Imagining Courage and Sanity
Editor’s Note: Sometimes it does strike us that Americans must love their crazy because otherwise how could there be so much of it.
In this guest essay (published originally at “the Anti-Empire Report”), historian William Blum imagines what the recent news might be like if rationality and principle prevailed, as opposed to the lies and the hypocrisy that currently dominate. Granted, a crazy thought:
Things internationally are so dispiriting there's nothing left to do but fantasize.
I picture Turkey, as a member of NATO, demanding that the alliance come to its defense after being attacked by Israel. Under Article 5 of the NATO charter an armed attack on one member is deemed to constitute an armed attack on all members.
That is the ostensible reason NATO is fighting in Afghanistan — the attack against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, is regarded as an attack on all NATO members (disregarding the awkward fact that Afghanistan as a country had nothing directly to do with the attack).
The Israeli attack on a Turkish-flagged ship, operated by a Turkish humanitarian organization, killing nine Turkish nationals and wounding many more can certainly constitute an attack upon a NATO member.
So, in my fantasy, after the United States, the UK, Germany, France and other leading NATO members offer their ridiculous non-sequitur excuses why they can't ... umm ... er ... invoke Article 5, and the international media swallows it all without any indigestion, Turkey demands that Israel should at least lose its formal association with NATO as a member of the Mediterranean Dialogue.
This too is dismissed with scorn by the eminent NATO world powers on the grounds that it would constitute a victory for terrorism. And anti-Semitism, of course.
Turkey then withdraws from NATO. Azerbaijan and five other Central Asian members of NATO's Partnership for Peace with Turkic constituencies do the same. NATO falls into a crisis.
Remaining member countries begin to question the organization's policies as never before ... like please tell us again why our young men are killing and dying in Afghanistan, and why we send them to Kosovo and Iraq and other places the Americans deem essential to their endlessly threatened national security.
In my fantasy, Vice President Biden tells the eminent conservative-in-liberal-clothing pseudo-intellectual Charlie Rose on TV that "We have put as much pressure and as much cajoling on Israel as we can to allow them to get building materials in" to Gaza – bags of concrete being the primary “contraband” intercepted by the Israeli assault on May 31– Rose for once rises to the occasion and acts like a real journalist, asking Biden:
"Have you threatened Israel with ending all military and economic aid? Have you put the names of Israeli officials on your list of foreigners who cannot enter the United States and whose bank accounts in the U.S. are frozen, as you've done with numerous foreign officials who were not supporters of the empire?”
Rose continues: “Since Israel has committed both crimes against the peace and crimes against humanity, and since these are crimes that have international jurisdiction, certain Israeli political and military personnel can be named in trials held in any country of the world. Will you be instructing the Attorney General to proceed with such an indictment?
“Or if some other country which is a member of the International Criminal Court calls upon the ICC to prosecute these individuals, will the United States try to block the move? Why hasn't the United States itself delivered building materials to Gaza?"
If you want a taste of the real interview between Rose and Biden on June 2 – just two days after the Israeli assault and less than three months after the Israeli government humiliated Biden by announcing new Jewish housing construction in Arab East Jerusalem as he was arriving to express U.S. solidarity with Israel – it went this way:
Rose: So are you saying that the relationship between Israel and the United
States is OK?
Biden: It’s more than OK. Look, we always have had disagreements tactically with Israeli governments. But when I was in Israel, Bibi Netanyahu and I held a press conference before all that flap about a new settlement, et cetera.
Rose: Well, exactly. I’m told the President got very upset because of what [Netanyahu’s government] did while you were in the country.
Biden: That’s true. But here’s the point. We stood there at that press conference. I was making a major speech at the University of Tel Aviv, major meaning laying out U.S. policy. And Bibi pointed out that no administration in history has been as upfront and supportive of Israel’s security as this administration.
We’ve done everything from provide missile defense, we’ve made sure they’ve maintained their qualitative edge. There’s a new program called Iron Dome that we are funding that helps them protect themselves. We have joint maneuvers. They’ve never been closer on a strategic side with Israel than today.
Rose: [Israeli Defense Minister] Ehud Barak said that to me on a program.
Biden: And that’s literally true.
Back in my fantasy, however, when Israel justifies its murders on the grounds of "self-defense," late-night TV comedians Jay Leno and David Letterman find great humor in this, pointing out that a new memoir by China's premier at the time of the 1989 Tiananmen Square violent suppression defends the military action by saying that soldiers acted in "self-defense" when they fired on the democracy activists.
When Israel labels as "terrorists" the ship passengers who offered some resistance to the Israeli invaders, the New York Times points out that the passengers who resisted the 9/11 hijackers on the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania are called "heroes."
(As an aside, it's worth noting that the United States uses 9/11 as Israel uses the Holocaust — as excuse and justification for all manner of illegal and violent international behavior.)
Meanwhile, in my imagination, the Washington Post reminds its readers that in 2009 Israel attacked a boat on international waters carrying medical aid to Gaza with former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney aboard; and that in 1967 Israel attacked an American ship, the USS Liberty, killing 34 and wounding about 173, and that President Johnson did then just what President Obama is doing now and would have done then — nothing.
And finally, Secretary of State Clinton declares that she's had a revelation. She realizes that what she recently said about North Korea when it was accused of having torpedoed a South Korean warship applies as well to Israel.
Mrs. Clinton had demanded that Pyongyang "stop its provocative behavior, halt its policy of threats of belligerence towards its neighbors, and take irreversible steps to fulfill its denuclearization commitments and comply with international law."
In my fantasy, she adds that the North Korean guilt is by no means conclusive, while Israel doesn't deny its attack on the ship at all; moreover, it's not known for sure if North Korea actually possesses nuclear weapons, whereas there's no uncertainty about Israel's large stockpile.
But that’s just in my dreams. In the real world, hypocrisy reigns.
Is hypocrisy a moral failing or a failure of the intellect? When President Obama says, as he has often, "No one is above the law" and in his next breath makes it clear that his administration will not seek to indict Bush or Cheney for any crimes, does he think that no one will notice the contradiction, the hypocrisy?
That's a callous disregard for public opinion and/or a dumbness worthy of his predecessor.
And when President Obama declares: "The future does not belong to those who gather armies on a field of battle or bury missiles in the ground," does it not occur to him at all that he's predicting a bleak outlook for the United States? Does he forget that it is his conscious, deliberate policy to increase the size of America's army and its stockpile of missiles?
Can the hypocrisy and the lies reach such a magnitude that enough American true believers begin to question their cherished faith, so that their number reaches a critical mass and explodes?
Well, it's already happened with countless Americans, but it's an awfully formidable task keeping pace with what is turned out by the mass media and education factories. They're awfully good at what they do. Too bad.
But don't forsake the struggle. What better way is there to live this life? And remember, just because the world has been taken over by lying, hypocritical, mass-murdering madmen doesn't mean we can't have a good time.
William Blum is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II. For more of Blum’s commentaries and other books, go to http://killinghope.org .
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