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From Bombs in Beirut to the Ballot Box in November

From Bombs in Beirut to the Ballot Box in November


By Bernard Weiner
The Crisis Papers

It never ceases to amaze me when otherwise rational, intelligent, even-handed people demonstrate, through their biases, why the world seems destined for self-destruction.

Here's what I'm talking about. Recently, I've read articles and letters by three liberal Jewish intellectuals -- two of whom are friends -- which denounce Muslims. The essence of their rants is that Islam, as a religion, is actively engaged in a campaign to rule the world -- wiping out Israel and all Jews (and Christians) elsewhere -- and must be stopped now, while it is still relatively weak.

Of course, one easily can find similar screeds from Muslims denouncing all Jews (who, in their eyes, already call most of the shots in the world), and Americans in general, who by condoning Israel's policies have become honorary Jews and thus co-candidates for extermination.

The writings by friends are the most distressing, since I know them as good people. But, blinded by fear and anxiety, they are giving in to their basest stereotypes about Muslims, while offering unconditional support for Israel. There is little willingness to concede that maybe, just perhaps, Israeli occupation and political policies over the years are at least partially responsible for the tense situation in the Middle East.

(Are there militant Islamists who are out to kill all Jews and other "infidels"? Of course, but clearly they are a small, highly vocal and active minority in the Muslim world. Is Hezbollah a danger to the stability of the Middle East? Of course. Is Israel's policy of collective punishment also a great danger? You bet.)

THE MIDDLE EAST TINDERBOX

No wonder the Middle East is about to explode. It's as if everyone is running around inside a crowded bomb factory with blowtorches ablaze. The U.S. is letting its proxy, Israel, do the dirty work in Lebanon and Gaza. Iran and Syria egg on Hezbollah, having furnished it with thousands of missiles. Bush's war in Iraq is engendering Shia/Sunni civil-war slaughtering. Turkey and Iran are seriously talking about a possible assault on a nascent Kurdistan. American neo-cons are drooling over the prospect of -- and trying to foment -- the U.S. and Israel starting a wider war by bombing Iran and/or Syria.

In short, the ingredients for a regional war (which easily could spin out of control and involve larger nations) are approaching a combustible critical mass -- and yet Cheney and Rumsfeld and that crew, as usual, block attempts at a cease-fire and are deliberately delaying even attempting to do anything to tamp down the conflagration; indeed, they seem to believe that the U.S. and its few allies will reap the benefits after the situation calms down, with fewer "terrorists" to deal with and with recalcitrant Arabs chastened by Israel's version of shock-and-awe. (That strategy didn't work for the U.S. against Iraqis, why should it work against anybody else who believes passionately about defending their country?)

Rather than reap the benefits, the U.S. and Israel are more likely to reap the whirlwind as anti-U.S./Israel anger may well bring more and more Muslims, now at each others' throats in sectarian rivalry, into unity against the "infidels." In addition, moderate Muslims, already a mostly silent and shrinking breed, will diminish further, while extremist Muslim organizations (such as Hezbollah, Hamas, al-Qaida), much better organized and determined, will pick up the nationalist, anti-U.S. banner and attract more and more adherents.

In short, every time ordinary civilians die from bombs or missiles made in the U.S., another brigade of suicide bombers is created. Stated baldly: Bush&Co. couldn't be doing more to aid Osama bin Laden's cause. The Administration may have started out with motives to do the opposite, to wipe out terrorism, but their reckless policies, ivory-tower ideological theorizing, and bumbling incompetency, have made terrorism a greater threat to America and the West in general.

CHANGE NEEDED AT THE TOP

Unless U.S. policy changes soon -- a major GOP defeat in November would certainly aid in this regard -- how long do you think it will be before suicide-bombers carry out their grisly work in America's major cities, airways and trains, and tourist attractions?

No wonder so many of America's retired generals and active officers -- and so many moderate and traditional conservatives -- are terrified by the bumbling, militarist crew in the White House and are hoping for, and in some cases working for, a GOP defeat in November. This mid-term election may be the last chance we'll have to begin moving America back toward a rational foreign/military policy. (Assuming, of course, that the election is an honest one; recent history has demonstrated that Rove and his minions will do whatever they have to do to pull out a victory at the polls)

Howard Dean's 50-state strategy -- beefing up the Democratic Party in all states across the country, not just the "Blue" ones -- will work best if every Dem candidate, no matter for what office, makes this election a referendum on the Bush Administration. Local issues do matter, of course, but the Democrats should be hammering out a national strategy with which to defeat the Republicans, so that we can begin to extricate our country from its current nightmare.

What might such a platform consist of? To simplify it to its bones:

VOTE FOR REPUBLICANS, IF...

* If you want to support Bush's war in Iraq -- one based on lies and deceptions, and which is unwinnable in any case -- vote for the Republicans.

* If you want to throw a half-trillion (trillion!) dollars down the Iraq rathole for a continuation of this war, meaning that valuable projects in the U.S. such as education and health-insurance and infrastructure upkeep have no funding, vote for the Republicans.

* If you want a continuation of humongous deficits far into the future, which your kids and grandkids will have to pay for, and a stagnant economy burdened by that debt, vote for Republicans.

* If you want to endanger Social Security by Bush's plan to privatize much of it, vote for Republicans.

* If you want Americans to be associated with torture around the world, vote for Republicans.

* If you don't care that Bush, Cheney, Rove and Libby revealed the identity of a covert CIA agent as punishment for her husband telling the truth about the lies underpinning Bush's war plans for Iraq, vote for Republicans.

* If you don't mind that Bush ordered the NSA to spy on American citizens' phone calls and private emails, and then personally halted a Justice Department probe into the legality of such action (a cover-up that should be grounds for impeachment for "obstruction of justice"), vote for Republicans.

* If you don't mind the constantly climbing high price of gasoline that accompanies Bush's reckless, and incompetently handled, foreign policy, vote for Republicans.

* If you don't care that Bush is doing next to nothing about global warming, vote for Republicans.

* If you don't mind the thorough ineptitude of the Bush Administration in the Katrina aftermath, when more than a thousand American citizens died, vote for Republicans.

* If you want to remain uncertain whether your vote was accurately counted -- since Republican-owned companies control the machines and vote-tallying software, and can manipulate the numbers without anybody being able to detect the fraud -- vote for Republicans.

* If Bush assuming near-total control of the three branches of government doesn't bother you -- meaning he is, in effect, a dictator who can tell the Congress and courts that the separation-of-powers and checks-and-balances protections are null and void -- vote for Republicans. One could go on and on forever.

VOTE AGAINST REPUBLICANS, IF...

*If, however, you want to bring America back more to the center and away from its extreme rightist recklessness in foreign and domestic policy, don't vote for Republicans.

*If you want to concentrate more on issues that really matter to most folks (health-care, education, clean air and water, stable pensions, the economy, privacy, civil rights, etc.), then do not vote for Republicans.

*If you believe that two more years with no effective checks on the Bush Administration will lead to even more scandals and corruption and foreign and domestic disasters, then do not vote for Republicans.

If the Republicans in November lose their hold on the House and/or Senate, there will be a political brake on extreme policy-making, and a chance, at least a chance, for America to begin to undo the terrible damage done to our society, and the world, over the past five years.

In short, it's time for a change in America. And it's up to all of us -- Democrats, Libertarians, Independents, moderate and traditional conservative Republicans -- to make that happen in November. Which means, first of all, ensuring an honest, transparent voting system. Take them to court, if you have to, to get what all Americans should have by right: their vote honestly counted and recorded.#

*************

Bernard Weiner, Ph.D. in government & international relations, has taught at universities in California and Washington, was a writer-editor with the San Francisco Chronicle for 19 years, and currently co-edits The Crisis Papers (www.crisispapers.org). To comment: crisispapers@comcast.net .

First published by The Crisis Papers and Democratic Underground 7/25/06.

Copyright 2006, by Bernard Weiner.

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