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Thursday, April 29, 2004

EDWARD W. SAID ON THE "APOCALYPSE NOW" by Edward W. Said (Old Dominion Foundation Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University, and a former member of the Palestine National Council) from Acts of Aggression, Policing "Rogue" States, Copyright © 1999 by Edward W. Said, Noam Chomsky and Ramsey Clark "It would be a mistake, I think, to reduce what is happening between Iraq and the United States simply to an assertion of Arab will and sovereignty versus American imperialism, (the latter of) which undoubtedly plays a central role in all this. However misguided, Saddam Hussein's cleverness is not that he is splitting America from its allies {which he has not really succeeded in doing for any practical purpose} but that he is exploiting the astonishing clumsiness and failures of U.S. foreign policy. Very few people, least of all Saddam himself, can be fooled into believing him to be the innocent victim of American bullying; most of what is happening to his unfortunate people who are undergoing the most dreadful and unacknowledged suffering is due in considerable degree to his callous cynicism... Be that as it may, U.S. vindictiveness ([re]vengefulness), whose sources I shall look at in a moment, has exacerbated the situation by imposing a regime of sanctions which, as Sandy Berger, the (then) American national security advisor (under Clinton) has proudly said, is unprecedented for its severity in the whole of world history. It is believed that (more than) 567,000 Iraqi civilians have died since the Gulf War, mostly as a result of disease, malnutrition and deplorably poor medical care. Agriculture and industry are at a total standstill. This is unconscionable of course, and for this the brazen inhumanity of American policy makers is also very much to blame. But we must not forget that Saddam is feeding that inhumanity quite deliberately in order to dramatize the opposition between the United States and the rest of the Arab world; having provoked a crisis with the United States {or the United Nations dominated by the United States} he at first dramatized the unfairness of the sanctions. But by continuing it, the issue has changed and has become his non-compliance, and the terrible effects of the sanctions have been marginalized. Still the underlying causes of an Arab/U.S. crisis remain. A careful analysis of that crisis is imperative. The United States has always opposed any sign of Arab nationalism or independence, partly for its own imperial reasons and partly because its unconditional support for Israel requires it to do so... Arab policy was never backed up with coordination, or collective pressure, or fully agreed upon goals (except for the recent 'appearances' of same) on Israel (that they without a doubt know the U.S. 'secretly' leads them to believe they can ignore with impunity). The more extreme Israeli policy becomes the more likely the United States has been to support it. And the less respect it has for the large mass of Arab peoples whose future and well-being are mortgaged to illusory hopes embodied, for instance, in the Oslo accords. "Moreover, a deep gulf separates Arab culture and civilization from the United States, and in the absence of any collective Arab information and cultural policy, the notion of an Arab people with traditions, cultures and identities of their own is simply inadmissible in the United States. Arabs are dehumanized, they are seen as violent irrational terrorists always on the look out for murder and bombing outrages. The only Arabs worth doing business with for the United States are compliant leaders, businessmen, and military people whose arms purchases {the highest per capita in the world(!)} are helping the American economy keep afloat. Beyond that there is no feeling at all, for instance, for the dreadful suffering of the Iraqi people (and now the Afghani people except for appearances) whose identity and existence have simply been lost sight of in the present situation. This morbid, obsessional fear and hatred of the Arabs has been a constant theme in U.S. foreign policy since World War Two. In some way also, anything positive about the Arabs is seen in the United States as a threat to Israel. In this respect pro-Israeli American Jews, traditional Orientalists, and military hawks have a played a devastating role. Moral opprobrium is heaped on Arab states as it is on no others. Turkey, for example, has been conducting a campaign against the Kurds for several years, yet nothing is heard about this in the United States. Israel occupies territory illegally for thirty years, it violates the Geneva conventions at will, conducts invasions, terrorist attacks and assassinations against Arabs, and still, the United States vetoes every sanction against it in the United Nations. Syria, Sudan, Libya, Iraq are classified as "rogue" states. Sanctions against them are far harsher than against any other countries in the history of U.S. foreign policy. And still the United States expects that its own foreign policy agenda ought to prevail ... despite its hostility to the collective Arab agenda. In the case of Iraq (and now Afghanistan) a number of further extenuations make the United States even more repressive. Burning in the collective American unconscious is a puritanical zeal decreeing the sternest possible attitude towards anyone deemed to be an unregenerate sinner. This clearly guided American policy towards the native American Indians, who were first demonized, then portrayed as wasteful savages, then exterminated, their tiny remnant confined to reservations and concentration camps. This almost religious anger fuels a judgmental attitude that has no place at all in international politics, but for the United States it is a central tenet of its worldwide behavior (for decades). Second, punishment is conceived in apocalyptic terms (for all those who do not bow to the United States government's misguided and inhuman will)(!) During the Vietnam war a leading general advocated---and almost achieved---the goal of bombing the (so-called) enemy into the stone age. The same view prevailed during the Gulf War in 1991 (and now prevails in the so-called Afghan War, and the "War Against Terrorism" to be carried out all over the world)(!) Sinners are meant to be condemned terminally, with the utmost cruelty regardless of whether or not they suffer the cruelest agonies. The notion of "justified" punishment for Iraq (and now the terrorists) is now uppermost in the minds of most American consumers of news, and with that goes an almost orgiastic delight in the power used to confront Iraq in the Gulf (and the terrorists in Afghanistan, and wherever they and their supporters are). "Pictures of immense U.S. warships steaming virtuously away punctuate breathless news bulletins about Saddam's (and the terrorists) defiance, and the (furthering) crisis. President Clinton (and now President Bush) announce(d) that (they and the American people cannot) tolerate (their) threat(s) to use biological warfare even though {this is unmentioned} it is clear from the United Nations Special Committee {UNSCOM} reports that (Saddam) neither has the missile capacity, nor the chemical arms, nor the nuclear arsenal, nor in fact the anthrax bombs that he is alleged to be brandishing(.) Forgotten in all this is that the United States has all the terror weapons known to humankind, is the only country to have used a nuclear bomb on civilians, and as recently as (1991) dropped 66,000 tons of bombs on Iraq. (How many tons of bombs have we now dropped on Afghanistan? It probably surmounts, or soon will, the number dropped on Iraq in 1991!) As the only country involved in this crisis that has never had to fight a war on its own soil, it is (much too) easy for the United States and its mostly brain-washed citizens to speak in apocalyptic terms(!) A report out of Australia on Sunday, November 16 (1998?) suggests that Israel and the United States (were) thinking about a neutron bomb on Baghdad(!) Unfortunately, the dictates of raw power are very severe and, for a weak state like Iraq, overwhelming (and devastating)(!) Certainly U.S. misuse of the sanctions to strip Iraq of everything, including any possibility for security, is monstrously sadistic(!) The so-called U.N. 661 Committee created to oversee the sanctions is composed of fifteen member states {including the United States} each of which has a veto. Every time Iraq passe(d) this committee a request to sell oil for medicines, trucks, meat, etc., any member of the committee can block these requests by saying that a given item may have military purposes {tires, for example, or ambulances}. In addition, the United States and its clients---e.g., the unpleasant and racist Richard Butler, who says openly that Arabs have a different notion of truth than the rest of the world---have made it clear that even if Iraq is completely reduced militarily to the point where it is no longer a threat to its neighbors {which is now the case} the real goal of the sanctions is to topple Saddam Hussein's government (now that the U.S. government has finished using him as a CIA agent for its own purpose(s) and advantage(s), much like it used Manuel Noriega before it kidnapped him from Panama, tried him in an illegal U.S. court, railroaded and convicted him, and threw him in a U.S. federal prison)(!) According to the American government, very little that Iraq can do short of Saddam's resignation or death will produce a lifting of sanctions (and there is no guarantee that even one of those events will bring the lifting of sanctions about)(!)... Moreover, the increase in military expenditure for new investments in electronic "smart" weaponry, more sophisticated aircraft, mobile forces for the world-wide protection of American power are perfectly suited for display and use in the Gulf (and Afghanistan), where the likelihood of visible casualties {actually suffering... civilians} is extremely small, and where the new military technology can be put through its paces most attractively (to our corrupt and evil government leaders and allies, and the brainwashed majority of "Americans")(!) For reasons that need restating here, the media is particularly happy to go along with the government in bringing home to domestic customers the wonderful excitement of American self-righteousness, and proud flag-waving, the "feel-good" sense that "we" are facing down a monstrous (enemy). Far from analysis and calm reflection, the media exists mainly to derive its mission from the government, not to produce a corrective or any dissent. The media, in short, is an extension of the war(s) against Iraq (and the terrorists)(!) "The saddest aspect of the whole thing is that Iraqi (and Afghani as well as other) civilians seem condemned to additional suffering and protracted agony. Neither their government(s) nor that of the United States is inclined to ease the daily pressure(s) on them, and the probability that only they will pay for the crisis is extremely high. At least---and it isn't very much---there seems to be no enthusiasm among Arab governments for American military action(s), but beyond that there is no coordinated Arab position, not even on the extremely grave humanitarian question(s). It is unfortunate that, according to the news, there is rising popular support for Saddam (and bin Laden) in the Arab world, as if the old lessons of defiance without real power have still not been learned (and "bombing them into the stone age" is not going to stop them from seeking greater and greater revenge against us for our revenge against them; as we cannot scare them out of it)(!) Undoubtedly the United States has manipulated the United Nations to its own ends, a rather shameful exercise given at the same time that the Congress once again (in 1998?) struck down a motion to pay a billion dollars in arrears to the world organization. The major priority for Arabs, Europeans, Muslims and Americans is to push to the fore the issue of sanctions and the terrible suffering imposed on innocent Iraqi (and Afghani) civilians. Taking the case to the International Court in the Hague strikes me as a perfectly viable possibility, but what is needed is a concerted will on behalf of Arabs who have suffered the U.S.'s egregious blows for too long without adequate response." (And now the Arab-terrorist attacks on the U.S., perpetrated by a minority of Arab extremists, are being used by the U.S. government and its allies to supposedly justify more covert and open oppression(s) of the Arab world; and I predict that we will see even more egregious violations of the Arab countries international human rights in favor of U.S. government tyranny, imperialism and multi-national corporation interests that they are inseparable from.) [({Words and/or emphasis added by me.})]





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