While surfing the cable news channels during the post noon hours of July 19, 2012, to catch up on the sordid danse macabre that is unfolding in Syria, I accidentally caught the last 90 seconds of a CNN report on a US-funded “Weapons Fair” in Jordan. For a few seconds the camera zeroed in on the following script: “The Business of Kaboom.”
The reporter quickly explained that the handful of foreign reporters on the bus were on a tour in the Jordanian desert, one of those by invitation only type of tours, the kind that Hollywood so realistically depicts. The only difference — this was not a fictitious site, nor was this a fictional movie production.
From what I gleaned, the United States has provided Jordan’s King Abdullah a $200 million grant to build a setting in a remote desert area with the dual purpose of setting up a training base replete with a replica of a military transport airplane, helicopters, a 5 story concrete apartment-like structure of the type one finds in Near Eastern Capitals, and firing and combat training ranges. A gigantic air conditioned warehouse served as the exhibit venue for what the reporter referred to as a “weapons fair trade show.” The gigantic warehouse interior was a carefully staged and choreographed “Home Depot” of Made in the US weapons shopping center, replete with experts, some demonstrations, and well-designed digital graphic imagery. The surrounding exterior served as the training area for the prospective buyers’ armies. And much like customers at a Best Buy electronic department store, the prospective buyers were allowed to inspect and test the hardware and software that runs much of the sophisticated weaponry. Two characters were shown inspecting and handling an 18” shiny cannon shell with the same diligence that museum curators handle a rare and fragile artifact.
The video quickly zeroed in on helicopters, machine guns, bullets, scopes, bombs, shells and missiles of every type and size. And the reporter explained that each of the explosive components, as per need, could be custom ordered to fit each vehicle and craft on display. Much like a car dealership, the buyer could, for example, purchase anything from the very basic stripped down “plain Jane” helicopter to a more sophisticated helicopter loaded with all the bells and whistles. And what shiny whistles they were.
The reporter quickly pointed out that while the arms were manufactured by American companies, the customers were primarily Middle Eastern and African types. At that point, the cameraman focused his lens on an assortment of Middle Eastern and African men dressed in full military regalia. Much like peacocks, these Presidents-for-Life types and their Butchers-in Chief cohorts strutted around and flaunted frilly gilded epaulettes, a plethora of military gold bedecked medals and accolades in every style, size and shape (which they no doubt bestowed on themselves and each other), and an assortment of braided aiguillettes and gilded fourragere (sans the feathery hats in vogue with 19thCentury European potentates).
While the cameraman shot some close ups which captured the special camaraderie between some of the leaders (embraces and hand holding), the reporter sardonically stated that these erstwhile friends might one day turn on each other and use the seductively displayed incendiary materials on each other.
Whether it is Libya, Egypt, Israel, Syria, Mali, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria, the Congo, Pakistan and Afghanistan, to name but a few hot spots in Asia and Africa (and heretofore Latin America), the Merchants of Death from the so-called civilized Western Hemisphere (including Russia) have been exploiting the millions of human beings around the world. For 30 years now the annual 1.5 billion US military aid to Egypt has propped up a corrupt and brutal regime that has been a hindrance to serious peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The Israelis have been infinitely smarter; they worked out a deal with successive US presidents and 536 Congressmen whereby their military aid is given in outright cash to the total of 2.5 billion per year. The monies are used to develop sophisticated electronic weapons systems that are then sold to the US military, the former Soviet republics, India, and China. No one wants to discuss this sweetheart deal that does not only outsource American jobs to Israel, but it also supplies China, a potential adversary, with some of the most sophisticated electronic gadgetry in the weapons industry. And this year alone the US sold Saudi Arabia $60 billion dollars’ worth of arms to help keep 7000 Saudi princes in power and for potential use against Iran; some of these arms have been used in Yemen and Bahrain (to suppress the Shiite minority in the latter), and most recently in Syria. Are these dictators aware that the same winds that are blowing through North Africa and Syria will one day blow over their neighborhoods?
The West has become a victim of its addiction to oil and the rich minerals of Africa. It is this addiction that helps keep the new economy humming, albeit at a slower pace, and it is the same addiction that forces us to prostitute our principles by propping up brutal dictators and thugs (who sit atop oceans of the black gold and precious minerals). And as long as they are in good standing and keep the oil taps gushing, the West will even provide them the chemicals with which they will eventually “kill their own people.” Geopolitical and strategic self- interests trample principles.
When the Saddams and Kaddafis of this world have served their purposes, they are dispensed with and summarily exterminated in primordial rites unfit for the modern world. And the cycle repeats itself. The US is now arming Iraq (this after pulverizing it to the stone age) and Afghanistan while France, England, and Italy have sent their merchants of death to exchange Libyan light crude for new array of weapons.
Four years ago Barak Obama charmed us with his personal journey, indeed a stellar journey of epic proportions, a journey that in more ways than one affirmed that change has finally come to fruition on the American political landscape, and a journey that in many ways gives credence and affirmation that this nation, with all its faults, is the greatest experiment in self -government this world has witnessed. Like so many, I was, to use the cliché, charmed by him and bit into his bait, hook, line and sinker. After eight years of war mongering I was so ready for change I could believe in. And as the personal attacks on him increased, my respect and support took on a deeper respect and empathy. However, when he began to walk away from the principles he articulated in his campaign and early Presidential speeches, I slowly walked away from him.
After it became obvious that he, like 99% of politicians, was subservient to the powerful special interest groups that plague American politics, and after watching his Secretary of State prance through foreign capitals pontificating the new Ob-illary doctrine and selling arms to tyrannical thugs across the globe, I became convinced that he was answering the same 3:00 a.m. phone call that Hillary referred to during her campaign. How much better would it have been for the cause of democracy had Kaddafi (even though he never accorded his people the same privilege) been tried in a civilized manner, found guilty, and made to account for his dastardly deeds in a civilized manner, even though, I might add, he did not deserve such? On an official visit to a Central Asian capital to promote this new Ob-illary doctrine and striding like a conquering Roman Pro Consul shortly after Kaddafi’s brutal death, Hillary Clinton uttered the following: “We came, We saw, He died.” Or, as George Bush put it: “Mission accomplished.”
Mission accomplished? Not yet. Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iran are in the Ob-illary crosshairs, and, lest he forget, only last week Miss Hillary lectured newly elected Egyptian President Morsi about his obligations to prostrate Egypt to Israel, Ob-illary and Congress’ darling par excellence.
Imagine how much better this world would be had the US government built a Home Depot-style warehouse in Jordan that exhibited the following: water pumps, drip irrigation technology, fertilizers, seeds of every sort, including fruit, shade, and forest reclamation seedlings that are climate-appropriate, garden and yard tools, soil testing kits, earth tilling machinery, tractors and harvesting implements for every type of soil and terrain, and fertilizers. And imagine if agricultural experts handed out brochures and digital equipment loaded with information on all aspects of agricultural and horticulture. Best of all, imagine if American farmers and agri college majors manned the various stations with hands-on projects and worked in tandem with citizens representing the hundreds of millions Asian, African, and Latin American decent citizens of this world to empower them and sell them tools of hope instead of tools of death. They, more than the citizens of the West, aspire and dream of change in which they could believe.
For some twenty years I handed small packets of Bradley Tomato seeds to my foreign students in an end of the semester ritual and requested that upon their return to their native lands they plant these seeds. And for some 40 years now I have been sending seeds of the same brand of tomato (Bradley Tomato), first developed in Bradley County, Arkansas, to friends and acquaintances across the US and the globe. I merely use this simple gesture of good will as a metaphor; given the proper nurturing, diplomacy is like a seed. The harvest of my efforts has evolved into lifelong friendships.
Just imagine what this world be like if Hillary took some of the Arkansas bred Bradley Tomato seeds and the proper implements and chemicals on her sundry trips abroad instead of the Bradley tanks.
Just imagine. This would be a change in which all humanity could believe.
Raouf J. Halaby, a naturalized US citizen, is a Palestinian from Jerusalem. He is a Professor of English and Art at a private liberal arts university in Arkansas.