The other day I was set for some relaxation time watching on TV the 1963 movie, “How the West Was Won,” with a star-studded cast, including, Spencer Tracy and Henry Fonda and partially directed by John Ford. Later I watched a documentary on the History channel about the untold story of General Custer’s last stand against the Indians –now called Native Americans.
The movie “How the West Was Won,” is a grandiose Hollywood make-believe spin-job about the early pioneers, refugees from the Old World, spreading like a plague across new America and our Army chasing the Native Americans off their ancestral land to make room for these immigrants. The History channel program happened to be more balanced by at least showing some of the Native Americans points-of-view.
As it turned out neither was very relaxing. I had a hard time concentrating on the TV. Why? My mind kept wondering to another West –the West Bank. A similar struggle is taking place between the hoards of settlers pouring into Israel and the West Bank with their insatiable appetite for land, which requires displacement of native Palestinians. The Palestinians, similar to the Native Americans, are standing in the way of Sharon’s vision of a greater Israel.
Volumes have been written on how America’s west was won, so it is not necessary to spend any time on this dark period in American history, except to tell you how my mind began comparing American history with this present day struggle. We Americans are a proud people. We never miss a chance to tell the world about our heritage ? a heritage we forcefully and brutally took from other humans. Yes, we called them savages –today we might call them terrorists.
As in the Middle East, we played tit-for-tat with the Native Americans until might became right. We had an Army equipped with modern weapons against savages outfitted with stone-point arrows and stone axes; today it is American supplied tanks against stone throwing teenagers. We destroyed Native American cities by burning their tepees and slaughtering their old people, women, and children; today American bulldozers are being used to flatten Palestinian homes and American supplied rockets to vaporize the old people, women and children. We slaughtered the Buffalo and other “game” which forced Native Americans into hopeless starvation; today Sharon’s Army of vengeance enforces starvation curfews. We desecrated Native Americans’ sacred hills in our lust for gold; today the Sharon’s Army desecrates Palestinian churches and mosques.
When the braves could take no more they left the reservations and became raiding parties destroying settler homes and families in retaliation. Today the Intifada and suicide bombers have become the braves of frontier days –in BOTH cases against hopeless odds. BOTH methods were and are despicable, and were and will be failures in their objective. The Army of vengeance, with all it’s might, was unable to round up the marauders and force them back on their reservations of despair, so the politicians devised a more potent weapon –treaties. Today it was the Oslo and Camp David accords. The native Palestinians, negotiating from a position of weakness, after years of occupation, genocide, starvation, and humiliation were expected to blindly agree to terms of impunity as the Native American had been. One only has to visit the Native American reservations to foresee the future for the native Palestinians —BOTH once proud people reduced to poverty and despair.
As I watched the TV movie and the documentary, I began to realize it is not about right or wrong, it is not about savages or terrorists, it is not about religion ? it is about one of the ten commandments –covet not thy neighbor’s belongings –it is about greed and the forceful conquest of thy neighbor’s land. Occupation and intimidation until they have no will –until they have no dignity –until they are driven from their land into modern day reservations, such as Ain Al-Hilweh and other horrible refugee camps in Lebanon with their deplorable living conditions.
I have often wondered why the majority of American people, noted for being for the underdog, have little empathy for the plight of the Palestinians according to media polls. It becomes more apparent when a recent poll showed only 14% of the American people know were Iraq is located on a world map. How can they be so ignorant about geography and yet blindly follow the pro-Israel news media, our self-centered politicians, and buffoons like Jerry Fawell. That I will never understand. I can understand why campaign money-hungry politicians, such as Tom DeLay, a religious fanatic who appears at times to be suffering from brain damage, who appears to have no honor, who appears to sell out to the deepest pockets, and who appears to buckle-under to special-interest group pressure. They willingly give away our tax dollars to the renegade Sharon so he can kill more Palestinians and take more land. For them it is a matter of survival ? survival so they can continue to sit on their prestigious fat jobs in Washington and accumulate mind-boggling annuities. Then there is John McCain who shuns an investigation of our USS Liberty being deliberately attack by a “friendly” country as if it were some plague. Why? Who is he protecting?
I keep asking myself, what is President Bush’s agenda? He continues his orchestrated crusade of whipping the American people into war frenzy against the Iraqi people so he can remove their despot leader Saddam. Is that where it ends? Rumors keep leaking out of Washington that Bush has a greater vision for the Middle East than just eliminating Saddam. Is it to keep his popularity high, a son’s revenge, oil, or is it a religious vision of returning control of the region to the Zionists –a biblical prophesy requirement for an Armageddon ? incidentally, a prophesy from a Bible written mostly by Hebrew scribes. If not, why is he so occupied with the Middle East and yet doesn’t make a whimper when the dictatorial psychopathic leader of North Korea keeps threatening America and thumbing his nose at him. North Korea is becoming a far greater threat to the world with weapons of mass destruction than Saddam has ever been. The difference could be North Korea is not sitting on Israel’s doorstep nor do they occupy the birthplace of Christianity and Judaism.
How does it all end? I shuddered as the horrible thought passed through my mind –will Hollywood some day produce a movie, directed by a think alike Aaron Spielberg or John Ford, “How the West Bank Was Won,” –and then an impish smile brought relief to my gloomy thoughts –or will it be a History Channel documentary, “the untold story of Sharon’s last stand?”
FRANK FUGATE spent 33 plus years living in the Middle East primarily in Saudi Arabia. He retired from Aramco in 1988 as a Senior Vice President and Aramco Board member. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org