Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Wretched Kabuki (Part One)

Tyranny truly is a horror: an immense, endlessly bloody, endlessly painful, endlessly varied, endless crime against not humanity in the abstract but a lot of humans in the flesh. It is, as Orwell wrote, a jackboot forever stomping on a human face.

I understand why some dislike the idea, and fear the ramifications of, America as a liberator. But I do not understand why they do not see that anything is better than life with your face under the boot. And that any rescue of a people under the boot (be they Afghan, Kuwaiti or Iraqi) is something to be desired. Even if the rescue is less than perfectly realized. Even if the rescuer is a great, overmuscled, bossy, selfish oaf. Or would you, for yourself, choose the boot?

These were the pronouncements of a dyed-in-the-wool (no pun intended) Iraq war supporter on the eve of the invasion. No need to discuss the inherent lies in this straw-man argument. I've done enough of that. I'd only like to point out that the invasion and occupation of Iraq represent a failure of democracy, not a triumph of it. The current situation proves it beyond a doubt by any rational assessment, as I've pointed out. I'm not going to link to my previous comments, because I've actually linked to them a couple of times before (you know, the polls showing that Americans and, above all, Iraqis want an end to the American occupation while Bush has shown a disdain for such public sentiment), and it's getting seriously passé.

That the neoconservative future, as an arm of corporate globalization, relies upon generalized, unrealistic dichotomies and the production of otherness (in this case, of the Muslim world vis-à-vis the civilized West) is illustrated thoroughly by bombast like that of Michael Kelly. What is interesting is that, as the (overtly, at least) belligerent side of the neoliberal project which supposedly has designed a postnational (multinational) future, neoconservatism actually relies upon the reification of national borders, nationalism, and ultimately racism towards all that is subaltern; there are subtle collaborations in this process by some natives, but the effect is nonetheless dehumanizing. The Lou Dobbs wing of the immigration debate in the United States, with its parallels in Europe, also reflect this essentially bigoted side-project of globalization (often referred to as a "reaction to", overlooking its sanction by the major conglomerates benefitting from so-called "free trade"). As a cultural enterprise, it is but one act of the kabuki for popular consumption (the above article is highly recommended).

Now that we have that out of the way, I'm going to talk about Israel/Palestine (again).

In the mind of the American information consumer, there can only be one kind of political discourse about Israel--namely, shrill competition for the crown of most hawkish. Legislators, administration officials, and prospective candidates struggle to define themselves as more supportive of Israel, while not mentioning what, exactly they support Israel in doing. Vaguely, there are references to Israel's security, without any real discussion of what that security requires (or entails).

Thus, Americans have a very limited sense of what's good for their own country with regard to Israel and, similarly, they have perhaps no sense of what's actually good for Israel. But, if they have the time to pay attention, they know what their politicians are saying.

John Edwards, on the fictional "Iranian threat":"Iran must know that the world won’t back down. The recent UN resolution ordering Iran to halt the enrichment of uranium was not enough. We need meaningful political and economic sanctions. We have muddled along for far too long. To ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep ALL options on the table, Let me reiterate – ALL options must remain on the table."

Hillary Clinton, same topic: "U.S. policy must be unequivocal.  Iran must not build or acquire nuclear weapons….We have to keep all options on the table…."

Wes Clark, same topic: "How can you talk about bombing a country when you won't even talk to them?" said Clark. "It's outrageous. We're the United States of America; we don't do that. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the military option is off the table -- but diplomacy is not what Jim Baker says it is. It's not, What will it take for you boys to support us on Iraq? It's sitting down for a couple of days and talking about our families and our hopes, and building relationships." (note that he was slammed for this)

Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns, same topic: "Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon, there's no doubt about it. There's no debate among experts. It's seeking a nuclear weapon at its plant at Nantz." (there's actually no evidence of that)

Newt Gingrich, same topic: "[C]itizens who do not wake up every morning and think about possible catastrophic civilian casualties are deluding themselves. Three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust. … I'll repeat it. Three nuclear weapons are a second Holocaust. … Our enemies are fully as determined as Nazi Germany and more determined than the Soviets. Our enemies will kill us the first chance they get. If we knew that tomorrow morning we would lose Haifa, Tel Aviv, and Jerusalem, what would we do to stop it? If we knew that we would tomorrow lose Boston, San Francisco, or Atlanta, what would we do?"

Mitt Romney, same topic: "Soviet commitment to national survival was never in question. That assumption cannot be made to an irrational regime [Iran] that celebrates martyrdom."

George W. Bush, same topic: "All options are on the table."

While Clark did, before being forced to backpedal, have something going for him, he mentioned keeping "all options on the table", as did John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, and George W. Bush. Transparently, this only means one thing: 'we reserve the right to nuke Iran when we want.' I've pointed out that this kind of talk is actually in contravention of the UN Charter (not to mention the NPT), a violation of international law, and in fact an act of terrorism. But in the context of a political campaign, really, anyone (Bush, Edwards, Clinton, Clark) willing to say such a thing about a totally fictitious threat to a purring audience for political gain is too dangerous to be near any kind of real military power.

One needn't point out the obvious hypocrisy of denying the Iranian right to peaceful enrichment guaranteed by the NPT (the only thing that can be proven to be going on) on the grounds of protecting a state that has a sizable nuclear arsenal of its own, outside of any legal framework or monitoring.

In general, all of this talk of Iran before ultra-Zionist audiences, while ignoring facts proving that there is no Iranian threat, is quite dangerous/irresponsible because it buys into the neoconservative fabrications, thereby reinforcing them. People believe what they hear, even if it's a lie. This is obvious.

It is, however, only a recurrence of the double-standard leitmotif present in all such discussions of Israel, be they in front of Zionist audiences or television cameras. Witness the following:

Condoleezza Rice, on "the need for a partner for peace": Obviously you can't be a partner for peace if you don't recognize the right of the other partner to exist even, and so it's extremely important that those conditions be met. But there would be nothing better than to have all Palestinian factions united around a program that is -- that accepts the past obligations of Palestinian leaders and past agreements.

Condoleezza Rice, on "Israel's right to defend itself" as it was forcing the dislocation of 25% of the Lebanese population: "There is a great concern on all sides about civilian casualties. There is a great concern about damage to civilian infrastructure. I don't think that there is anyone here who would say that Israel does not have a right to defend itself. And I think that everyone here would note that the extremists who are attacking not just Israel, but the very foundation for peace need to be stopped."

Hillary Clinton, on the "separation wall": "This is not against the Palestinian people," Clinton said as she gazed over the massive wall. "This is against the terrorists. The Palestinian people have to help to prevent terrorism. They have to change the attitudes about terrorism." (Compare this to Amnesty International's initial report on the wall's effects, before much of the impact was realized/the path of the wall was changed.)

Israel, while being the occupier, is innocent and cannot be condemned. Palestinians, with no state or acceptable infrastructure, "have to change the attitudes about terrorism." It sounds reasonable, but it's actually totally vacuous on the political level, coming, as it does, along with an endorsement of the illegal separation wall, 80% of it built on Palestinian territory, making everyday life next to impossible.

The effect of media selectivity and the double-standard (effective not only on the issue of Israeli occupation) applied either knowingly or not by all office-holding or office-seeking politicos has had the effect of completely aestheticizing the issue of American support for Israel and leaving the substance in the hands of interested parties. This wretched spectacle of inspired brutality, an exaggerated competition between those would-be pious American supporters of Israeli crimes, is a cynical ploy that directly prevents peace from ever becoming a possibility. AIPAC can be blamed, as it has, for the lack of public debate, but American politicians are complicit. Blaming the Lobby and the Lobby alone becomes a nationalistic veneer that overlooks these crimes of ambition.

This is standard form, and it insults the intelligence of the American whose tax dollars pay for the wall and the violence always required by land appropriation. The debate on Israel is managed by deliberate ambiguity, skewed stories, and other media tactics, which mostly take care of public opinion. The lobby also enforces this management, especially in opinion-making circles and Congress. This has all been demonstrated for some time in the dissident media. But if the pro-Israel consensus is bipartisan, how would the American public even know that there is a debate to be had on Israeli policy?

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