Saturday, December 27, 2008

Looking Back. Perhaps Living For A Time by Anthony McCarthy

The plan was to start today with a review of the Bush regime and its crimes, with a call to fully air those, punish the criminals and to recover as much of what was stolen as possible. The shortcomings and incompetence of Condi Rice was going to be among the first items. Along with her singularly incompetent performance as National Security Advisor, the war in Lebanon during her term as Secretary of State were going to figure in the piece. Then, this morning, I heard the news about the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. In passing, the news reader casually mentioned that about140 people were believed to have been killed, including children. This article in the NYT gives more details about what happened. 2&hp

I’ve decided to repost this piece from my old blog, written in August 2006. The Middle East is the third rail on leftist blogs, seldom written about because it’s so complex and the anger and accusations resulting from any attempt to discuss the issues involved are as certain as the violence at the end of a six-month cease fire. Those accusations of anti-Semitism or extreme Zionism, are inevitably made against those who are obviously guilty of neither but who are bringing up temporarily inconvenient aspects of the situation. Along with both anti-Semitism and the seemingly, peculiarly American form of irrational Zionism, dishonestly accusing those guilty of neither is a barrier to finding our way out of the endless maze of violence which is at the core of many of our worst problems . We can’t continue to put off talking about it for fear of being called names. It’s just getting worse. Sitting in relative safety in North America, the source of many of the arms and policies that have contributed to the slaughter in the Middle East, we have no right to be cowards about name calling. .

We've Got To Stop Pretending There Are Nice Guys Available To Make Peace In The Middle East

Israel is not going to disappear, it is not going to be driven into the sea. Just as importantly, Palestinians are not going to melt into the surrounding populations. They have remained a cohesive presence in diaspora for as long as Israel has been there. They may not have a real state and the military technology that Israel has but they are not going to disappear either. The assumption that they would was based on racism just as was the assumption that Jews, as a people, would disappear. The latest appearance of this kind of racism is found in the insane speculation that Iranians will stop supporting their despots with the encouragement of a bombing campaign against them, it is based on an assumption of innate Iranian cowardice and lack of patriotism. One thing Persians or Moslems in general have not proven to be is cowardly. Persians were patriotic before there were countries. It is to be regretted that all sides in the Middle East are too brave for their own good.

Israel will not allow itself to be destroyed, certainly not without consequences too horrible to contemplate. Israel has THE bombs. Many more than one. Whatever vicissitudes result from that fact, it is a fact. And it is almost certain that another Islamic country, if not an Islamic State will have one eventually. If they are determined they will find a way to do it even under attack, money is the only limiting factor. Pakistan, has it already and only an a psychotic would take actions that could impel that country towards rule by those who could feel divinely justified to use it.

Now that we've cut through that level of nonsense let's get some other things straight. Neither what substitutes for a Palestinian government nor the Israeli government has clean hands. This isn't an attempt at cowardly and labor saving self-absolution from favoring a side in the dispute, it is the truth. As Howard Zinn* has pointed out, governments lie, all of them do awful things. That's just the fact of it. Extra-governmental entities also do awful things. But it is among these awful people that ways, temporary or millennial, to stop the killing in the Middle East will have to be found. It will be a deal among killers, thieves and liars because that's the only kind of people who are in charge. Arguing degree of rottenness is a waste of time, it's who has the power that matters. Anyone who aspires to make peace in the Middle East had better get over their fussy and dainty sensibilities or they shouldn't waste peoples' time. .

Today the United States has no credibility as an honest broker in the Middle East. Some past presidents had more. After Iraq and now the Bush regime's role this past month in Lebanon it has none. It has none because it clearly and solidly has favored one side, Israel and the Bush regime appears increasingly likely to have done so for ends not necessarily in Israel's interest. There is little rational reason for Israelis or Arabs to trust Bush.

I am beyond caring if there was a reason for supporting one side or the other in any particular action in the past. If someone can tell us a way to go back and change what happened in the past it might be worth thinking about, but there isn't one. Bringing it up is a stalling tactic, a way for cheap politicians and others to curry favor by appealing to grievances and the desire for revenge. It's the present we can deal with and the invasion of Lebanon was dumb assed and I believe, as one of my regular readers put it so well, the Olmert government didn't have a clue it was going to go like this. The facts now are what will have to be dealt with, not what was believed a month ago.

As we began, no one side is going to disappear but many individual people are being killed as you read this. My entire interest in this is to have as many Israelis, Palestinians, and others in the area, live to be old and to die in bed of natural causes surrounded by their intact families and their friends. It is in that spirit that I am going to say the unspeakable and voice some, though far from all, of my deepest fears.

As the generation of the Second World War and it's children pass on there is a strong danger that the Holocaust will fade from consciousness and it's lessons will fade from peoples' thoughts. Huge numbers of dead when viewed in the inverted telescope of history look smaller than they were close up. Our claim on the attention of the future will compete with the entire past and will be, I'm afraid, far less compelling than their present. We will not be there to press the case. The best we can do is leave a written record of what we have known. We can't guarantee that the future won't repeat the evils of the past.

As time goes on, as more recent piles of bodies and other horrors block them from view, even the Holocaust will fade in its meaning to those who are not part of the groups that were murdered. The relatively forgotten Armenian genocide is one example of this and the mass graves of those murdered in Central America by terrorists funded by the Reagan administration are entirely faded from the collective, active memory of the United States. The innocent Druz, slaughtered by the USS. New Jersey in retaliation for the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon never got into Americans minds having been effectively blocked out. Even where distance is not a factor, the memory of the thousands lynched here, in the United States itself, is always in danger of slipping from the attention of white people. The quotidian violence against women is treated as routinely as traffic accidents.

I am posting a anxious warning based on what I am hearing. Israelis should dump the neo-cons who are bringing them to disaster. Those idiots, from their comfortable perches in the American establishment are going to get a lot more Israelis and others killed. Let's face another reality, a lot of them, Gentiles and Jews alike, are pretty unsavory characters who market themselves as "supporters of Israel". Some seem to have made a very nice living for themselves based on this. Would peace be as profitable for them?

Their alliance with fundamentalist "christians" should be all the evidence you need of their stupidity if not duplicity. End timers have only two uses for Jews, especially Israelis. Jews are either to be converted to "christianity", perhaps by force eventually, or they are extras waiting to die in their pre-enactment battle fantasies based on the Book of Revelations. As the events around Lebanon this month show, the fundamentalist ghouls can hardly wait for the real slaughter to begin. Their script calls for Israelis to die in the millions.

Failing the fundamentalists' favorite wish, Americans of future times will grow weary of supporting Israel if it is engaged in endless wars, endless conflicts and, especially, if idiocy on the level of this war in Lebanon continues. A constantly attacked Israel will become increasingly militarized and isolated and paranoid. With that will come the destruction of democracy. A nationalistic, perhaps theocratic and despotic Israel is certainly nothing that the vast, vast majority of Israelis or Americans want to see. If someone can convince me that isn't where it is headed I'd really really like to believe otherwise.

I have every confidence that these ideas have been thought about in Israel and elsewhere in the Middle East. I can't believe anything I'm writing here hasn't been more fully considered there where investigating every contingency is a matter of life and death. It is in the United States that they are unmentionable.

* See the excellent essay:
The View From History, What Nation Can Be Trusted?
Vietnam, The Logic of Withdrawal; Howard Zinn 1967

Note: The order of in which paired groups are mentioned in this post was decided by coin toss just so I could point it out for those who might be reading this through their bias detector. Even so, I'm sick of "sides" in this discussion. Sides are getting people killed.