Nepal in foreign press:
An editorial in Bennington Banner of Vermont (United States) titled “Do Americans have what it takes?”
Thursday, September 21: Last weekend, a tape was leaked to the Hungarian press in which Hungary’s Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany admitted that he had lied repeatedly to the public. The tape, coming after months of civilian dissatisfaction with the way the government has handled the economic health of the country, served as the catalyst for massive protests by thousands of civilians in the capital. After the third day, they show no sign of letting up.
These protests are a potent demonstration of what is quite possibly the most powerful tool for changing a nation: its people. When the citizens of a country speak together in one voice of dissent, the results can be astounding.
Take Nepal — just last April, hundreds of thousands of its citizens gathered in the streets of Kathmandu. They were protesting the absolute rule of the King Gyanendra, which he had seized in a monarchical coup the year before on the pretext of suppressing insurgents. After only three weeks of protests, he reluctantly ceded power back to Parliament.
Looking at where Nepal is today, working at the freshly drawn democracy which it demanded and then rightfully received, makes one feel a touch envious. Envious, perhaps, toward the passion that the Nepali people must feel to so strongly demand what they deserve for their country. Envious, even, at the struggles which they were willing to go through, and the struggles which the Hungarian people are going through now.
It’s hard to remember the last time American citizens demanded something in a unified voice and then made a valiant effort to achieve it. Vietnam, perhaps. The transgressions of our current administration may not be as egregious as those of King Gyanendra’s, but they are frighteningly on par with Gyurcsany’s.
After all, have not each of President Bush’s reasons for going to war with Iraq been steadily discounted over past three years? Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction, nor was he linked to al-Qaeda. The only remaining foundation upon which the tatters of the Iraq War justification still stand is that Saddam had the will to use WMD on the United States — as if a single malicious thought of his could conjure an atomic bomb out of mid-air and launch it mightily toward Washington.
It is regretful that Bush’s deceptions, unlike those of Gyurcsany’s, have been steadily filtered through a mesh of confusing rhetoric over several years rather than exploding point-blank before the stunned public in the form of irrefutable evidence.
Herein lies the most heinous of the administration’s tactics: the use of fear-inducing rhetoric as a weapon. At every turn, our president has warned us against the terrorists, that mysterious shadow, that frightening enemy, who wants nothing more than to destroy us and our way of life.
If an issue does not appear to directly affect Americans, why should we care? There’s no draft, no drawn-out battles on our soil, no shocking imagery to shield our eyes from, and no apparent change in our comfortable lifestyles other than the occasional jump in gas prices. Combined with our willingness to swallow any speechwriter’s bombastic spiel, it’s a recipe for disaster.
The prospect that the American population will take anything its leadership throws at it is a frightening one. If we are silent about illegal phone taps and unconstitutional detainment, then what next?
The Bush administration is now trying to push a bill that defines an “unlawful enemy combatant” so generally that the U.S. would be able to scoop up virtually anyone and subject them to a military tribunal. There are parts of the bill that essentially rewrite the Geneva conventions, and it has seen an embarrassing amount of resistance from legal military experts and even some Republican members of Congress. If that passes without a whisper from our comfortable citizens, then what push for America’s increasingly forceful policies will come in the next two years?
Perhaps this time we can take a leaf from Nepal’s book by holding them fully accountable. In the meanwhile, we can applaud Hungary for having the guts to do what we seem to be incapable of doing.