After months of teeter-tottering between fairness to the Palestinians and complete prostration before Israel’s amen corner in the US, George W. Bush has come down decisively on the side of the latter and the so-called war on terrorism has taken a new and ominous turn.
It was pathetic, really, to see that Chairman Arafat hailed Bush’s long-awaited speech as "a serious effort to push the peace process forward" even after Bush called for his ouster! Oh, the hapless Palestinian leader insisted, but he didn’t mean me! The Saudis echoed this empty claim, averring that any endorsement of a Palestinian state no matter how "provisional," no matter how many conditions are attached to its founding is better than nothing.
Alas, the Bush plan is nothing. Beyond recognizing the abstract need for a Palestinian state, as some kind of ideal to be reached sometime in the distant future, Bush granted the Palestinians exactly nothing. You must dump your current leadership, cease any form of violent resistance to the Israeli occupation, "reform" your government along Western "democratic" lines, and, even then, your independence and nationhood will only be "provisional" with no guarantee that the process will end with the lifting of the Israeli yoke.
While everything was asked of the Palestinians, and nothing promised, the exact opposite treatment was meted out to the Jewish state. Bush asked nothing of the Israelis in terms of a timetable: not a single condition, demand, or even the faint suggestion that they might dismantle even some of the latest "settlements" erected on land recently stolen. The best Bush could do was to politely request that they refrain from building any more new ones but not until such time "as we make progress towards security."
The utter meaninglessness of Bush’s weasel words, his "vision" of Israel retreating to positions held prior to September 28, 2000, was underscored by Ariel Sharon’s boldly contemptuous actions. The President had hardly finished speaking when Israeli tanks were already rolling into Gaza, and Ramallah, surrounding Arafat once again. The Israeli cabinet had declared ahead of time that they were going into the West Bank for an "indefinite" stay.
As the Israeli Prime Minister resembling a large poisonous reptile, absurdly attired in a suit and tie announced this latest move, he smiled cruelly, happily, like a giant toad contemplating a fat and very sloooow fly. Bush can say anything he likes, as far as the Israelis are concerned: Sharon is content to have the IDF establish facts on the ground, and let Ari Fleischer explain how and why they are allowed to get away with it.
There was a lot of humor of the Bushian (i.e. unintentional) variety in this speech. I particularly liked the little lecture on how the US would lead the Palestinians down the path to "democracy" and "free markets," if only they would roll over and play dead. Oh, I suppose Israel qualifies as a "democracy," at least in the formal sense even if only a few Arabs are permitted to vote, and the rest are pushed out of "the only democracy in the Middle East" and herded into refugee camps. As for "free markets" tell it to the Israelis, who live in one of the last socialist countries on earth. I was particularly taken aback by the President’s exhortation to reform the Palestinian judicial system:"Today, the Palestinian people lack effective courts of law and have no means to defend and vindicate their rights. A Palestinian state will require a system of reliable justice to punish those who prey on the innocent."
What about the Palestinian innocents who had their land seized and their homes bulldozed by the Israelis, to make way for settlers from Brooklyn? Will these courts defend and vindicate their rights? If not, then they will always lack legitimacy; if so, then the Israeli occupation will have ended. Then and only then can a constitutional order upholding individual rights as in property rights be established. I’ll be damned if Bush didn’t have the gall to get up on his high horse and demand that the Palestinians set up a republic in the Jeffersonian mode:
"Today, the elected Palestinian legislature has no authority, and power is concentrated in the hands of an unaccountable few. A Palestinian state can only serve its citizens with a new constitution which separates the powers of government. The Palestinian parliament should have the full authority of a legislative body. Local officials and government ministers need authority of their own and the independence to govern effectively."
This from a President whose unparalleled seizure of power, cloak of secrecy, and swaggering unaccountability has reduced Congress to rubber-stamping far-reaching legislation it is hardly permitted to read!
Separation of powers? Somebody please remind the Bushies of this vaunted high principle before they decide to invade Iraq: after all, isn’t the right to declare war invested in Congress alone?
As for "local officials" needing "independence" don’t even get me started on the tragic demise of state’s rights in America, and the usurpation of the old constitutional order by the federal hegemon.
Even as we dismantle the remnants of our dear old Republic, and morph into an unspeakably vulgar caricature of the old Roman Empire, Americans insist on lecturing the peoples of the world on their deficiencies in the democracy department. Even as we restrict the civil liberties of our own people to an unprecedented degree, and throw an impenetrable shield of secrecy over the activities of our leaders, an American President the author of these outrages has the nerve to reproach the Palestinians for failing to measure up to some highfalutin’ Jeffersonian standard. This is the true meaning of the word hubris .
Bush generously offers to "work with Palestinian leaders to create a new constitutional framework, and a working democracy for the Palestinian people." Hey, bud, how about restoring the American constitutional framework, first? Oh, there’s no end to American arrogance, is there? Absolutely no ability to see one’s own country except through the gauze of ideology and wishful thinking (or do I repeat myself?). I mean, just listen to this drivel:
"And the United States, along with others in the international community will help the Palestinians organize and monitor fair, multi-party local elections by the end of the year, with national elections to follow."
When nearly the entire Palestinian population is under lockdown, imprisoned in their own homes by the Israeli military, what would such an election campaign look like? It’s absurd to even talk about such things in the present context when the frontrunner in that election is surrounded by Israeli tanks.
We have been regaled with tales of Arafat’s failing political fortunes and sagging popularity, but much of this was just a Likudnik propaganda prelude to the Reoccupation, meant to inure us to the possibility of the PLO chieftain’s demise whether physical or metaphorical remains to be seen. However, if Arafat’s popularity with his own people was ever in real decline, mostly as a consequence of the growing influence of Islamist radicals, Bush has rescued the crafty old survivor from his presumed irrelevance. Having been singled out by the Americans, if only for involuntary retirement, he is once again at center-stage. This should do wonders for Arafat’s poll numbers, and almost ensure his victory in an election that would turn into a popular referendum on the right of the American hegemon to dictate the outcome of a "free" election before the balloting has even begun.
Normally, one would think that anyone who even suspects this result was the intention of the US all along, and that it is all a ploy, an exercise in reverse psychology, has already fitted himself for a tinfoil hat. But there isn’t anything remotely normal about these particular circumstances: after all, it was only a few weeks ago that the Bushies were insisting that the Israelis had better get used to the idea of negotiating with Arafat. Now the PLO chairman is being told to get out while the going is good. So, what gives?
Either the new stance is a feint designed to shore up the secular center, as represented by Arafat, and scare him into true reform, or else US foreign policy is being run by whichever faction happens to grab power or the President’s attention at any given moment. We report you decide. But I have a few theories of my own .
On the one hand, the reasons for the drunken stumbling from one position, only to careen into another the next week, can be seen as entirely political. The influence of the new "Christian Zionism," the pervasive neoconservative influence on the President’s right flank, even pressure from the more pro-Israel Democrats all of these are undoubtedly factors. But, still, on the other hand, the chief executive of the most powerful nation on earth is presumed to have some leverage over the Prime Minister of a tiny, beleaguered Middle Eastern settler-colony especially one that would go bankrupt five minutes after the withdrawal of US aid. Yet the President has swung completely around to the Israeli position.
Remember, it wasn’t so long ago that the President was telling the Israelis to rein in their conquering armies but now he has turned around and given them the green light to go after Arafat. Now that was a fast reversal. It kinda makes you wonder: what have they got on Dubya, anyway?
Photos from his days as a frat boy? According to the Starr Report, Clinton told Monica that their "phone sex" conversations had been taped by "a foreign intelligence agency" many believe to be the Mossad. The penetration of supposedly "secure" US government communications by Israeli intelligence has been well documented by such mainstream sources as Fox News, Insight magazine, Salon, and others, and so there’s no need to go into it here in any depth. Suffice to say that they have the technological capability and it would be real interesting to see the Mossad’s dossier on Dubya, don’t you think?
Okay, but seriously …
Seen in the context of the worldwide "war on terrorism," the President’s speech is a signal that the scope of the struggle is widening. The Americans’ main fire is no longer directed at Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. US war aims are now completely detached from the actual events of 9/11. By exerting political pressure on an American President on the home front, and defying him on the international stage, Ariel Sharon has brought a once recalcitrant George W. Bush to heel. Bush’s speech, in effect, plainly and openly sides with Israel and, as such, amounts to a declaration of war on the entire Arab world. The apocalyptic Israeli view of the coming world struggle pitting the US, Israel, and their scattered allies against the Islamosphere is now dominant in Washington.
This apocalypticism is the necessary prelude to a new world war, a final war of conquest in which the West will try to assert its global hegemony. The proclamations of a "new" imperialism, the growing demands for a war with Iraq coming from inside the Bush administration, the outright calls for a military occupation of the Saudi oil fields not to mention the "libertarian" Cato Institute howling for the invasion and military occupation of Pakistan! all are predicated on the new Manichean view of foreign relations in the post-9/11 world as a pitiless "civilizational" struggle essentially a religious war between Islam and the Judeo-Christian West.
History, far from having ended, seems barely to have begun. The hope of our neo-imperialists, however, is that the next war will be the beginning of the end of history, the final blow against cultural and political particularism in the struggle to impose a new global order. After the conquest of the Middle East, and the settlement of the "Palestinian question" under terms favorable to Israel, Western elites can move on to more productive projects: the absorption of Europe’s archaic principalities into a single Euro-state economically and militarily integrated with the Anglosphere, the taming of Russia and China and, eventually, the extension of the new global Hegemon’s influence into every corner of the globe. Peacefully, if possible, by force, if necessary.
And there you have it: a vision of empire. In the future, the slogan "America, love it or leave it" just won’t make any sense. Because America will be everywhere, under one flag or another. But for how long and at what price? Empires rise and fall. Usually they go bankrupt. Cultural decay sets in: look at the Roman example. We are already living in a culture that can fairly be described as pagan. Are Americans ready for a Caesar and a series of ruinous wars, costly in troops and treasure? I may be naïve in believing that they won’t put up with either for long, but then maybe I’m just projecting my old-fashioned values onto a thoroughly corrupted body politic. Maybe I’m living in an idealized past, where people weren’t too scared to stand up for themselves and defend the last remnants of the Founders’ great achievement. We shall see .