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After failing to convince the world about any of his many reasons for starting a war, George W., on November 6, devoted almost all of a speech to the new improved reason — we invaded to install democracy, something that he had touched upon before, but he’s now promoting it as the primary reason for the invasion and occupation, at least on Mondays and Thursdays.
In this speech, he waxed eloquent about democracy. If you’re not sure whether this new reason deserves any more regard than any of the previous reasons, consider this. In the speech, he likened the battle against Iraqi insurgents to fighting against communism, “as in the defense of Greece in 1947.” Do you know what happened in Greece in 1947? There was a civil war. One side had amongst its prominent leaders people who had supported the Nazis in the world war, including those that actually fought with them. On the other side were people who had fought against the Nazis, and had actually forced them to leave Greece. Guess which side the United States supported back then? Of course, the fascists. And this is what George Bush tells us is an inspiration for fighting the Iraqi resistance.
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When a recent poll found that most Europeans believe that Israel is the greatest threat to world peace, Israeli government minister Natan Sharansky stated: “Behind the ‘political’ criticism of Israel lies nothing more than pure anti-Semitism.” (Washington Post, Nov. 29, 2003)
What, I wonder, can “pure anti-Semitism” mean other than something like a belief that Jews are inherently inferior creatures, less human than other people, evil. Does the man really believe that that’s what motivates critics of Israeli policies?
Sharansky was a leading dissident in his native Soviet Union before finally being released from prison and permitted to emigrate to Israel in 1986. What would he have thought in his dissident days if the Soviet leaders had declared that he and his fellow dissidents opposed the communist system purely because they believed that communists were some sort of sub-species, or because they hated Russians, or were self-hating Russians, or perhaps because they were Nazis (the German version of whom were in fact very anti-communist); anything to avoid having to deal with the questions raised by the dissidents about the actual policies of the communist government. It may be that Natan Sharansky was able to see through and escape one kind of brainwashing only to fall victim to another kind.
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We now know that Iraq tried to negotiate a peace deal with the United States to avoid the American invasion in March. Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction and offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct a search; full support for any US plan in the Arab-Israeli peace process, and handing over a man accused of being involved in the World Trade Center bombing in 1993 were also offered. If this is about oil, they said, they would also talk about US oil concessions.
What is most surprising about this is not the offers per se, but the naivete — undoubtedly fueled by desperation — on the part of the Iraqis that apparently led them to believe that the Americans were open to negotiation, to di scussion, to being somewhat reasonable. The Iraqis apparently were sufficiently innocent about the fanaticism of the Bush administration that at one point they pledged to hold UN-supervised free elections. Surely free elections is something the United States believes in, the Iraqis reasoned, and will be moved by.
Other countries have harbored similar illusions about American leaders. Over the years, a number of Third-World leaders, under imminent military and/or political threat by the United States, have made appeals to Washington officials, even to the president in person, under the apparently hopeful belief that it was all a misunderstanding, that America was not really intent upon crushing them and their movements for social change. Amongst others, the Guatemalan foreign minister in 1954, Cheddi Jagan of British Guiana in 1961, and Maurice Bishop of Grenada in 1983 all made their appeals. All were crushed. In 1961, Che Guevara offered a Kennedy aide several important Cuban concessions if Washington would call off the dogs of war. To no avail. In 1994, it was reported that the leader of the Zapatista rebels in Mexico, Subcommander Marcos said that “he expects the United States to support the Zapatistas once US intelligence agencies are convinced the movement is not influenced by Cubans or Russians.” “Finally,” Marcos said, “they are going to conclude that this is a Mexican problem, with just and true causes.” Yet for many years, the United States has been providing the Mexican military with all the training and tools needed to kill Marcos’ followers and, most likely, before long, Marcos himself.
Syria today appears to be the latest example of this belief that somewhere in Washington, somehow, there is a vestige of human-like reasonableness that can be tapped. The Syrians turn over suspected terrorists to the United States and other countries and accept prisoners delivered to them by the US for the clear purpose of them being tortured to elicit information. The Syrians make it clear that they do these things in the hope of appeasing the American beast; this while the United States continues speaking openly of overthrowing the Syrian government and imposes strict sanctions against the country.
The “mystique” of America lives on.
On November 25 the Washington Post ran an obituary of Sylvia Bernstein, the mother of former Post reporter Carl Bernstein of Watergate fame. The obit recounted how both of Carl’s parents had been Communist Party members and had endured long persecution by the government for their political beliefs. Mrs. Bernstein had invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination when asked by congressional panels about her party involvement.
Then we learn that during the Clinton administration, she was a White House volunteer and answered the correspondence of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Since the 1960s, I have met numerous Communist Party members in the US, Europe and Latin America. In my experience, it has been very typical for these people to bear scarcely any resemblance to the stereotype of the “commie” of the “red menace” we were all raised to fear: a shadowy fiend out to subvert all that is holy and decent and enslave the world. Instead, they were usually no more radical than a liberal, a more consistent liberal than the non-party type perhaps, but a liberal nonetheless.
WILLIAM BLUM is the author of Killing Hope: U.S. Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II, Rogue State: a guide to the World’s Only Super Power. and West-Bloc Dissident: a Cold War Political Memoir. He can be reached at: BBlum6@aol.com