing two-thirds of the world's people. That tells
you how low a priority the Third World was for our government-even under a
President who expressed concern about conditions there.
I stepped into a political environment that was pure battery acid.
Diplomats from some Third World countries wouldn't even shake my hand.
Others barely made it past the pleasantries before tearing into a
grievance against the U.S. One after another ranted about U. S. policies
toward apartheid, world hunger, foreign aid and investment, Latin America
and Palestine. My government, by their assessment, was arrogant and
unjust. Policy changes had been promised by President Carter, but most of
them had not happened and never would, blocked within the Executive Branch
and in Congress. I'd served in Africa and Asia and had no illusions about
the corruption, thuggery and hypocrisy of many leaders there. I also knew
how many times in its history America had acted with great generosity and
far-sightedness. But as I struggled with my assignment to defend then
current U.S. policies in the Third World, I realized that most of them
were indefensible. America was supporting the Khmer Rouge-genocidal
maniacs in Cambodia-solely because the North Vietnamese opposed them. We
offered token opposition to apartheid in South Africa while American arms
merchants sold the tools of death to the white South African Government,
through an embargo that was a sham. We gave paltry sums to help fight
hunger and disease in the Third World, often as barely disguised bribes
for UN votes. We supported death squads in Latin America and brutal
dictators in Africa and Asia in the name of anti-Communism or to advance
important U.S. economic interests, such as the flow of oil. There were
good reasons why Third World diplomats wouldn't shake the hand of an
American. What disturbed me most was the disconnect I saw between the
basic goodness and sense of justice of the American people and the
policies enacted in our name. I couldn't bridge that disconnect, so I
walked away from a hotshot diplomatic career.
In the twenty years since, not much has changed. The Cold War rationale
for U.S. positions in the Third World is gone, but replaced by responses
just as short-sighted. Our government ignored the genocide in Rwanda
because it saw no important U.S. interests there. It supported the
expansion of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, throwing gasoline on a
fire. It works to build a global structure for trade and investment
controlled by multinational corporations whose only professed interest has
been maximizing profits, with little regard for labor and environmental
Our government continues to pay lip service to global problems of hunger
and disease, while every day, 24,000 lives are lost quietly to hunger all
over the earth, unseen and unnoted here. An estimated $13 billion dollars
a year would feed the hungry, worldwide. To give some perspective to that
number, $13 billion is 1% of the tax cut just passed by Congress. The gap
between the world's rich and poor grows; television and the Internet make
even the most squalid camps and villages aware of it.
And the anger against us grows, including among many people who are not
Islamic zealots and who themselves are not violent. All that people like
Osama bin Laden have to do is manipulate this anger, turning it into
support for a focused instrument of mass murder.
Now we grieve, and our government moves, as it must, to increase domestic
security, and to find and destroy the terrorist cells.
But if we are to truly end the threat of terrorism against us, we must
also eliminate the reasons why so many people support it. We must convince
our government to implement policies toward the Third World that reflect
our basic fairness and compassion as a people. That should include three
First-taking the lead in helping Third World nations feed their people and
eliminate preventable diseases like dysentery and cholera.
Second-promoting global trade, aid and investment policies that help Third
World countries strengthen and diversify their economies and improve
education. Corporations must understand that they exist to serve not only
the providers of capital, but also the providers of labor and the
communities in which those laborers live.
Third-re-assess our global strategies. We are not the world's policeman,
but our government can still create and sustain policies toward the Third
World that better reflect our senses of caring and fair play-supporting no
government that represses or impoverishes its own people.
These are ways we can end support for terrorism.
It will not be easy to convince our government to go down this path-even
generating the difficult reappraisals needed now in Congress and the White
House will be very hard. The same political and corporate pressures that
made our Third World policy what it is are acting to keep it that way,
while drum-beating rhetoric builds fear, xenophobia and simplistic
assessments of the task ahead.
If our leaders offer only a military response to the September 11 attacks
and do not also change longstanding policies toward the Third World, they
will feed a downward spiral of violence. That is exactly what the
terrorists want-their agenda is to provoke Armageddon.
It will take enormous courage from our leaders to add a second front to
this new war-to not only seek out and punish terrorists but also to create
government policies toward the Third World that are as compassionate as
our people are, as respectful of human life, and as eager to do what we
know is right. We, the people of these United States, deserve a government
Now is a moment when history balances on an edge. A decade after the end
of the Cold war, facing a new war, decisions are being made. A post-9/11
world is being shaped. Make your voice heard. Tell the President, tell
your Senators and Representatives, to seize this moment to create a world
in which there is no support for terrorism.
The Giraffe Heroes Project
You are invited to resend this message to friends,
-to the President at email@example.com your US Senators
and Representatives--you'll find their email addresses at
Ann Medlock, President
The Giraffe Heroes Project
Ann Medlock <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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