I try to make sense of politics -- it's what my doctorate implies I'm
qualified to do -- but often I am defeated. Reality is just too damn
weird. And satire these days is almost superfluous. Here are three
History tells us that long-term military occupations don't work, but
countries continue to invade and occupy lands belonging to others. Then
the occupiers seem shocked -- shocked! -- that the natives don't want
Israel, for example, has a love-hate thing going with its occupation of
Palestinian land. On the one hand, it knows that military occupations
are self-defeating sappers of Israel's moral, economic and military
strength, and so it makes moves to pull back within its borders, as it
did in Gaza (but not yet in the West Bank). But then it permits itself
to re-occupy, or at least re-invade, land that it left.
Two thirds of Americans know that the occupation of Iraq three years
after Bush declared "mission accomplished" is reckless and nonsensical,
and want the U.S. military to start exiting Iraq. Iraqis overwhelmingly
have indicated that they'd prefer the U.S. start leaving as well or, at
the very least, present a rough timetable for when that might start to
But for both Israel and America, their occupations continue and appear
to grow even worse. The very presence of these foreign troops on the
ground, in Palestine and Iraq, is a large share of the problem, a
running sore that creates a deepening infection in the local body
politic, engendering a nationalistic resistance to throw the occupiers
out. But the two military giants, each possessing overwhelming
firepower, are caught in a quagmire of their own devising in trying to
deal with shadowy, lightly-armed guerrillas who simply won't give up.
POWER AND HUMILIATION
In both Iraq and Palestine, the issue of humiliation is a constant.
Israel continually, day after day, grinds the Palestinians' collective
nose in their powerlessness; America uses its mighty arsenal to remind
Iraqis who really controls their lives (and their deaths), and tries to
impose a "democracy" from the outside.
If the U.S. is really interested in stabilizing the Middle East region,
and diminishing the power of terrorist organizations that use that
conflict as a rallying cry and recruiting tool, the logical first step
would be to solve the Israel/Palestine conflict as quickly as possible.
Instead, the Bush Administration does nothing, in effect serving an an
enabler of the spiraling violence.
Both sides know roughly what needs to happen in order to effect a
stabilizing peace: Israel withdraws from its settlements to its pre-1967
borders and is guaranteed security; a geographically and economically
viable Palestinian state is created in West Bank/Gaza; treaties are
worked out on right-of-return, jobs and water and so on; neither side
permits the occasional terrorist act to deter its dedication to
maintaining the peace; and Jerusalem is administered by an international
body that shows no favoritism to any country.
That's the clear way to peace, but both sides make sure not to go there.
The only logical conclusion is that they are not ready yet to travel
that path; each believes that just one more military push will bring it
what it wants. And, basically, what it wants is for the other side to
vanish. Ain't gonna happen, but desire knows no logic.
When both sides are ready to accept that the Other is not going to
disappear but has genuine needs and desires that need to be satisfied,
which realization will require some very real and painful compromises,
then and only then can the road to peace be taken. Either it happens now
-- and, even amidst the current bloodshed, there are hopeful signs -- or
the slaughter continues for another generation or two, until both sides
realize enough is enough.
A LESSON FROM VIETNAM
With regard to Iraq, the U.S. (finally!) has to learn the lesson of
Vietnam: When occupying a foreign nation, with no outlook other than
endless stalemate, you either leave on your own, with as much dignity
and face-saving gestures as possible, or you get drawn further into an
endless quagmire (death by a thousand cuts) and eventually have to leave
anyway looking like a muscle-bound superpower defeated by a ragtag
Even Bush's generals know all this, but the policy has been otherwise
decided by arrogant, ideologically-driven civilians, in this case mainly
by Cheney and Rumsfeld. They will "stay the course" and the U.S. will
have to leave ignominiously later. Why? Because they want those
permanent military bases in that area of the world, they want that oil
and gas, they want to try to impose their will and idea of the future on
that volatile region of the world, and because Bush and his bunker crew
are psychologically incapable of admitting they were wrong from the very
If the war results in tens of thousands more killed and wounded, and
bankrupts the nation, so be it, according to Bush&Co. In any event, Bush
has told us, winding up the Iraq war will happen on his successor's
watch, so the Bush Administration doesn't have to accept any
responsibility for the debacle and the deaths.
OPENING THE FRIGHT PLAYBOOK
With less than four months to go until the November mid-term election,
it's deja vu all over again, as Yogi said. Karl Rove simply opens his
fright playbook, the same one he used in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and
attempts to play the electorate -- and especially the putative
opposition Democrats -- like a xylophone. Terrorists here, terrorists
there, terrorists everywhere. And, by and large, the mainstream media
publishes the fright stories straight, without seriously raising any
major questions, and the Democrats, terrified of being labeled "soft on
terrorism," buy into the Republican agenda. I don't get it.
How else to interpret the major, unrelenting news coverage given to the
supposed Miami cell of hardcore jihadists planning on blowing up
Chicago's Sears Tower, or the Islamist conspirators allegedly planning
to blow up the train tunnels leading into Manhattan?
In the first instance, a paid informant inside the group got them
interested in the Sears Tower idea, and, voila!, they're busted for
"planning" to bring down that massive structure -- quite by
"coincidence" just as the American election campaign moves into its
final 100 days. In truth, it appears that there were no Sears Tower
"plans," just a lot of bloviating about what these wannabe jihadists
would like to do someday to the dastardly Americans.
With regard to the New York City story, apparently untrained Islamists,
most of whom didn't even know each other, shared online ideas about
exploding a device inside the tunnels, the effect of which would be to
cause chaos in the New York subway system. (The Bush forces raced to the
microphones to predict that Lower Manhattan, especially the economic
centers, would be flooded, forgetting the laws of physics that would
keep the water in the river since in order to flood the city, there
would have to be strong pumps pushing the water up above sea level,
which is where Manhattan resides.) Further, the FBI is relying on a
captured Islamist militant picked up in Lebanon; until we know whether
he was psychologically or physically tortured, what he "confessed" to
means next to nothing.
No, friends, the timing and especially the lack of specifics and
evidence -- indeed, about all we have are allegations of what some Bad
Guys were talking about doing, some day, maybe -- appears to be just
part of the pre-election fear-building machinery cranking up in rather
cumbersome and obvious ways. Warning: Karl Rove construction ahead;
proceed with caution and lots of grains of salt.
OSAMA BIN WHO?
Here are Rove and his minions warning about Islamist terror-cells, even
telling a tale that the would-be New York tunnel-bombers got their
go-ahead from the leader of al-Qaida, but they're closing down the CIA's
anti-terrorist unit whose function is to locate and neutralize Osama bin
Laden. Explain that one. See what I mean about reality outstripping the
possibilities of satire? (Same goes with the U.S. military hiring
out-of-work skinheads to fight in Iraq. And then Bush&Co. are puzzled by
Iraqis' negative reactions to having Muslim-hating, racist American
troops on their soil. You can't make this stuff up.)
Either the pre-election fright stories being told are riddled with
untruths, or the Bush Administration needs the bogeyman of Osama bin
Laden out there helping scare the U.S. population into submission. It's
been that way since 9/11.
Without bin Laden on the loose, Bush&Co. would not have virtual free
rein to do whatever it feels it needs to do in its so-called "war on terrorism" --
a permanent war against a political/military tactic, which permits
virtual carte blanche domestically (police-state powers) and more wars
abroad (Iran? Syria? Venezuela? North Korea?). Similarly, bin Laden
needs a clumsy, rampaging America so that he can build his base of
support and foment more Islamist mischief around the world. Osama and
George -- the dance of the tarantulas.
(Am I discounting that there are terrorists out there who really want
to, and maybe even are planning, to do American harm? Of course not. But
the way the Bush Administration goes about its business -- torture,
occupations, bombings, violations of law, extra-constitutional
authoritarianism, appointing incompetents in key positions, etc. --
makes us citizens less secure, not more secure.)
It's a crazyquilt world and all you and I can do is try to make some
sense of it, even though I know it's virtually impossible to piece it
all together. Welcome to the hunt.
Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner
Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international
relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington,
worked as a writer/editor for the San Francisco Chronicle, and currently
co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: >>
crisispapers comcast.net << .