Thursday, August 23, 2007

Iraq and Palestine

Wars and occupations are never completely alike. Yet future historians will marvel over the similarities between the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Both occupations involve taking what belongs to other nations. The US wants Iraq’s oil and Israel wants Palestine’s water and land. Both involve incredible suffering of occupied populations. After four years, Iraq is without basic services like water and electricity. Four million have fled. In Palestine, the human suffering has gone on for decades, creating one of the largest refugee populations in the world (six million).

The US and Israel employ many of the same tactics including unlimited detention without charges, torture, and daily assassinations that almost always involve civilian deaths. Neither country bothers to count the the number of civilians made homeless or killed. It simply doesn’t matter.

Both occupying countries use high tech weaponry to keep their own troop casualties at a minimum. Both occupying countries use fear to keep people back home from questioning the butchery being committed in their names.

Both occupations are being paid for by the same country, the United States. The occupation of Iraq has cost at least 450 billion with no end in sight. US payments to Israel have exceeded 130 billion, or more than $20,000 for each Israeli citizen. These numbers are well beyond anyone’s imagination, but represent the wealth of the world’s most powerful nation being used for war and oppression.

Antithesis of a Democracy

Michael Moore's recent documentary, "Sicko," describes both desperate patients and a broken healthcare system. He doesn't mince words about why things are so bad. It is the insurance and drug companies. Their money buys Congress, and the corporate media covers it all up. The average American doesn't even know that the rest of the developed world has universal healthcare, and that it is vastly superior to our own.

Of course, the same is true for most problems Americans face, from high gas prices to pollution. Corporations hire armies of lobbyists and give millions in campaign contributions to make sure their voices are heard over ours.

Weapons makers are probably this country's most effective lobbyists, spending millions to get billions in contracts for weapons programs that don't work and that we don't need. And what will make the most money for these companies? Think endless war.

There is only one dominant group that isn't controlled by US corporations, and that is the Israeli lobby (AEPAC). It uses its vast wealth to intimidate Congress, (certainly our two US Senators) into funding Israel's war machine. It lobbied hard for the Iraq war and is now leading the charge towards Iran. AEPAC has had people in all the right places (think Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Douglas Feith, Lewis Scooter Libby, Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz and David Wurmser).

All these lobbying groups have one thing in common. They don't listen to us or care the least bit about our interests. The antithesis of a democracy.

Reasons for Gullible Public

What makes the American public so gullible about going to war?

Let's dispense with the obvious. The media, especially TV, has been dumbed down and manipulated by the same corporations that run our government. The more TV we watch, the more misinformation we get.

But there is more going on than that. It is much easier to believe what the media is telling us then to look for the truth elsewhere. Five minutes of TV news is all the time we need to spend. The stories are simple; the bad guys and good guys are there in black and white. People in charge, the good guys, are bombing and shooting the bad. On to "American Idol."

Were it merely intellectual laziness, however, making war would not be as compelling as it is. There is also an emotional component, and that is the fantasy of revenge. What adventure movie is without this most satisfying way of spilling the blood of others. "Make my day." We are strong; we are just; and we have a moral imperative to murder. The ecstasy of war is like a drug.

Like most drugs, however, it has a nasty hangover. The war movie we were starring in is suddenly lost. The body bags coming home make us feel uncomfortable and ashamed. Blood on our hands?

Most troubling, we suspect that the butchery in Iraq does not belong solely to the madmen in the White House. It belongs to us all.

Ethnic Cleansing of Palestinians

H. Lee Wind's recent letter confuses "biased reporting" with the printing of facts that one might not like. Did the Nakba happen? Most historians who don't have an ideological ax to grind admit the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. Try Zochrot , a Israeli organization dedicated to making this history better know.

There hasn't been a half century of catastrophe for the Palestinian people since the Nakba? Millions living in refuge camps in the largest and most concentrated ghetto in the world? Child hunger figures that approach starvation? Constant attacks by tanks, bulldozers and helicopter gunships? Amnesty International recently stated that over half of the more than 650 Palestinians killed by Israeli soldiers in 2006 were civilians, 120 of them children and young people under 18. I don't know H. Lee Wind's definition of a catastrophe for an entire people. Must it become an actual genocide?

And calling the reporting of Palestinian suffering a "decidedly unilateral and simple-minded approach" sounds like obfuscation and political spin. Plenty of people referred to Jewish suffering before the Second World War as too complex and complicated to become involved with. Once the war started, trying to stop the genocide became "disruptive" to the war effort and was never actively pursued by Allied Forces. What will Americans be saying when eventually confronted with the fact that their tax dollars (over 3 billion a year) supported this kind of racism in occupied Palestine?

Are there two morally acceptable points of view in an impending genocide? The Jewish and the German? The Tutsi and the Hutu, the Armenian and the Turkish? The Palestinian and the Israeli? Only in H. Lee Wand's imagination.

Twenty First Century

It certainly looks like a winning hand. Ronald Reagan found it to be, that potent combination of populism, racism, and nationalism that made him so popular, and that continued to undermine wages, civil liberties and peace right through the three administrations that followed.

The approach has a hidden agenda, that of corporate domination and special privileges for the very wealthy. That is why the Reagan formula is continuing its way through Europe in Italy, England and now France with the victory of Sarkozy It can be applied wherever there is identifiably different race or religion that can be blamed for society’s shortcomings. By getting the people to vent their economic frustration on the few, they are quite willing to give up their rights to fair wages, civil liberties, and any other benefits that democratic societies should provide.

The origin of such tactics has not been right wing economic thought from the University of Chicago. These theories merely make palatable what was the genius of the Third Reich, the use of fear and nationalism to mask the totalitarianism at the heart of corporate dominance. Perhaps the Twenty-First Century will be seen as merely a continuation of the bloodshed and inhumanity of the Twentieth, only to be interrupted by depressions and world wars.

To survive, we need another model. One freed from the profit motive, the current religion of our economic elite. Perhaps our salvation will spring one day from the ashes of the millions sacrificed to this false god.

Americans on Iraq

Much has been revealed in the last four years about the reasons behind our misguided invasion of Iraq. We have seen the giant oil US companies making billions as they have gained ownership over the incalculable wealth of Iraq's oil fields. We have watched the weapons manufacturers and defense contractors making similar fortunes from the occupation, with no end in sight. Finally, we can document how the Israeli lobby, that curious and deadly combination of Jewish and Christian fanaticism, pushes hard for war and is doing so again with Iran. The money and power of these dominant groups made the invasion of Iraq all but inevitable. Politicians like Hillary knew about the war lies from the start but understood whom she must serve. We have a broken political system, with both parties pretty much sold to the highest bidder.

But the most startling fact of all is how little the average American knows about these major influences controlling US foreign policy. Many still think that we invaded for noble reasons, and that we must stay until we have brought peace and democracy to the Middle East. Most Americans simply can't tell simplistic and feel good propaganda from the ugly truth. They get their news from TV and other forms of mainstream media. They are well meaning, even idealistic. But in the end, they are childishly naive and easily fooled. And therein lies the real danger to our democracy. We the people have lost control of our destiny.