Creating people's geographies
Counterpunch | 29 August, 2006
The Big Picture (Don’t Look, Now)
Many peace activists may have felt somewhat bewildered by Hezbollah’s smashing success in outfoxing and outfighting the Israeli army in southern Lebanon. Was it right to feel such a visceral satisfaction from these battles fought by a group that was also lobbing rockets at Israeli civilians? Where did we stand on Hezbollah, really?
We “peace activists” struggle to take rage, anguish, and disgust and channel them into language and tactics we believe will appeal to the general public. In order to persevere in our relatively fruitless efforts, we guard our optimism.
Whether our focus is Colombia, Haiti, Mexico, Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, or any other US-supported war-and-poisoning zone, our news is a steady diet of inhumane horrors and injustices. For many of us, that’s enough. We may (wittingly or not) avoid or reject analysis and information that suggests the situation is much worse than we already know it to be, fearing burnout and despair.
We may also worry that an analysis that is too dissonant with the dominant paradigm will alienate the public. Leading figures in the movement remember to utter the pieties that are supposed to legitimize our message, such as the “importance of maintaining a strong defense.” Connecting the wrong dots threatens the tenuous bridge we have built between reality and the world according to the machine.
But maintaining an unsatisfactory compromise built on increasingly unreal assumptions will inevitably produce denial. Thus we find ourselves where we are today, tripping over an array of mostly unconscious barriers to a realistic understanding of our present predicament.
The Israeli-US war on Lebanon crystallized the picture that we are afraid to see.
It put the Bush cabal’s determination to attack Iran on “the front burner” and the “fast track”, despite the consternation of old guard “realists” of US imperial diplomacy, who worry Bush is about to start World War III.
And it resoundingly affirmed the ability of today’s resistance fighters to undermine Israeli and US-UK attempts to enforce foreign occupations, striking fear in the hearts of highly-placed warmongers on both sides of the Atlantic. They will probably respond by calling for even more “air power” next time.
Lebanon was the fourth all-out war on an Arab/Muslim country in the last four years, all waged by the US-UK “coalition” and/or the Israeli-US “alliance”. Let’s consider the pretexts offered to justify this serial criminal warfare.
Afghanistan was invaded and destroyed (again), ostensibly to avenge 9/11 by destroying Osama bin Laden and Al-Qaeda, even though the FBI has admitted that it has “no hard evidence connecting bin Laden to 9/11.”
Iraq was invaded and destroyed (again) to find mythical weapons of mass destruction.
The Gaza Strip was invaded and destroyed (again) because resistance fighters allied to Hamas captured an Israeli soldier in a retaliatory cross-border raid.
Lebanon was invaded and destroyed (again) because Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers in a retaliatory cross-border raid.
The grand total of pretexts? One unlikely suspect, one myth, and three captured soldiers, who were all doing fine at last report. For this?
Of course the US and Israel have a long list of genuine reasons to wage each of these wars and carry out the whole bloody scheme. But the official excuses they offer to the rest of the nations of the world have meaning, too.
In this case they appear to mean, “See, I can lie through my teeth and you can’t do a damn thing about it except say, ‘Yes, sir.’ The world is what we say it is, or you don’t have a place in it. I have many ways of making your life miserable. And don’t forget, I’m unpredictable. I can do crazy things and get away with them.”
The steady application of this kind of diplomacy has smashed our naïve hopes by sucking the EU and the UK ever more deeply into the orbit of US-Israeli foreign policy, to the point where the Arabs can’t trust either of them any more than they can trust us.
While most people have been distracted by the shock and awe of America’s military presence in the Middle East, Israel’s studiously ignored long war on the Palestinians has descended to new depths of daily living hell.
The accelerating ethnic cleansing of the northern and eastern West Bank threatens to squeeze even the possibility of Palestinian life out of the land. The Jordan Valley is being prepared for illegal “annexation” to Israel.
In Israel’s ‘total war’ on the “liberated” Gaza Strip, the IAF has destroyed the main power station, all major roads and bridges, the sole (unused) airport, several government and civic buildings, and dozens of homes.
Now at least a third of the poverty-stricken inhabitants do not have power or running water. Israel also imposed a total blockade on Gaza, which remains in force today with EU cooperation. This little “war”, still raging on, has already killed nearly 200 Palestinians, more than half of them civilians. One Israeli soldier has died in the “fighting”.
And more civilians are dying because Israel and the US and the EU and Canada and Britain, all those great democracies, conspired to cut off funds and embargo the finances of the PA when it became too democratic in a free and fair election last January.
The sick, especially children and the elderly, are dying because hospitals have little or no electricity, are running out of fuel, have only the most rudimentary medical supplies (if that) and no money to pay their staff. This is how the US plays politics in the Middle East.
And more war is on the way. Palestine now finds that its struggle for self-determination and survival has been hijacked to serve as a crucible for the next phase of the empire’s plan, in which Iran and Syria are hot-branded as “terrorist states” that must also be forcibly “liberated”.
The propaganda campaign is going on full-tilt as we speak. Its rules are wonderfully simple; whenever you mention the Palestinian or Lebanese resistance, follow it with this phrase, or its equivalent: “a terrorist group funded and armed by Syria and Iran”.
As a result, the Palestinian-Lebanese resistance may become the hinge of a crystallizing global divide. It seems unlikely that Palestine will enjoy any benefit from this honor, but those pages have yet to be written.
In hindsight, wasn’t it obvious that World War III had begun when the world’s “sole superpower” declared an open-ended “global war” on an indefinite, multinational enemy?
And what is the big picture for us here at home? The debacle of last summer’s hurricanes was searing evidence that the domestic underbelly of the government is rapidly withering into an outsourced husk of uselessness. The parasites continue to multiply, infecting the whole body with corruption, cronyism, profiteering, and lawlessness.
The vast wealth of the nation is controlled by one percent of its citizens. Draconian funding cuts drive people to food shelves and soup kitchens in unprecedented numbers, neglected by a fearful herd trying to work enough hours to sustain an unsustainable debt.
During the past fifty years, the relationship between the federal government and corporate-finance power has transformed from a formally bipolar arrangement into today’s unipolar alignment. Government now functions primarily to serve shifting forces of corporate-finance power (and the odd foreign government) as a facilitator, benefactor, warrior, and spendthrift customer.
In the modern age, this fusion of money power and national government is called fascism. It has been observed that fascist governments typically resort to outlandish, racially-charged propaganda and embark on increasingly reckless wars of aggression. They usually conduct intensive domestic surveillance and counterintelligence, rig elections, imprison large percentages of their populations, sadistically torture prisoners and detainees, and police and “debate” by racial- and political-profiling. They always aggressively expand the executive power of the central government.
You don’t have to wait until they arrest you, too, to decide that America has become a fascist state. The evidence is all around you. Those who still have difficulty seeing the picture might be advised to stop listening to National Public Radio.
What do “peace activists” do in a fascist state? What is the true potential of our efforts to “change public opinion” in the world’s most advanced propaganda regime? What actions by a citizen are morally justified to resist this tyranny, injustice, and bloodshed? Which would be most effective? What have other people done in this situation? How do we feel about that?
Is it sane to continue to pretend that we live in a “democracy” when we manifestly do not? Does our squeamishness about armed resistance by Arabs and Muslims reflect an unconsciously imperial notion, that we might have peace if only they didn’t fight back? Are we willing to do everything we can to stop this global menace, starting with ourselves? These are but a few of the questions dying to be asked now by all people of conscience.
So, how do we feel about Hezbollah, which dealt the quickest and most embarrassing blow yet to the war plans of “our” empire? How can we not feel admiration, even gratitude, for their determination to prevent another bloody occupation? Didn’t they accomplish more in 34 days than we have accomplished in nearly four decades of a preposterous “peace process” chronically violated and manipulated to prolong the occupation?
At the end of his recent New Yorker article, Watching Lebanon: Washington’s interests in Israel’s war, Sy Hersh quoted John Arquilla, a defense analyst at the Naval Postgraduate School, about the Bush neocons’ view of warfare: “The definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing and expecting a different result.”
We who seek peace must ask ourselves if we have not also gone ‘insane’, expecting different results from actions that obviously haven’t worked. To guard our optimism in the New World Order, we Americans will have to learn to see peace the way most Palestinians see it: as the inevitable fruit of resolute resistance to aggression and injustice.