Eyeless in Gaza…and Damascus
October 7, 2003
Where would we be without Israel?
It’s not surprising that an administration whose definition of internationalism is "Let’s drive to Texarkana for pork barbecue" needs a guide to lead it through the bloody intricacies of the Middle East.
It’s also no surprise that our faux flyboy president would fall under the sway of a ruthless, wily warrior from Israel.
As Israel desperately ups the ante with a bombing raid deep into Syria, the once taboo question of America’s relationship with Israel, especially with Sharon and the Likud, is no longer esoteric or irrelevant.
It becomes one of central importance.
The neocon blueprint for the Middle East promised to avoid and short-circuit the loaded question of moderating Israeli behavior by switching the focus to Iraq, Syria, and Iran. "Draining the swamp" would cause the Palestinian problem to wither away as Arafat, deprived of the support of "outside agitators", would be overwhelmed by a combination of internal reformist pressure, Israeli subversion, and US-led diplomatic isolation.
The Palestinian problem would take care of itself as we became beloved masters of the Arabian sandbox.
Of course it didn’t happen that way.
America has found itself unable to contain nationalist aspirations and anti-American sentiments even inside Iraq, where our occupation is replacing the rule of a widely despised and execrated despot.
No surprise that our adventure in Iraq has had zero effect on Sharon’s futile attempt to crush an indigenous, popular Palestinian independence movement opposing Israeli occupation.
In fact, it would seem that the Palestinian problem is getting worse, not better.
Conventional logic would suggest that the neocon theory had failed its first real test and should be carefully and openly re-appraised.
No such luck.
The neocon solution is just more of the same, with a new twist.
The neocons, stymied in the United States by the Iraq debacle (and reportedly hamstrung by the Rove diktat "No war in 2004") must turn to a leader stronger, more determined, and more ruthless than Bush to keep their careening plans for Middle East transformation on track—Ariel Sharon.
Although the road to Israeli security and its presumed doppelganger, absolute American dominance in the Middle East, may lie through Damascus, it doesn’t look like U.S. boots will be hitting the highway anytime soon.
So Israel will have to make the trip alone (for the time being; maybe Paul Wolfowitz is promising that a few hitchhikers from the 82nd Airborne can be picked up somewhere further down the road).
The first step was a bombing raid on a purported terrorist training camp near Damascus, supposedly in retaliation for a suicide bombing by a Palestinian woman that left 19 dead in Haifa.
Bush, by now truly a captive of his own failure, stupidity, and neocon cupidity, is supporting Sharon in the only military escapade that could possibly be regionally and internationally less popular than the invasion of Iraq.
When Sharon applies to Syria a policy that has failed for Israel on the West Bank, and for the U.S. in Iraq, Bush eggs him on with a creepy, fascistic call to defend the Homeland by any means necessary.
Perhaps Bush is hoping against hope, logic, and history that somehow Sharon will blast a tunnel through Syria, and the Middle East will wade through the bloody darkness to emerge in a promised land of peace and pro-American capitalism that will vindicate Bush’s failed policy of nirvana through unilateral aggression.
And Sharon, who has saddled his own demons and is ready to ride them straight into hell, knows that he holds the key to Armageddon in his hands.
He has a green light not only for military operations in Gaza and the West Bank; not only for targeted killings of Palestinian leaders; not only for the expulsion or execution of Arafat…
…he also has a green light for aggression against Syria and anybody else he declares a threat.
The scariest part of this (if you’re not Syrian of course) is not the fact that Israel may pursue a policy of regime change in Syria similar to what we did in Iraq…
…which is to overthrow a hostile ruler and leave the country wallowing helplessly in chaos, poverty, and anarchy, unable either to threaten its neighbors or care for itself…
…but that Sharon, the region’s only possessor of true WMDs (or, as Bush might say, "genwin nookular weppins") is aggressively pursuing a policy of unilateral, escalating military confrontation without any explicit, let alone effective, check from the United States.
Unfortunately, this is not a time for Sharon to show restraint or exercise discretion.
Sharon has every reason to believe that, if Bush loses the 2004 election--as suddenly seems possible--a Democratic president would put the neocon war machine up on blocks pronto.
In fact, if Colin Powell uses Plame-gate to put the neocons in cold storage, a more even-handed U.S. stance on the Middle East might reappear in a matter of weeks.
Better create some facts on the ground i.e. escalate the confrontation with Syria to the point of no return so Bush will have no alternative but to back Israel—and the neocons.
Time for Ariel Sharon--and the neocons--to get very, very busy.
Time to drop the bombs, crank the crisis up a few notches, foreclose the diplomatic options, trumpet the dire threats from the usual right-wing pulpits--just as we did in Iraq.
When the focus of Bush’s Middle East policy switches to openly enabling third-party aggression against Syria, it puts the whole Israel/Sharon/Likud/neocon question on the table.
If we opposed the war on Iraq, how can’t we oppose the evolving war on Syria?
It’s the same bankrupt strategy, pursued by the same people using different means.
When Bush boldly took on his own shoulders the burden of plunging the Middle East into war, the issue of the convergence of Sharon’s strategic interests with U.S. policy could be overlooked or explained away.
After all, America had plenty of its own reasons for invading Iraq: the geopolitical advantages of controlling access to Iraq oil; the desire to assert the unilateral pre-emptive war doctrine against a helpless, despised opponent; the domestic political benefits of keeping American society on an anxious war footing; the pleasures of giving GOP-friendly defense and infrastructure contractors a profitable desert workout…
…so that the advantages to Israeli security doctrine of the Iraq invasion could be dismissed as an irrelevant langniappe.
As to the close cooperation between the US and Israel—in all accuracy, the real Churchill to Bush’s FDR was not the puppyish Tony Blair, but the hefty and implacable Ariel Sharon—America certainly needed somebody’s help in the Middle East.
We don’t do very well at pacification or occupation far from home, and we had no useful experience in dealing with ancient, agrarian-based, urbanized, educated Arab Muslim societies.
Again, it was not unreasonable to call on Israel. Sharon’s ruthless, tunnel-vision approach to security certainly appealed to our simple-minded Caesar’s weakness for deceptively easy military solutions.
Israel offered Bush the hope, if not the evidence, that Arab anger and aspirations could be managed through the exercise of overwhelming, unrelenting force. An ostentatiously pro-Israel tilt would also permit Bush to present himself to American Jewish voters as Israel’s champion.
So, on June 24, 2002, the date that marks the true first step to war with Iraq, Bush abandoned any pretense of reprising the tired and frustrating role of honest broker in the Israel-Palestine conflict. He exchanged the peace process for a war process under the misleading and all-purpose rubric of the "War on Terror".
In the service of the Iraq war, Sharon offered Bush intelligence support (including, apparently, politically useful pseudo-intelligence from a group of operatives similar to Cheney’s Cabal—I wonder if they worked under a Gentile name like "The Posse" to avoid that "Jewish conspiracy" canard—laboring to assemble a case for the Iraq war out of materials the Mossad wouldn’t touch); practical advice on how to fight door to door, pacify, occupy, detain, and interrogate; and the useful promise to go apeshit wild if Saddam dared launch an attack against Israel.
But here we are in October 2004.
We got Iraq, but every U.S.-based security justification for the war has been proven wrong. We didn’t get any WMDs, and we didn’t get a cost-free, pain-free cakewalk.
We got our own, personal deep-dish quagmire.
Faced with the undeniable evidence of simultaneous debacles of American intelligence, neocon doctrine, DOD execution, and White House diplomacy, the question is no longer, What is the US going to do in the Middle East?
We’ll be up to our ass in Iraq, that’s what we’ll be doing for the next few years.
The real question is, Now that Israel has taken on the job of unilateral pre-emptive war in the Middle East, What is the US going to do about Israel?
Shrug our shoulders helplessly as Israel shreds one or two more Middle Eastern countries while our politically and intellectually hamstrung president holds Sharon’s coat?
Or recognize that neocon elements of the Bush administration are quite possibly colluding with Sharon to foment a regional crisis that will compel US support for a politically discredited and ideologically bankrupt agenda?
Tactics like this are not beyond the neocon fanatics like Perle, who has reportedly sought to orchestrate Israeli diplomatic and political activities to further his goals (see "Anger at peace talks ‘meddling’; political scandal in US as Bush advisers tell Israelis to be ready to walk out of Camp David negotiations", Julian Borger, Guardian, July 13, 2000 for a description of Perle’s efforts to sabotage the Clinton –led peace talks).
Of course, the neocons believe that they can trump any suspicion, accusation, or evidence with the howl of "anti-Semitism".
It’s not a question of anti-Semitism.
It’s truth vs. deception, peace vs. war, and success vs. failure.
The best prospect for Israel’s future is to get George Bush out of office and kick the financial, military, diplomatic, and political props out from under Sharon so that new leaders can bring Israel new ideas and new hope.
The best hope for America is to recognize that, as a result of our faith-based "War on Terror" policy, we are eyeless in Gaza…and Tel Aviv and Baghdad and Damascus and Teheran and Riyadh.
Like Samson, we strain blindly for clues and understanding as to what’s going on around us, as we live in mortal peril of the deceiving neocon whisper that will make us pull the temple—and the whole world—down upon our own heads.
The real question is not, where would we be without Israel?
The real question is, where would we be if we opened our own eyes and saw the truth of what was happening around us, instead of closing our eyes and listening to the phantom fears and hopes besetting our minds?
Where would we be then?
Not in Iraq…or Syria.
Copyright 2003 Peter Lee