Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art


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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 2:51 pm 
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Attention has turned recently to how the so-called 'War on Terrorism' may lead the US to attack other countries such as Iraq, Sudan, Indonesia, the disastrous Somalia of "Black Hawk Down" (see Mark Bowden's update at http://www.guardian.co.uk/Print/0,3858,4341769,00.html), or the Philippines, where about 650 Green Berets and "advisors" are being sent in a la the early Vietnam war, an action not at all popular with Filipinos (http://www.msnbc.com/news/683221.asp#BODY). In Bush's State of the Union Address he has provocatively added Iran and North Korea to a hit list that seems increasingly arrogant and incomprehensible. But it was Afghanistan that continued throughout January to be the victim of intense US air strikes meant to destroy Taliban and al-Qa'ida strongholds and prevent either organization's regrouping there in the future. The suffering of the Afghan people from the US bombing continues and grows as the maimed and shell-shocked go on without treatment and unexploded bombs go off, killing or injuring children and farmers (listen to Pacifica Radio interviews on Democracy Now with Amy Goodman, http://www.webactive.com/pacifica/demno ... 20129.html). Civil strife has now broken out openly in Afghanistan with violent conflict in the strategic city of Gardez. Whether or not "Camp X-Ray" is a country club, as Dianne Feinstein and Donald Rumsfeld would have us believe, Bush has chosen to deny the approximately 450 Guantanamo Taliban and al-Qa'ida prisoners POW rights under the Geneva Convention by calling them "illegal combatants." The object is to justify thoroughly interrogating the prisoners, which the Convention does not permit. Such twisting of the Convention in order to "comply" with it is a mindless sham, and the protests of the British and the French - not to mention Colin Powell - show their awareness of this. Apparently "Operation Enduring Freedom" means war on language and good sense as well as on human rights. Away from the flag-waving and the cheering, the whole US 'War on Terrorism' seems like a destructive mess: see Gary Leupp's review in CounterPunch, http://www.counterpunch.org/leupp1.html.

Speaking of human rights, the Palestinians' right to a state was an idea tossed out by Colin Powell, Bush and Blair late last year. It's now clear that those remarks were designed only to placate Arab "allies" in the assault on Afghanistan: they promised nothing and nothing has been offered but continued support of Israel and continued abandonment of the Palestinian people. The most absurd fiction voiced by Israel and the US is that Yasir Arafat is responsible for the troubles in Israel and should set things right. Next in absurdity is the claim that only the Palestinians are at fault for the violence in Israel, that Israel's Mafia style assassinations, "accidental" shootings of children, never ending mass destruction of houses and olive groves, its rendering the Palestinian population jobless and hopeless, are not provocations. Arafat has been publicly humiliated by Sharon by keeping him from attending Christmas celebrations in Jerusalem as he usually does (there are, after all, Christian Palestinians) and then by surrounding the PNA headquarters with tanks, placing him under virtual house arrest. Sharon certainly is the key element in the current bleak picture in Israel and the occupied territories. The chief witness against Sharon in the Belgian war crimes tribunal was recently blown up: Robert Fisk has discussed the incident and its background (http://www.independent.co.uk/story.jsp? ... rintable=1). The US continues to support Israel's increasingly brutal ethnic cleansing and its escalated biblical reprisals (ten eyes for an eye, or twenty, or fifty) which are carried out using its huge arsenal of planes, tanks and weaponry gifted by and made in America. The worst outrage was the massive attack of Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians in Rafah on January 10 in which Israel bulldozed more then 70 houses and rendered 123 families homeless in reprisal for the Hamas killing of four Israeli soldiers (http://www.counterpunch.org/rafah1.html). If anyone has the power to put a stop to all this, to end the violence on both sides and begin the negotiations again, the US does. But while the US supplies Israel with billions of dollars' worth of weapons, Bush does nothing but accuse the Palestinians and Arafat of "enhancing terror" for having a shipload of weapons sent them for defense against the Israeli onslaught. The picture of the Palestinians as consisting ideologically solely of Arafat on one side and Hamas and Hizbullah on the other is another Israeli-American fabrication. In the current issue of The Nation, Edward Said describes a new alliance of independent and moderate Palestinian leaders that is emerging (http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20020204&s=said). UPI Chief International Correspondent Martin Walker supports this idea of a "Third Way for Palestine" as a very positive new development (http://www.upi.com/print.cfm?StoryID=29 ... 1433-6963r), The European Union has split with the US and issued a formal complaint against Israel's wholesale destruction of EU-funded property in Palestine and voiced its support of Arafat as a necessary partner in any negotiations .(http://news.independent.co.uk/world/mid ... rintable=1). Another hopeful sign is the protest of over sixty Israeli army reserve officers who have refused to serve in the occupied Palestinian territories because to do so would be to continue "humiliating an entire people" http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dy ... ge=printer). The organizers of the protest have vowed to collect 500 signatures in the coming weeks.

Aside from the huge provocation of its relentless support of Israel, the US is, de facto, at war with various Arab and Moslem countries, and not surprisingly, Tom Friedman in the New York Times last week found Arab and Moslem journalists and businessmen supporting America's arch enemy, Osama Bin Laden. Friedman thinks this could have been prevented if we had only translated the US "dossier" of bin Laden's crimes into Arabic, as if English were Greek to these men (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/23/opini ... nted=print). A Cairo conference "In Defense of the Nation [meaning the Arabs] Against Hegemony [meaning external domination]" declared the US to be "the number one enemy" (see Al Ahram Weekly, http://www.ahram.org.eg/weekly/2002/569/eg3.htm).

Americans are peculiarly bad at multitasking in following the news, and the mind-bogglingly repetitive and demoralizing topic of Israel and the Palestinians, as well as the bombarding of Afghanistan and the secretive imprisonment of over 1200 Arabs and Moslems in America, over 400 still held and unidentified, are all overwhelmed by an important new distraction: the Enron scandal. The story that emerges is one of bribery, favoritism, arrogance, greed, incompetence, corruption, and government involvement in business at every level. The business of America is business, and the business of Washington again and always is to support, when not actively participating in, corporate graft and exploitation. Robert Scheer believes that having heavily "bankrolled" Bush's political career when he was in Texas and when he was running for President, Enron got good value for its money when he moved to Washington (http://www.thenation.com/docPrint.mhtml ... s=20020122. The damage control and distancing in the capitol are going to be difficult on this one, since Enron is the worst example of corporate graft and the biggest bankruptcy in American history (http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/printstory. ... on/1126890 gives an Enron timeline), and the firm's rise to power was built on deregulation, deregulation takes government to legislate it, and Enron bought politicians all over the map throughout its sixteen-year history. One obvious and useful distancing strategy is to blame Wall Street. In holding multiple hearings on the Enron scandal, Washington is not going to want to be investigating itself, but it will be hard for the Bushes and the US rulers' current policies to emerge from this unscathed. The General Accounting Office is suing the White House for the first time in its eighty-year history to force Vice President Cheney to reveal the hidden and stonewalled dealings between corporate executives (read Enron) and the administration's energy task force. The process is under way. The dots are going to get connected.

September 11 was great for George W. Bush: he went from being directionless and illegitimate to looking like a Churchillian national leader. Enron is taking him back to where he was before, and may take the republican party along with it. Enron calls into question the whole system of US national politics as it is practiced today, the way politicians are elected and the way they conduct their business. Enron is proof that this country at the top is profoundly undemocratic. As Maureen Dowd wrote in the New York Times, "Planet Enron is bigger than one company or one tragedy. It's a state of mind, a subculture, a platinum card aristocracy" (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/01/27/opinion/27DOWD.html. Some think the laws have to be changed, because what happened with Enron and similar companies in large part was legal (http://www.populist.com/02.3.edit.html). Campaign finance reform, for instance, is gaining support again (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/ar ... Jan24.html). From the viewpoint of the average citizen, those who can't vote themselves a $51 million severance package when their company goes under, the Enron affair is the best thing that has happened during the Bush administration. The bigger the scandal, the better the chance of a cleanup (http://www.latimes.com/business/la-000004495jan18.story). Bush didn't bother to mention Enron in his State of the Union address. He has even bigger things to distract us from. Enron is a fiscal disaster, but the Bush administration, with the collusion of Congress, has blown the $5.6 trillion US budget surplus, and that puts even Enron in the shade.

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┬ęChris Knipp. Blog: http://chrisknipp.blogspot.com/.


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