U.S. in Mid-East Crisis

Lying Emperors and Sinister Missions

Revolutionary Worker #1146, April 14, 2002, posted at http://rwor.org

The emperor spoke on April 4. He scolded, issued judgments, and dictated what he expected to see next. Scribes wrote down the words. Emissaries spread through the empire. Allies are supposed to nod. Enemies are supposed to tremble. Players in the distant conflict are supposed to snap to attention. "I expect results," Emperor George W said. And the New York Times noted he had written that phrase into the speech himself. For all those who get the creeps when a global dictator orders peoples and governments around, the U.S. media had an explanation: The White House, you see, had been reluctant to step in, but "the world demanded it." No one but an engaged superpower, they explained, could "break this cycle of violence." The U.S. (we are all told) is acting to "bring peace" and (of course) "fight terror"-the new all-purpose slogan of empire. So many lies to cover such a sinister plan.

The Superpower "Plunges Back In"

An arrested man sits tied in a chair. The police captain leans over and demands that he submit. "No," the man says, "Never."

The captain leaves, and his detectives work over their victim with fists and clubs. They put pistols to his temples. They deny him water and sleep.

The suspect strains against his bonds and resists with the limited means available to him.

And suddenly, the police captain returns, looking rested and impatient. "Damn," he says, "Guess it's up to me to end this cycle of violence." He waves his detectives off for a moment and says, "Isn't it time for you to submit?"

It is bizarre, and self-serving, for the U.S. to claim it is now "stepping back into" the Mideast conflict. The U.S. has never really been "gone," for a single day or single second.

The whole "war on terrorism" has unfolded into an intense U.S. power move to forcefully restructure power relationships across this strategic oil-rich region. The U.S. Navy patrols the Persian Gulf. U.S. war planes crowd the skies over Iraq. U.S. spy satellites probe the ground. U.S. troops are on the ground in Sudan, Somalia, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Egypt. U.S. warships have stopped over a thousand vessels in the eastern Mediterranean over the last year-"looking for terrorists."

U.S. nukes cover Arab and Iranian cities with an umbrella of threat. Their operations prop up hated despots and puppets-like Egypt's Mubarak, the Saudi royal house, Turkey's military, and the slavish Jordanian king.

The presence and domination of this U.S. superpower is a constant defining fact in the life, and suffering, of this region's people-including the people of Palestine. And always, day and night, oil is being pumped out of the ground to fuel U.S. control of a global empire.

Has there been a point in over 50 years when the U.S. was not intervening in Palestine? Israel is armed and financed by Washington-with tanks, guns, technology, jets, billyclubs, tear gas, and billions of U.S. dollars flowing in non-stop. In the last ten years of "Oslo negotiations," the U.S. has tried to impose a so-called "peace settlement" on the Palestinians-ordering them to accept life in a disarmed, neutralized, economically dependent "mini-state." The U.S. has demanded a "solution" where Israel got "secure borders" and Palestinians got ghettoized villages surrounded by the Israeli military.

So what does it mean, when the media says Bush has decided to plunge back into the conflict over Palestine?

It means that for a year and a half, the U.S. laid back, called off "negotiations," and left the Israeli government headed by Ariel Sharon to brutalize the Palestinians. Like that police captain stepping out of the interrogation room for a few moments.

Since the end of 2000, the U.S. government gave Israel, led by its killer-general Sharon, a green light to brutalize the Palestinian people. Century-old olive groves have been chopped down, civilian villages have been flattened in "collective punishment," activists have been assassinated, on and on and on.

This Israeli campaign has reached the point where troops are literally going house-to-house through the Palestinian West Bank-rounding up hundreds of people, covering their deeds with a press clampdown. And now, in the middle of all this, the Emperor "returns"-to exercise his imperial right to fine-tune the next stage of events.

What the U.S. Demands

The heart of Bush's April 4 speech is the same demand that the U.S. has made of Palestinian organizations for many years: "Arafat must do more." And they say that this is now "his last chance."

This means that the price of holding power in the West Bank and Gaza is that Yassir Arafat and his Palestinian Authority must prove they can act as a jailer for the people. Arafat is told to suppress the armed resistance of Palestinian people against Israeli occupation, settlements and encroachments.

This demand is intensely unjust-since the Western-backed Israeli settler state has relentlessly expanded at gunpoint, seizing huge parts of Palestine, driving millions into exile through ethnic cleansing, and carrying out a brutal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

Bush says, over and over, "I fully understand Israel's need to defend herself" and refers to Palestinian resistance as "terrorism." One reporter remarked that Bush's speech mentioned "terror" 50 times in ten short minutes-while only mentioning "occupation" in one quick sentence.

How flexible this word "terror" is-it means whatever Bush wants it to mean. If Israeli jets assassinate Palestinian leaders with rockets or occupy whole cities with tanks, the U.S. calls that "self-defense." But if a generation of kids want to fight such occupation, that is labeled "terror."

The U.S. went ballistic and threatened Iran when a shipment of simple mortars and rifles was discovered heading for Palestinian areas-where an authorized police and militia are supposed to be in charge. Then they act in mock horror when teenagers use the few weapons available to them.

The Chinese have an old saying: "The emperor can burn down villages, and the people are forbidden to even light a candle."

And, in fact, the demand that "Arafat do more" is absurd-and both the U.S. and Israel governments know it.

There is no way Arafat can call off the resistance of the Palestinian people-even if he wanted to. Especially now, when the Israelis have systematically dismantled his "Palestinian Authority," burned out his police stations, arrested or killed his lieutenants, and put him under house arrest with nothing but candlelight and cell phones.

The absurdity of this raises the question: what does the U.S. really want?

Preparing War in the Name of Peace

"When President Bush announced from the White House this morning that his administration would at last plunge headlong into high-level Middle East diplomacy, he did so in a forceful yet nuanced analysis of a conflict that spun out of control as he tried to avoid it."

New York Times front page, April 5

Ever since September 11, the U.S. government has taken off on an intense and sweeping offensive to recast the power relations of significant parts of the world-focused above all on the oil-rich areas of the Middle East and Central Asia.

And from the beginning, they said they were worried about containing the anger and resentment of "the Arab street." While hammering Afghanistan, pursuing Islamic fundamentalists and threatening Iraq, the U.S. policy makers insisted they were only "waging a war on terrorism"-not a crusade of conquest in the Muslim world. They demanded the backing of governments in the Muslim region-including Egypt, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

And for the last months, the U.S. ruling class has boasted about their success. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld repeatedly remarked how protest and resistance in the Muslim world has been far less powerful than some in the U.S. ruling class had feared.

All that self-congratulation faded after Sharon's tanks entered Ramallah. Protests erupted across the Arab world-and pro-U.S. governments in Egypt and Jordan started shaking. More importantly, under these conditions, it was clearly much more difficult for them to endorse a U.S. war on Iraq later this year.

So the U.S. feels compelled to "step in." They talk about how things could "spin out of control" now-weakening pro-U.S. governments or causing war to break out on Israel's northern border. But they are even more concerned that this build-up of tension could lead to bigger problems in the Middle East-when the U.S. carries out its plans to decapitate Iraq.

Over the last weeks, the U.S. gave Sharon's army time to brutalize the Palestinians, dismantle the Palestinian Authority (in the name of "uprooting the infrastructure of terror"), arrest or kill those they want to target. The White House has justified and defended all these actions and demonized the Palestinians as "terrorists." The Emperor tells the Israelis: Get out of the West Bank (now that they have had a week for their savage operations). And he orders the Palestinians: This is your last chance to submit.

Perhaps the U.S. will even now organize some cosmetic "negotiations" between Sharon and his prisoner Arafat-to calm the region's tensions over the next months-while the Pentagon rebuilds its stockpiles of smart bombs, and the White House constructs the alliances for its planned strike on Iraq later this year. In short: the U.S. talk of "peace in the Middle East" is really a move to create better conditions for their next war in the Middle East.

Their ruthless war preparation comes disguised as peace-making.

In fact the most hopeful part of this whole situation are exactly the developments the U.S. fears and desperately wants to stop: the heroic, determined resistance of the Palestinian people, and the stirring of opposition broadly among the people in the Arab and Muslim world.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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