Creating people's geographies
Counterpunch | August 5-6, 2006
“The conflict in the Middle East is getting cloudier by the minute. As America continues to unilaterally support Israel’s offensive, they are also deploying a variety of smokescreens in order to justify this war. We are seeing a trend of politicians who are trying to paint an environment of moral superiority over the rest of the world, while opening wounds from 9/11, and finally creating a Nazi-like image for their purported enemies. The average person who is relatively ignorant about world-affairs is the most susceptible to fall victim to these distractions. While it is their hope to gain unconditional support from the world by creating these smokescreens, we must do our best to avoid these temptations. Rather than just being deferent to the politicians and pundits, we must question the status quo. Listed below are three of the main smokescreens that have been employed to further justify this war:
The Smokescreen of Moral Superiority
A constant theme that has been adopted by the U.S. and Israel during their various offensives is the argument of “moral equivalency.” This tactic has been used very often, with regard to actions which the rest of the world views as disproportionate. For example, one soldier is kidnapped in Gaza and Israel proceeds to invade, kill scores of civilians, while displacing tens of thousands. Similarly, two soldiers are captured by Hezbollah and Israel razes the entire sovereign nation of Lebanon. During a recent interview, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton was asked if this aggression was disproportionate. He replies to the interviewer: “This is not a case of moral equivalency,” which seems to highlight the fact that America, Britain and Israel constitute the world’s collective moral conscience. Bolton was just the latest American political figure to allude to the fact that it’s ok to kill people, if it is based within the current regime’s definition of morality. Republican politicians such as John McCain consistently declare that there is no moral equivalence between the Palestinians and Israelis—he even goes on-record his website (U.S. Senator John McCain).
As this latest conflict in Lebanon has piled up nearly a thousand civilian deaths, we are hearing IDF spokespersons alluding to this same superiority. A great example of the IDF’s “moral superiority” was displayed in its use of the infamous “helmet-game” when detaining Palestinian men. This was where they would take a soldier’s helmet, and drop in slits of paper with various types of bodily harm written on them. Rather than just choosing to break the civilian’s hand or leg, they would allow him to reach into the helmet and pull out his ultimate punishment. Neo-conservative apologists will denounce this as propaganda, however they fail to remember that this was reported in the national media, and was subject to the IDF’s own internal investigation. America’s case for moral superiority takes a hit when we think of the massacre of civilians at Haditha, the flushing of the Quran at Guantanamo, or those constantly emerging snapshots from Abu Ghraib. Isolated incidents as these may be, it just goes to show that it is absurd to boast moral superiority over another group of people. When it comes to civilian deaths, there is no such thing as moral superiority, contrary to what the aforementioned politicians are trying to sell.
The Smokescreen to Remind us of 9/11
With America’s foreign policy being questioned now, more than ever, you will see President Bush bringing out the 9/11 card much more often. In a recent Fox News interview with Bush he justified Israel’s actions by stating that the critics have “seemed to have forgotten what happened on 9/11.” This is President Bush’s version of a Control+Alt+Delete, when a line of questioning doesn’t go his way. If he’s backed into a corner, just press that “9/11 button” and everything will be reset. There have been at least four instances where he has invoked 9/11 when speaking of the conflict between Lebanon and Israel. Additionally, when speaking at the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles, Prime Minister Tony Blair used the same tactic when pushing for the globalization of the Muslim world. As if he and Bush are using the same Cliff’s Notes version on public speaking, he also was insistent on how we American’s have forgotten about 9/11. Now we’re supposed to blame Hezbollah, Iran and the Palestinians for 9/11? It already has been established that the Iraqi-connection with the attacks were completely fabricated. But in order to further the cause of a burgeoning Iranian war, it seems as though they are reaching for any correlation between Hezbollah/Syria/Iran and 9/11. It is a reach of absurd proportions, but then again, so was the case against Iraq. The thought process that is being used by Bush and Co. is clear. The best way to keep American’s from recovering from that day is to keep the wound open.
The Smokescreen of Islamic-Fascism:
This is the du jour label that the news outlets such as Fox and CNN have been throwing around at the behest of Israeli and America’s right-wing hawks. The term fascist is most often used as a parallel for what the Nazis did in Germany during the Holocaust. Fascism summons images of Stalin, Mussolini, or Franco—individual ideologues whose ultimate goal was not rooted in faith, but power alone. Coupling the word Islam, with the word fascist is a clear attempt to embed seeds of hatred towards Muslims worldwide. The use of the terms Islam and fascist together is a deliberate attempt to incite hate towards the religion of Islam as a whole. The implication is that the religion teaches fascist ideas, and that a fundamental following of Islam equates into a fascist ideology. How can a religion that has been around over 1400 years be labeled as a precursor to fascist behavior? Now if you are going to give a laundry list of totalitarian Muslim countries that have committed atrocities, be prepared to recite an equally long list of fascist theocracies based in Judeo-Christian beliefs. How can such an irresponsible term be used, when the actual fascist tactics are being used on the other side of the equation? In present day society, there is only one country that is building walls between religious groups, forbidding entry and development of religious groups creating refugee populations based on ethnic demographics—that country is Israel.
The term “Islamic-Fascism” itself, has been created and put into play by right-wing talking heads such as Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and the rest of the Fox News crew—unacceptable, but expected verbiage coming from these guys. But when you hear CNN’s “golden,” or should I say “Platinum-boy” Anderson Cooper using the term loosely, you know the term is getting out of control. During a recent interview with Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Dan Gillerman, Cooper refers to the speech given by Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah as “something that Hitler very well could’ve said.” Cooper then utters “it sounds like Islamic-fascism to me.” Gillerman just smiles and nods in agreement, thinking to himself “that’s my boy.” Even though CNN has shown degradation in quality and an increase in editorialization of is reporting, this display is a clear example of the desperation to keep up with the Fox News crowd.
Israeli representatives continue to receive an open forum to express their views and to call for the destruction of Lebanon, Syria and eventually Iran. Please watch carefully when they have a Lebanese diplomat or representative in-studio. The interviews will be in two-minute kamikaze intervals, where the interviewer will constantly press the representative to denounce Hezbollah. No interview with a Lebanese official has progressed beyond this point to date. The bottom line is that “Islamic-Fascism” is an unacceptable, racist term. In an era when the Muslims are in dire need of possitive PR, leave it ot the chief political spin-doctors to create such a loathesome term, loaded with a racially prejudiced agenda.
As this war pushes onward, smokescreens will continue to play an integral role in order to influence the public. Pay attention, as these tactics will increasingly be employed on a daily basis. Wars should not be fought on the premise of “moral superiority.”
It is not up to an elite few to decide who is moral in the world and who is not. As the war-cries start to call for Iran, look for an increase of appealing to the tragedy of 9/11. Look for verbiage such as “Islamic-fascism” to be emplyed more often, in an attempt to strike fear into the hearts and minds of the world. In order to catalyze their offensive, the framers of this war are making a concerted effort to market a Nazi-like entity that can be used as the hated-enemy. They want you to hold fast to the fear that this morally-inferior enemy can attack you at any given moment.
It is time to look beyond the smokescreens, however. Just as these regimes have previously distorted the truth when it came to the selling of conflicts like Iraq, they are once again using the art of PR to sway world opinion. Before this war escalates any further, it is our job to ignore the smoke, and to find the real truth.
Imraan Siddiqi is a freelance journalist, who lives in Phoenix, AZ. He has been published in many national newspapers and online publications on the topic of civil rights, politics, and comparitive religion. He can be reached at [email protected]