Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is the most traveled
of all Brazilian presidents, but he is traveling to countries
really can’t help Brazil very much. He really doesn’t try to
extend a warm hand to Washington. President Bush doesn’t
seem to mind. It makes it easier for him to ignore Brazil.
Many recent events in Brazil, the United States, and the world have caused
relations between the two countries to become more distant and strained, though
it can hardly be said we were ever really very close. Why? Good question.
There are so many similarities between Brazil and the U.S. that it is actually
hard to believe we are not more familiar with each other.
Maybe that is the problem.
Most people in the U. S. know virtually nothing about Brazil, and Brazilians,
while very familiar with many "American" consumer goods, rely on
a biased news media for their understanding of our culture. So basically,
relations between Brazil and America are based on "no information"
and "bad information".
There are an unlimited
number of topics I could write about that could readily be filed under those
two categories, but I am going to focus on the war on "terrorism"
and the Iraq war because that is the point where America’s image has really
In 1996, the Taliban took
over Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden declared Islamic "Jihad" (or
Holy War) on the West. Notice I said the West, not the United States. Starting
with the first bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993, he has carried out
numerous terrorist attacks against the U.S. and other countries with a total
disregard for human life or suffering. His goal? He has repeatedly stated
that he will stop his war when the entire world converts to his "brand"
On September 11, 2001,
he committed his "glorious event" (his words, certainly not mine)
by murdering more than 3000 innocent American men, women, children, grandmothers,
and grandfathers and injuring and maiming thousands more, all in the name
of Allah. Did I mention that his Al-Quaeda group also had a plot to assassinate
Pope John Paul in the Philippines in 1998? Thank God the Pope canceled the
visit and saved his own life.
So what does that have
to do with Iraq? Well, quite frankly, as an American, I was furious when President
Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq. I fully supported the war in Afghanistan,
since they were sheltering Bin Laden and he proudly took responsibility for
Everyone knew that Saddam
Hussein was a brutal, heinous, murdering dictator, but I believed that it
was the Iraqi peoples responsibility to take him out, not ours. Why should
we spend hundreds of billions of dollars and sacrifice our soldiers in a country
halfway around the world that hates us anyway?
Well, in hindsight, many
reasons. Everyone, including the UN, knows that Saddam had and used biological
and chemical weapons. He used them against the Iranians in the Iran-Iraq war,
and he used them on his own people including gassing 25,000 Kurds (children
included) as an experiment in Northern Iraq.
I could go on and on,
but the information is readily available to anyone that wants itSaddam
did have and acknowledged having weapons of mass destruction. As part of the
ceasefire agreement in 1991 with the UN, he agreed to account for and destroy
all of these weapons.
Twelve years later, he
still had not done that even though he had many, many chances to do so. Does
anyone remember that in 1998, President Clinton ordered the weapons inspectors
out and bombed Iraq because Saddam still wouldn’t live up to his obligations
under the UN ceasefire agreement? And don’t forget that war was in response
to his brutal invasion of Kuwait.
So we know Saddam was
not a nice guy. The list of atrocities committed by him and his sons is far
too long to try to include here. But what does that have to do with Islamic
Jihad? Well, Al-Quaeda had a terrorist training camp in Northern Iraq complete
with an aircraft fuselage.
Mohammed Atta, the chief
September 11 hijacker met in Iraq with senior Iraqi government officials as
well as other Al-Quaeda. There was communication between Bin Laden and Saddam.
Saddam refused to account for his weapons of mass destruction.
What would happen if Al-Quaeda
acquires Saddam’s weapons. To this day, they have not been found. That is
even scarier. Saddam could have avoided this war altogether if he had met
his obligations to the UN, but for 12 years he refused. Why?
In hindsight, I think
George Bush made the right decision going after Saddam. I just hope he wasn’t
too late. If Al-Quaeda gets WMD’s, they will surely use them. The world changed
on September 11, and we now live knowing that we are subject to attack at
any time. At least we have a President that is doing his best to protect us,
as well as the rest of the world from these crazy fanatics. He has my vote
Why should this matter
to Brazil? Because Brazil is part of the West. Should Al-Quaeda take the U.S.,
you can be sure that Brazil will not be far behind. Personally, I will die
fighting before I will live in their world with no furniture, music, television
or treat my wife, mother, sister, or daughter as a simple possession or family
These extremists know
no boundaries or limitations and have no respect for life. If you don’t agree
with them, they simply want to blow you up. You can be sure that Bin Laden
doesn’t approve of the Brazilian way of life anymore than he approves of the
As Brazil advances in
the world as it is sure to do and develops economically, it will increase
it’s chances of becoming a target. I fervently pray that an attack never happens
in Brazil, but with radical sinister minds anything is possible.
It is no secret that President
Lula and President Bush are not exactly best friends. They have certain philosophical
differences and it seems possible personal differences, but they also have
similarities. They both believe in democracy and they both love their countries.
In a post September 11
world, we all need all the friends we can get. Brazil and the U.S. each have
a lot to offer each other and both would be better off if we had greater cooperation
and understanding between our two countries.
Brazil has many resources,
both natural and human, that are underdeveloped and has the potential to turn
an impoverished nation into an economic powerhouse. The United States has
technology, financing, markets, etc. that it could use to help Brazil develop
its potential. It would be a win-win situation for both.
President Lula is the
"most traveled" of all Brazilian Presidents, but he is traveling
to countries that really can’t help Brazil very much. He really doesn’t try
to extend a "warm" hand to Washington. President Bush doesn’t seem
to mind. It makes it easier for him to ignore Brazil.
The American and Brazilian
people are so similar. The only way I know if I am in Atlanta or São
Paulo is what language the signs are in. There is no reason for this great
"divide" if we actually start to learn and understand each other.
President Bush really
hasn’t made a case for the war, even to the American people, I had to put
it together for myself but I understand now. By protecting America, however,
he is also protecting Brazil, so try to look at it in that context even if
only for a few minutes.
I would like to extend
a challenge to President Lula and President Bush. I would like to see them
put aside their personal differences and put their love of county first. By
this I mean I challenge them to work for better and closer understanding and
cooperation in all areas, governmental, economic, and social.
I don’t mean to imply
that Brazil has not cooperated in the war on terror, exactly the opposite.
I just think the Brazilian people should hear an American perspective on it.
Believe me, I hate that we have to spend so much money every week, 4-5 US
billion. We didn’t start the war, but we do have to win it for everyone’s
The war aside, Bush and
Lula can put an end to their personal war and work for the good of all Brazilians
and Americans. We will all be better off.
Randy Bell is Director of the Center for US-Brazil Relations. www.centerforus-brazilrelations.com.
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