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(DV) Bouzid: The End of "Greatness"







The End of “Greatness”
by Ahmed Bouzid
September 9, 2005

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First it was Abu Ghraib, now it's Katrina. 

With Abu Ghraib, the world witnessed in shock the spectacular collapse of America's self-erected moral high ground; with Katrina, the collapse of America's image as the limitless land of economic might and material plenty. 

Of course, ‘the world’ has all along been well aware of America's deep moral flaws. The world remembers America's original sin that made its birth possible -- the genocide of Native Americans, the sin that made its emergence as an economic power a reality,  Slavery, and its long history of military interventions and political sabotage (the Philippines, Haiti, Guatemala, Nicaragua, the Honduras, Chile, Iran, Greece, to name just the tip of the iceberg). 

What ‘the world’ has not been as well aware of are the economic and social fault lines that scar the landscape of American society.

An instructive way to highlight those fault lines is to compare the United States to a first-world country and see how it fares.

How about, say, France, America's favorite whipping horse?

Infant mortality in France is 4.4 (per 1,000 live births), while the United States stands at 6.7 [1]; life expectancy in France is 78.8 years, while that in the US is 77.1 years [2]; only 5.6% of French children live in poverty, while a whopping 20.3% of American children live below the poverty line [3]; France spends 5.90% of its GNP on education, while the United States spends 5.30% (no surprise that the French have us beat in mathematics, reading, and science literacy). [4] This, in spite of the fact that France's GDP per capita is at $25,400, while the United States’ GDP per capita is more than $10,000 greater at $36,300. [5]

America, the most virtuous, the land of moral probity? Let's see how those sexually loose, philandering French stand up against the God-fearing Americans. The teen pregnancy rate (per 1,000 women, ages 15-19) is 20.2 in France and 83.6 in the United States; the adolescent birth rate is 10.0 in France and 54.4 in the United States; and the abortion rate is 10.2 in France and 29.2 in the United States. [6] As for who has the more solid marriages: the divorce rate in France stands at 38.3 (per 1,000 marriages), while it’s 54.8 in the United States. [7]

The homicide rate in France is 1.7 (per 100,000), while in the US it’s 8.2; the incarceration rate in France is 85 (per 100,000), while in the US it’s 686 (by far the highest per-capita in the world). [8] The average waste generated by the French per person per year is 304 kg, while that generated by the Americans is more than double, at 864 kg. [9] On average, the French consume 4.34 oil equivalent tons of energy per year per person, while the Americans consume almost twice that, at 8.7 tons per person [10]; the French emit 1.81 tons of carbon dioxide per person per year, while the Americans emit four times that much, at 5.53 [11]; and while the French are responsible for 1.7% of world pollution, the Americans are responsible for 25.2%. [12]

America, the most giving, the most generous? Tell that to the hungry of the world. While France spends 0.23% of its GNP on Foreign Development Assistance, the United States spends a miserable, miserly 0.11% -- dead last among giving nations. [13]

America, the home of the First Amendment and freedom of speech, and the cradle of democracy and its ever-vigilant protector? Well, according to the recently released Freedom of Press Index, the United States ranks 14th in the world in freedom of press, three places behind France [14]; as for beating the French in the democracy game, the fact is that in the French 2002 presidential elections, 79.71% of eligible French voters did  register, while only 67.39% of American eligible voters registered (or  were allowed to register) in the 2000 elections. [15]

“We can take care of our own,” Bush snapped at Dianne Sawyer when asked how he felt about the generous outpouring from all corners of the world  in offers of aid to Katrina's stricken (even suffering Bangladesh,  still remerging from the Tsunami, donated money). 

No doubt we can. The interesting question is, why aren't we?

Ahmed Bouzid is the President of Palestine Media Watch (, and author of Framing The Struggle: Essays on the Middle East and the US Media (Dimensions, 2003). Visit his blog, Hubris Monitor at:

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Other Articles by Ahmed Bouzid

* US Media's Desperate Wishful Thinking on Palestine/Israel
* On the Death of Yasser Arafat
* Nothing New Under the Israeli Sun
* Crunch Time for Bush and Opportunity for Kerry
* Sharon's One Way Track
* Anticipating the Capture of Osama bin Laden


[1] U.S. Census Bureau, International Database, 2002:

[2] U.S. Census Bureau's International Data Base, 2000:

[3] Vlemincks and Smeeding (eds), Child Well-being, Child Poverty and Child Policy in Modern Nation.

[4] University of Pennsylvania/Graduate School of Education, International Literacy Explorer.

[5] The World Factbook, 2002, United States Central Intelligence Agency.

[6] Susheela Singh and Jacqueline E. Darroch, "Adolescent Pregnancy and Childbearing: Levels and Trends in Developed Countries," Volume 32, No. 1, January/February 2000.

[7], Gulnar Nugman, "World divorce rates," the Heritage Foundation, 2002.

[8] Handgun Control, "America still leads industrialized world in handgun homicide, despite gains made since Brady law."

[9] Michael Wolff, Peter Rutten, Albert Bayers III, eds., and the World Rank Research Team, Where We Stand, (New York: Bantam Books, 1992).

[10] Handbook of Energy and Economic Statistics in Japan.

[11] "Carbon Dioxide Fact Sheet, 2001."

[12] Ibid.

[13] "Net ODA flows in 2000, 2001," Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

[14] Reporters Without Borders, "Reporters Without Borders publishes the first worldwide press freedom index," October 2002.

[15] International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance.