Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Aug 31, 2006 1:25 pm 
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"The occupier defines justice" by Amira Hess of Haaretz is a piece about the double standard of justice for Palestinians and Israelis. And elsewhere the brave Hess has argued that all Israelis are collaborators in oppression. This is the festering wound in the thigh of the Middle East that is destroying the region and feeding enormous frustration and anger. Treating the problem should be our first priority. But in the US, attention is focused elsewhere, as we shall see.

Kofi Anan has pointed out that Israel is responsible for most of the truce violations since the Lebanon cease-fire. This has been, and remains, a terrible episode of violence that has diminished the reputation of Israel throughout the world and made America's blanket support of its client state look uglier than ever before. And the aftermath of Israel's lengthy assault on its little neighbor is clear. "Far from driving the Hezbollah north across the Litani river, Israel has entrenched them in their Lebanese villages as never before," concludes Robert Fisk in a recent London Independent article.

But for the American administration, neither the oppression of the Palestinians nor the crushing of Lebanon is the big problem now. Bush is out campaigning for the continuation of his war in Iraq. Violence is ever on the rise in that unhappy country and American enthusiasm for the war diminishes daily. So Bush is looking to his "base" and anyone else he can draw in to renew their support. But as a Salt Lake Tribune
story recounts, 'A crowd of thousands cheered Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson for calling President Bush a "dishonest, war-mongering, human-rights violating president" whose time in office would "rank as the worst presidency our nation has ever had to endure."' Crowds protesting Bush policies were visibly larger than counter rallies in support of them, the story observes.

The trip to Utah took place so that Bush could give a speech to the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City. It was a compendium of distortion and menace. The President began by saying he was a fellow Legionnaire. Isn't that great? But Legionnaires are people who've fought in wars, and Bush didn't even go to his meetings and drills and practices. He went on to say that on September 11, 2001,
Quote: became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. We realized that years of pursuing stability to promote peace have left us with neither.

Instead, the lack of freedom in the Middle East made the region an incubator for terrorist movements. The status quo in the Middle East before September the 11th was dangerous and unacceptable, so we're pursuing a new strategy.

First, we are using every element of national power to confront Al Qaida, those who take inspiration from them and other terrorists who use similar tactics. We have ended the days of treating terrorism simply as a law enforcement matter. We will stay on the offense. We will fight the terrorists overseas so we do not have to face them here at home.

These are familiar words for the most part, but they still make little sense. What "calm" were "we" seeing in the Middle East? It was obviously an unstable region. The Bush administration had been doing nothing to pursue "stability," but was continuing to arm to the teeth the nation that is the greatest threat to peace in the region, Israel. "Stability" no doubt is a code word for conservative or repressive regimes. "Pursuing" stability means supporting such regimes.

In a way one thing is true. "Lack of freedom" does make the region an "incubator" for "terrorist movements." Clearly the US support for a regime like Saudi Arabia's feeds unrest; in fact it fed Al Qaida and the September 11 bombers. Given that fact, it's brazen of Bush to make this statement. But his picture is simplistic. Lately "incubation" clearly takes place not just in the region, but more often in Europe. And in the phrase, "terrorist movements," Bush lumps together isolated, nihilistic jihadists like Ben Laden with popular insurgency organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that are both political and military and have various contributions to make to governance and self-help in their own regions. The fact that these groups can't be lumped together has been made clear by the election of Hamas by the Palestinians and the support garnered in Lebanon by Hezbollah, especially since its successful resistance to Israeli aggression. Bush and the neo-cons, however, want the word "terrorist" to be a blanket term applicable to anybody they don't like -- particularly if they're Muslim.

But doing this is a sure way to avoid dealing with the Middle East's and the world's problems intelligently. And this is clear when Bush says "we have ended the days of treating terrorism simply as a law enforcement matter." This in fact isn't a new policy, but is exactly the mistake he has made all along. Surely bombing and invading Afghanistan and Iraq were not "law enforcement matters."

The chronology is confused, the logic is wacky, but the message is clear: Bush threatens to continue his policy of preemptive attacks on countries on the pretext that they "harbor terrorists." This is essentially the method of Israel, a country that justifies its worst atrocities with the claim that they are fighting terrorism. The difference is that Israel really does have enemies close at hand -- enemies it has created by repeatedly attacking its neighbors and surrounding and oppressing the Palestinian people in their occupied territories. The US faces no threats and has no enemies at its gates. Only paranoia and the belligerence of a superpower can explain the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq and US interventions in many other parts of the world. It seems likely that the US is more hated than it has ever been.

Remember the days when Bush backpedaled from his calling the "war on terror" a "Crusade," when he called for tolerance toward Muslims? Now rather than withdraw the misguided term "Islamic fascists," in his speech to the Legionnaires the President hauls out a full-scale declaration of holy war:
Despite their differences, these groups form the outlines of a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror to kill those who stand in the way of their totalitarian ideology.

And the unifying feature of this movement, the link that spans sectarian divisions and local grievances, is the rigid conviction that free societies are a threat to their twisted view of Islam.

The war we fight today is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century

These are dangerous words, since they are likely to offend a large number of Muslims. Bush and his speechwriters are not at home with distinctions. If Hezbollah, Hamas, and Al Qaida are all "terrorists," why bother with Shia and Sunni? With conservatism and fundamentalism and jihadism? Don't they all wear turbans and shout from the pulpits of mosques?
They are successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century. And history shows what the outcome will be.

This war will be difficult, this war will be long, and this war will end in the defeat of the terrorists and totalitarians and a victory for the cause of freedom and liberty.

More lumping together: Muslims, Nazis, communists, and "other totalitarians": all one and the same: our enemies. Enemies of "freedom and liberty." That's clear enough, isn't it? So let's join the fight!

But outside, the crowds say no. As usual, Bush has been addressing a handpicked audience.

Freedom and liberty are indeed at risk. But not from outside.

Charley Reese has recently written on the "Bigotry and Ignorance of Islam" encapsulated in the phrase, "Islamic fascists," and Rami G. Khouri has described Bush's speech in a piece entitled "Bush's Terror Analysis: Erroneous and Exaggerated."

(August 31, 2006)

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