Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 08, 2003 2:53 pm 
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"Everyone needs Jews, and the Palestinians are the Jews of the Israelis."
--Primo Levi.

The Jews, being Jews, particularly need Jews in Levi's sense. This is because it's a sad psychological fact, true for peoples, not just individuals, that those who have been brutalized feel a compulsion to brutalize others. So it is that Israel, founded by victims of the Nazis, has become one of the most cruelly repressive regimes of the last half-century. That all the demolitions of Palestinian lands and houses by Israel are "legal" and by "zoning," and are carried out by a "civil administration" is as cold blooded as the Nazis' methodical extermination of Jews, a slow, century-long holocaust.* The ultimate responsibility for the daily nightmare that is Israel and the occupied territories of Palestine lies not with the Nazis, however, but with the western powers. In sanctioning and creating a Jewish state in Palestine, the US and the leading countries of Western Europe sowed the seeds of disaster. The US unilaterally perpetuates that sanction with its massive and now passive aid to Israel.

Once again in the last month the Israelis have cast the first stone, this time a missile bombing a whole neighborhood in order to eliminate one Hamas leader. The reprisal was swift and awful, with a bomb planted at Hebrew University, Jerusalem. And the horrible game goes on with increasingly harsh attacks on Nablis and other Palestinian occupation cities by the IDF.

That the US in the face of this simply goes ahead now with its discussion of not whether, but simply when, to wage a new war on Iraq, is typical of the blindness, hypocrisy and cynicism of the Bush administration's "war on terrorism." When Sharon stepped up his brutal assaults on the occupied territories in April and Colin Powell was sent on his mission to the Middle East, it was widely hoped that the US would "do something" to cool down the situation, to address Arafat, curb Sharon, and move the two sides back to negotiations. But this hope was disappointed, and it now appears that the US is largely indifferent to what is happening in Israel.

The Bush administration lives on in its cloud-cuckoo-land of invented "axes of evil" and bogus goals that mask an overriding desire to maintain US hegemony throughout the world and secure oil interests in the regions where there are the largest reserves. Whatever other function Israel fulfils as an adjunct, a client state, a dependency of the US, it is a foothold in the region - one to which other western nations have strong ties. But at the moment the Israelis and the Palestinians are left to stew in their own juice. Bush has other concerns.

And what are these concerns? A book that helps answer this question is Jean-Charles Brisard and Guiillaume Dasquié's Forbidden Truth: US-Taliban Secret Oil Diplomacy and the Failed Hunt for Bin Laden. It's just been published in a US translation, eight months late. Brisard and Dasquié reveal that between February and August 2001, the Bush administration was trying to negotiate with the Taliban to set up oil pipelines running across Afghanistan, but the Taliban had refused to cooperate. The authors' theory that this led directly to the September 11 attacks may be fanciful, but what isn't, is their demonstration that the US war in Afghanistan was not about fighting terrorism but about controlling the supply of oil, with Bin Laden as a handy pretext. In a recent (July 5-11 L.A. Weekly) interview, Gore Vidal supports what Brisard and Dasquié say. Here is Vidal:

We went to Afghanistan partly because the Taliban -- whom we had installed at the time of the Russian occupation -- were getting too flaky and because Unocal, the California corporation, had made a deal with the Taliban for a pipeline to get the Caspian-area oil, which is the richest oil reserve on Earth. They wanted to get that oil by pipeline through Afghanistan to Pakistan to Karachi and from there to ship it off to China, which would be enormously profitable. Whichever big company could cash in would make a fortune. And you'll see that all these companies go back to Bush or Cheney or to Rumsfeld or someone else on the Gas and Oil Junta, which, along with the Pentagon, governs the United States.

The US couldn't get the Taliban to tow the line. Along comes September 11, 2001, a day the Bush administration may or may not have anticipated, but one that became a golden opportunity. Bush was an incompetent, under-qualified, un-elected new president who was floundering around for something publicly visible to do that fit with his limited abilities. September 11 was that something. "National security" and "the national interest" have been used often in the last half-century to excuse American repression at home and abroad, but never more relentlessly and cynically than in the bombing of Afghanistan and the unanimous passing of the repressive Patriot Act.

We should not assume that the administration's new sense of purpose has ever entirely meant that it knows what it is doing or is aware of what's going on. Bush and his staff are revealed as cynical and sneaky, but they're still as great bunglers as ever, as limited in their ability to address problems.

A big weakness in US foreign policy remains its dependence on Saudi Arabia as a foothold in the Mideast. Bush has pretended publicly to be unaware of the fact that the faltering Saudi regime is at the mercy of Moslem extremists and that most of the September 11 hijackers were themselves Saudis. The reason for dodging these issues is that Bush was working with the Taliban and the Saudis on oil deals, Brisard and Dasquié show. US ignorance of the imminence of September 11(if such it was) resulted not from intelligence failure but intelligence policy. The secret diplomacy between the Bush administration and the Taliban went on for seven months, right up to September 2001. These clandestine negotiations are only part of a much bigger story, however. John O'Neill, the former head of the FBI's antiterrorism division -- who perished in the World Trade Center on September 11 -- told Jean-Charles Brisard in July 2001, "All of the answers, all of the clues allowing us to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia." The Bush administration's continuing involvement with the Saudis could be its undoing.

The Bush "oil junta," as Gore Vidal likes to call it, has been planning a war on Iraq for a long time. As the pretense of US alliances has faded and unilateralism triumphed, the administration has moved more and more openly in this direction. Iraq is like a prisoner on death row, but not treated as well as one. Death row inmates are not starved and denied medical care. Saddam has just issued his own personal last minute appeal for clemency. America attacking Iraq makes one think of the phrase, "A blow falling on a wound." A lot of people of the frailest sort - old people, children -- have died needlessly and cruelly from the UN sanctions which the US and the UK continue to foster eleven years after the Gulf War. To allow no rebuilding after a war is to impose a war without end. Advocates of the Iraqi people and land are a small voice in America, a voice that is not heard. The democrats have been largely silent and opposition has come more from military experts and Bush's republican allies.

Bush and his cronies may want to attack Iraq to gain a new, stronger oil foothold to replace Saudi Arabia, but they will not have Arabia's or anybody else's support in such an act of unprovoked aggression. A war on Iraq seems unjustified, unsupported by public opinion or US allies. With the Patriot Act and such actions as an attack on Iraq pending, in what sense can Americans be said to live in a democracy?

Does the right to "anticipatory self-defense" (a principle based on an Israeli assault on Iraq) justify attacking a defeated people half way across the globe? Since the US bombing of Afghanistan, this dubious term has become meaningless. Bombing Afghanistan was not an action of self-defense. Perhaps the US's new principle for never-ending war should be called "preemptory retribution."

*Ironically, the laws invoked date from the British occupation of Palestine, when they were used against Jews. This follows the same principle of adopting the behavior of one's oppressors.


Recommended web sites:

The Independent, London:
(Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent)

Al Ahram Weekly:



The Nation:

Pacifica Radio's Democracy Now (Amy Goodman):

©Chris Knipp. Blog:

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