Oh, my droogies, the fatigue runs deep. I’m off to India for a month on Wednesday and have a hundred things to get done before then. I will be exploring the cities of the world’s biggest democracy, and even giving a book reading at Jawarlahal Nehru University in New Delhi. Yes, I will try to blog from the field, but no promises.
Back when I was living in Washington, DC, in the early days of the “War On Terror” I’d often comment that I suspected the feds had a file on me. I wasn’t joking. Some friends took this as yet another sign of my expanding ego, but my feeling had less to do with my inflated sense of self-importance and more to do with what was an unmistakable growing sense of totalitarian Big Brotherness, wherein anyone the least bit outspoken against any policies of the government would be at least casually watched. (I was sure there was a file somewhere on me because I had published my political views, had travelled to several Communist countries, including China and Cuba, had twice obtained secret clearance with the Canadian feds, thus necessitating the opening of files in several offices, and had consorted with “known Communists” –hey, Commie chicks are easy.)
(Aside: Is it a sign of my overbearing ego that I parenthetically announce to you that there’s an entry on me in the Dictionary of Famous People?)
Well, maybe I was being paranoid and self-important, who knows. But looky looky. The revelations about BushCo’s domestic spying operation are now showing that the spooks weren’t so much investigating terror suspects, but rather were keeping tabs on domestic political opponents, specifically anyone who publically expressed discontentment with the policies –any policies– of the Bush administration. All you had to do to get a file opened was disagree with Bush. This includes animal rights activists and vegans who, of course, are too weak from lack of protein to ever be a threat.
Well, what will happen as a result of all this? My bet is nothing. Nothing will happen. If there were true justice in the world, this would be cause for more than just impeachment. Heck, Clinton gets impeached for getting a hummer. But Bush gets an attaboy for torture, lying his way into war, bankrupting the treasury and for breaking inernational and federal laws. Land of the free, indeed.
Now is indeed the time to be judging this monkey man by the terms he himself had set out for himself. The defender of freedom? Whose freedom? Many have noted that the new Iraqi constitution technically gives Iraqis more rights than Americans now enjoy under Bush. The author of a new, revolutionary doctrine for world security? Okay, let’s deal with that one…
In Israel/Palestine last week, a remarkable thing happened. Hamas, known in the West mostly has a militant group, was elected to Palestinian legislature with an astounding majority. Now, in the rest of the world, Hamas is also known for providing a great many social services. In fact, they won largely on their platform of public works, street security and hygiene: services that the ruling Fatah types were not providing efficiently enough. But Hamas nonetheless has an armed wing that has declared that Israel should not exist, thus the election is being seen by many as a step backwards in the Middle East’s peace process. Certainly, it would be foolish not to have some concern over Hamas’s history of, shall we say, undiplomatic methods.
A few points need to be made here. First, historically when terrorists rise to legitimate power, good government is the result. Nelson Mandela’s ANC was, according to some, a terror group that admittedly employed torture as a tool in its war. Israel itself has been led by two Prime Ministers who were themselves terrorists before the official founding of modern Israel. George Washington and other early American leaders were technically illegal militants when they rebelled against the British; the Boston tea partiers were definitely terrorists. History has chosen to re-imagine these characters as heroes who bent extant moral codes to achieve a grander good. Who is to say that Hamas won’t transform in the same manner? (I know, I know, there are a lot of variables at work here. But play along, okay?)
Second, it is my belief that Hamas had no desire to acquire legislative power. They revel in providing criticism and shaking their fists and rifles. Their goal was to be the secondary power in Palestine, the alternative voice of the street; in other words, a perennial opposition party. Now that real representative power has been thrust upon them, they must rise to the challenge with real ideas, reasoned policies and –most importantly– new blood that is not, um, bathed in blood. I think they might just succeed, unless some moron decides to buy a nuke.
What does this have to do with evaluating Bush? Well, the election of Hamas is the classic test of one pillar of the Bush doctrine, which is the prime prima facia rationalization for all neocon aggression, i.e. that the imposition of democracy is in itself an end goal that will result in world security. Well, the Palestinians elected Hamas, fair and square, and now Bush has to deal with them. There’s nothing in the Bush Doctrine that says a populace has to elect a government the West likes. In fact, true democracy in most of the world’s hot spots would result in governments decidedly lukewarm toward American and Western interests.
Well, except Iran, I think. As so well phrased in the movie Syriana, the Iranian people are natural allies of the United States. I really wonder what kind of government the Persian people would elect in absence of the hyper-conservative clerical caste. Speaking of Iran, I leave you with this priceless quote from Charley Reese:
"The Iranians are just as sensible and levelheaded as anyone else. Don't buy the propaganda that they are all a bunch of crazies. They've been around a lot longer than we have. I would trust them with nuclear weapons as much as --perhaps even a hair more than-- I trust Bush. Americans must stop allowing politicians and propagandists to scare them into reckless behavior."
UPDATE: Eric Margolis has just written a summary of the potential –and impending– NATO/US/Israeli military action against Iran. All terrifying and not unlikely stuff. It’s worth pointing out that Iran would never launch a first nuclear strike against Israel; in the words of Richard Gwynn, a few second later Iran would cease to exist. The real fear, of course, is that Iran would provide a terrorist group with a nuclear device, and let them do the dirty delivery work. With Hamas in Palestine and the growing Shiite power in Iraq both funded by the current administration in Iran, there does seem to be an uavoidable prize fight, in some form or another, about to be fought between the two regional superpowers Iran and Israel. As this blog noted years ago, the one certain result of American aggression in Iraq is that it leaves Iran as the biggest kid on the block, and thus necessarily a default gathering point for Islamist forces, despite the largely secular and Westernized outlook of the Persian middle class. In other words, much of this mess was predictable and avoidable.