In the 1980s I formed a view that there were two great heroes of the 20th Century who had something in common: Ho Chi Minh and Muhammad Ali. Both had prevailed against the malicious power of a rapacious and vindictive American Empire.
It was my own personal experience of the Vietnam era that opened my eyes to the true state of world affairs. I came to understand the perfidious nature of the Hollywood propaganda machine as the insidious ally of a force for pure, psychotic, evil driven by the greed of an obsessed and unscrupulous group of people and masquerading as a pinnacle of western, moral goodness.
I saw the depth of this evil in US disregard of Ho Chi Minh’s appeals in his letters to Harry Truman in which he sought American identification with the need of the Vietnamese people to be independent and determine their own future. You can see them for yourself at http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon2/hochiminh/. Ho Chi Minh had been coming from a standpoint that “with assistance of China and United States, in capital and technique, Vietnam Republic will be able to contribute her share to building up world peace and prosperity”. There was no time for noble aspirations to mutually respectful global cooperation in this evil empire – not of course, outside of the celluloid image sold to the world by Hollywood.
The whole Vietnam episode epitomised the true nature of the empire, then as now. The savagery with which the Vietnamese and neighbouring peoples of Laos and Cambodia were slaughtered, the recklessness with which the nation’s society, economy and environment were relentlessly degraded resounds with what we’ve seen in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria…
Ho Chi Minh and the Vietnamese people endured and overcame; they were the true heroes, if never to be celebrated in western society to the degree that we celebrate people who drop bombs from 30,000 feet and shoot hellfire missiles from Apache helicopters or murder civilians using drones piloted from the other side of the world.
Muhammad Ali was another true hero. Responding to the indignity of being told by the US government that his IQ was too low to meet the requirements of the military (absurd, not least because this so-called measure of intelligence reflects an intellectual bankruptcy on the part of those who formulated it) he turned to boxing as his best option. The impact on his life served only to influence his direction; his character, energy, courage and determination were the ingredients for greatness wherever he might have applied them among the options available to a black man in US Limited.
Had Muhammad Ali, as Boxing’s World Heavyweight Champion cooperated with the US government’s attempt to conscript him for the War in Vietnam in 1966 his role would have been akin to that of the glittering, Hollywood poster boy Elvis Presley, serving as role model for young African American men, and his life might have been easier (unless it followed a trajectory similar to that of Pat Tillman). By refusing to cooperate Muhammad Ali achieved many things in a single blow. His choice reflected a level of intelligence that sent a slam-dunk return to the earlier IQ assessment and put a spotlight on the hypocrisy of US Limited. His independence and courage shone as an inspiration to his fellow African Americans. His refusal put the lie to ‘freedom and democracy’ in the American Empire, a lie that still boasts many dupes today.
What a wonderful statement he made!: "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong ... They never called me nigger.". If only the ‘young heroes’ of America, Britain and Australia had the intelligence to see that they have no quarrel with the people of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Syria…
The consequence of his choice also served to achieve a great deal in his name. The ruthless, malignant vindictiveness of US Limited came to the fore, laid bare as a matter of history for all to see. Stripping him of his title, which should not have been their power to take away, and denying him licence to Box, an act that effectively denied him his livelihood and stole the best years of his career, reflected a truly vicious mentality. We see it again and again in the subsequent years in the deaths of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Ghaddafi, in the demonization and destruction of nations that won’t cooperate, the callous murder of millions of civilians, in the summary injustice and reckless murder associated with every drone strike all the way down to the petty victimisation of The Dixie Chicks and the foolish ‘freedom fries’.
But Muhammad Ali triumphed! Taking back the title that was not theirs to take away in 1974. Reminiscent of the way he defeated Foreman, Ali lay against the ropes, took all their punches and every punishment they could offer and then emerged from the ropes to put them on the floor in a few short combinations. How stupid they looked! How gleeful I felt as a former dupe of the ‘domino theory’ and ‘yellow peril’ whose country’s democratically elected government was to be ‘dismissed’ by the CIA.
It was very apt that a duplicitous criminal and political fraudster should represent the US government at Muhammad Ali’s funeral; a man who shook the hand of John F. Kennedy and claimed to have taken up the baton of America’s championing of all things great and good, but proved unfit to polish the man’s shoes. Perhaps this was another "Rope-A-Dope" by Ali from the grave? Would that we should be so lucky.
It will take much more than a Donald Trump or a Hilary Clinton to ‘make America great again’ – if it ever was, and the robes of Hollywood are ragged and tattered, tainted with the odour of age. The state of the world may well get far worse before things begin to recover – if at all – but if we survive, a new age is coming and it could do well to take lessons from men like Ho Chi Minh and Muhammad Ali.
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|Liaquat Ali Khan|