The State Department has threatened to withdraw the $1.5 billion it sends every year to Egypt because the Egyptians are holding US citizens connected with pro-democracy groups the Egyptians claim have instigated the Tahrir Square movement.
Specifically, the Egyptian military government prevented a half dozen Americans — including Sam LaHood, director of the US International Republican Institute in Cairo — from leaving the country. LaHood is the son of US Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. Such entities, some supported by US funding, are notorious for meddling in places like Venezuela. In this case, there is an interest in influencing the turmoil in Egypt.
Before this incident, President Obama warned Egyptian military strongman Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi that the upcoming installment of US military aid was contingent on his playing ball with US interests. The snatching of LaHood and the others turned the situation into a diplomatic incident. LaHood was quoted in The New York Times as wondering whether he would be brought to trial for meddling in Egyptian affairs.
“[T]he whole thing is ludicrous,” he said.
That may be true, but even more ludicrous is the failure to provide a similar warning on the other side of the 1979 peace treaty between Egypt and Israel. That is, according to several recent reports, Israel’s top leaders are making it known they feel a massive air attack on Iran by Israel is a manageable thing — that suggestions such bombing attacks would lead to a major conflagration are all bluff. A Sunday New York Times Magazine article by Israeli journalist Ronen Bergman concludes “Israel will indeed strike Iran in 2012.”
Why do US leaders threaten to withhold patronage military funds when Egyptian militarists drag their feet on democracy, but not when Israeli militarists seem ready to drag us into World War Three?
Of course, we know the answer to this. Egyptians are backward brown Arabs with a history of living under the thumb of British colonial rule and US imperial hegemony. We know the drill: Bernard Lewis and the failures of Arab modernization. Israel, on the other hand, is just like us, a western garrison state run by a Prime Minister who went to Cheltenham High School just outside of Philadelphia and who likes to mentally link Iranians with Nazi Germany and the holocaust.
With the middle east in upheaval, the fact Israel finds itself a vulnerable fortress state wound so tightly it won’t even budge an inch to recognize obvious Palestinian grievances is a global tragedy. To say it did not have to be this way and that there were other choices from the very beginning is at this late date pointless. That’s the nature of tragedy; decisions are made and one has to live with them.
In the course of researching something in Philadelphia, I ran across a national group called The American Council for Judaism that was founded and headquartered in Philly in the mid 1940s and was part of a struggle here in the US preceding the establishment of the State of Israel. “The Council committed itself to the position that Judaism was a religion, not a nationality, and to the creation of a democratic state in Palestine,” according to Thomas Kolsky in the book of essays Philadelphia Jewish Life 1940-1985. These Jewish Americans sought a secular state that was not exclusively Jewish in character, one in which Jews, Muslims and Christians could live in a state of negotiated harmony.
Members of the Council suffered intense verbal assaults from Zionists using epithets like “dwarfs” and “pygmies.” Once Israel was recognized as a state, the group lingered for a while but eventually disappeared. Hated by American Zionists, Lessing Rosenwald, the widely respected president of the Council, was invited to Israel in 1957 as the personal guest of Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion. Ben-Gurion, of course, did not agree with Rosenwald, but he was large enough in spirit to respect him for his integrity and the honorable basis for his beliefs.
The United States helped arm Israel for its own self-defense but also to fill a role as one of its imperial military proxies in the region. From 1953 until 1979, Iran was also considered a US military proxy in the region. Its government had been installed by a British-US coup in 1953. The internal brutality of that government was so egregious, it led to the current revolutionary government, which, as one might expect, is hostile to the western governments that foisted the Shah on them from 1953 to 1979.
Everybody in this equation has been twisted and distorted by this history, as they have been driven by their own self-serving, diametrically opposed interests. It’s a Mexican standoff. Many of the finest minds in these societies devote themselves to figuring out how to maneuver to advantage through what has become a permanent state of war just below the level of flat-out conflagration.
For the average American out of the elite secrecy loop it feels like runaway madness. He or she wants to scream: “Stop!”
In the first Republican debate in Florida, Mitt Romney was asked about Cuba. He gave the expected garbage answer about the evils of Castro. Next, the moderator went to Gingrich, who one-uped Romney and said he’d initiate covert military action against the government of Cuba. Given the new US military doctrine of sophisticated Seal Team assassination units touted by the Obama administration, Gingrich’s answer presented a provocative prospect for the Latin America of 2012.
When the question was posed to Ron Paul, the elf-like Texas libertarian giggled and, a little exasperated, said, “This is crazy. Why have we been propping up Fidel Castro for 50 years? The Vietnamese pushed us out of their country, and we talk with them and trade with them. Why can’t we talk to the Cubans and trade with them? I don’t understand it!”
The sanity of his answer was stunning. At another juncture, he was asked about Iran. Again, Paul’s common sense answer was something unheard of in such a forum.
“We blockade their country, we try to wreck their economy, and somebody assassinates five of their scientists. And we get all worked up that they are being warlike when they threaten to shut down the Straits of Hormuz. I don’t understand this! We’re the one’s who are warlike!”
He even had the courage to say the motivations for the 9/11 attacks were things we had done, and are doing, in the Middle East.
People on the antiwar left have been saying this stuff for decades. But, as with the advocates of a secular state of Palestine in the mid-1940s, the forces of paranoia, covetousness and violence always win the day. They proceed ahead in the secure knowledge that, mistakes and debacles aside, war is self-justifying: Militarists who are good at making war will find it necessary to continue doing more of what they are so good at; their actions will create more enemies, and more weapons and more violence will be necessary. It’s the endless cycle of violence Martin Luther King spoke of.
That’s where we are now.
The Modest Proposal
I’m not a Ron Paul For President fan, but I found his honest exasperation inspiring. My mind began to wander and I imagined him in an over-sized camouflage jumpsuit like some Dickensian Ghost of Occupations Past materializing through a wall into the Obama White House bedroom; he’d shake his chains a little, tilt his head and show that silly grin and, then, when he had the President’s undivided attention, he’d make his case for sanity. Like Howard Beal in the film Network, a puzzled Obama might ask the ghostly phantom, “Why me?”
“Because you’re the President of the United States and you haven’t earned your Nobel Peace Prize, dummy!”
Obama would wake up in the morning refreshed with a new sparkle in his eyes and a spring in his step. Still in his black pajamas with the presidential seal on the pocket, first thing he’d do is call Benjamin Netanyahu.
“Listen, Bibi. This idea of attacking Iran isn’t going to work. So I’m going to call up Ahmadinejad and tell him we’re ready to sit down for talks in Istanbul. We’ll concede we made mistakes in the past and that it’s time to set a new course. We’ll even put some of our nukes and your nukes on the table.
“. . .”
“I know they’re your nukes, Bibi. We’re only strongly suggesting that you give up some of yours. I know this will take some time to absorb. But, you know, Bibi, you guys just aren’t making sense these days.”
“. . .”
“You’ll do what? I think you better think about that, my friend. It’s a brave new world and we’ve all gotta bend a little for the future. In fact, I’m putting you on notice today — right now! — that if you attack Iran you’re on your own. Not only will I cut off your military aid, I’ll use my powers as commander in chief to keep our Air Force on the ground, and the intel will go dark.”
“. . .”
“Look, Bibi, I know you don’t like me. I don’t like you either. That’s not important. This has been a private communication. We can both get our stories straight for the press in the coming days and weeks. This is not going to be easy. But the point is, Bibi, things have got to be different from now on.”
“. . .”
“You may be right. You can tell your right wing pals here in Washington that I’m a crazy shvartze. And, OK, maybe I’ll be a one-term President. But I’ll take that risk.”
“. . .”
“Bibi, listen. Threatening me won’t help. If it works out that way, you can start World War Three on Gingrich’s watch. But not on mine.”
“. . .”
“Bibi, I’m sorry.”
“. . .”
“I know you’re sorry too.”
“. . .”
“Bibi, you’re not more sorry than I am. We’re both sorry.”
At this point the ghost of Stanley Kubrick enters the room and hands The President a toasted bagel with lox and cream cheese. A sultry chantuese begins to sing:
We’ll meet again,
don’t know where,
don’t know when.
But I know we’ll meet again
some sunny day.
Here’s few words from the most fully engorged militarist of them all General Jack Ripper, a man who would certainly have something to say about today’s Islamofascist Conspiracy.