Saturday, April 11, 2009

USH26: And the Nineties

With the end of the Cold War, there was talk of a 'peace dividend', money that could now be taken away from military spending and used to fund our infrastructure and social services.

That disappeared with a bang when, in August of 1990, Iraq (under Saddam Hussein) invaded Kuwait. President George Bush (Sr) responded quickly; within days US troops arrived in Saudi Arabia. In January of 1991, Operation Desert Storm began with a massive bombing of Iraq. By the end of February Iraqi troops had withdrawn from Kuwait and the war was over.

Talk about the peace divident was over, too. Zinn cites a New York Times article where someone from the Bush administration is quoted as saying: "We owe Saddam a favor. He saved us from the peace dividend."

With 1992 came celebrations of Columbus's voyage. Native people began preparing for this in 1990, in a meeting of indigenous people from the entire hemisphere in Quito, Equador. October 12, 1992 was declared International Day of Solidarity with Indigenous People. There were demonstrations across the country protesting the 500 years of mistreatment of the Native Americans.

Also in 1992, Bill Clinton was elected president. Clinton was a centrist and, as his republican opponents were quick to point out, a waffler. First, he tried to allow openly gay men and lesbians in the military, but when he ran into opposition he quickly backed down. The result was the current 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy. First he supported his Surgeon General, Joycelyn Elders, then (when she said, in response to a question, that maybe students should be taught about masturbation) she was fired. First he suggested Lani Guinier as an assistant Attorney General, then he withdrew her nomination as newspapers distorted her views and she was made out to be a 'civil rights radical'. (I wonder if it is an accident that Clinton found two African-American women to be so expendable.)

Not every thing was Clinton couldn't accomplish was all his fault. He proposed a national healthcare reform package that got quickly scuttled by insurance company lobbyists, conservatives, libertarians, and even many Democratics who were busy offering plans of their own.

Making matters worse was the 1994 elections when the Democrats lost control of both the House and the Senate for the first time in forty years. The Republican Party (spearheaded by Newt Gingrich) proposed a new 'Contract with America' (actually a combination of an old Reagan State of the Union address and ideas from the Heritage Foundation). Clinton later referred to it as the Republican's 'Contract on America'. It was a combination tax cuts, cuts to welfare programs, cuts on capital gains taxes, cuts on US payments for UN peacekeeping operations, cuts on the amounts of damages that could be gotten in product-liability suit, etc. The Republicans had returned with a metaphorical hatchet--and the result was to move Clinton's policies even further to the right.

But Clinton was popular and was re-elected in 1996. He remained popular, in spite of several scandals. I'm not very concerned about Bill Clinton's sexual activities. It was things like his support of NAFTA and the WTO, his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act, and his bombings of Iraq, Sudan, and Afghanistan (all in 1998--these were retaliation bombings) that upset me. Of course, he would never face impeachment for any of these things.

In 1988, Rush Limbaugh began his radio show which became increasingly popular during the nineties. When Republicans got control of Congress in 1994, the newly elected Republicans made him an honorary membership of their caucus. The nineties also saw the start of Fox News (1996) and programs like Hannity & Colmes and the O'Reilly Report (later renamed the O'Reilly Factor) on it. Liberal bashing became big business during the nineties.

The first Web browser was created in 1990. Where the eighties were the decade of the personal computer, the nineties were the decade of the internet. The internet grew by leaps and bounds over the 1990s--often doubling in size each year. (And, obviously, I can't complain too much about the internet since that's how you're able to read this blog.)

There were some social movements that got going in the nineties. Third wave feminism emerged, along with queer theory, Queer Nation, and the queer movement. The concept of multiracial identity also became more visible--with people like Tiger Woods, who claimed a Cablinasian (Caucasian, African, Indian, and Asian) identity.

The nineties were also the start of the anti-globalization movement, with many large protests--a key one being the 'Battle for Seattle' in 1999. And in Mexico, in 1994, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation emerged--which has been a major influence on movements all over the world.

The nineties ended with three nasty events. In October of 1998, Matthew Shepard, a gay man, was tortured and left to die in Wyoming--raising an awareness of hate crimes for many people. In April of 1999, two high school students at Columbine High School in Colorado shot and killed 12 students and a teacher before killing themselves. This did lead to a discussion of gun control laws--however not a lot was changed. And, although nowhere near as violent as the previous two incidents, in November of 1999, Exxon and Mobil merged, forming the largest corporation in the world--and unfortunately, the long-term reprecussions of this still effect us now, as this company is a major player in climate change (and a major backer of misleading 'scientific' studies denying climate change), and responsible for supporting human rights violators and engaging in illegal activities (such as bribery and illegal trade with Sudan).

Unfortunately, things did not get better in the new millenium, but that is very recent history and I am not going to cover this past decade.


Quote of the Day: "Dear President Bush: Please send your assistance in freeing our small nation from occupation. This foreign force occupied our lands to steal our rich resources. They used biological warfare and deceit, killing thousands of elders, children and women in the process. As they overwhelmed our land, they deposed our leaders and people of our own government, and in its place, they installed their own government systems that yet today control our daily lives in many ways. As in your own words, the occupation and overthrow of one small nation...is one too many. Sincerely, An American Indian." - from a Native group in Oregon responding to US horror at the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait and the 1991 US intervention

References:
Wikipedia, several articles (including History of the United States (1991–present) and the Presidency of Bill Clinton)
Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States

1 comment:

SoapBoxTech said...

I was lucky enough to work a show about Matt Shepard's brutal death, at the Edmonton International Fringe Festival. It was one of the most moving pieces I have ever seen, created by a beautiful human being. I still have a script around here somewhere.

On Clinton, I agree with not caring about his sexual escapades, although the constant lying about it was incredibly telling as far as his character, I think. One big thing that most people aren't aware of, as certain mindless liberal shills (and obviously both sides have these) constantly mention Clinton's economic success without referring to the fact that he was the biggest raider of social security funds in order to present SOME kind of success for his administration. So basically this economic "success" only occurred by draining your Social Security reserves, leaving only IOU's.