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Commentary Last Updated: Jan 4th, 2007 - 01:08:31

Pity the nations
By Luciana Bohne
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Jul 18, 2006, 00:50

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"We never kill except in self-defense. But, if someone is so stupid as to refuse to open a cash register when he has a gun pointed at him, then he deserves to die. It is useless for him to try to do something when an expert thief aims his gun at him. If he cries out, resists, or refuses to open the cash register he is killed."

Words of Jesse James, American bandit who robbed small banks, hurting local investors, but built himself a reputation as a confederate Robin Hood, a champion of the people, who stole from the rich to give to the poor. A humanitarian killer, no less!

Think of Jesse James as the spirit of the American Empire: that's what it does. It makes a false-choice offer: hand over the loot or die. It kills in "self defense" if the defenseless victim finds it impossible to comply. The prime example of this tactic is Iraq: hand over those non-existent WMD or we take you out.

"Follow the money," was a motto during the Watergate scandal. We must do so now. This War on an Abstract Noun, of which Lebanon is the latest victim, is a cover, calculated to disguise the real motives of US military global mobilization. It bears repeating. The prize is wealth beyond the dreams of avarice -- wealth and dominance and reproduction of the status quo, the unequal distribution of wealth, which is a constant prescription for endless wars -- and none of it will trickle down to us, though the blood will and does! As will retribution. Cicero said, "Money is the sinew of war." Follow it: it is money (a.k.a. capital) that motivates the targeted death of nations that dot the calendar, with homicidal frequency, of these days on our earth.

None of this death can be said NOT to have been foretold. Bush's accomplices have put it in words in countless policy statements retrievable across the sumptuous, well-funded archives of the reactionary establishment. We refuse to believe them: they said that this will be the new American century and it will conquer the world. Unless we believe them, we will not be able to process or understand (let alone act constructively ) anything that's happening in the world. We'll be distracted by arguments as time-consuming and as unproductive as arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. We'll be dragged along labyrinths that will lead us to reinventing the wheel. We will be persuaded, against our certain knowledge, that the earth is flat. And we will lose our reason and our ability to safeguard our safety. To escape that fate, we need to refocus on what they actually SAID they would do: conquer the world.

What is shocking about the Bushes is their bold-faced proclamations that wars, invasion, abuse of human rights, subordination of the whole world to their will and way of life are okay. But that's because the words are in our face.

They used to be hidden behind "covert operations" organized by the National Security State that Truman installed after WW II, persuaded by the Mad Hatters and global trotters in the OSS/CIA, led by servants of wealth like the Dulles brothers, devoted to creating a deficit of democracy across the world, from which their masters could profit. It was then that the US decided it would have one government -- tolerant, benevolent, internationally equitable and balanced -- on view for US people to admire and another, a secret one behind the mirror -- vicious, subversive, democracy-hating -- that they knew nothing about. Now the brute force that festered and plotted in the dark has come into the light. Like the look of the Medusa, it petrifies us with terror. We are rendered impotent by its ghastly, blood-stained visage. What can't be true, we say, isn't true.

But it was always there. The victims have seen that dark face again and again -- from Guatemala to Grenada, from Tonkin to Teheran, from Hiroshima to Honduras. And beyond. Their victimhood was prescribed by officialdom immediately after WW II: "We have 50 percent of the world's wealth but only 6.3 percent of its population. In this situation, our real job in the coming period . . . is to maintain this position of disparity. To do so, we have to dispense with all sentimentality . . . we should cease thinking about human rights, the raising of living standards and democratisation" (George Kennan, US

strategic planner, 1948).

It is no surprise that Israel, America's attack dog in the ME, takes its cue from its master. Just as Hamas was proposing a two-state solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict (implicitly recognizing Israel as a state), Olmert's cabinet launched its campaign of terror in Gaza, starving, bombing, and killing Palestinian civilians, a fact graphically witnessed by the world in the extermination of a Palestinian family picnicking on a Gaza beach. Quite outrageously for Israel's objectives to deny Palestinians any "right to exist" (that right exists for the exclusive use of the Israeli state, apparently). Hamas had made an offer Israel could not accept -- a two-state solution, which implicitly recognized Israeli nationhood -- for it entailed ending an illegal occupation of territories whose control it has no intention of giving up and whose control, moreover, provides limitless occasions to remind Arab aspirations for national independence that they'd better think again. Israel has the fourth strongest army in the world -- and it is backed by the first.

Now in Lebanon, Israel is again "defending" itself -- as it does in Gaza and the West Bank by occupying and serially reinvading territories that don't belong to it -- and it is defending itself by laying waste a country that has no military resources to defend itself. Lebanon has a gun pointed at its head: either disarm Hizballah or we will destroy you. The US, meanwhile, has a gun pointed at Syria's Assad: either you call off Hizballah, or . . . you'll see what we'll do to you. Look at Iraq, if you need reminders.

They offer deals that are calculated not only to be refused but that they know are also impossible to deliver.

Indeed, this aggression on Lebanon is a plan hatched between the Bush imperial conspirators and their Israeli clients to create the context and conditions that open the way for a pretext to assault Syria and -- more importantly -- Iran. That the assault on Lebanon was a plan, is evidenced by similar Israeli tactical provocations in past wars -- preeminently the 1967 war, characterized by Israeli border provocations against Egypt and Syria. Today, the target is Iran. To the deluded in the US who think that the US is a victim of Israeli ambition, they need to wake up. Israel does not move without the US's say so. When Israel, cut a deal independently with China to supply it with military hardware, it had its hands slapped in no uncertain terms by the US.

We are way past the time in this lawless age of imperial disregard for international law, of corrupt and fraudulent elections, of the advancing fossilization of the international legal order, of tremendous transfer of wealth from poor nations to the rich ones, of the internal "third worldization" of the people of the "first world," of the transfer of the same people's wealth into private hands, and of the declared imperial policy of might makes right, to remind ourselves that there is such a thing as a UN Charter forbidding aggression; that the Palestinian resistance has all the legitimacy and the Israeli occupation of Palestine has none; that the US and Israel are "failed states" inasmuch as they are unable to provide security for their own population and, in fact, that they open them to terrorist attacks by their actions; that Israel and the US are terrorist states because they target populations to obtain political ends, and that they are a threat to global survival with their deliberate recklessness of unchecked conquest.

We need to remind ourselves, instead, that what we are living now is a period of appeasement, no less complicit or cowardly or deluded than the period before WW II when governments and people acquiesced to Hitler's diet of relentless annexation and aggression. Then, the test of how far the liberal democracies would go to tolerate the Nazis' all-out plunder and cannibalization of whole regions came up in the Spanish Civil War. They had a chance to say: "enough." They didn't, and WW II became inevitable.

Think of Iran -- the true target of this murder of Lebanon today -- as Spain in 1936. If the US is not stopped, it's over for us, the people of the world. At a certain point -- too late -- someone with nuclear capacity, somewhere -- China, Russia -- will say, "enough, we've let them take way too much." And then, it's curtains for the planet, because though the Soviet Union bowed out of history without a shot fired, the US, with the political sophistication and the ideological self-righteousness of a Jesse James, to whose robber mentality and delusional morality it is heir, will go down firing the big ones.

There is no time for appeals to moribund institutions like the UN, the Geneva Conventions, and the rule of law. Our own Congress has ceased to function for all intents and purposes. The Democratic Party is entirely complicit in this assault on the world: Iraq was and remains a bi-partisan war.

But there is something we can do: we can at last find the courage to believe in the fact that we are many and they are few -- the whole world opposed the invasion of Iraq, even when their governments sustained it. Poll after poll shows that entire populations believe, correctly, that the US and Israel threaten world peace -- not Korea, Iran, or any member of the invented fantasy of the "axis of evil" -- they fear our government and the governments of its satrapies worldwide.

We can think of ourselves, ordinary people everywhere, as "nations" at risk and of our government as a "rogue state." We, the people of this country and of the world, should declare our opposition to the anti-human war now being waged by our governments of war -- against ALL of us. We should stand with those who resist, in solidarity with them because on their success to check the imperial onslaught rests our own survival.

If we don't understand this truth, we are doomed.

To those who accuse us of anti-Semitism for supporting such struggles as the Palestinian struggle for self-determination, we say: we have made a choice to side with those citizens of Israel who oppose the occupation and who, at the risk of their limbs and liberty, stand for justice in Israel. Israel is not a monolithic state: it has people who act in the name of peace and justice. To take their side is not to side with "self-hating Jews," as their own state's propaganda brands them, but it is to side with the forces of right, with the forces of empathy, solidarity, and justice. There is nothing "anti-Semitic" in that. As for Palestinians, Iraqis, Lebanese, Syrians, Iranians, who resist war and occupation, in siding with them we side with human rights -- the right to live in their own lands, free from the boot of occupation.

It's not complex at all. And it's a matter of life and death -- theirs and ultimately ours.

Jesse James was wrong -- in the end, his own violence killed him.

Luciana Bohne teaches film and literature at Edinboro University of Pennsylvania. She can be reached at

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